Adam McLane http://adammclane.com changing the world one blog post at a time since 2004 Tue, 03 Mar 2015 16:22:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.1 Is that message private? (Infographic) http://adammclane.com/2015/03/03/is-that-message-private-infographic/ http://adammclane.com/2015/03/03/is-that-message-private-infographic/#comments Tue, 03 Mar 2015 16:07:24 +0000 http://adammclane.com/?p=16187 Social Media Principle #2 There’s no such thing as internet privacy, only perceived internet privacy. Sources ACLU – U.S. Surveillance Law May Poorly Protect New Text Messaging Services Electronic Frontier Foundation – New Ninth Circuit Case Protects Text Message Privacy From Police and Employers

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Social Media Principle #2

There’s no such thing as internet privacy, only perceived internet privacy.

Sources

ACLU – U.S. Surveillance Law May Poorly Protect New Text Messaging Services

Electronic Frontier Foundation – New Ninth Circuit Case Protects Text Message Privacy From Police and Employers

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Bidin’ My Time http://adammclane.com/2015/03/02/bidin-my-time/ http://adammclane.com/2015/03/02/bidin-my-time/#comments Mon, 02 Mar 2015 16:35:00 +0000 http://adammclane.com/?p=16181 Ever had one of those 3 o’clock in the morning moments of illumination? Well, this is one of those.  I’ve probably heard 20 sermons on John 15 about the vines and the branches. Maybe more. I’ve probably taught on it myself. There are whole books built on this, I’ve read a bunch of commentaries. It’s […]

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Ever had one of those 3 o’clock in the morning moments of illumination? Well, this is one of those. 

I’ve probably heard 20 sermons on John 15 about the vines and the branches. Maybe more. I’ve probably taught on it myself.

There are whole books built on this, I’ve read a bunch of commentaries. It’s one of those core things people refer to.

And, since I don’t know much about grapevines, I tend to get hung up on the idea. Even though we have grapes in our backyard I’ll be the first to admit that the whole illustration Jesus was using is a little lost on me.

A lot in understanding this passage hinges on the word “abide” and that’s not really a word we use in English very often. It’s not even a word I can define off  the top of my head.

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.

John 15:4

Other translations translate that word differently. The Message uses “Live in me.” The NIV, “Remain in me.” But most translations use this antiquated word, “Abide.

But I woke up with this old Gershwin song on my mind. (Don’t judge me, apparently I dream about show tunes.) If you want to trip out a bit, listen to this Pink Floyd cover of the same song.

The two, the song and the Bible verse, connected for the first time.

Abide… biding my time… Jesus is talking about chilling out on the vine— when the time is right— he’ll pick you. Your job is to chill on the vine until just the right time, when you’re ripe, at just the right time, you’ll get picked.

We live in a RIGHT NOW culture. We want to change the world RIGHT NOW. We want everything to improve RIGHT NOW. We want to see change in ourselves RIGHT NOW. We want to see our enemies cry RIGHT NOW.

Our culture says RIGHT NOW.

Being totally transparent, I’m anxious about sitting on the sidelines at church. It’s totally weird to go to church on a Sunday morning with absolutely nothing to do but sit. And as much as I like my role as a high school small group co-leader… we’re talking about a role pretty tiny in comparison to what I’ve done in the past.

There’s a giant gap between my capabilities in our local ministry and the involvement I can handle with my other roles in life. This is disorienting.

I feel like I’m sitting there, just chilling, because that’s exactly what it happening. It’s weird to know that you could have a different role but your actual role is best compared to darned-near-nothing.

And Jesus says… “Chill. When the time is right I’ll come back and pick you.” (John 15:4, Adam’s 3:00 AM translation)

Until then? Just bide your time on the vine. Get nourished. Push past cultural-induced anxiety. Hang out in the sun with your grape-y friends. And chill.

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This lion “loves” kids http://adammclane.com/2015/02/25/this-lion-loves-kids/ http://adammclane.com/2015/02/25/this-lion-loves-kids/#comments Wed, 25 Feb 2015 17:52:19 +0000 http://adammclane.com/?p=16172 Randomly recommendation. Have you seen Born Free? Released in 1966 is shares the story of an absolutely insane woman and her infinitely patient and passive-aggressive husband. Instead of confronting her about replacing an actual child with a wild lion cub, he risks his life and career rehabilitating a lion for release to the wild. But […]

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Randomly recommendation. Have you seen Born Free?

