Wednesday, October 31, 2018

ProtoGuide Blogs

One of the pillars of our ProtoGuide Experience is having the students read and write. They are given a weekly reading assignment and they are to write about their experiences through the semester or year by posting on a blog. I still believe what Seth Godin says about blogs - that consistently posting to a blog is one of the best ways to lead your tribe. So we make the ProtoGuides write one too.

They read a variety of things, including books and articles, all designed to give a postmodern, innovative glance at the global missions space. And they write because no matter what you do, you must be able to communicate. The best practice for writing is writing.

Here's a few posts that you might enjoy:
A Day in DC
My College Essay
A Wee bit Irish
Are you a Rung

Thanks for reading. You can follow along by adding their blogs to your RSS reader [I use feedly.]

Photo: John and Drew, the very first Ember ProtoGuides. Philly, 2010.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Better Practices - Pre and Post Trip Assessment

This is a series of posts that outline our better practices - tactical things that you could do right now that The Ember Cast has found highly profitable for growing global leaders. Feel free to use these ideas with attribution, meaning just say, "I got this from The Ember Cast."

For summer teams, most summers we do a pre and post team assessment based on our core list of global concepts. Quite simply, we are asking team members to explain an important global concept both before and after the trip. We would expect that they might or might not know the concept before the trip and our hope is that after the trip, they would know it really well and have a real life example of it.

The pre assessment is an integral part of our team application and is executed as a whole section of questions on global concepts, such as indigenous, person of peace, or contextualization. The post assessment is done as a follow up to summer teams after they have returned home - we have not been as good at this as we should be. But of course, for students to understand it, someone has to teach it, model it, illustrate it.

There are lots of global concepts that are never taught to our students and yet are extremely applicable to them in their current context. Instead, many of us believe that these ideas should only be taught to adults who are committed to the mission field. Your summer team is an ideal experience where students can glean real life examples to lots of these concepts. Don't ignore such a huge opportunity.

Friday, October 26, 2018

QCommons Baltimore - notes

Some quick notes from the QCommons gathering last night in Catonsville.

: Jo Saxton
hospitality - it is not a gift but it is an instruction
leaders and influencers - you are to be hospitable
take this personally, offer this freely

: James Misner, World Relief
the evangelical church is the most hostile to refugees
WR has signs in their office instructing people how to use toilets because sometimes their clients don't know how
22M refugees worldwide - 66% of these are Jesus followers
We cannot buy a solution to the refugee crisis.
Congo and South Sudan [vs Middle East] are where most of the displaced people are today.

: Jeanne Allert, The Samaritan Woman
this talk was crazy good.
no notes would give it justice.

: Scott Harrison, Charity Water [huge fan]
solution agnostic - we use 13 technologies for the water issue
Dirty water is illegal in Heaven
personally traveled to 69 countries, been to Ethiopia 37 times
Do not be afraid of work that has no end.

: Bob Goff
People follow availability.
We go where we are accepted, not informed.
I make coffee nervous.

: Luke Casagrande, Grace Fellowship
God is omnipresent, we are singularly present.
Our phones give us an idea that maybe we can be more than singularly present, which divides and diminishes our presence.

I would have thought turn out would have been more - probably less than 50 people there. All 3 local speakers were excellent, as well as the broadcast ones. Liked the format - 9 minute talks with breaks for discussion, very TED talks like. The push for donating to money to World Vision right after Scott Harrison's talk was very odd - it felt weird to ask for money for a different charity than from the speaker we just heard from. I've followed some of the Q stuff in the past and have found the content helpful. Tonight was well worth it and loved having some of the Ember team there.

Photo: Hailey, Audrey, Hope [previous ProtoGuide and now staffer with The Samaritan Woman, which is why the barcode], Emily, me.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

My Youth Pastor

My youth pastor, in the middle, at his retirement party, after almost 40 years of vocational ministry. No burn out, no moral failure, no abusing kids, no stealing money.

I learned a ton from him: being in his youth group, helping as a leader in his youth group, leading two summer mission teams under his leadership, and being on a teaching team with him. All the while watching his life and his leadership.

Me, Ron Jones, and Gary W, one of my oldest friends from my teenage years.

Eternally grateful.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Better Practices - Decompression

This is a series of posts that outline our better practices - tactical things that you could do right now that The Ember Cast has found highly profitable for growing global leaders. Feel free to use these ideas with attribution, meaning just say, "I got this from The Ember Cast."

