Friday, June 22, 2018

Friday Burn

::: Paraguay is the First Country in Americas to Eliminate Malaria in 45 Years

::: Can This Cooler Save Lives?

::: Working at Charity:water
No swearing and no lying.

::: Leadership is disappointing your own people at a rate that they can absorb. - Heifetz and Linskey, via Tod Bolsinger

Photo: Congrats to Meghan for completing the Ember ProtoGuide experience.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Family Pictures

2017 Toyota 4Runner 4x4 SR5 Magnetic Grey Metallic. Photo by Joseph Yang.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Sheng Send

There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings. - Goethe

Sending these two this week. Em flies on Monday with a church team for almost three weeks on a 'tour' of South East Asia, knee brace and all [long story.] Em will is also part of the Ember IG team so gets a few weeks at home before heading out again. Katie flies on Tuesday for a few weeks in Europe visiting with friends and then an internship in India for mid July to the end of August.

We are thrilled for them and trust what the Lord does in their lives this summer.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Friday Burn

::: The Most Successful Ethnic Group in the US
Link via Next Draft

::: The World is Running Out of Japanese People

::: The 20%
the point of the article, and I’m not going to do it justice, everyone should read it, was that it was, effectively, directed at kids. Kids who are now adults. And it was an encouragement to spend more time with your parents because it said, effectively, by the time you leave high school and leave home to go to college, you’ve spent 80 percent of the total hours you will ever spend with your parents before they die.
Now, you can look at it the other way around. As a parent, by the time your kids leave high school or leave home, you will have spent or had the opportunity to spend 80 percent of the hours you’re ever going to spend with them together.
From a transcript interview between Tim Ferriss and Phil Keoghan, host of The Amazing Race

::: Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God. - Corrie Ten Boom

Photo: The Sea of Galilee

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Abuse and Misconduct Policy

Like many of you, I have been in disbelief as I have recently read about the sexual and power abuse that is happening in our culture. This disbelief has turned into anger as I've read about this same kind of abuse and power structures in our churches and student ministries. I am no longer in denial and you should not be either - we are only at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this abuse issue in our churches.

To that end, the board of directors of The Ember Cast and I have just completed working on a policy for abuse, misconduct and leadership with minors. We don't have a good name for this policy but it encompasses a few of these issues altogether: abuse, sexual misconduct, reporting, and conduct for leadership with minors. As of a few weeks ago, we have implemented a new process which includes background checks for leaders and a required review and signature of this policy from each leader. Leaders with partner organizations may also be asked to review and sign this policy, depending on their existing systems for addressing these issues. Of course, some of the motivation behind this is providing absolute clarity for leaders surrounding these topics. Another motive behind the policy is the spirit of the document: if you abuse a student while working with The Ember Cast, we will turn over heaven and earth to put you in jail for as long as possible. [Yeah a little dramatic.]

Here is our policy if you are interested in requesting read access.

Other resources that were helpful included Brad Feld's post on this subject, Andy Crouch's post about power dynamics, and the Protect My Ministry and GRACE organizations. Also, special thanks to friends at Mosaic Christian Church and Grace Community Church for providing examples of their policies.

Monday, June 11, 2018

IG Team Meeting #16

+ Team field trip to Washington DC.
+ Museum of the Bible
+ Sharing Your Story
+ DC Food Trucks
+ The Lincoln

Friday, June 08, 2018

Friday Burn

::: Advice to New Graduates: Scale or Bail
Must read - thanks to Kathleen

::: Missionary Attrition
Of the team/agency factors, the highest rated factors in the decision to return to a passport country as perceived by former missionaries were lack of missionary care, lack of integrity on the team, lack of freedom to pursue calling, team conflict, and confusion over role on the team.

::: Vending Machines from 3018

::: For too many, the opposite of fear is not courage, but conformity. - Alvin Reid via Justin Long

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

IG Team Meeting #15

Lots of meetings with this team, but they all love to spend so much time with yours truly.
+ Final set of videos on context.
+ Ember core principles - more examples.
+ Team member Shannon in real life.
+ Funding - this has stalled a bit. I'm not asking you for money but if you were interested, I would buy you coffee and invite you to partner with us.

Niall, Tommy, Emily, Deanna, Jolie, Sam, Audrey, Shannon.

Monday, June 04, 2018

To All My Anonymous Feedback

Never write what you dare not sign. An anonymous letter-writer is a sort of assassin, who wears a mask, and stabs in the dark. Such a man is a fiend with a pen. If discovered, the wretch will be steeped in the blackest infamy.
- Charles Spurgeon via Denny Burk. PS - I forgive you.

Friday, June 01, 2018

Friday Burn

::: Eastern Europe is Shrinking Before Our Eyes

::: The Salesforce Twoer and the Homeless

::: 20 Takeaways - The Meeker Internet Trends 2018 Report

::: Forever is composed of nows. - Emily Dickinson

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Real Versus Fake

I thought, like most people, that the paperwork in starting and running a nonprofit would be the most difficult thing about it. Instead, I learned about the real work. The truth is, like any other business endeavor, there is the real work and there is the fake work.

The fake work is what intimidates most people. The nonprofit application. Assembling a board. Getting the IRS status. Yearly filings. Tracking financials. Receipts to donors. Using Quickbooks. Believe me, if I can do it, you can too. All of these things and types of things, they are work. They are tedious, monotonous, they require a learning curve, and they are required. But they are not difficult. They are using learning financial software, stuffing envelopes, chatting with a lawyer, lots of stamps and envelopes. They are web forms, shopping for and buying insurance, putting money in the right bucket. But they are not impossible to learn. In fact, you already have most of these skills. You have a family budget and make decisions accordingly. You buy car insurance. You write a Christmas letter and mail merge it.