Released in 1966 is shares the story of an absolutely insane woman and her infinitely patient and passive-aggressive husband. Instead of confronting her about replacing an actual child with a wild lion cub, he risks his life and career rehabilitating a lion for release to the wild. But only after the pet lion caused a stampede which destroyed a village.

Really good. Available on Netflix. 

Photo credit: Lionne by Raphaël Goetter via Flickr (Creative Commons)

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A Brief History of Blog Gimmicks and The Problem of Cheap Traffic http://adammclane.com/2015/02/24/cheap-traffic/ http://adammclane.com/2015/02/24/cheap-traffic/#comments Tue, 24 Feb 2015 17:14:01 +0000 http://adammclane.com/?p=16164 This history of blogging is full of gimmicks to draw cheap traffic. And I’ll be the first to admit that over the last 10 years I’ve been influenced by these gimmicks, tried them out, and ultimately gotten better at recognizing that they aren’t part of my strategy. What is “cheap” traffic? “Cheap” blog traffic is […]

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This history of blogging is full of gimmicks to draw cheap traffic. And I’ll be the first to admit that over the last 10 years I’ve been influenced by these gimmicks, tried them out, and ultimately gotten better at recognizing that they aren’t part of my strategy.

What is “cheap” traffic?

Cheap” blog traffic is non-organic traffic to a blog drawn by gaming the system to get more pageviews while failing to convert visitors to invested readers.

Cheap traffic” impresses for all the wrong reasons. It’s all numbers and no real impact or quality. On the surface, it’s easy to get impressed with a blog boasting 100,000 daily readers. But when you look into the actual analytic data you’ll see that most of those visitors are coming to a single page and not returning. Often times visitors aren’t even staying long enough to have actually read the post they are visiting.

Let’s say there is a blog post drawing 90,000 daily readers via referrals from Facebook. That is great, right? Maybe. But if the article is 1200 words and the average visitor is staying 9 seconds, only visited that single page, and then went back to Facebook, they didn’t read it and you didn’t gain a new reader. What did you get? Cheap traffic.