Decompression and debriefing is one of the most difficult things to execute as a leader and the research is clear: if you do not decompress the experience with your team, your cross cultural trip will have zero impact. It will be as if your team never left their house. It is that important.

It's difficult because it comes at a time in the lifecycle of a trip when everything is winding down. Your team has just completed most of their tasks. You are probably traveling on your way home. The team has been away for more than a few days. Everyone is looking forward to being home. It is precisely at this moment in the trip when decompression requires you to stop imagining what it will be like to sleep in your bed and instead ramp your energy up for a few more days to properly engage your team for finishing well.

Here are a few suggestions for making this work well when your trip is winding down and you are sick of your team, salivating for some good Dim Sum and ready to sleep in your own bed.
+ The theme of good decompression is 'change.' You put this experience together for your students so that they would be different from it. They would be more joyous, more giving, more selfless. Do not be afraid of asking significant questions that will lead to change.
+ Resources for decompression are very scarce. Seth Barnes has given the world gold with his series of posts on the subject. Save off a subset of his great questions to use with your team.
+ If you can plan for one or two days at a neutral location, on the way home, where you can relax as well as have time to process what you have experienced. Granted it is difficult and expensive to add this to your trip. At times we have done this without other locations too, in airport terminals and restaurants, on public transport, on flights home. The key is not locale, the key is to do it.
+ I like to do this over a whole day, meaning I plan 5-10 questions, and we give the team free time at the beach or pool or whatever and we have a mini session for each question, time to journal and share, all spread over a whole day, one question every hour.
+ One of the questions I always use is asking the students to write a 20 second summary, 2 minute summary and a 20 minute outline of the trip. This is a fundamental one that helps them process the trip for themselves as well as for people who ask them about it. Most people will only listen for 20 seconds. A few will listen for 2 minutes. One day, they may get asked to write a report or give a talk for a missions agency.
+ We have a two page 'toolkit' for Decompression. It's ready to be printed out and delivered to your team. You should have one too - if you prep it now, it will be much easier to execute when you are only hours from home.

London, 2015.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Friday Burn

::: Considering the Vacancy Tax
It could be something like: For any storefront that’s empty, after two months of vacancy, the landlord has to pay a tax of 20% of the average rent they’d be receiving. All the money would go to neighborhood improvements and policing.

::: City Street Orientations from Around the World

::: Mike Frost on NYC
What's happening here is your future, even if you don't live in Gotham City. Wake up and recognize the old, tired ways of doing and being church are changing. Cities like New York don’t have all the answers, but they're being forced to confront the questions more quickly than the rest of us.
This is why Ember almost exclusively serves in cities.

Photo: Decompression.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

For 2029

This is a team I helped lead in 2008, ten years ago, which seems both like yesterday and centuries ago. The old town, Sopron, Hungary. And look at my kids.

Most people that lead these kinds of things come home from something like this and declare success, almost before even landing. Team members do this too - I've never heard a student land at the airport and tell me that they are never doing that again. Instead, and I'm guilty of this too, we all proclaim this was 'the best team ever!'

Instead, let me suggest that you temper your proclamations. Influencing students is a long game, played best with patience, intention and modeling. 10 years out might be a good marker in time to make some of these declarations. Ask yourself: Are you still in touch with these students? Do you know what kind of influence they have in the world? Are they more kind, more in tune with their lives and the world around them, do they embody being a sent person even more than while on this trip? Maybe that helps you gauge the success or failure of your experience. Keep in mind - you are not the only reason they are doing great or doing awful.

Dig deeper though. What is it that you want from your students 10 years after they have this experience with you? You can't declare success or failure if you don't have goals. We have one major measurement for The Ember Cast summer teams.
How many are in intentional ministry/leadership? [Note - vocational, bivocational, volunteer, lots of variety in this]
I'll play too. On this team - about 70% that I know of.

Plan for the long term. Execute with the end in mind. Don't scream how great your trip was at baggage claim.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Ember October Dinner

Our guest this past weekend was RM, who is in the midst of starting an agricultural training center to provide tactical farming skills for people interested in this kind of thing. The applications are broad, including being a grower state-side as well as in another culture. This starts this coming summer, based in PA to start with, and would be a summer long training and mentoring experience. Ping if you need a lead.

