Categories
The Youth Cartel

The Open Manifesto

There aren’t many places in the church where all ideas have the same opportunity to be presented. Everything is editorialized, shaped, and packaged. Every idea is filtered through a lens.

We think something is wrong with that. Deep in our souls we know the solutions to the problems we face today are already out there, waiting to be discovered.

Open is just that. Open. The Youth Cartel sets the table, plays host, and invites anyone and  everyone who has an idea to the table for a day where we all have equal value for our ideas. Whether you are a big dog with 20,000 people writing down your every word, a college student with some crazy ideas, or somewhere in between, the table is open–we will give you your shot and equal time to share your idea.

Now that doesn’t mean you will automatically be appreciated or celebrated. It’s an open table and you have the chance to play with the big boys. There will be winners and there will be less-than-winners. Just like everyone has the same shot, everyone undergoes the same scrutiny. The point isn’t that everyone will be equally received, the point is that anyone can have the platform.

No one gets paid to present at Open. Why? That wouldn’t be fair, would it? Those making presentations submit a proposal and chances are good that if they’ve got something to say that’s on topic, they will get a shot. Their only compensation is the chance to present their ideas, and free entry to the day.

So what does it cost? We’ve kept it as simple as possible. Tickets start at $25 for the day. If we sell out early then that’s it. But as we get closer to the day, tickets will naturally get a little more expensive.

True to the premise of Open, we aren’t out to make a lot of money. We are splitting any proceeds for the day equally with a local organizer and a local ministry recipient. We think that’s fair, and we will be 100% open about the money so you know who has made what.

From top to bottom we want Open to be a different type of event. We set the table, invite all, and provide a day where the best stuff filters to the top. Why? Because we trust you. We are in this together. We care deeply about impacting the Kingdom and we know you do too. And we know that low control, high trust openness is the way to get there.

Join us.

Being your ideas, bring your voice, and let’s dream.

Backstory

This is the driving document for Open Seattle, a new youth ministry event we just announced today. This is the first of what I hope will become a movement of Open events which gather all over to collaborate, celebrate, and innovate within our beloved tribe of youth ministry. The plan is to do two more as an alpha test, one in the Northeast and one in Western Europe. (Hosting info)

A fun story about this manifesto is that I wrote it about 6 months ago. I kind of woke up with this from a dream. It was one of those things that dragged me out of bed and I typed it as fast I could. For weeks I had been thinking about Open, I’d had conversations with about a dozen people about it, but I couldn’t put the whole thing into words until that morning. It’s crazy how creativity works. Sometimes you have to dig to find it and other times it attacks you and you just try to keep up.

 

Categories
Church Leadership Social Action

No more country clubs

Photo by Elliot Brown via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Quick facts

Cumulatively, the American church is likely the largest private land owner in the country. Most zip codes contain at least one house of worship. In my zip code alone there are more than 30. In many communities around our nation the church occupies some of the prettiest property in town. It’s square footage competes with all other public buildings in girth and consumption of natural resources.

Cumulatively, the American church is likely one of the largest private employers in the country. Each of those congregations in my zip code employ at least one individual. But when you include secretaries, janitors, and associates, the number goes up. Nationwide hundreds of thousands of people are employed by churches.

And yet…

  • Churches pay no property taxes
  • Most church staff do not pay full payroll taxes.

Think about the fiscal crisis your state is going through… not taxing churches and their staff comes at a pretty high cost, right?

Why is that so?

Have you ever thought about it? Why don’t churches pay property taxes? And why are clergy taxed differently than other types of employees?

The best I can tell there are two main reasons for this:

  1. In the last 70 years, there has been an increasing desire to keep church and state separate. The Supreme Court has, again and again, affirmed a desire to not sniff around in the churches business too much. Collecting property and payroll taxes would probably require audits which the federal government wants no part of.
  2. Historically, there was an understanding that the local church was the primary provider of social programs. It didn’t make sense to tax the entity taking care of the sick, feeding the poor, and often providing meeting space for the community.

(More on this from the L.A. Times)

Closed to non-members

If I were to walk to the front door of most churches in our country today and pull the handle of the door I’d find it locked. (And not because it’s a holiday, it’s locked nearly every day. Even if unlocked I don’t have access to use the space.) I’ll quickly be told it is private property.

