Categories
The Youth Cartel

Celebrating the Collective We

Saturday was one of those rare experiences where you witness a vision reality.

Something that existed purely by way of imagination, aspiration, and hopeful preparation took physical shape resulting in a day I’ll always remember.

It started to get real when I picked up the t-shirts. Brian Aaby had connected me with a local screen printer who not only did a great job but passed along a beautiful price. When Kevin popped the lid on a massive box of antique cherry red t-shirts emblazoned with a white “Open Seattle” logo– I was taken aback. It was like that box pinched me and woke me up. THIS IS HAPPENING!

The Friday night speakers dinner was next. 30 speakers & their significant others enjoyed a meal together. Again, it was one of those things that was just on the calendar… it was a thing I knew would be cool but had no idea how fun it would be. Though most of us had never met face-to-face, everyone had a great time getting to know one another. There were lots of hugs and laughter mixed with our spaghetti and cheesecake. Perhaps the quality of the night was best exhibited in the volume of the group. It was so loud in there!

After a sleepless night I got up before dawn to head over to Seattle Pacific University. I was the first car in the lot. The campus was silent as I unloaded my rental car and schlepped boxes of stuff into Upper Gwinn.

Then it all kind of started to go in fast-forward. Sponsors started showing up to set up their booths. No sooner did I get stuff unpacked before the early birds started to arrive. And seemingly 15 seconds later it was 8:57.

I grabbed Mark Moder… “Um, can you help me? I need someone to do a little welcome and mixer.

Literally, I needed that 2 minutes to shift my brain. The build up had been so long but the morning so short. I needed to capture the moment, gather my thoughts, and say this:

It’s because of you. We do this thing for you. The world needs you. And we need you to not just love Jesus and love kids. Today is an expression of the collective we. When we gather, we share what is working and our ideas… we begin to welcome in a new, bigger collective we of adults who minister to adolescents.

(Or something like that.)

I’ll share more about the day later. But it was a great day. It’s one thing to dream dreams. But it’s another thing to see your dreams become a reality. And what was really fun for me is that it wasn’t a celebration of a kooky idea that I somehow snookered 125 people to being a part of. It was a celebration of something that we can all stack hands on, own, and say… “That thing belongs to us, the collective we.”

Categories
social media

Fall in love with your content

Every day I read all sorts of blogs. I follow hundreds of blogs with Google Reader and I’m constantly following links on Twitter and Facebook to various people’s blogs.

And I’ve gotten used to the mediocrity of most stuff out there.

There are very few people writing about what they love. But there are a whole pile of people writing about what they think will make them money.

You see, blogging is hot. Trendy even. Just about every company, church, start-up, and author I meet will quickly tell me… “I need to have a blog.” So the first thing people see is that blogging can somehow make them money. (Build a tribe, generate leads, sell product, sell ads) And in every marketing meeting in every corner of every market someone is in charge of getting bloggers to talk about their product. “User-generated content is what we need.” (aka free advertising!)

But they are missing the point. And their metrics always come back emptier than they’d hoped.

Why?

The reason people read a blog is because they connect with the content. A reader can tell the difference between a crappy post to promote a product or service and something they genuinely care about.

There are a lot of people, many of them my friends, who will sell you a big bag of tricks about how to make money with a blog. They will tell you it’s about design and whistles and SEO and mixed media. Most developers care more about the functionality of a site than they do the one thing that will actually work. (And make unlimited money.) Really, really good content. 

But the truth is that all that matters is that you love your content. You have to love it or no one else will. 

Categories
Church Leadership

Final thoughts on canceling church

My post last Sunday about megachurches (and their copycat little brothers) canceling services the day after Christmas generated a massive response. Apparently, there were a lot of people who also felt it was a smidge ridiculous that in America we found an excuse to take a Sunday off while those in other parts of the world risk their lives to worship Jesus publicly on any day. And a good amount of people, especially those who commented, thought the connection between the persecuted church and canceling services was unfair.