A Brief History of the Blog Gimmicks

  • Blogrolls – Before search engines really gained popularity there was a ton of effort to get people to link to one another in blog posts. You still see historical remnants of this on a lot of blogs. Bloggers would create a page or a sidebar that had links to all of their friends. (WordPress didn’t depreciate their link manager until December 2012)  These were basically recommendations. You’d read your favorite blogger and in their sidebar you’d discover and visit their friends blogs. There was a social dynamic to it because you always wanted to get linked to from someone’s blog. Why? That “recommendation” meant traffic. As this took off as a source of traffic people became more and more interested in making sure their blog got attributed in as many other blogs/websites as possible. Soon, tools were developed and companies started providing services to get your blog mentioned. But as soon as it shifted from an “organic” link in a blog roll or trackback to something “paid” people stopped trusting that blogrolls were legit and the inbound traffic from people’s blogrolls diminished greatly.
  • Blogrings – In the midst of the blogroll boom Blogrings emerged as one of the first sources of cheap traffic. One of my very first toes dipped into the youth ministry world came when I managed a blogring of youth ministry bloggers. How it worked was that you could submit your blog to the blog ring if you met the groups criteria (being a youth pastor) and agreed to post the blogring’s code snippet in your sidebar. So someone would read Marko’s blog and they’d click to the next person in the youth ministry blogring and land on another person’s youth ministry blog. The “cheap traffic” part started to emerge because of human behavior. People would just keep clicking without really reading. So bloggers would get excited that they were getting tons of traffic, but it wasn’t really good traffic, it was just blogring traffic. Really, blogrings were pretty important as far as gimmicks go. And why did you want to manage one? You got to game it so that your blog got the most traffic from the ring… DUH!
  • Google & Relevance – This is really when search engines started to take off. The internet was truly a web of somewhat arbitrarily socially connected websites and blogs. But then Google came along and their technology started to crawl servers, cataloging everything, then sorting content into an order based on relevance. They defined relevance democratically… if a lot of people linked to a single source, it must be the most relevant page on that topic. So when you searched “youth ministry” you landed at “Youth Specialties” because they had the most links for the word “youth ministry” on the entire web. So then the game became, how can I get the most relevant site to link to me… so that my own blog will show up higher in search results. This lead to trackbacks.
  • Trackbacks – Because Google was indexing things based on relevance and links, linking to a source became more than a recommendation… it became almost life & death for bloggers. You wanted to write something that other people had to respond to or write about… and then link back to you. Trackbacks (still part of WordPress core) were a way of your blog automatically alerting another blog… and posting a link back to you… that you’d mentioned their blog. This was a HUGE source of cheap traffic for bloggers in the mid-2000s. I’d read something on USA Today and write a quick response to it with a link back to the USA Today article. That trackback would appear above the comment section with a title like “Why ____ matters to the church” and I’d get hundreds of inbound links from visitors who wanted to read that response. I can’t tell you how many times I did that, sometimes on purpose and sometimes on accident. Trackbacks were crazy because sometimes your blog would even get mentioned on air as some radio host blabbed about the USA Today article. On a smaller scale, trackbacks became about etiquette. It was considered good form to mention several other bloggers in each post and if a blogger mentioned something you wrote or said, you expected a trackback. And, as Google became “the Google” links became more and more important.
  • Backlinks – About the same time that Trackbacks became important, backlinks took off. Marketing companies, aware that Google placed a high value on who was linked to whom, started providing services where they could guarantee that your blog would get linked to by a more relevant website, theoretically meaning your blog would appear higher in search engine results. There was a lot of money exchanged over backlinks. I never really got into this because I always felt it was a little dishonest. But “organic” backlinks became social currency. You could get people to backlink to you with a small gift or service. So you’d agree to review a book if the author and the publisher linked back to you. Within a few years, Google started differentiating between organic and paid backlinks, punishing paid backlinks with lower search result relevancy… so this was a gimmick that was SUPER IMPORTANT for a short period of time, made a lot of people a lot of money, and got a lot of brands hooked on cheap traffic.
  • SEO – The next logical step of Google’s power over search engines had to do with Search Engine Optimization or SEO. There are lots of people (myself included) that think it’s important that your website/blog be optimized to take advantage of all that Google offers by making sure your site gets the right information to Google. That’s not what I’m talking about when I refer to SEO as a gimmick. Where the gimmick comes in is people adding content to their site solely driven and informed by search results. In the youth ministry world, the late 2000s saw several youth ministry bloggers emerge statistically simply because they learned to game Google’s search engines by writing content based on what youth workers would Google. So they’d use a various keyword tools to determine what youth workers were searching for and then write blog posts to capture that search traffic. This gimmick lead to endless blog posts on “youth ministry game ideas” or “youth group mission trip rules.” Again, this wasn’t about having something relevant to say or even writing something worth reading. It was simply about capturing cheap traffic by gaming what people were googling. It was a short-term strategy… and most of those people made good money on the reason Google was tracking keywords… placing ads for you to click on. And as Google has become less important you’ve seen those blogs fade.
  • Blog Contests & Reviews – Overlaying the SEO gimmick was contests and review sites. As brands began to see that cheap SEO traffic wasn’t impacting their bottom line, the pendulum swung back to desperately trying to get recommendations. They found a host for this gimmick in the mommy blogger community. Virtually overnight, small groups of moms who blogged suddenly had conferences at 5-star resorts paid for by Proctor & Gamble. There was no vetting to this whatsoever and no one seemed to ask if you were interested in a product or even if you wanted it. (We know this because Kristen was on a lot of these mom blogger lists, we got TONS of free stuff sent to us.) A company would send you two copies of a product, one for you, one to give away. You’d offer up a short review and you’d post a contest on your blog. Leave a comment and pick a winner. It was completely ludicrous! Kristen would receive 2 toys in the mail that were $200 each. She’d write a blog post about it, list her contest on a blog contest site, and several hundred random people would enter. She’d get TONS of traffic, it’d be fun, and that would be it. It’s funny, but this gimmick is alive and well. It has matured a little in that it most often now requires you to join an email list… so at least companies get something. But when it was hottest in the late 2000s it was a straight up gimmick.
  • Viral Lift – All of this gaming of Google, backlinks, SEO… it leads to where we are right now. The cheap traffic gimmick of viral lift. BuzzFeed is the king of viral lift. They aren’t interested in Google, it’s web crawl is too slow for them. Instead, their entire site is built on two principles: Link bait & social sharing. Literally, instead of gaming Google they are gaming your brain to get you to link to them on social media. So they’ll create a title like, “21 Kitchen Gadgets You Need to Buy Right Now.” Is that important? Nope. But BuzzFeed has learned that they can get you to click on something by mixing keywords and your inborn curiosity. It’s a genius gimmick. And while I tend to believe that it’s author, Tabatha Leggett, loses just a tiny bit of her soul wondering out loud… “I went to Cambridge for to write about banana slicers?” she is actually winning the cheap traffic gimmick war right in this moment. She’ll continue to write stuff like that because it works in the moment and BuzzFeed only cares about the moment.