The real work, that is the difficult part. Inviting people to join you. Asking them to give up time and energy. Painting a vision for making the world better. Repeating that vision thousands of times. Engaging new interested parties and re-engaging people from the past. Running a volunteer organization where no one has to do anything for a salary. Telling yourself that the effort is worth it for one more day, month, season. Pushing momentum slowly. Being intentional about a culture, teaching and modelling what you do and why you do it - person by person, team by team.

In every project we all aspire to, there is the real work and there is the fake work. If you have a vision for a nonprofit, don't let the fake work scare you. The real work will require all of your heart and soul.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Summer Send - 2018

Over the past few summers, The Ember Cast has executed a series of Summer Sends, one or two fantastic individuals each summer that we send to trusted partners. It's a best of combination: a person or small team that has the Ember DNA and is committed to growing in character, competencies and capacity, a time frame that is longer than a typical student missions experience and hosting partners that we know well and desire to invest in a future missional leader. We fell into this and now have embraced it as a core competency.

Our Summer Send this summer is BM, seated next to MK [ProtoGuide 2016, 2016Italy, 2014X, 2013X]. This summer looks slightly different as BM is going to be living in the suburbs and serving part time in a local refugee resource center [details intentionally obscure]. We are excited for this knowing that there is a ton of work with this center and BM is easy going, likes to get things done and is super friendly and always willing to help someone out. If you recently arrived to a foreign country and didn't know a soul, BM would be a great first friend.

Thanks in advance for supporting BM as our 2018 Summer Send.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Friday Burn

::: Beyond Success, 4 Lessons in Character
Jacqueline Novogratz's 2018 commencment speech to the NYU's Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. Novagratz is the CEO of the Acumen Fund and her husband is Chris Andersen who runs the TED talks.

::: The Amazing Psychology of Japanese Train Stations

::: A Rule of Life for Redemptive Entrepreneurs - from Praxis Labs.

::: Forever is composed of nows. - Emily Dickinson

Photo: Paying the tolls. Italy. 2017.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Frames and Gutters

Last week, The Ember Cast also had the opportunity to work with a team of ladies headed to Caribbean for a week long cross cultural service experience [last post, busy week]. This team is serving with local hosts involved in education, kids programs and poverty alleviation, as part of their church's long standing partnership. It is always an honor to spend a little time with teams like these and share some of what we have learned about high performance cross cultural teams.

Our session included:
+ Frames for Teams
+ Personality assessment results both for individuals and teams
+ Gutterball - [going upstairs]

The statistics prove it: your team will be more effective with intentional team preparation, your team members will be more engaged when they come home, and team training is one of the best investments you can make with your time and energy. Our team doesn't have any more availability for this kind of thing for summer teams this year but we always have ideas.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Cultural Navigation

One of the best skills for anyone traveling to another culture to understand is cultural navigation - simply peeling back layers of a given culture to discuss deeper meanings. It's a simple skill that we believe anyone, especially students, can learn easily and a skill that translates across all kinds of life experiences.

Our latest training session on this topic included a brave team, our 2018 cultural navigation tip sheet and some of my secret 'plants' [Kate, Audrey, Emily] inside an ethnic grocery store. Gracious thanks for this team traveling to the Middle East later this summer for their willingness to experiment with us on this one. Tip: you can use any ethnic context [store, neighborhood, restaurant, etc] to practice this.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Friday Burn

::: The Future Will Have Fewer Children

::: Instagram Will Soon Let You Know Just How Much Time You Waste on It

::: Man With Golden Arm Who Donated Blood for 60 Years

::: For too many, the opposite of fear is not courage, but conformity. - Alvin Reid via Justin Long

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Ember May Dinner

Our May dinner guest was Pat Hatch who coordinates all refugee and immigrant refugee for Mission to North America, which is the domestic missions/church planting organization for the Presbyterian Church of America. Pat serves as the point person for refugee and immigrant outreach efforts for over 1700 churches, spread across all 50 states.

Pat has deep experience in doing things that haven't been done before. She founded the Foreign Information Referral Network [FIRN] way back in the early 1980s and ran it for 16 years. [Incidentally, our older daughter Katie interned at FIRN for a year during high school.] She also worked for the state refugee office just prior to God calling her to refugees and the the role for MTN, which had nothing like that before she came.

Here are some highlights from our conversation:

Interesting things going on in refugee ministry right now:
For the Nations, Richardson TX.
A local church in Harrisonburg VA.
Immigration Law Clinics hosted by churches. People/churches can get certified to host these clinics in their local organizations.

On Pioneering:
Came into this current role with no existing structure or model. Had to make it up as she went along. Sometimes people will tell her that they are ready but their church is not. Sadly, she hears this quite a bit and it is opportunity to pray and perhaps meet with the pastor. Obey when the Lord calls - sometimes you pioneer before your church is ready.

On Refugee Misunderstandings:
Every relevant federal government agency is involved in vetting refugees.
Question from some well meaning but misinformed church people: "You are not going to work with illegals are you?"
Pat: "I'm not going to work with anyone who has not been created in the image of God and who Jesus did not die for.

On Advice for young people:
Call me I want to talk to you one on one.

Thank you Pat for sharing your wisdom and inspiring us.

Deanna, Audrey, Hailey, Emily, Meghan, Sherrill, Kate, Sam, Pat, Mandy, K [out of frame]
[I was the only male.]

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

IG Team Meeting #12

Kids Camp thing.

+ Crafts: photos of kids on cards with tissue flowers for Mothers Day
+ Adam and Eve
+ Skit
+ Music
+ Chick Fil A [Lord I have spent so much $$ at Chick Fil A this Spring]
+ Ember Guides Hope and Nat jumping in to help.
+ Other special guests.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Friday Burn

::: The War on Malaria has Entered It's Third Phase

::: Farewell From the Pineapple Fund
5104 BTC was turned into $55 million for charities, from providing clean water, open mapping, to clinical trials of MDMA as treatment for PTSD.