That’s OK. I’m a big boy and can handle people disagreeing with me.

There were several spin-off posts generated which I’d like to call your attention to as they are worth reading:

I learned three things from the post and its fallout.

  1. In general, American Christians don’t feel much of a kinship to non-American Christians. At least the majority of blog commenters would not put kinship above their individual churches rights to meet or not meet.
  2. Few people latched onto a central concept in the post that the church is our real family. I consider my community group part of my family, I’m left to assume that this family-feeling is not all that common. How can that be so?
  3. The priesthood of the staff is so deeply engrained that it was nearly 30 comments before someone brought up that churches canceling services could have just managed their resources/staff differently by empowering more lay people and depending on the staff less.

In the end, the post did more than I could have hoped for. Rather than simply getting a pile of people to agree with me or disagree with me… it seems as though the post generated the exact discussion I had hoped for. And getting church leaders to critically think about their ministry is about all I could ever ask.

Categories
Christian Living

Towards Simplicity

Photo by Steve Minor via Flickr (Creative Commons)

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,

‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain’d,

To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,

Till by turning, turning we come round right.

Simple Gifts – Elder Joseph Brackett, Shaker

This has hardly been our theme song for 2010. Yet, Kristen and I have made some serious moves towards simplicity this year. Ever since I read Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline, I’ve been fascinated by the concept that less is more in my life.

The Simple Things

  • Quantity time with the kids, individually. As the kids are getting older we are making sure to schedule time for mom and dad to spend big chunks of time with each of us 1-on-1.
  • Gardening. I can’t tell you how many deeply simple Biblical principles have been illuminated to us through our garden this year. For me, the biggest one has been– You have to prune daily, you have to weed regularly– Otherwise good things will take over your life and bad things will choke out your growth.
  • Staycation- I suppose not everyone lives in a vacation destination quite like we do. But there was something so beautiful about renting a house 45 minutes away and spending a week with family.
  • Financially sound – I was shocked when I looked at some graphs on Mint.com the other day. I told Kristen, “We did a really good job this year. We’re ahead in every category and on target or ahead in every goal.” It’s amazing what can happen if you’ll just live within your means. In 2010, we were able to give or save 25.4% of our income.
  • Meaningful roadies- In November, I lamented a lot about being away from home 14 weeks in 2010. (27% of 2010) At the same time, most of those trips were really meaningful. And not all of that was away from family. (Including the mission trip with Kristen, probably the most valuable trips of our marriage.)
  • Friendship – It’s incredible to have a life full of friendships. (Or as a co-worker calls them, “Adam’s bromances and brarriages.”) While having a bunch of great friendships is huge to me… nothing has made me more excited than to see Kristen develop some deep friendships with a few women in our community group.
  • Real food – We’ve far exceeded our desire to buy/grow 25% of our food from organic sources in 2010. While it might not sound immediately like a step towards simplicity: Going to the farmers market (and even visiting the farm where our food comes from) has not only connected us to where our food comes from– we feel a lot better. There’s nothing finer than enjoying a salad or eating fruit that you’ve grown yourself.
  • Acting on convictions – Putting what you believe to action really is a step towards simplicity. That might not sink in at first, but remember that regrets and the conflict caused by sitting idly on your convictions creates stressful complexity. All year long I’ve asked myself, “Am I making the most of this opportunity? Am I acting on my convictions? Will I regret it if I don’t say that?”
  • Towards a small world – No doubt, I have many friendships all around the country and around the world. But taking the step to try to focus some of that energy onto the block we live has been rewarding. We’re looking to allocate more of our time/resources towards that in 2011.
  • Journalling – I’m headed into my seventh year of journalling my life online. This little discipline has transformed my life. It’s really interesting when I interact with people who are thinking about starting a blog. “When will I have the time? What will I say? Will people read it?” I come at it daily with the exact opposite thoughts. The time I spend journalling brings me life. What I write just comes out of my life. And I don’t care if anyone reads it.

