yesterday was my last day at ys…
Saturday July 30th 2005, 5:23 pm
Filed under: personal

…for over a month.

i’m taking the entire month of august off. i haven’t had a month off since i was, maybe, 14 years-old! and i have fantastic plans.
week one: home. sit by pool. do jobs around the house (like, um, putting our xmas boxes away). take the kids to a movie. go to mexico for lobster with friends.
week two: camping (our family and another family) in Big Sur, Cali, at this campground.
week three: 5 days of personal spiritual retreat on the island of guernsey, off the coast of france. a friend of mine is the exec director of Les Cotils, a retreat center on the island, and i’m swapping some youth ministry training for a week’s accomodations and a flight from london.
week four: speak at SoulSurvivor in the UK. i’m only speaking twice, so my five days there will be reasonably chill.
week five: back home again — kids will be in school by this point, so jeannie and i can have some nice day-dates.

then, i head to our convention in mendoza, argentina, the first week of august.

so i don’t head back to the office until something like september 8. feels a bit weird, on one hand. but after the wonderful (and occasionally difficult) craziness of the past 20 months, i think this will be just what the doctor (or the holy spirit) ordered!

some weeks (like this coming one) will allow for blogging; others won’t (like the week of camping).

strategic planning is stupid
Friday July 29th 2005, 4:35 pm
Filed under: thinking...

years ago, in omaha, i learned a process of strategic planning for churches called “master planning” (wow, say that fast a few times and it really sounds like you’re saying something else — which is frightfully close to being a synonym). i took to it, baby, like a fish in water. mmm — it seriously turned my crank: filling in all these little boxes with immediate (6 mo), short-range (1 yr), mid-range (3- 5 yr), and long range (5 - 10 yr) goals. the nine pastors used to meet once a week (for a couple months) in a room set up with tables to “work on our master-planning arrows”. with a background in drafting, i decided to make mine look extra-bitchin’ cool, and used chisel-point hand-lettering to fill in my final set-in-stone (hint: foreshadowing) strategic plan. ooh — did i ever get atta-boys. the senior pastor asked me to make copies of it for the whole elder board, as a good example. i smiled like a 5 year-old being licked by a puppy, folded my beautiful strategic plan, and filed it in my desk: pretty much never to look at it again.

sidebar: this is the church that fired me. guess my stunningly-lettered strategic plan wasn’t quite enough!

at my next church, after the senior pastor hit the fan (hanky-panky with another pastor’s wife), and the wheels started to come off, the elder board asked 5 of us to be a “strategic planning team”. our task was to meet for hours and hours and hours, argue about lots of stuff we couldn’t do anything about, and come up with a ridiculously detailed “prescription” for the future of the church. well, at least that’s how i remember our charge — the elders probably didn’t quite say it that way. it’s certainly what we did. we presented our blisteringly-thought-through plan to the elder board and were told: that’s all good, but, we think we’ll just wait for a new senior pastor to tell us what to do.

sidebar: the two guys who lead the “strategic planning team” both went on to be senior pastors in other churches in the next 6 months — both were hired because of their obvious skill in strategic planning. both split their churches down the middle within a year.

ok, just one more story: a former veep of ys was constantly — and i mean constantly — asking us to develop a new “strategic 5-year plan.” by this point, something had changed in my willingness to develop what i’d previously loved, and i — to my shame — passive-agressively pushed back, avoided and mocked the requests.

churches in america (anyone from the uk, aus, nz, malaysia, anywhere else, want to chime in ?) have been enamoured of business practices for years. not all of this is bad; but much of it is. and while many in the business world are realizing that strategic planning — in it’s traditional mind-set of a goal-setting practice of defining THE path to the future — is a waste of time in this day-and-age. SO, EVEN IF YOU DON’T HAVE A PROBLEM WITH CHURCHES MODELING THEMSELVES AFTER BUSINESSES, YOU SHOULD REALIZE THAT THE BEST BUSINESSES NO LONGER USE STRATEGIC PLANNING AS THEY DID IN THE PAST. but most churches still do. well, to be fair, that’s probably an exageration. many do.

in the business world: planning is still good! but strategic planning has given way to the ancient-future story-telling-based approach of scenario-planning. good strategic planning and good scenario planning start at the same place(s): an awareness of a need for change (or a desire for growth), and a clarification of current and future values (of course, bad strategic planning and bad scenario planning can be done without clarifying values!). but, here’s the difference: strategic planning assumes the future can be known and quantified, and that static goals can be set now that will hold true for the years to come. strategic planning assumes not much is going to change that we don’t make change. scenario planning, on the other hand, assumes change is constant in this world; and — for the most part — the future (even the reasonably immediate future) is unknowable enough that setting 5 year goals becomes an exercise in futility and lunacy. the 5 year goals won’t be taking into account any number of variables you don’t currently see. scenario-planning develops possible stories for the future, taking into account the variables we are currently aware of (positive and negative), and prepares the org to be responsive, rather than reactive.

at the risk of picking a fight with the a-team: scenario planning is more about asking the right questions than it is about predicting the right answers.

ok, now let me take it a step further: we should, inherently, understand this in churches (in christianity). we should understand (should believe) that anything is possible. we should believe that the holy spirit is unpredictable. we should understand that growth in numbers isn’t always good, and isn’t always a sign of health. but, modernism convinced us that the future is knowable, or at least, almost-predictable. add calvinism to modernism (sorry, a few of you were with me until this sentence!), and many church leaders have settled into a mindset that resolve is in our grasp, theologically at least - which can easily spill over into dismissing the unknowable-ness of god and the mysterious ways of the holy spirit.

all this to say, stragetic planning is stupid.