::: This App Delivers Leftover Food to the Hungry

::: Facial Recognition Helps Trace 3000 Missing Children in 4 Days

::: "You can do with 12 disciples what you cannot do with 12,000 consumers." - Alan Hirsch via Justin Long

Photo: Warsaw tram. July 2017.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Congrats Tess and Lindsey

Congrats to Ember Guides - Tess, on the left, and Lindsey, on the right, on graduating from Eastern University last weekend.

I first met Tess in the summer of 2013, when as a high school junior, she had returned from a missions experience in Europe with lots of energy and passion for serving in that context. Ember was a good fit for her to get involved and she's been one of our longest serving Guides, helping run the 2014 X, 2015 Prague, 2016 Italy and 2017 Italy teams. This year's team already feels a little strange without her.

Lindsey and I met through Tess - our first time hanging together was in Chinatown in Philadelphia seeing the sights after we had given a group some instructions on cultural navigation. Ah the fun of leadership. Tess and Lindsey also invested at the highest level of Ember Guides last summer when they were our Summer Send, being sent to Poland for 6 weeks to work with a church plant. I could not have imagined a better fit for them and they turned a great idea into an awesome experience.

The Ember Cast will miss you two. We will miss the way Tess can recite the Ember mantras by heart and how Lindsey looks just like Hillary Duff. But go do some amazing things in a world that desperately needs passion, beauty, and character and we will throw fire with you.

Monday, May 07, 2018

IG Team Meeting #10

+ Reviewing Ember Mantras and Core Curriculum

+ Guest speakers
We had some guest speakers, a husband and wife who had spent significant time living in a different culture. They talked about worldview and related stories from their experience living overseas. Fantastic material that was really powerful as we think about context for where we are going. And the principles here are very transferrable for really anyone as they peel back layers of culture. We are probably adding this topic in the future to our Core Curricilum.

:: Worldview - what is real
Belief - what is true
Values - what is good
Behavior - what do you do
Worldview ->belief -> values -> behavior - inner to outer

3 Major Worldviews:
:: Guilt and Innocence
Western culture, truth is pre-eminent, scientific reasoning, rational, truth determines who is right or wrong, cognitive explanations

:: Shame and Honor
Ppreserving honor at all costs, saving face, Eastern culture, identity with groups rather than individuals, honor over truth
Guilt versus Shame - important distinction

:: Fear and Power
tribal cultures, gain power versus being afraid, who is stronger, focus on spiritual, dreams and visions

:: Gen 3 - Guilt, Shame and Fear - Jesus took away all 3.
Jesus comes to people within their worldview.

Photo: Jolie and Tommy.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Friday Burn

::: The 2018 Bezos Letter
Fascinating read on high standards within an organization, in other words, culture.

::: Ferrero Rocher, A Status Symbol for Immigrants

::: What Do I Really Need to Know About Speaking at Conferences?
Link [link only good in May 2018]

::: Only a self-negating artist reads his Amazon reviews and the Twitter feedback on his work. He will learn nothing and will amplify his lizard brain's certainty of his worthlessness. - Seth Godin

Photo: Italy, July 2017.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

IG Team Meeting #9

+ Video series on context

+ Mantras
We throw fire.
In every apple, there is an orchard. - Alan Hirsch
Disciples are made on the road, not in rows. - Kim Hammond
If your church is full of members, you get an occasional missionary. If your church is full of missionaries, the rest is geography. - Erwin McManus
The Gospel comes to you on its way to someone else. - Alex McManus
[more here]

+ Core Principles
Person of Peace
Cultural Distance
Redemptive Analogy
[more here]

We try to drill the Mantras and the Principles into every summer team member, knowing that these are highly reproducible missions mindsets that any student can understand and are significant skills to utilize.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Creative Revenue - Jolie

Jolie, one of our IG team members this summer, on the right, dreamed and executed a variety/talent show for her creative revenue plan. Super great fun last Friday night and I always love seeing high school talent in the fine arts. 13 acts and around 100 people.

And of course, this is a great case study in creative revenue: Jolie used her network, did the difficult work of finding and recruiting talent, persuaded the right people to do the right things and secured an incredible venue for no cost. She used her time, treasure and talent for something remarkable.

She raised just over $1200 but the money is a tangent. The real beauty is in bringing an idea to market, including dreaming, executing, communicating and delighting customers.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Friday Burn

::: The Most Beautiful Airports in the World

::: Baltimore in population trends

::: UAE fulfills $120M pledge for polio eradication

::: Attention is the beginning of devotion. - Mary Oliver via Jon Tyson

Photo: Ember IG team, Baltimore, MD.

Reminder - Jolie's variety show tonight - she is on the Ember IG team. Church at Severn Run, 6pm.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Experiencing Creative Revenue

One of our Italy-Greece team members is hosting a variety/talent show this coming Friday as part of her Creative Revenue Plan. If you would love to support our team but can't give financially or not sure what else to do, this would be a great way to show your support. Come meet and hang with our team and be entertained by some high school talent - we would sure love to see you. Here are the details:

Friday April 27th
The Church at Severn Run
8187 Telegraph Road, Severn, MD 21144
Doors at 6pm, show at 6:30pm
$10 cash at the door
There will be snacks for sale.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Friday Burn

::: American Airlines' AAirpass

::: Where is the OLPC now?
I bought one of these in 2007, big fan of the ideas behind it.