What Does This Mean for Bloggers?

As bloggers, we are all influenced by these trends. Whether we intentionally do it or not, these trends continue to emerge and we find ourselves mimicking stuff that seems like it works.

My point in bringing all of this up is to point out that if you are in this to write and establish a long-term relationship with your readers, you need to remember who your audience is. Getting hooked on drawing cheap traffic to look at an image or enter a contest or get “quick ideas” isn’t cultivating an audience that’ll convert into long-time readers. It might seem like it “could” but it doesn’t. I’ve simply seen it too much in both my own work and the work we do for our clients.

My advice is always the same: The biggest reward in blogging comes when you play the long game. Just write good content and the rest will take care of itself. 

What Does This Mean for Businesses?

You really have to know your business. Very few businesses can survive without establishing relationships. Sometimes you need a quick burst of energy that a promotion can generate. And sometimes you do need to do things just for branding or list building.

But long-term growth in almost any field has to do with excellence. A gimmick is just that. Look at a gimmick like Thanksgiving door busters. How many of those people who come at 5 AM to buy a cheap TV also buy something else? How many of those people come back in 2 months to buy something else? How many of those people are your best customers? How many of them become your best customers.

Just like I don’t see “cheap traffic” on blogs converting to long-term readers of a blog, you have to see gimmicks as a short-term strategy and a sign that something is wrong. A healthy business-owner isn’t opening up his shop at 5 AM the day after Thanksgiving. A healthy business owner is sleeping in, giving his workers the day off, and enjoying time with his family.

What Does This Mean for Churches?

Somewhere along the line churches started believing that “cheap traffic” days were opportunities for growth. With the Lenten season upon us we’re only days away from churches “announcing” their Easter gimmicks.

Just because you have high attendance on Easter doesn’t mean you have an opportunity.

But before you do that… stop and ask yourself three important questions:

  1. Where are the people you attracted with last years gimmick? If they are in your pews… awesome. But don’t mistake getting someone to show up one time with making an actual impression on them.
  2. What are you doing to make sure that your engagement is at an all time high… instead of all the attention on your gimmick? Just like the blogger can’t expect people to come back because they gamed Google, what makes you think someone will come back?
  3. What’s your real motivation for the gimmick? To draw traffic or to convert? No one thinks poorly of BuzzFeed for drawing endless millions on cheap traffic. But I think that in a post-Christian world the public cares a lot when they see churches pulling off the latest gimmick to draw an audience.

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It’s about the results, not the process http://adammclane.com/2015/02/23/its-about-the-results-not-the-process/ http://adammclane.com/2015/02/23/its-about-the-results-not-the-process/#comments Mon, 23 Feb 2015 17:06:17 +0000 http://adammclane.com/?p=16159 Michelangelo didn’t do it right. Boss man didn’t like the nose.  You didn’t do your math right. Well, you got the right answer but your teacher marked you down because you couldn’t show that you did the problem the way she wants to see. We celebrate Thomas Edison for his inventions. But we just prefer […]

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  • Michelangelo didn’t do it right. Boss man didn’t like the nose
  • You didn’t do your math right. Well, you got the right answer but your teacher marked you down because you couldn’t show that you did the problem the way she wants to see.
  • We celebrate Thomas Edison for his inventions. But we just prefer to not know or care that he electrocuted animals to prove the dangers of alternating current.
  • You didn’t write your big paper right. Sure, it was good. But you got marked down because you didn’t turn the outline in on time. And your bibliography isn’t in the Chicago style, anyway. The MLA sucks, according to your teacher.

Have you ever noticed that some people seem to care way more about the process than they seem to about the results?

It’s as if “their way” is the “right way” and even if you achieve the same or better results another way…

Why is that? Well, they lose perceived power if they don’t point out that you didn’t do it the “right way.” Meaning– their way.

It’s About Results, Not the Process

Every day is filled up with too many messages telling you how to do stuff “the right way“:

  • My Facebook timeline is full of links to posts like this: “10 things successful people do that you don’t” or “The Five Secrets to Steve Jobs Creative Process.
  • In the WordPress world, where I hang out quite a bit, there’s a growing hierarchy of so-called experts shouting down innovation simply because these new innovations aren’t marched down the way the hierarchy likes it. (This not-so-subtle change threatens to destroy the community driving 30% of the world’s websites.)
  • In an essay published by the New York Times, Dan Fleschler writes about the struggle he goes through as his daughter choses to work as a counselor at a summer camp instead of taking on a high end unpaid summer internship. The essay isn’t a knock on camps, it’s a knock on this notion that to be successful you have to walk the designated life path. (ht to Jeff Keuss)

Here’s a little secret… and I hope it frees you:

There. is. no. right. path. to. the. right. answer. 