The simple truth is that the church is one of the largest private land owners and largest private employers, but it is generally closed to the public. The possibility of its existence is financed by 100% of the community whereas the benefits of the property, staff, and resources, are functionally only available to the 5% or so who attend.

For years I’ve heard the local church referred to as a country club and scoffed. But largely, it is true.

The public is not welcome.

My dream for the church

It’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. I will watch the speeches. (And make my kids watch them, too.) I will remember the effects of his ministry. And I will be inspired by the quotes on Twitter.

More importantly, I am empowered by Dr. King’s message to keep dreaming.

When I close my eyes these are the things I dream about:

Photo by Brian Hawkins via Flickr (Creative Commons)

One day, the churches facilities will embrace the implications of its tax status. It will be a place truly separate from the world because it serves the world. So separate that people coming into her doors will wonder if they are in an alternate reality. I dream of a church who flings it’s doors open to the public Monday – Saturday from 6:00 AM until 10:00 PM. It’s a place the poor are served. A place the sick go for healing prayers. A place the elderly use as a resource. A place high school volleyball teams practice. A place kids go for tutoring. A place of civic debate. A place the arts are celebrated. A place local business people use for meetings. And a place where people go to find out how they can serve their fellow neighbors.

One day, the churches staff will see themselves as employees of the community. The skills Paul talks about in Titus 1 & 1 Timothy 3 will be used not just to run programs attended by the faithful but cast upon the community for the common good of all people. Sure, there will be sacramental duties performed by the staff. But they will be kept in focus by the needs of the community. The pastor will see himself as not just the pastor of the people who come on Sunday morning, but as the pastor of the community he’s been called to serve. (Using “he” in an inclusive mode, my egalitarian friends.)

The church will no longer be dictated by fears of lawsuits. They will rise above the desire to protect its assets in realization that the assets came from and belong to the community in the first place. The church will no longer be stricken by a separation of church and state because it is too busy embracing the needs of the state’s citizens. You want to sue us? Then sue us because we have made our property open to all. You want to close our doors? Then you are closing the doors on the place of refuge for refugees and the place of stability for those lacking the stability of a family. Let our good works be our best defense.

The church will be a physical manifestation of the redemptive work of the Holy Spirit. The church will be a continuation of the ministry of Jesus. It will be a place every person can both be served and serve in the fullness of their spiritual gifts.

What will we see than? We will see Jesus at work. We will see the irresistible draw of our Savior on the hearts of the community. The church will cease being a place for the 5%-10% on the fringes and regain its place as the centerpiece of our communities. We will see that the church will be the waypoint when giving directions to people around town. We will see that the community will look at offering tax breaks to churches and clergy will be a bargain and a burden its people happily bear for the greater good of the community.

This won’t wallow in a social gospel. Instead it will embrace that the Gospel is social. It’ll be the embrace that the Gospel isn’t just about renewing of our hearts but also a renewing of our community.

Let the religious among us be skeptics of what can happen when we embrace our role in society. In the meantime, when we step into these things, we will see today’s skeptics give their hearts to Jesus when they finally see the Gospel alive with their very own eyes.

Categories
hmm... thoughts illustrations

Opportunities Stomach

Photo by Kenji Oka via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.

Colossians 4:5

These were the words of Paul to the Colossian church. He was wrapping up his letter to them with a few tidbits of sage advice. Like bits of dessert after a Holy Spirit inspired meal.

Those words have stuck with me and become part of my self-talk. You know, the little words that run through your head all the time. A lot of people label me an optimist or a glass half full guy. In fact, I label myself an opportunist. I’m constantly asking myself, “Am I making the most of this opportunity?

Maybe that’s a spiritual or ministry opportunity? (Paul’s original intent of those words) But maybe that’s an opportunity at work? Or a business opportunity? Or an great idea? The possibilities are as endless as the food combinations at a buffet.

The Opportunity Stomach

I’ve found that there is a strategic difference between waiting for the right opportunity and and jumping at every opportunity.

Think of opportunities like a meal. You are either hungry for it or you aren’t. (Most people aren’t. They just pass on opportunities without even thinking about it.)

But if I jump on too many opportunities my appetite for really great opportunities wanes. Then, because I waited for the perfect opportunity I tend to lack the experience to know the difference between a choice meal and a cheap rip-off.