::: Sydney to split into 3 cities

::: Live to the point of tears. - Albert Camus via Jon Tyson

Photo: Blackheath, Australia.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Evangelism as Exploration

This raises the general question: How do churches effectively reach New Copernicans? My assessment is that churches need to provide authentic experiences of following Jesus into the arenas of their deepest longings (justice, beauty, love and spirit), giving them an opportunity to connect their personal story with a larger narrative of meaning, particularly couched in a relationally humble 3-D posture. Millennials want to see that you practice what you preach, that you love the world you live in through your work and not just your words.
Most importantly, this will require revamping how we think about, frame and teach evangelism. Even the word evangelism is a stumbling block for many millennials. The immediate reaction is "What are you trying to sell me or do to me that I don't want?" This is a fair reaction in light of the church's typical approach. We need a new picture for evangelism. It is less about closing a mortgage as joining an exploration.
- The New Corpernicans, Millennials and the Survival of the Church - David John Seel, Jr.

Monday, April 16, 2018

IG Team Meeting #6

When we get the chance, most years that I lead teams, I try and drag the team to a Perspectives class when I can. If I'm teaching it, I'll intro the team to the class too. It gives our team a chance to learn some of the content in the class, which is still one of the best collection of content about global missions, and it inspires and challenges the people taking the class. If a 16 year old has signed up to spend 2 weeks in an unreached city, what are you doing about your convictions?

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Ember April Dinner

In the Spring of 2011, I met David Huey at a Dream Year weekend here in DC. We hit it off based on lots of similarities, including both of us running a nonprofit as a 'hobby', day jobs in technology, and a passion to live lives larger than just ourselves. David runs Hungry For a Day and we've kept in touch over these many years. David was gracious enough to fly up here to be our Ember April dinner guest. Some notes from our conversation below:
The book that changed it all - A million miles in a thousand years by Donald Miller
Wanted to live a significant life just wasn't sure how. A life having a good job and going on good vacations wasn't enough.

Made some money even before they knew they needed it.
Sold college football t shirts, made about $3K
About a year and a half later, started Hungry 4 A Day

Bless others out of abundance
Inspire others to sacrifice
Give out of excess of time, treasure, talents
Did not want to be the primary financial donor for his nonprofit
Other people give way more than he does

Basic premise is that people can choose to donate money to specific projects sponsored by H4AD. Most projects last 2 months. Some samples include:
Serenity steps sex industry hot dogs and prayer
Got a food pantry up and running
Food truck in st pete that makes gourmet pb&j sandwiches - buy 1 and 1 gets given away
Set up a bakery in an Iraqi refugee camp
Thanksgiving project where they partner with churches to do thanksgiving meals. Started with 50 people first year now up to 22k people last year.

God provides when you don't know it
Someone wanted to give them a truck
They had decided early on that they did not want to be in the food distribution business so no warehouses, trucks, etc.
They accepted the truck and then found out someone else in their network needed it.

Ideal partner org for them is someone with a small budget not a huge operation.

Favorite Book - A million in a thousand years Donald Miller
Favorite Place - Iceland or Hawaii
Favorite Food or Meal - Mexican food
Another career - I actually love my job

How often do you go hungry for a day
2 or 3 times a year

How many sought out Jesus from tday outreach

Gave up NFL and fantasy football to get things done

Advice for young people:
Travel when you can
Get out of your own biases

Monday, April 09, 2018

Creative Revenue Plans - 2018

Ember believes that missionaries of the future will rely on a 'portfolio of revenue.' [credit for this term goes to Ben Arment.] In other words, they will need to actually make some money outside of personal donations. Since 2013, our summer teams have been required to dream and execute a Creative Revenue Plan - a way to make some income based on their talents and gifts. This unique income will go directly towards 10-25% of funding of their missions experience. Prayer and financial support letters are also required.

Creative revenue has proven to be one of the most exciting things happening with our teams every summer. Their required inception makes students imagine what using their skills look like. The execution of the plans requires dealing with customers, communicating both about the product/service and the why behind it, and experimenting with pricing and costs. And over the course of 3 months, students get to see incremental progress that amounts to a pretty significant financial bonus. Since 2013, this creative revenue has totaled to be just over $20K, averaging about $4K every summer.

Photo: One of the team's offerings this year, bath bombs.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Friday Burn

::: Wheat in heat

::: I am the Nameless African from Your Last Instagram Post

::: It is Time to Reckon with Celebrity Power

Good Friday in Sydney

Cross equals love. Thank you Hillsong.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Pinetops Foundation - The Great Opportunity Report

Some of you might be interested in this report entitled "The Great Opportunity - The American Church in 2050.' Published in February from the Pinetops Foundation, it is a very interesting and dense [139 pages!] read and I found it via a tweet from Jon Tyson. In essence, the Foundation asked themselves what the best use of their money. What they found was that the American church is at a pivotal moment in history, what they called 'the largest missions opportunity in American history.'

Their recommendations circle 5 major initiatives: Church Planting, Youth Missions and Formation, Digital Platforms for New Audiences, Caring for the Poor, and Cultural Leadership. A few highlights and suggestions from the report:
::: Starting New Churches
+ Need to triple church planting efforts for the next 30 years
+ Average church size - 186 people
+ Median size is 75 people
+ One church per 680 Christians in America today
+ 4000 church plants start every year. 3700 churches close every year - net 300. Not even close to keep up with population growth.
+ New churches are the most effective form of evangelism.
+ Real estate investment trust - hold properties for church planting.

::: Mission for Youth [obviously the section I was most interested in]
+ "However, we are learning from the data that a youth-group model as the primary means of forming young people in a culture that is increasingly at odds with the Gospel is not enough. What does work is actively serving together on missions (domestic and foreign), active training in what following Jesus means, and serving alongside other adults in the church."
+ Surprisingly, one of the least impactful factors on substantial faith was a teen’s peers. It is the adults in their lives that ended up having the most impact, contrary to what we may think of teen culture.
+ "Historically, great movements of faith have been catalyzed by mission minded youth. In many cases, the very act of moving out in faith creates the context for faith to be strengthened and confirmed. It is our desire to see the next generation mobilized for missions for the sake of those both inside and outside the church."
+ "Critical opportunities for youth formation are missed when youth are not integrated into the fabric of the church, encouraged in their faith by multiple adults, and given opportunities to lead in corporate worship and missions."
+ Creation of a gap-year program prior to or during college that emphasizes cross-cultural evangelism or integration into a church plant.