read: , , , and all the Seth Godin books (especially and ).

finally, my kilt photo
Thursday July 28th 2005, 7:28 pm
Filed under: personal

marko in kilti can finally post a photo of myself in my kilt.








publishing advice
Thursday July 28th 2005, 7:12 pm
Filed under: blogs

thanks to the eclectic bloggers at thinkchristian for the tip to andrew careaga’s tip to emily g.’s hilarious post (emily post?) on how not to write the acknowledgements page for your soon-to-be-published book (c’mon, we all believe we have a book or two in us, don’t we?). i suppose we’ll have to allow some of our authors to violate rule #2; but otherwise…

possible hot water
Wednesday July 27th 2005, 9:46 pm
Filed under: faith

here are the sentences that might get me into trouble with some, from my sermon this coming weekend:

Our identity as loved, created beings, chosen to be light in the world, doesn’t make us afraid of, superior to, isolated from, or hostile toward people who aren’t following Jesus – just the opposite: our identity invites us to love the world, regardless of race, religion, political views, sexual orientation, or any other difference – moral or amoral.

The light doesn’t say to the darkness, “you suck! I’m here to obliterate you!” It says, in a humble, almost child-like voice, “Here I am. I’m here to bring warmth and illumination.”

intriguing perspective on mega-churches
Wednesday July 27th 2005, 6:17 pm
Filed under: church

Clint Rainey, an intern at the Dallas News, has written a very interesting op piece on why his generation is becoming disenfranchised by mega-churches (free registration required). it would be interesting to track a group of students growing up in the new boon of mega-youth-groups to see what really happens to them 10 years later. and, it sure will be interesting to see what the mega-church movement looks like in 20 more years. mclaren — i think it was in ‘a new kind of christian’ — says, just like the horse-drawn buggy did to transportation during the first couple decades of automobiles, they’ll continue growing and shaping the evangelical church landscape in america for a while longer. but how long? and what should this say to us in youth ministry — especially those of us in big churches?

thanks to bob carlton, the uber-cyber-finder, for the tip to this article.

my favorite senior pastor has resigned
Tuesday July 26th 2005, 5:49 pm
Filed under: church, personal

Gordon Kirk has been the senior pastor at Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena, CA, for 14 years. no SP is perfect — but this guy was darn close. visionary, compassionate, insightful, wise. and, what can i say? he believed in me when i was a punk junior high pastor, and asked me to be the executive pastor at a 100+ year old church of 6000 people. it was unheard of. some of the church leaders thought he must have had a serious brain-fart.

any institution of 100 years needs a continuous process of change, or atrophy will (or has) set in, usually followed by death. gordon knew this, saw it, and — for the most part — was able to articulate a path forward. he was passionate about lake ave not being an oasis of middle-class white people in the midst of a completely diverse (racially and economically) neighborhood; and the church has made massive strides in this direction over the last 10 years. i’ve really been hoping and praying that lake avenue would become a model of a big ol’ church that was found a path from mono-cultural, through multi-racial, though multi-cultural, all the way to kingdom-cultural. at this moment, i’m feeling a bit less hopeful. the youth ministry of this great church is well on the way to living this reality — please, lord.

gordon’s resignation was due to ongoing attacks and nipping and plain-old wearing him down by critics.

i would absolutely not be sitting in my seat at ys today if gordon had not believed in me.

“why boomers resist emergents”
Monday July 25th 2005, 8:12 pm
Filed under: church

thanks to James at think christian for the tip to these interesting thoughts from Keith Drury, professor at Indiana Wesleyan University, about why boomers have a tendancy to resist the emerging church.

utopian view of the future of YS
Monday July 25th 2005, 11:47 am
Filed under: youth ministry, youth specialties

on a retreat some time ago, our exec was asked to create a utopian vision of the future of our organization. no limits. no “boundaries of reality” — just dream as big as possible (or, as big as impossible), and state a new reality.

here’s what i wrote…

Because of YS, and through the avenue of youth ministry, the church has less divisions

Because of YS, and through the avenue of youth ministry, youth workers of all kinds, and in all corners of the world, are empowered, equipped, resourced and visioned to reinvent the church, and therefore the world, through an attritional approach to the kingdom of God – teenagers become a new breed of Christians, grow up, and lead us to a new day, a new church, a new approach to justice, a new approach to doubt and questions and dialogue and theology and contemplation and the point of being a Christ-follower.

Because of YS, and through the avenue of youth ministry, youth workers, and those they influence, develop meaningful dialogue with others who are different, resulting in:
· New kinds of churches
· New ways of doing youth ministry
· A new era in the kingdom of god
· A marked increase in Christians who prioritize being over doing
· A marked increase in justice and social action, carried out by the church, as teenagers who’ve experienced this impact and calling while in youth groups influenced by YS-influenced youth workers grow into adulthood and have the commitment and confidence to be the church by changing the world
· Teenagers have a leading role in setting the direction for the future of the church, and the church truly listens to their voices.
· The church is once again known as the societal agent for meeting needs and setting right the cultural constructs that have been wrong.
· The church apologizes for 100 years of arrogance and manipulation and selfishness
And… through all of this, YS continues to encourage, train, resource and challenge another generation of youth workers to bring about the next cycle of change or usher in the kingdom of God, the new heaven and the new earth!

whew. i warned you that it was utopian!

the impulse buy i cannot resist
Saturday July 23rd 2005, 4:48 pm
Filed under: personal

i’ve never once driven to a store in search of a pre-made fruit smoothie. but if i happen to find myself at a grocery store or starbucks — as i just did — and spot an Odwalla Citrus C-Monster, i’m robo-buyer.