Trying to get the process just right, according to a book or some so-called expert, will merely lead you to a lot of stress and anxiety.

Sometimes, to get the results you are looking for, you’ll have to submit yourself to an established process. Say, with the IRS, or something like that.

But… for the most part… you need to figure out how to get results in a way that works for your unique gifts.

I’m ashamed to admit how much time and money I’ve wasted in my life learning “the right way” just to later learn that the way I was already doing it got better results and fit me better.

Skip that.

Get the results.

And make your own process.

Photo credit: Frank Watching Frank, Jr by James Vaughn via Flickr (Creative Commons)

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5 Weeks Until Open Grand Rapids http://adammclane.com/2015/02/20/5-weeks-until-open-grand-rapids/ http://adammclane.com/2015/02/20/5-weeks-until-open-grand-rapids/#comments Fri, 20 Feb 2015 16:26:05 +0000 http://adammclane.com/?p=16152 Ah… winter. A quick scan of social media reveals that folks living in Michigan, Northern Indiana, and the Chicago area are completely sick of winter. The supreme irony of our living in San Diego is that we’re Midwesterners who love a good midwest winter. We’d get 6 inches of snow and Kristen was ecstatic about […]

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Ah… winter.

A quick scan of social media reveals that folks living in Michigan, Northern Indiana, and the Chicago area are completely sick of winter.

The supreme irony of our living in San Diego is that we’re Midwesterners who love a good midwest winter. We’d get 6 inches of snow and Kristen was ecstatic about shoveling the driveway. I absolutely loved giving people a hard time about canceling things because it was cold or a bit icy.

So, a year ago, I scheduled our very first Open Grand Rapids right in the middle of winter. On purpose! My hope was that people would have a little cabin fever and look forward to something to get out of the house for on a cold Saturday.

Welp, um… I was wrong. The weather was a bit of a sucker punch and we had a very hard time getting people to come out.

Year one was great: But year two will be a lot better!

This year’s Open Grand Rapids is March 28th (SPRING!) on the campus of Cornerstone University. If you aren’t familiar with the format we have a great line-up of presenters presenting on real-life stuff from all over the region. Instead of the “big national organization” bringing in a group of ringers to offer big-box-version youth ministry training without local context, we recruit local youth ministry experts to offer training to fellow workers doing youth ministry right in that same context. So don’t expect polish or production or anything fancy about Open Grand Rapids. But do expect a very full, very high quality day of youth ministry training for just $25. (No one gets paid and most of the money gets donated back to a local organization & the local organizer team.)

The kicker? What our presenters lack in the experience of doing the same seminar dozens of times per year, they more than make up for in real-life experience. 

What has became so evident at our 3rd Open Boston a couple weeks ago is that with a little bit of experience, some feedback/coaching, that the quality of training is just as good as any I’ve seen.

So that’s the scoop on Open Grand Rapids. I hope to see you there.

VISIT THE WEBSITE REGISTER HERE

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Shrinking the Job http://adammclane.com/2015/02/19/shrinking-the-job/ http://adammclane.com/2015/02/19/shrinking-the-job/#comments Thu, 19 Feb 2015 17:32:09 +0000 http://adammclane.com/?p=16146 I first learned this lesson as a young pastor. But it applies to me today just the same. In 2002 I left my job in Chicago, moved my family across the country, and started a job as the youth pastor in a small community in Northern California. The first week was spent cleaning out my […]

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I first learned this lesson as a young pastor. But it applies to me today just the same.

In 2002 I left my job in Chicago, moved my family across the country, and started a job as the youth pastor in a small community in Northern California.

The first week was spent cleaning out my office, trying to figure out which key opened what, and a pile of introductory conversations with people from the church.

But the next Monday morning, with my first Sunday under my belt, I remember coming into the office early– before anyone else– and sitting behind my desk to reality: I had no idea what to do. 

Literally, I didn’t know where to start. Outside of a Sunday school class and a roster of kids who had gone on the last mission trip, there wasn’t a program.

So I pulled out the job description.

It was full of ridiculous statements like, “Oversee an outreach program for teenagers in the community to begin a personal relationship with Jesus.” And, “Oversee the discipleship of teenagers in the church.” And, “Create opportunities for evangelism and discipleship among all students.