::: Reaching New Audiences for a Digital Age
+ PewDewPie - 55M youtube subscriptions, 15B views. 75x more than total number of people that heard Billy Graham preach live over his whole life.
+ Casey Neistat - 2B views, 7.6M youtube subscriptions. Would constitute second largest denomination, behind the southern Baptists.
+ 2% of all people on Twitter follow a religious leader, house of worship or pastor.
+ "There is a conspicuous lack of Christian innovators and communicators among prominent social media innovators and leaders, and none that we could find with a substantial presence focused on those outside the faith about the faith."

::: Caring for the Poor
Increase church-driven care for the poor via better approaches to resource mobilization
Increase the effectiveness of church-driven care for the poor via investments in social entrepreneurship, cross-church collaboration, and more effective tools
Help the broader society see the good works already being done via awareness building

+ For example, time and time again empirical data demonstrates that people give more:
In response to an optimistic vision and hope for change, instead of an appeal to guilt and shame.
When there is a compelling vision instead of an appeal to “keep the lights on.”
When there are social proofs—people know that their peers and people they respect are also giving.
When they can connect with the recipient on an individual or emotional level

+ Mentions for
Praxis Labs
[I've been following Praxis Labs for a few years now and love what they are about and how they do it.]
When Helping Hurts
+ Elevate PR efforts [see Dan Pallotta - The Way We Think About Charity is Dead Wrong]

::: Building Long term witness - Christians on the university campus
+ We believe that if we are to see millions of youth come back to Christ, and millions more accept him for the first time, we need both a strong ground game of local church ministry reaching one person at a time and a strategic long-term effort to articulate the Gospel in our culture. To do both well, we believe we need to reinvest, like we once did, in leadership development pipelines that equip emerging leaders to articulate the Gospel persuasively and with distinction in the world. We also think we need to invest in and help convene Christian academic and thought leaders who inhabit the front lines of thought and discovery and are wrestling with the ideas of our time. It is as Mark Noll wrote over two decades ago: “The scandal of the Evangelical mind is that there is not much of one.”
+ Dense networks
+ Clapham Sect [see more here]
+ Top 40 colleges, Christians comprise less than 5% of professoriate
+ Christian tutors in the Roman Empire
Obviously lots of other great information in this report - I highly recommend downloading it and at least skimming the Intro and the Summary. Here's a few other reflections with regard to The Ember Cast:

+ The gap year idea is a big win. We've sought to do this when we can even though these have been either a summer or semester in duration and these have been some of our most fruitful projects. Whenever we have done it, it has been centered around a church plant. [Summer Sends - Poland, Arizona (1 and 2)
+ Designing a gap year, helping drive more funds to the poor, serving in a church plant, creating a digital platform - all of these require someone that can dream and execute. Both of these skills are exceedingly rare but both can be taught and learned. If anything is needed in the global missions space, it is future leaders that can dream missionally and then roll up their sleeves and get to work. We at The Ember Cast see both of these skills as vital for the emerging generation and they form a subtle backdrop to our culture.
+ These kinds of initiatives and the people involved will push the imaginations of the leadership for many existing churches. Big challenge.
+ If you start a church, you should start it with the DNA that you will reproduce, right from day 1.
+ Lots of adults that work with students, me included, default to the perspective that peer identity is the most important thing to a teenager. But the fact is adults can make more of a difference when we invite, engage and challenge students to live lives that are bigger than themselves. Those of us that work with students need to be reminded of this often.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Raise the Bar - Mission Support Letters

If you've been around Ember, you know I am extremely overly critical on this every Spring: the average mission support letter is an example of mediocrity. Most letters encourage the prospective missions person to spend minimal time and effort presenting an idea to someone else. We see others blast social media with links to GoFundMe pages and then just wait for funding to roll in. We do the minimum when it comes to engaging people that are normally thrilled to support us. Sadly, a lot of people have turned support raising into sales transactions.

Instead, my suggestions - take them for what it is worth:
1 - Spend 4 hours designing a nice looking letter. Get some ideas from newsletter templates on Google Docs or Microsoft Word. You can ask me too - I have about 25 great examples.
2 - Resist the urge to blast your socials with links for support. People want to hear from you, but not like that.
3 - Lean on sending your letter to people that you know would be thrilled to support you and what you are doing - you know who these people are. Save a small percentage of your letters to give to people that would be long shots - they might be interested but might not.
4 - Follow up when you get support - thank you note, email, text message within 24 hours.
5 - Seriously consider using your talents, gifts and network to augment the support you need to raise. But that is another topic.

If you see yourself in vocational ministry or nonprofit work for the long haul, you will need to raise money. And many times, this is a leading indicator of whether or not you can actually do the work. Get in the habit now of doing it right.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Friday Burn

::: Everything You Wanted to Know about Shipping Containers and More

::: MIT's New Device Can Pull Water from Air

::: The Rise of a non-Christian Europe

::: We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims. - R. Buckminster Fuller

Photo: Lunch. Highlandtown Baltimore. March 2018.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Steeple to Street - Notes

I made it to the Steeple to Street conference for just Saturday last weekend which was put on by an org called Fresh Expressions US. Obviously interesting to me:
"More and more churches are taking seriously the call to engage with their communities...and many more would like to. But this new mission landscape is going to need new skills of leadership. Bold, risk-taking, creative, discerning leadership. Leaders who will move to the mission edges and foster fresh expressions of church. Leaders who will take on the adaptive challenges within existing churches to catalyze new energy for mission. Leaders who will make room for experiments and risks for the sake of the gospel."

