I need your camping advice!

Next weekend the McLane family is going camping. (A non-digital adventure!) Specifically, we’re going to Idyllwild, CA for 3 days and 2 nights.

We need this

Summer 2011 has been the lost summer. Especially for me. Leaving YS and starting up 2 businesses meant that we didn’t take a vacation over the summer and I’m pretty much fried as a result. In the last 90 days I’ve worked 12+ hours probably about 75 of those days.

Our family is in desperate need of R&R– away from projects, school, and anything digital. Why? Because after next weekend the fall gets going like crazy with conferences, cool projects, youth group retreats, yada yada yada. If we don’t do this we won’t get a break until Thanksgiving.

Here’s the deal

Kristen and I were into backpacking before we had kids so we know the nuts & bolts stuff about setting up camp. But since we’ve had kids (10+ years) we’ve never gone camping without taking 40 middle/high school kids.

What we need is help with fun things to do with our kids while camping beyond the obvious stuff like hiking and s’mores and exploring the woods. We know we need to try geocaching…. but what else?

Leave me a comment with your favorite camping tip and help our family make some memories next weekend. 


How we got here is not how we get out of here

In 1995, I got a job running some machinery on nights and weekends for a large health care company. I was a college student and it was a perfect job for me.

  • It was boring and I could do my homework. 
  • I had free reign to the 29th floor of a Chicago skyscraper until 6:00 AM. 
  • It paid $15.00 per hour, as many hours as I wanted to work.

The people who trained me were meticulous is telling me “this is how things are done.” In truth, their system took a fairly simple task and made it really complicated. They spent most of their day waiting for something to load onto the computer or setting up the machinery.

And when I’d point out that if you did things in a different order, the whole process ran a lot faster, I was sharply told, “Don’t mess with the order. This is how we were trained to do it. This is how things are done.

And I did. Until they left. And then I did things my own way.

This went on for months. The day staff would do 10% of the work and in 5-6 hours I’d come in and knock out the other 90% using my own techniques. And the day staff started to hate me. They’d leave me “encouraging notes” all the time about how I was making them look bad.

One night, about 10 o’clock, the door of my room swung open unexpectedly. I was blasting the Newsboys, reading Hodge’s Systematic Theology, and the machine was running like a champ even though I was barely looking at it. To my horror I had missed that my bosses, bosses, bosses, boss– the VP of the department– had stayed really late to work. As she had heard my music and wanted to say goodbye before she left.

I stood up suddenly, convinced I was about to be fired for breaking like 6 rules.

Adam, I want to ask you some questions!” Crap. Dangit. How did I let this happen?

It turns out that she had actually left at five and come back just to see me. She explained to me that she heard in a meeting that I was somehow doing more, cheaper, and faster than other employees who had 10 years experience on me. And no one knew why… so she had come to figure it out.

By the time I was done explaining my process to her she had two questions for me:

  1. Could I teach other people how to do this?
  2. How soon could I start as the supervisor of that area?
That’s when I learned that “this is how things are done” wasn’t going to work for me as an adult.

This is how things are done.

As an idea guy, there are rarely more offensive words spoken.

In my mind, there are lots of ways to do everything and the way that you’ve always done them has lead you to the results that you know. So, if you have the absolute best results/product/organization on the planet, and it can’t possibly get any better than it is, yes… I suppose this is how you do it.

But for everything else– This is how you do it to get the results you already have. 

  • This is our service order
  • This is our product cycle
  • This is our traditional calendar
  • This is our fundraiser
  • On and on

This is how things are done” is fools gold. Because of the law of diminishing returns, “this is how things are done” will only lead you into doing less, earning less, and reaching less– instead of more.

What’s interesting about being around people who believe in this? They think that it leads to greater efficiency and better results. And when results aren’t what they’d hoped they would be it’s not the system that is broken, it’s that you didn’t do things the right way, in the right order, or with the right people.

You see, “this is how we do things” works. At least it does for  them.This is how things are done” is comfortable, predictable, and easy.

But as a long-term strategy? It only leads to failure. Long term, systemic failure.

Sadly, because the law of diminishing returns is gradual you don’t even recognize that your systems are, like the frog in the pot, killing you.