It’s funny how simplicity is different for everyone. When I think of my life, filled with a calendar full of meetings, digital gadgets, hours online per day, on and on… I still consider it grounded in simplicity. Perhaps that makes me a digital simpleton?

I don’t have grandiose plans to drive this further in 2011. With baby #3 coming soon I think we’ll just be happy to hold on to the progress we’ve made in 2010. You know, keep it simple.

What steps towards simplicity are you taking? What are things you’d challenge me towards in 2011?

Categories
Christian Living Church Leadership hmm... thoughts illustrations

Abram’s Call: An advent monologue

Photo by Stephen Weppler via Flickr (Creative Commons)

[Lights up]

[The main character, Abram, walking his dog through his middle class neighborhood.]

[His phone rings, the ringtone is Usher’s OMG]

[Abram bounces his head to the song as he pulls the phone out of his pocket.]

[Abram’s glances at the caller ID and stops cold. He raises his eyebrow for a brief second, thinking about letting it go to voicemail.]

Abram: Ah, man. I don’t really have time for this today. Give me a break… OK, whatever.

[Abram swipes to take the call]

Abram: [With a little frustration in his voice] Hello?

God: Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

Abram: You don’t even say hello anymore? For once it’d be cool if you would at least say who it is. [pause] OK, OK… what do you want me to do? Leave the country and go somewhere? What do you mean by “leave?” You mean go for a little trip? Or do you mean I need to pack up my house, quit my job, and move? Are you OK? Have you been creating planets again? A little more clarity would be nice here.

God: I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you.

Abram: [pausing, looking inquisitively at his dog, who just raised his leg to pee on a bush.] What does that even mean? You don’t even say hello, you tell me to leave the country…. and now, a great nation? All I ever asked you to do was to help me be a better dad. A great nation? I’m not into politics. I don’t want to become a great nation… I just want to now how to talk to my kids about the tough stuff… you know… sex and why the Cubs suck. Stuff like that. [Pause, catching up to the reality of who he’s arguing with.] Any way we can talk a little bit more about the blessing part of it and a whole lot less of this moving somewhere else bit? I mean… I’ve got my kids in a great school. There better be one heck of a blessing for me to talk about pulling the kids out of school. You know, I’ve got a wife. I’ve got to sell her on this idea. Blessing, yeah… talk about the blessing some more.

God: I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.

Abram: [Letting out a little doubtful snort] You want me to tell that to Sarai? Have you met her? [raising eyebrows and envisioning getting punched when he tells her.] She’s pretty comfortable in our neighborhood as it is. She loves our house. She’s got a whole bunch of girlfriends. Our kids our happy. We’re safe. And you want me to go home and tell her that leaving all of that is going to make our name great? She’s gonna throw that back in my face, you know? And I don’t think I like the sound of “you will be a blessing.” I can’t sell that to her. She’s going to want to here that you are going to bless us. Not be a blessing, get a blessing. Work with me here, G.

God: I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse.

Abram: [turning his heart from despair, slowly to more of a realistic tone.] Well, now we’re talking. Sarai’s gonna dig this part of it. So when our kids start at a new school and the other kids tease them because they don’t look right, don’t dress right, and live in a neighborhood they clearly don’t belong… you’re gonna have their back. And you’re going to make it pretty obvious that people are getting blessed because they bless my family, right? I’m getting the idea that you aren’t asking me if I’m willing to do this… so you’re starting to speak my language.

God: And all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

Abram: [long pause, having been stunned into thinking deeply about those words] Whoa. OK… so what’s you’re saying is that if I go home and convince my wife to move from a house we love to a place to be determined later… that every person on the planet will be blessed through me? I’m not even sure how to respond. I guess I get to respond just by doing it, right?

[Abram realizes that God has hung up]

Abram: Hello? You still there? Yeah, I’m out here walking the dog… this canyon must have a dead zone or something. You’re breaking up.