The real reason that I saw this was because Alan and Deb Hirsch, whom I consider mentors from afar, were speaking at the event and I am drawn to the same types of people they like to hang with. Their thinking and writing has informed a lot about how we do student missions leadership and in the summer of 2008, they were so gracious to spend a little time with a student team we were leading. When you know you are responsible for your own development and growth, you'll go out of your way when a mentor is speaking close to where you live.

And a few personal convictions that were part of the flavor of this gathering: there is a limited lifespan left in the church as most of us know it, "all kinds of churches for all kinds of people" and most of us have no idea how to prepare students today to be leaders for the future.

Steeple to Street had a sweet ethos to it - gracious, a posture of learning, and an open hand to let the Lord lead. Lots more young people than a usual church leadership gathering. Mostly white people. Not your standard evangelical stream either - lots more Methodists and Episcopalians than I am used to.

Below are my notes - feel free to skip, skim or borrow with attribution.

+ Plenary - Iosmar Alvarez
People talk about the Holy Spirit like He is a dog or a river. He is a person.
Key to prayer is a clean heart and a clear mind.
Not about quantity, passion, posture.

Questions that we use to release people to do as God leads them:
1 - does it glorify God?
2 - is it ethical and legal?
3 - does it make disciples?
4 - does it expand this church?
5 - is it Biblical?

+ From Equipping the Organized to Organizing the Equipped - Alan Hirsch, Evelyn Sekajipo and Matt Lake
A committee keeps minutes and loses hours.

Begin with the end in mind
The church has deep muscle memory when it comes to change.
It is the end of the line for the church in default mode.
Movement thinking - the way we think about every believer.
Seed - potential for a forest
Spark - potential for a forest fire
[one of our favorite Ember mantras - In every apple, there is an orchard.]
You must see people as potential movements in the making.
Dunbar's number - most extroverts know 150 people. If they discipled 15% of their network, we would have a movement.
Movement - every person can reproduce the whole movement.
Everyone is in the game
Starfish vs Spider

Movements are DNA based organizations.
- core ideas and values
- low control high accountability
- discipleship culture

Dee Hock - VISA
Decentralized, not headquarters

Picasso - the best way to preserve tradition is not to wear your father's hat but to have children

Centered set vs bounded set
Perhaps there is a forum for both to meet

Movements begin on the fringe but they need pathways of learning

Matt Lake
Easier that we worship the teachings of Jesus rather than the person of Jesus.
We can organize the teachings, but Jesus call is messy
We have flattened Jesus to doctrine.
How do we build cultures to release people:
1 - Everything that talks about org talks about our R&D, apostolic side.
2 - 4 step DNA that we try to build into people:

We have organized people so well that they have lost their imaginations about mission.
Church culture - we train people to be good volunteers.
No imagination or dreaming - can't even get to that level.

Everyone is already failing in institutional culture, might as well try it in entrepreneurial culture.
In movement thinking, everyone has been given everything to get the job done.

How do you change culture
1 - Wendy Kopp - TFA - larger purpose and story
2 - my influence as the leader from every dimension possible

Evelyn Sekajipo:
Sometimes do not need to reinvent the wheel - find someone who is already doing what you are interested in and come alongside them
Invite the people you want to serve to the leadership table. We actually sometimes ignore the people we are serving or want to reach.

+ Mission Among the Hard to Reach - Alan and Deb Hirsch
"Microphones were created by misogynists" - Deb

Bounded set vs centered set - social theory
Bounded set - who is in and who is out is very clear
You are in and out based on if you
Believe like us
Behave like us
Belong to us

Clearly we are going for an encounter with Jesus where someone surrenders their life. And there is an element of who we think is in isn't in at the end. Jesus addressed the Pharisees in this same manner - you are good on the outside but your heart is awful. There are indicators to - know you by your fruit.

Centered set - concentric circles surrounded something at the middle - Jesus
Every human is in relation to Jesus somehow. He is calling of all humanity to Him.
Not about closeness, but rather their orientation, pointed to Jesus or not. Our job is to point people to Him.
Mt 28:18 - a discipleship text vs an evangelistic mandate
Pre and post conversion discipleship - disciple someone, teach them to live like Jesus before they actually make the decision
Humanity made in the image of God first and foremost - not terrible sinners in need of redemption [so important see Eldredge on this]

Incarnational Principles

Where you stand determines what you see.
3rd places - fertile way of looking at the world.
American - narrow vs extended family
Use your home as mission - house church movement
Pub outreach team - to be on the team you had to be able to say the F-bomb without flinching. Most couldn't do it - subtle way of alienating yourself away from the regulars in the pub.
The 3rd place for most Christians is their church, leaving little room for engaging the world.

Incarnational Contextual questions they have used
Pennies - rich or poor economy, how does money flow
Power - what is the power dynamic
Pain - who is struggling and why, find out what sucks and fix it
Parties - get in the middle of these
People of peace

Context forces you to contextualize
If you just start the same kind of church in your home, you do church badly - think worship band but done poorly. Can you worship somewhere in a public space without repelling people? How can you worship that draws people in?

+ Pioneering Panel
[Two terms the conferences uses a lot:
'pioneer' - the apostolic, entrepreneurial, trying it first, etc.
'Inherited church' - the already existing, more institutional church]

Q - Describe that first moment when you realized God was calling you to be a pioneer and advice around that idea
I started thinking of the term 'church unusual'
Noticing the marginalized
Don't negotiate with the Holy Spirit - obey immediately
Our community had the gift of desperation - term used in Recovery Community

Q - Words for people just a bit behind you in the journey
Do it with teams
Frustration can lead to callousness unless you are careful - sabbath, hobbies
Realize that you are maybe one of the permission givers - speak life into other pioneers

Q - Lonely moments - what keeps you in it?
God's call
I love my city - no one loves Denver more than I do
Doing what we do is not everything about us - have a life. Keep sure that ministry is not everything.