I sat there, staring at this document, expecting it to magically tell me what to do.

Then I pulled out my Bible and read a bit. Then I pulled out the roster of mission trip kids, I spent some time praying for each of those students.

It wasn’t even 8:00 AM on my first real day in the office. I made coffee. And I began to doodle ideas on a piece of paper. 

Coming from the business world… once the coffee sank in… I came up with a plan. I’ll spend the next 30 days doing an assessment of all the people, resources, identify opportunities, explore what opportunities for networking exist, and establish some baseline stuff that this youth ministry will do. (Regular meetings, events, etc.) I catalogued everything. I interviewed and met with everyone. I took lots of notes. And a month later I presented a report and plan to the elders…. which, of course, they hated.

A Common Problem

As time has gone on I’ve realized that I am not alone in this problem. Organizations hire highly trained, highly motivated, highly talented people. And then they leave them in an office with a job description, a budget, and offer very little supervision while heaping on ridiculous expectations.

Many leadership jobs are nebulous. The hopes and goals heaped on them are not realistic. You can’t hire a person from another culture, give them a $29,000 salary and a $6,000 budget and expect them to walk into an empty office and come up with a plan to reach 3,000 teenagers in less than a year.

But, when looking at the job description and listening to the leaders– that’s what is expected.

The problem is the job is too big. And the person trying to do these god-sized roles? They either quit, get fired, or burn out in a couple years.

The Solution is Shrinking the Job

What I learned over a painful season in 2002 has guided me to today. The fact of the matter is my job today is even more nebulous than that youth ministry job in 2002.

If you’re going to avoid burnout, if you’re going to sleep at night, if you’re going to know when your work day is done… you have two choices.

  1. Stop caring and just let it fly
  2. Shrink the job

I recommend option #2. 

What isn’t the realistic goal?

Shrinking your job starts with setting realistic goals.

There was no way I was able to create a program to reach every teenager in my small town, but I could create a goal that every involved student in my ministry would be equipped to reach one of their friends. That’s something I can measure and that’s something I can find a resource to help me with. 

There was no way I could disciple every teenager in our church. But I could assess and label every teenager who regularly attended the church. (My simple categories: Uninvolved, involved, core) And I could make sure that every involved teenager was paired with an adult who was trained to lead a small group. And I could make sure that every uninvolved teenager was invited to become more involved. That’s something realistic.

Likewise, we could assess the spiritual growth of each involved teenager by setting up some basic benchmarks. That was simple, measurable, and realistic.

What aren’t you measuring?

Once you’ve established some goals you get a good idea of what you can measure. More importantly, you know what not to measure.

Regularly, people would come to me with something they were hoping to see happen in our youth ministry. “Wouldn’t it be great if students helped with VBS?” Yeah, sure. But it wasn’t something I’d measure to mean anything. You didn’t have to be involved, uninvolved, or even a Christian to help lead games or be a warm-body at the craft table necessarily.

I find that if I don’t know what I’m supposed to measure I kind of either don’t measure anything or I try to measure too many things, putting weight on things that don’t really matter.

Today, I certainly have things that I measure and can judge the success or failure of something. But people ask me all the time for things that they think I ought to be measuring that I have no idea about. Why? Because I’m not measuring everything. 

Everything is too big.

What’s outside of your control?

The last thing that helps me shrink my job is to define some things that are out of my control.

For instance, I can’t control someone’s response. I can control how I delivered the message. I can control what was delivered, when it was delivered, how many times a person has heard about it…. but I can’t make them respond.

To think I can manipulate a person’s response is idolatry.

The primary task of the youth worker is faithfulness, not response. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job and He doesn’t work for you on your agenda it’s the other way around.

The net effect is when I try to control what’s outside of my control, I get frustrated.

That’s why I can look at things, which other people might measure a failure, and see the win. I’m measuring things within my control and relinquishing responsibility for things outside of my control.

That shrinks my nebulous job into something more manageable and human.

Question: What are ways you’ve shrunk your job? 

This is original content from Adam McLane. © adam mclane

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Defying Gravity in the Snow http://adammclane.com/2015/02/18/gravity-snow/ http://adammclane.com/2015/02/18/gravity-snow/#comments Wed, 18 Feb 2015 15:56:51 +0000 http://adammclane.com/?p=16142 It hasn’t snowed in San Diego since 1967. There’s never been a snow day called by the San Diego schools. Ever.  So it’s a little hard to imagine the vast amounts of snow and wintery wildness our friends on the east coast have been coping with. Around here? Well, up until yesterday it was unseasonably […]

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It hasn’t snowed in San Diego since 1967. There’s never been a snow day called by the San Diego schools. Ever. 