I notice that most people tend to approach new opportunities like they approach their favorite restaurant. They like what they know and they know what they like. So they turn their nose up and almost all new opportunities.

Whereas, I tend to nibble at a lot of opportunities and save room for the big ones. That way I know what a great opportunity tastes like when it comes along.

With that said, the only problem with nibbling is that sometimes you get too full for the big meal.

Categories
hmm... thoughts

Let’s Clarify our Relationship

Dearest blog reader,

It’s tough for me to write these words. Yet our affair is such that I think we need to clarify our relationship. It’s been pretty muddy as of late and I feel as though you are beginning to disdain me. And my ambivalence towards your disdain may not be helping matters.

I write this blog. I invite you to read it. But it is important you know it was never about you. It’s about me. I don’t mean that to sound narcisistic, the way professors try to write off all social media as narcisism. See, I was blogging before we called it a blog. This thing you are reading started way back in high school– in journals. Then, in college, I got more sophisticated about it and would write this on my first Macintosh– in 1994. After that, I learned that my words could be more portable so I carried this around on Zip disks that I popped into computers all over the place… writing on the go! If you see the first post on this blog, from 5.5 years ago, you’ll see that it refers to other involvements online. (Seriously, I’ve been doing this online thing in one form or another since 1994!) It’s about me and my writing, not you and your reading.

I consider my blog a form of art. I’m not that creative in the traditional manner, I can’t paint or draw. I suck at singing and dancing… this is what I have to work with. This is my studio.

Long ago bloggers wrote in secret. (Think about the movies– how many of them are based off of journals found after a person dies?) I hid behind names I created for myself and never associated my name with what I posted online for fear that people would know what I was thinking in real life. The secrets weren’t because I was ashamed of what I wrote. It was because it was clear that I was keeping a journal and it was more for me than it was for you. I was fine with people reading it. I knew people read it. Back then it was more about the style of “hiding” than the hiding itself. Everyone did it.

In the last 3-4 years styles changed and people went public about blogging. I’ve owned and blogged here at adammclane.com for almost 3 years. I was intentional about chosing this domain because I wanted to be transparent— I was tired of people whispering, “I found your blog, is it OK if I keep reading?

I don’t even blush anymore when you walk up to me and tell me you read about something on my blog. It’s just part of my life. Some people are strong verbal communicators– I like to think I am a stronger written communicator. It’s what I do and who I am. The fact is I love it when you walk up to me and say, “Are you Adam? I’ve read some stuff on your blog.” That’s great, it’s always fun. You’re welcome here. Please continue that. Please let me know how I can help you if you are learning to blog.

What isn’t so great is when you put words in my mouth. Or when you steal my work. Or when you correctly quote me but misspell my name. Or when you take my ideas and thoughts and claim they are your own. Or when you want to take my ideas and make money for yourself. Or when you ask me to work for free. [There’s a whole rant to this one– for another day] Or when you blog/Facebook about my ideas negatively and don’t have the balls to at least send me a link to invite me into the same discussion that kicked off your rant with your friends. I could go on. But the point is made, right?

This relationship is about trust. You trust me to write something worth reading. And I trust you to treat me with respect.

– If you want to discuss something with me, I’ve given you 100 ways to contact me or leave a comment right here.

– If you want to quote my blog, please spell my name correctly. (How do you get the link right and the name wrong?)

– If you want to put a blog post on your website or in your denominations newsletter… please ask me for permission. I’ve never said no.

– If you want to start a conversation about me, that’s totally fine… please allow me to defend myself.

– If you want me to give you advice on how you can make money (or raise money for your ministry), don’t be annoyed when I ask for payment.

I live a pretty open and public life. I’m totally fine with that. It goes with the territory. But living my life before you doesn’t mean I am open to being robbed, misquoted, mislabeled, and written off as some kind of jackass to be taken advantage of.

I’m not angry, I’m not thinking of quitting, I’m not even a little bit ticked off— I just thought it was a good time to clarify our relationship. I live my life before you. I share my thoughts with you. I trust that you respect this relationship as much as I respect you. I invite your response. If I’m off base, let me know.

Thanks for reading,

Adam McLane

Categories
Church Leadership

Open Ended Discipleship

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