Q - Imagine you are speaking to another pioneer's leadership - what would you say to them?
Lead, follow or get out of the way but mostly get out of the way.
Make sure they know you have their back and come through with it.

Monday, March 19, 2018

IG Team Meeting #3

+ The Myers Briggs Type Indicator
+ Bridges video series
+ Check in for support letters

I use the MBTI religiously with teams - it is a fast forward for relationships and provides great and specific talking points for being a team. As you can see here, half of our team likes to improvise. Well, that should be fun.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Friday Burn

::: Here Come the MegaCities
By 2100, at least 10 cities are predicted to have populations over 50 million.

::: Affordable 3D Printed Houses
Debuted at SXSW, also check out some of the other cool social missions start ups are tackling.

::: Steeple to Street
The Church is rediscovering its identity in mission. More and more churches are taking seriously the call to engage with their communities...and many more would like to. But this new mission landscape is going to need new skills of leadership. Bold, risk-taking, creative, discerning leadership. Leaders who will move to the mission edges and foster fresh expressions of church. Leaders who will take on the adaptive challenges within existing churches to catalyze new energy for mission. Leaders who will make room for experiments and risks for the sake of the gospel.
I'll be at Steeple to Street on Saturday, would love to say hi if you are there.

::: Fortune sides with him who dares. - Virgil

Photo: Mt. Etna, and the 9 passenger van.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Ember March Dinner

Notes from dinner with special guests K and D.

Took Perspectives in the 1980s. Couldn't travel so started helping coordinate the class. Got involved in a bunch of mobilization stuff at home. Then could travel. Began making friends in the Middle East. Have traveled to a specific region there now 19 times over the past number of years.

Most exciting thing going on with missions these days:
Insider movements
Discipleship Making Movements
Fast growing church right now is in Iran.
Disciple people before they are believers.
Discovery Bible Studies - organic simple way to study the Scriptures.

Advice for young people:
Faithful - faithful in the small leads to being faithful in the big.
Available - you have the most free time right now when you are young. Availability is also related to financial availability - do not incur a lot of debt for college - this directly reduces your availability.

Involved in Partners for Transformation - a group of pastors that have prayed for Baltimore every week for over 10 years. Two incredible nonprofits sprung out of relationships in that group.
Don't make people your projects. They know when they are. Just build bridges of love and love them as friends.
Middle Eastern culture loves to talk about religion. Take advantage of that - don't be scared of it.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Vision, Budget and Cattle

That phrase will echo on my auditory cortex forever: vision beyond your resources.
That phrase has become a mantra at National Community Church and is inspiring us to continue dreaming irrational dreams. We certainly practice sound financial management, count the cost of every vision, and steward every penny in a way that honors God, but we refuse to let our budget determine our vision. That would be poor stewardship because it's based on our limited resources rather than on God's unlimited supply. Too often we butcher our God-given dreams because we forget the simple fact that God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. Don't let fear dictate your decisions. Letting your budget determine your vision is backward. Faith is letting your vision determine your budget. And if your vision is God-given, it will most definitely be beyond your ability and beyond your resources. Why? Because then God will get all of the glory! And I promise you this: the God who gives the vision is the same God who makes provision.
- Mark Batterson, Draw the Circle
NCC and PM impressed this upon me in 2013. It is absolutely true and when The Ember Cast dreams of projects, the viability of them are never based solely on the finances.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Friday Burn

::: Dolly Parton Donates 100 Millionth Book to Children in Need

::: A New Generation Redefines What It Means to Be a Missionary
Link via Justin Long

::: Muslim Connect
My friend Shane writes a Muslim Connect, a 300 word, weekly email that I enjoy about how we can trade apathy, anxiousness or anger toward Muslims for biblical love and engagement. It’s super short, very practical and sometimes funny. Sign up here.

::: The invention of the ship was also the invention of the shipwreck. - Paul Virilio

Photo: Highlandtown, Baltimore. March 2018.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

2017 In Numbers

1 ProtoGuide for 3 months
1 short term missions team training event : 6 hours of missions team building for 60 people
2 local church based missions conferences : teaching 6 sessions for 120 people
2 student team community impact projects : 12 hours of community impact service learning for 30 students
2 summer teams including 2 team members sent to Poland for 6 weeks and 6 team members to Italy and Poland for 2 weeks
2 Ember monthly dinners involving 13 people
3 missions leadership events : 36 hours of coaching and practical training for around 70 people
4 Perspectives classes teaching - 12 hours of teaching for a total of 75 people

This is pretty informative picture on everything The Ember Cast was involved in last year and I'm super proud of just about all of that work. Thanks to many of you for your portfolio of support, including prayer, financial and moral support.

It is however, very important that we balance that picture with one of our favorite mantras:
"Disciples are made on the road, not in rows." - Kim Hammond

Monday, March 05, 2018

IG Team Meeting #2

+ Icebreakers during the drive from the 25 Best icebreakers ever
+ Serving with a refugee weekend program which included games with kids, futball with high school kids [Sam made numerous goals and was the only girl], English lessons and lunch.
+ Our team knows that in some contexts like this, we will have to be very friendly and make our own fun. These are integral skills for people that are interested in starting things from nothing in different cultural contexts. This day was good practice.