[Pulling his phone down, he sees the screen displaying “Call ended.”]

[By this time, the dog has gotten tired of standing on his walk. So he’s laid down on his side. Abram puts his phone back in his pocket, stares off into the distance some more.]

Abram: [under his breathe] Yeah, easy enough for God to call me like that. Now I’ve got to go home and try to convince Sarai. How would God know? Not like He has a wife.

[Pulling on the leash and getting the dog going.]

Abram: Come on. Let’s go. Good dog.

[Light out]

Narrator: So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.

Genesis 12:1-5

Epilogue: It’s one thing to take the call. It’s another thing to put the call into action.

Categories
hmm... thoughts

Living la vida simple

I think Ricky Martin had it wrong. While living la vida loca (the crazy life) looks attractive to the bored, I prefer to set my sights on living la vida simple. (the simple life)

As crazy as things seem, feel, or appear– I do live a pretty simple life. A life that is satisfying in its simple pleasures.

Weekends give glimpses into these pleasures.

  • Near agenda-less. There are things to do, but it’s far from the frantic pace of Monday – Friday.
  • Sleeping in. (That means until 6:30, pretty lame, but that’s as late as I can sleep.)
  • Going to the farmers market and discovering new smells and flavors. (Our kids suddenly love pomegranates)
  • Sharing the intimacy of talking about nothing with Kristen over a cup of tea.
  • Watering, weeding, and pruning in the garden.
  • Spending way too much time observing your cat hunting or the hummingbirds feeding.
  • Lounging in our pajamas well past 9 am.
  • Staying up late to watch a movie.
  • Walking around Costco to pick up a couple things, but mostly to score samples.
  • Taking the dog for a walk.
  • Cutting the grass. (Which feels weird to do in November, but our grass just started growing.)
  • Debating when the citrus will ripen so we can start gorging on mandarins.
  • Wrestling, chasing, and teasing the kids.

It’s funny, isn’t it?

Ironic to be exact.

I struggle to find satisfaction even in these things which are completely satisfying in and of themselves.

And I remind myself:

Life isn’t perfect. Compare the simplicity of these things against the weight of the life I deserve.

Now things start to feel perfectly satisfactory to me.

Categories
Church Leadership

Leading Your Church to Reflect its Neighborhood

It’s been more than 40 years since Martin Luther King, Jr. quipped, “Eleven o’clock on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of the week.

If we are honest with ourselves– churches are nearly as divided today as they were 40 years ago. We call it culture and we call it personal preference. But the truth of the matter is that we just don’t want to rock the boat. (We like the comfort, staff members like their paychecks.)

So we allow racism, sexism, and a lack of cultural diversity to run rampant in our congregations.

It’s time those of us called to lead, lead our churches into a new paradigm.

And it starts with a sober assessment of where our congregations are at.

Simple measurement tool

Make a written observation the demographics of your congregation this Sunday morning. (Age, marital status, socio-economic status, race, gender) Then compare what you observe at your church against what the data set of your churches zip code as provided by the U.S. Census Bureau.

  • Does your congregation reflect its neighborhoods demographics?
  • Does your church staff reflect the demographics of the zip code?
  • If there is a disconnect, is your church leadership making serious, active efforts to close the divide?

Cutting to the chase: While most evangelical congregations don’t have white, middle class theology. They predominantly attract white, middle class congregations. And it’s scary how many church staffs are filled with white, middle class males. (Go ahead, look at the staff pages of 10 of your favorite churches.) That disconnect you observe should lead you to make changes!

Changing your behavior: If you are like me, a child of the 1980s, you were raised in a dogma of multiculturalism.

From kindergarten I was taught that all the cultures in my community have value, deserve equal rights, and should be given access to the same things I am given access to as a member of the dominant culture. That value may have been taught to me from a secular perspective, but I believe it also reflects a biblical perspective on how Christians are to live in society as well!

If you want to express that same value on Sunday morning you need to take some steps (maybe radical ones) towards that value.