So it’s a little hard to imagine the vast amounts of snow and wintery wildness our friends on the east coast have been coping with. Around here? Well, up until yesterday it was unseasonably warm. Santa Ana winds had us in the 80s! 

I don’t know what that has to do with anything… but here’s a few snow-related videos about defying gravity… or not defying gravity.

World Record Breaking Ski Jump – 250m (820 ft)

This guy caused and was rescued from an avalanche in 90 seconds

This snowmobiler goes for the ride of his life… down a mountain

Photo credit: Grand Tetons Fall Snow by fortherock via Flickr (Creative Commons)

This is original content from Adam McLane. © adam mclane

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Tracking Anonymous Social Media Accounts Back to the Source http://adammclane.com/2015/02/17/tracking-anonymous-social-media-accounts-back-to-the-source/ http://adammclane.com/2015/02/17/tracking-anonymous-social-media-accounts-back-to-the-source/#comments Tue, 17 Feb 2015 16:54:54 +0000 http://adammclane.com/?p=16132 You aren’t the NSA and you have a problem Do you have a hater? Is someone anonymously posting things on social media that are driving you crazy or disrupting your school? Is someone posing as you? In many cases, it might seem like you can never figure out who these people are. And, usually, they aren’t doing […]

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You aren’t the NSA and you have a problem

Do you have a hater? Is someone anonymously posting things on social media that are driving you crazy or disrupting your school? Is someone posing as you?

In many cases, it might seem like you can never figure out who these people are. And, usually, they aren’t doing anything illegal so there’s little the police could do about it.

I’m going to share a simple way that you can catch most online creepers. Most aren’t that sophisticated, most are just idiots who think they are being funny.

Last year I shared how I deal with trolls, this year I’m sharing how I track not-so-anonymous accounts back to their source

A Rat ALWAYS Returns

I went to a college where pranks were big. It was a conservative Christian college that didn’t allow students to have sex or drink alcohol. We weren’t even allowed to dance or go to movies. With all that extra time, pranking folks was a form of currency.

And there I learned an important thing that applies to annoying anonymous accounts: A Rat ALWAYS Returns.

In other words, the fun for the prankster (or troll or bully) is seeing your reaction. This curiosity will point you back to the culprit 99 times out of 100.

Let’s say someone put something in our microwave for an hour and it burned, causing a nasty smell that brought everyone out to inspect the problem in the kitchen. The person who was there who didn’t fit in… or the random person who walked by “because they smelled something” was usually the person who did it. They were the rat.

The exact same behavior is true when someone is anonymously tormenting someone on social media.

You don’t have to be the NSA to track down the culprit because 99 times out of 100, all you have to do is look at who is looking and it’ll point to your rat.

Mapping Users

Step 1 – Identify the account

Might seem too obvious. But you need to isolate the account. Go to it’s profile page, it’s a wealth of information.

Step 2 – Map the users they engage with

Looking at the offending profile, start taking notes on who are they engaging with? Grab a piece of paper and identify the first 10 people the account followed or became friends with. Next, identify who they most frequently engage with. Look for social activity like favorites, retweets, mentions, things like that.

Step 3 – Identify Related “Accounts of Interest

Once you’ve done that, order the accounts that they engage with the most from #1 – #10. Chances are very high that your culprit is one of those accounts OR they are, at least, friends with them. These are your “accounts of interest.”

Why? Because this behavior is about social power. And there is nothing to be gained unless other people know you are doing it, can watch it, etc.

Map the Context / Language

Step 4 – Isolate the Context

I find it helps to get the text/images/videos out of the actual app and into another format.

Create a Google/Excel spreadsheet with a new tab for each incident when the offending account posted something. Create a column for each of your 10 “accounts of interest” associated with the anonymous account. (So row 1 is the names of all the accounts) Next, copy/paste any post from those users around the time that something was posted. Note mentions of the offending message or the person being targeted. Anything that could be in context.

The point in doing this isn’t that you are going to identify your offender. But you are most definitely going to be able to identify the friend group of the offender(s). You can assume that these people are either together or texting/messaging one another about the anonymous account.

Take careful note about who is promoting the account to other people. They are vested in other people discovering the account, sharing it as funny or asking other people to check it out/follow it.

As you sift through this you will see a few accounts who are the closest to the action. These are the most interested parties. They might not be the offender, but they know who it is.