* Missing a few pieces of our team

Friday, March 02, 2018

Friday Burn

::: The Pineapple Fund Has Given $86M to Charities so far

::: These are the World's Most Miserable Economies
Link via Justin Long

::: The Student Activists of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High
Now it’s time for them to change the conversation around education in America, and not just as it relates to guns in the classroom. The effectiveness of these poised, articulate, well-informed, and seemingly preternaturally mature student leaders of Stoneman Douglas has been vaguely attributed to very specific personalities and talents. Indeed, their words and actions have been so staggeringly powerful, they ended up fueling laughable claims about crisis actors, coaching, and fat checks from George Soros. But there is a more fundamental lesson to be learned in the events of this tragedy: These kids aren’t freaks of nature. Their eloquence and poise also represent the absolute vindication of the extracurricular education they receive at Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

::: Romantic love will get you to the mission field but sacrificial love will keep you there. - Deb Hirsch

Photo: Decompression, Union Station DC. Feb 2018.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Training Plans

California, Italy, Maryland, Virginia. It has never been easier to connect.

This is a planning session for the Ember IG team discussing some elements of training. Our local on the ground team requires teams go through some specific training so we are bringing in some other guests for specific cross cultural topics. If you are involved in student summer missions, you should be doing the same kind of planning right now. In fact, you are a little late.

But there is hope. The statistics bear it to be true, teams that prepare, even with the smallest amount, do far better than teams that don't. Reach out if you need some simple suggestions.

Monday, February 26, 2018

IG Team Meeting #1

Sam, Emily, Deanna, TM, Niall, Jolie, Meghan.
[Remote - Shannon, Andrew]

Our first team meeting for the Ember 2018 IG team. Two of our team are remote and there is a possibility of one or two more joining in the next few weeks. Great fun including:
+ Support letter overview - make it not suck.
+ Creative Revenue Plans.
+ Schedule - 15 or so meetings over the next few months including some serving together. Half of our team will be out of the country in late June to early July so we are adjusting that.
+ "The key ingredient to building trust is not time. It is courage. "- Patrick Lencioni
+ Hearing about some dreams for the future [this is a question on our Ember application]

I'm thrilled about this team - they are full of passion and action. I'm excited for us to travel and learn together and to impact someone somehow during this whole project. This team brings a new level of energy to The Ember Cast.

The future requires some of us to start new, adapted, innovative structures for missions - global missions won't bear the friction of the status quo. I'm marking history by telling you that some of this team will be the ones to start these new structures. You heard it here first.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Friday Burn

::: Billy Graham, from one of his grandkids
Best one I read.

::: The Longest Walk on Earth

::: Recovering from Jet Lag

::: The church in America is overprogrammed and underdiscipled. - Will Mancini

Photo: Ember Guides, SSDC. Feb 2018.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Happy happy Deanna

One of the most difficult years in recent times. But you have been faithful, steadfast, and relentless. Your hope has not wavered and you have been a deep optimist. People know that Jesus walks with you.

Here is to a better year. Happy birthday. Thanks for letting me win at mini golf.


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Ember February Staff Dinner

We have started a new experiment this year as part of some Ember staff development: a monthly staff dinner with special guests. The goal of this is to gather our staff to hear from some of the most creative, missionally imaginative and innovative people we know.

This months guest was Trevin Hoekzema, our very first Ember guide way back in the day. He's currently in a pastoral residency program at Bay Area Comm Church, which allows him to get a seminary degree while being mentored by BACC's staff. He's working on the Masters in Global Leadership at Fuller which is the only seminary degree most readers of this blog should look at.

Some highlights of our conversation:
Redirected Christmas time efforts to come alongside some local ministries doing better work than previous efforts.
Deep engagement for short term mission leaders and team members.
Organized first ever short term missions one day conference [Edge]

FutureCasting Missions - what is present or future now but something we don't know about:
Discipleship making movements
Discovery Bible Study
Fuller emphasizes spiritual formation more important than knowledge
'Guide on the side not the sage on the stage'
The West will no longer lead the missions movement

Advice for students:
Talk to every missionary you can
Always eat the chicken feet

Left to right:
Terah, boutique houseware artisan entrepreneur
Trevin [sorry for the bad picture]
Emily, Ember spawn
Hailey, Ember 2018-2019 ProtoGuide
Sherrill, almost published author and illustrator
Gary, attorney
Deanna, Ember creative director
Mandy, The Well in Curtis Bay

Monday, February 12, 2018

Ember SSDC

The Ember Cast facilitated a serving-learning-culture experience this past weekend with some students and their leaders from our home church. Great time with a great group. Highlights included a cultural navigation exercise in downtown Silver Spring; serving with A Wider Circle, one of the best local nonprofits dedicated to alleviating poverty in our area; and attending a service at National Community Church in DC.

A few quick observations from our weekend:
+ Downtown Silver Spring has experienced a recent redevelopment effort that has transformed the area. [I worked there for about 3 years before the redevelopment.] The new library is stunning and a community hub. Our suburban kids seldom go to the library where they live, but it was packed when we checked it out.
+ Sometimes when you serve with orgs that are in the business of sorting and redistributing supplies like housewares, clothing or furniture, you sometimes only see the sorting part of that work. A Wider Circle is great because you serve on both sides - the sorting as well as clients coming in to choose what they want to take home. We were told there were 21 clients served the day we were there.
+ Mark Batterson gave a State of the Church talk this weekend and it was one of the most powerful messages I have heard of late. NCC's mantras are so innovative and out of the box and I love attending a service with students who have only seen one expression of Church for most of their lives.

This kind of thing is not too difficult to do with students and the impact of this kind of learning can be incredible. In other words, you could do this with your students too and it would probably have an enormous effect.

Special thanks to Ember guides this weekend, Em and Meghan.

Friday, February 09, 2018

Friday Burn

::: Every One of the World’s Big Economies Is Now Growing

::: The Status of Global Christianity 2018 in the Context from 1900-2050

::: The 25 Most Popular Icebreaker Questions

::: Culture is not a territory to be won, but a resource to be stewarded. - Makoto Fujimura

Photo: Ember guides, The Lincoln. May 2015.