Monday, April 22, 2019

Ember Founder - Freelancer Not Entrepreneur

When I started The Ember Cast, I had grand dreams of multiplying lots of leaders. It was like that Faberge shampoo commercial from the 80s: "And they told two friends...and they told two friends..." When Ember started, you could not be in the missional, missions, church planting conversation without understanding multiplication [versus addition] and therefore including something about multiplication in your strategy. I dreamed that Ember would reproduce like rabbits. We were going to throw fire across the world!

Except it didn't work. Every student that worked with us only stayed with us for a season. When that season finished, they went on to do greater, even more amazing things. John attended a missions school in Mozambique, Drew worked with a bunch of water filtration projects in Kenya, Shannon discipled high school girls and women in prison, Trevin became one of the brainchild behind one of the East Coast's most potent short term missions sending churches, Tess moved to Philly to teach in the city, Hope dug into recovery for victims of human trafficking, DK serves on a college campus. A few of our tribe have returned to join us for short summer teams and we have loved that.

In 2013, I listened to a series of podcasts by Seth Godin called Startup School. One of the first topics was the question of 'freelancer versus entrepreneur' and this 22 minute talk reframed the unintentional organizational design of The Ember Cast. Freelancers get paid when they work and are not focused on scale, while entrepreneurs are organized for growth and build companies that grow the work. That distinction put Ember into clarity for me - I was a freelancer. I wanted to be focused on the work of mentoring global leaders. I wanted to be intimately involved in every project Ember was engaged in. Whether it was ProtoGuides, a culture learning weekend, a short term team training event or a summer team, I wanted to craft each one of those projects. The clarity with this understanding brought great freedom. Nonprofit and charity work must scale but like Jan Chipchase says, it must be a 'meaningful sense of scale.' For my involvement with Ember, right now, it means more freelancer than entrepreneur.

The effort you are trying to pioneer might be dealing with the same thing right now. You might be dreaming of multiplication but still find the extreme joy in being an artisan in your craft. You love the idea of becoming worldwide even though your discipline is your accomplishment. Maybe it's time to forget growth and be clear that your job is to hone your gift. That bigger might not be better. That your tribe needs you doing what you do.

See more on this idea here.

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