Until one day you wake up and realize:

  • My church is way smaller than it used to be even though we’re working harder.
  • Kids aren’t coming to my retreats anymore even though I’m promoting it like crazy.
  • I’m selling fewer cars than I need to in order to survive and prices have never been better.
  • I’m making far fewer widgets than I need to be in order to make a profit.
  • I can’t make payroll, much less a profit.

What’s the solution?

Start some new mantras. “How can we do more with less?

Create a culture that rewards soft innovation.

Ask your frontline workers.

Reward your frontliners and they’ll keep you on the bleeding edge.

REVOLT: The systems that got you here will not be the systems that lead you where you want to go.

youth ministry

Three Ways to Reach More Teenagers Starting this Fall

In your community less than 10% of 6-12th graders are a part of a youth ministry.

Photo by Martin Ringlein via Flickr (Creative Commons)

In most communities 2%-3% of eligible teenagers are involved on a good week. Ouch. Here’s a strategic reality check for you: Tweaking your mid-week program or plugging in a new communications tool or even working harder isn’t going to help you reach the next 10% of students in your community.

Simply put– what you are currently doing is only going to reach maybe 1%-2% more people next year. And if you believe, like I do, that a life with Jesus is better than a life without Jesus, this is a call to action more than a call to give up!

Have you read the book of Acts, lately? It’s the most dangerous book in the Bible! And yes, that’s possible today.

To reach more students you’re going to need to implement additional strategies. Don’t freak out. Launching additional strategies doesn’t mean you have to do more work. But it does mean that you might need to make some room and cast a wider vision for ministering to adolescents in your community.

Here are three ideas that you can start this Fall

Starting with resources you probably already have, these three start-ups will reach a different population than you currently can.

  1. Drop-in center – A drop-in center is a safe place for teenagers to hang out. If you have a youth room already.. or even better… a local business who allows you in, it is basically just having night hours a couple days per week and staffing it with volunteers. (Say, open from 8pm – 2 am, you know… when the students you need to reach are out and bored.) Allow local bands to come in and play. Have some occasional theme parties or movie nights. Offer beverages, snacks. Adults who staff it focus on building relationships, inviting those interested to check out Jesus in an exploratory study on who Jesus is. It can be a rough and tumble option. But definitely needed in most communities and a great way to expand your reach. If you have some bouncer looking adults in your church, they’d love this. Give to them and get out of the way. Tip: Tell your church kids it’s not for them.
  2. After-school program – This is especially helpful in reaching 5th-8th graders. I’m always surprised that more churches don’t offer after school stuff since churches usually really close to schools! You would be surprised how many middle schoolers are going home to empty houses and this provides an easy alternative. When they come, offer free time and a snack so they can unwind from the day. After that, offer a quick lesson on virtues or values or even hygiene…. Then flow into an hour of homework help. This might seem intimidating at first. But I guarantee that every church in the country has a retired teacher or someone who wants to run it, some stay-at-home moms to jump on board, and other folks who would love to pitch in because they love kids. If you break it into two roles, the free time and lesson crew and the homework helpers– it’s a lot easier to staff as one tends to intimidate the other type of person. Tip: You’d be surprised how much money is out there in federal grant money for this. You can probably do it with existing unused space and a grant to cover expenses.
  3. Partner with the school to provide mentors- Mentorship is the buzz word in youth ministry circles and educational circles. Meet with your principal before he leaves town for the summer and ask if you could help them get a mentorship program going pairing educated adults with students who need a little extra care. (Or support the one they already have.) Even if you just became the point person for the school’s mentorship program, you’d probably be the principal’s best friend for life. I’d bet my mother’s right arm that you can find 25 adults in your church willing to volunteer 2 hours per week mentoring a middle school or high school student. Chances are also good that if the school posted the opportunity you’d have an additional 25 volunteers come out of the woodwork, you’d hold one quick volunteer meeting, coordinate with the administration, and it would be off to the races. Tip: The key to any interaction with your local school is meeting with the principal and asking, “What are your needs? How can I get people to support your mission?” Coming to him and pitching a mentorship program might not be the best idea. But if it comes out that its a need of his, jump on it!