Some highlights from our time:
+ RM always had an interest in growing things, from the time he was very young. Gardens, farm animals, etc. Your past shapes your dream [Dream Year.]
+ A pivotal experience was being overseas and seeing this kind of thing in it's context in SE Asia.
+ Original plans included a global export business but that fell through.
+ The ability to grow things is fascinating to everyone. Neighbors always want to see you if you are growing something.
+ Lots of agricultural concepts are redemptive analogies - mustard seed, sheep, death to life.
+ There was a good discussion between the adults about scale and multiplication. I appreciated that because students don't hear that kind of conversation very much - scale or bail.
+ Advice for a young person: take every opportunity that comes your way and find a mentor.

Lots of students tonight. Special thanks to RM for being our guest.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Friday Burn

::: Half of the World is Now Middle Class or Wealthier

::: 5 Month Old Baby Youngest to Visit All 50 States

::: Crossfit as Church

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Ember Monthly Dinners

Last year, in an effort to invest in our Ember staff a bit more, we started hosting a monthly dinner where we invited some of the most innovative people we knew serving in the global nonprofit space to interact with our leaders. The conversation was always lively, centered around calling and missional imagination, as well as hearing the latest on the super interesting projects of our guests. As the year went on, the guest list blossomed into fabulous dinners with people involved in what the Lord was doing around the world.

These dinners start again this year and our first one is this coming weekend. We are pivoting slightly this year by including more focus on 'executing your dream.' If you are a local high school student and consider yourself an emerging global student leader, ping for invite details.

Monday, October 08, 2018


Ember facilitated a culture service learning experience with a group of 10th grade ladies this past weekend - we had a great time getting to know them and were super impressed at their passion for the world, their grit to getting things done and their posture of learning. We are better for working with them. Here are some of the elements:
+ A Friday evening session introducing the weekend and some of our Ember mantras and concepts.
+ Sat morning - serving with A Wider Circle
+ Sat lunch - cultural navigation in the Shaw neighborhood of DC
+ Sat aft - church at The Miracle Theater gathering of National Community Church
+ Sat eve - dinner and decompress near Eastern Market

Really appreciate A Wider Circle and their approach to poverty alleviation and they have a huge reach. I love their best reminder: that items should be in 'dignity-condition'. This summer one of our partners received a box of donated food and it was all expired. Many of us believe that it is totally acceptable to give our trash to those less fortunate.

Modeling cultural navigation continues to be a central theme for Ember and the students we work with and I'm thrilled at how we have grown in this skill. Shaw is a great place to do something like this - very safe, lots of opportunities for this kind of observation because its a big mixing bowl, a good place to walk slow and concentrate on learning.

Pastor Heather Zempel preached at NCC and in light of the past few weeks, it wasn't planned out that way. She did however preach a fantastic message from Rev 2 about the church at Thyatira. A standing goal for Ember is to expose students to different expressions of Church when we can and NCC is one of the most futuristic churches I know.

Special thanks to ProtoGuides Hailey and Audrey for serving with this team.

Friday, October 05, 2018

Friday Burn

::: When Church is My Idol

::: Goalkeepers
The Gates Foundation on the Global Goals

::: The Neighborhoods That Offer a ‘Bargain’ on Upward Mobility

::: "Are we sure what Jesus is looking for is well-attended church services?" - Francis Chan

Photo: Mosaic Hollywood, Sept 2018.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Thank You, Board of Director, Leslie Brettschneider

A million years ago, this high school girl named Leslie joined some of our fun when we wanted to engage students to serve local and distant communities, see the world and to call them to stop just existing and start living. She stuck around too, making the transformation from a student to a leader, helping us lead teams for four summers, including teams to Brasil, Cameroon, and Hungary twice. Leslie was also pivotal to some behind the scenes leadership development with SPACE. When I started The Ember Cast, she was on my short list of people that I wanted to lead with.

The rhythm of people's involvement with Ember is driven by seasons - we know I'm the only one who is sticking with this for the long haul. So Leslie's time on the Ember board of directors has come to an end after being here from before the beginning. I am immensely grateful for her time on the board. She has given wisdom and insight to our organization and has always given input with a bias towards action.

Leslie remains one of our bright spots and a model - see the world clearly as a student and you can intentionally carve out a life that serves others. From one of our favorite students to a leader powerhouse, she's working in the nonprofit sector in DC and making moves with some leadership initiatives with a church in the city. And she is the only one that has seen a rock concert with me on a missions trip.

Thank you Leslie. A future that has not even been created is in debt to you.

Leslie, 2nd from left, Nov 2017.

Monday, October 01, 2018


Been in San Diego and LA the past few days, part has been visiting family and part looking at a few colleges for Em. By my count, she has less than 40 weekends at home. Parents, don't waste your time or your attention.