  • When were things posted?
  • What were they talking about before and after?
  • Were there references to what they were doing? Where were they?
  • Were they referring to contexts of things that limited people know about? (Something that happened in a class, for instance.)

Remember: Social media happens in real time. Context is very important. Circumstances often lead to the timing of what is posted, when.

Mapping Location

Step 5 – Map Mistakes

I can’t believe how often this points directly back to a source. 

Most smartphones have a built-in GPS. And most social media apps, unless you turn it off, will tell you a location. Scroll through the offending account to see if you can spot any of that.

Step 6 – Map Images

If they are posting images they’ve taken, their goose is cooked. Seriously, this is too easy. Download the images to your computer and look at the properties of the image with the image viewing applications included with your computer for free. (In my case Preview) Open the image, click Tools>Show Location Info

Here’s information about a picture I took at a local grocery store of some duck eggs. 

Note exact location Note device information

If you have this information, you can establish exactly where that person was when the image was taken… but you can also tell the exact model of their device. If you have 10 people you’re looking at, how many of them have a black iPhone 6? Your circle just got a lot smaller.

Face-to-Face Pressure

Step 7 – In Real Life

Let’s say you are an administrator at a school and you need to know who is impersonating a teacher or who is bullying a student. Now that you have this information you have a pretty good idea who to talk to.

The last step is the confrontation. If you’ve followed the steps above, chances are very high you’ve identified 3-4 people you need to talk to as well as created a paper trail as to why you are talking to these individuals.

Likewise, let’s say that this behavior has crossed a legal boundary. The information above is easy enough to share with an investigator to give them a fast-forward on doing a criminal investigation.

Did this help you? Leave me a comment or drop me a note via my contact form.


This post relates to my social media principle #2: There’s no such thing as privacy online, only perceived online privacy. If you’d like to learn more about that please check out my book, A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Social Media.

 

This is original content from Adam McLane. © adam mclane

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Keep Youth Ministry Weird http://adammclane.com/2015/02/16/keep-youth-ministry-weird/ http://adammclane.com/2015/02/16/keep-youth-ministry-weird/#comments Mon, 16 Feb 2015 16:18:58 +0000 http://adammclane.com/?p=16128 Youth ministry is weird.  When planning a worship service for adults you’d never think, “We need a big group game to get people laughing.” Or, “Let’s have a sleep over right here in the church.” A little too weird for most adults. But awesome for 8th graders. It’s pretty rare that adults will show up an […]

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Youth ministry is weird. 

When planning a worship service for adults you’d never think, “We need a big group game to get people laughing.” Or, “Let’s have a sleep over right here in the church.

A little too weird for most adults. But awesome for 8th graders.

It’s pretty rare that adults will show up an hour before church just to skateboard in the parking lot or hang out with their friends. I’ve been in some fun adult small groups, but we’ve never gone to a trampoline park together. Teenagers don’t donate old couches for adults to sit in on a Sunday morning. And, as sorry as I am to say it’s true, it’s pretty tough to get 25 adults to show up to help clean up the neighborhood.

Silly games, fun nights, mission trips, service projects, t-shirts, bad pizza, over-the-top songs, all-nighters, pointless road trips, winter retreats, just-cos-movie nights, helping at VBS, camp flings… all of these are staples of youth ministry.

Youth ministry is weird because weird is what works with teenagers.

If you aren’t a little bit weird you’re a lot-a-bit creepy.

Tune Out the Tamers

To me, one of the scariest things going on in youth ministry right now is the desire to tame it. People are so worried about youth ministry being a one-eared Mickey Mouse (not fitting organizationally) that they put a saddle on their youth group and break it.

  • People start to see youth ministry as a great way to market to families instead of a great way to reach teenagers who need Jesus.
  • People worry so much about integrating with kids ministry and young adult ministry that there aren’t really any non-church kids to even worry about integrating… we’re integrating people who were going to integrate anyways. 
  • People preach the Gospel of safety and political correctness more than they preach the Gospel of the Good News of Jesus Christ.

If you tame it you’ll lose it. If it’s boring the only people who will come are the students whose parents make them come.

If you finish a night of youth ministry and you didn’t have at least one point of the night where you weren’t sure if it was going to work or if you were going to lose control… you need to tune out some tamers in your life.

Youth ministry, at it’s best, is weird. 

Deal with the phone calls.

Explain it in staff meeting.

Get your volunteer team to back you up.

And keep your youth ministry weird, baby. 

Photo credit: Zorbs by Ian Southwell via Flickr (Creative Commons)

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