In other words– Maybe you need to change churches? Maybe you need to stop funding something that doesn’t reflect your values and start funding a congregation that does? Maybe you need to lead the way and stop waiting for church leadership to lead you?

Personal testimony– This is what I’ve done. For the past 2+ years my family has been a part of a congregation that works hard to reflect its neighborhood. At times, it is simply beautiful and at other times it is wholly awkward. But it’s been a radical transformation for my walk with Jesus. So, know that I’m not just pushing an idealism, I’m encouraging you to participate in something that I’m finding tremendous joy in.

If you are a church leader who is taking a serious look at bridging the divide between the Sunday morning demographic you have today and the one you’d like to see in 12 months, may I suggest some action steps?

5 Radical Steps Towards Becoming a Congregation which Reflects its Neighborhood

  1. Hire staff members that reflect the demographics of your zip code. (Race, gender, marital status, age)
  2. Require all paid staff, from the janitor to the senior pastor, to live within the zip code of your congregation. (Give them a few months to move, make it financially possible, remove staff members who won’t move within 12 months.) Take it a step further by requiring all board officers to do the same.
  3. If you live outside of the neighborhood, lead the way by moving into the community your church is trying to reach. Don’t contribute to the disconnect– lead the way!
  4. Get involved in neighborhood issues. Lead the way on issues of justice, advocate for the poor, let your congregation be a voice in the community. (Here’s 10 suggestions for your church to be good news to the neighborhood)
  5. Adopt a local public school. The local schools are the access point to the people your church is called to reach. Get involved, not as an agent of adversary, but as a community partner. (Here’s 10 suggestions for your church to be good news to the local schools)

Is this a magic growth formula? Of course not. But as you take these steps you will earn the trust of a community who has learned to ignore you. When you care about what they care about and when you reflect who they are, you will be amazed at the social currency this will earn your congregation.

I recognize that these steps may seem extreme. (And I’m certain someone will tell me that firing staff for this is unbiblical) But that’s the nature of leadership, isn’t it? Sometimes God asks you to push past what you are comfortable with or what feels right to do what is right. Remember the rich young man in Matthew 19? He asked Jesus how he might enter the Kingdom of God, but he left disappointed because the cost was too high.

The reality is that if those in leadership don’t take radical positions so that their actions reflect their theology, the church will never change.

We simply cannot survive as a viable faith if we continue to act as agents of discrimination on Sunday morning. The church cannot be the most segregated place in our culture. It is time that the church take a good, hard look at who they are in their community and make some radical changes.

It’ll never get any easier or cheaper to do so than it is today.

Categories
Christian Living Church Leadership

Giving and Receiving at Church

Photo by Vintage Collective via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Confession: There are times when I am frustrated with my church.

  • To the point of not wanting to go.
  • To the point of wanting to give up on organized church.
  • To the point where I think the action of attending church may actually be hindering my ability to live out the Gospel in my life.
  • To the point of wanting to withhold myself, my money, my children, my thoughts, and even my prayers.

This causes me to search myself, my motivations for the action of going to a church, and even what Scripture does or does not say about what goes on at church.

Lately, at the bottom of that barrel I am left with this thought:

Going to church is about giving and receiving simultaneously like the heart pumping blood in both directions. When I’m dissatisfied I am either unwilling to give of myself or I’m unwilling to receive ministry created for me (as part of the congregation). Conversely, I will be most satisfied with the corporate worship experience when I go with my heart pumping a desire to both give an receive.

In other words, I think too much and I must be more simplistic in this exchange with the church. I need to discipline myself to give what I can (in its various forms, not exclusive to money) and receive what I can. (in its various forms, not exclusive to teaching)

It’s a two-fold relationship. When I go more needy to receive I don’t go with a heart to give of myself. When I go needy to give of myself I don’t go with a heart to receive.

Questions for Reflection

I’m not accusing anyone of ever being dissatisfied with their church. I’m only confessing that sometimes I am. But if you find yourself discontent, here are some questions for reflection that have helped me.

  • What is the thing that drives you nuts, that has become a block between you “truly coming to worship God?
  • What category would you place that thing in? Personal preference? Desire for excellence? Biblical accuracy? Effectiveness? Something else?
  • Is that really a big deal or do you just have an attitude problem?
  • Could you chose contentedness with that issue if it never changes?
  • Where areas are you contributing to your church?
  • If a leader thinks about you, would they label you as someone who contributes significantly to the vision and mission of the church? (Not just money, but your actions and heart for the congregation.)
  • Are  you comparing what you want with what you’ve seen at another church? Is that a fair comparison?
  • Is the root of your dissatisfaction a personal sin issue that is manifesting itself as dissatisfaction with something at church?
  • Are you seeking out relationships with people in your congregation or are you waiting for those relationships to pursue you?
  • Are you just being a jerk?

This is what I know

I know that Jesus expects us to live inter-dependently with a community of other believers. As I read the New Testament I never read about the early church being a place of comfort, cushy chairs, mono-cultural, or without tension. Instead, I see a church which gave of itself fully, which recognized that some people were mature while others were immature, was as functional and dysfunctional as a family, and was all about giving and receiving fully of themselves.

Categories
haiti

Make new friends, but keep the old

One of the joys of this trip is getting to know new people. I suppose it is odd to some that this team is assembled of people somehow related to me. Obviously, some are old friends while others are brand new to me. Though that may seem odd, it’s how my life works. As Kristen says, “that’s how we roll.”

It’s the same with Haiti. This trip is entirely different from my first one… The experiences bear almost no resemblance yet feel strikingly similar. It’s like buying a replacement for your favorite shirt. It’s the same but different in a way you kind of like and kind of don’t.

I’m happy to see our team push past discomfort today. The pain/annoyance of traveling here is now nostalgia while the heat feels a little less oppressive every hour. Though, in both cases, it is probably not actually easier, just that we are used to it.

Erin finally made it tonight. She was delayed in South Florida by a day. Her arrival brightened Kristen and my spirits. She is such a great friend to us… And her arriving was an awesome pick-me-up bouquet of joy.

A rainstorm came to put a period on our day. Just as Mark, Jeffrey, and I were tiring of a long game of keep away with a soccer ball and about 10 boys, drizzle turned to downpour. We lumbered inside and made our way to the balcony just as sheets of heavy rain arrived. Secure and dry my heart sank knowing that many in the city were bracing for a night of misery while we rejoiced in the cool breezes the storm brought.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow. We plan on doing some stuff to help construct a church roof, some sort of VBS thing for a local church, as well as visit the Sons of God orphanage.

We all know that this just means I will take pictures and tweet about people doing the actual work, right?

Categories
Weblogs

Best of 2004

Note: I’m on vacation this week. My family has a rule for daddy– It’s not a vacation if daddy brings a computer. Each day this week I’m highlighting my favorite post from the adammclane.com archives. These are oldies but goodies.

Yes, I am Wasting My Life

August 31st 2004

Again this month we are short financially. Grad school came calling. Preschool came calling. Uncle Sam gets his cut in a few days. A combination of expected and unexpected expenses draws a little more money from savings to checking in a constant game of robbing Peter to pay Paul. Life’s expenses are again expensive. Each time this happens to me I start to reminisce about what life could have been like for Kristen and Megan and Paul. Had we stayed on the path of corporate success in Chicago we wouldn’t have this to worry about. The bills always got paid in full. There was always a little extra at the end of the month. We could always surprise someone with a special gift. Vacation? No problem. New tires? How about the best? New clothes? Why not. Yet in the same moments I recall the emptiness I had as I laid in bed at night, longing for my life to be wasted for something more important than getting richer… or more precisely, helping rich people get richer.

Read the rest

It’s 2010. I am still here. I am still wasting my life. And I still love every minute of it.