April 27, 2006

Eric Busby at Tech Ed

Check out Jason Powell's recent post about Eric Busby of Saddleback speaking at Microsoft's Tech Ed. I commented and shared one of my own Eric Busby stories.

April 24, 2006

Racial Issues

I was inspired to post by Jeff's post on racial profiling at God Don't Make Junk, that I picked up through the Wesley Daily.

Without a doubt, some places still need a lot of growing up to do. I've experienced enough racial profiling second hand, myself being a very white Caucasian, bordering on translucent with red hair. One experience was very similar to what Jeff wrote about, except it was with a Caucasian-Mexican friend of mine who looks quite Mexican. That was the only time I've felt threatened being pulled over by the police - hands on gun holsters, looking nervously at my friend in the back seat. (I-44 highway in Missouri.) I have a game I play here in Kansas City KS/MO, and I-70 into Saint Louis, it's guessing the race of the person who's been pulled over by not one, but two police cars. I'm rarely wrong, because it's always an African-American or Latino who's been pulled over.

Much less threatening, yet still annoying is my Indonesian wife who gets carded for using her credit card 95% of the time she uses it. And when I say carded, I mean carefully studying the card, looking at her face, then looking over the card again carefully. Caucasians, how often do you get carded for using a credit/debit card? It only happens to me once or twice a year.

It's very sad. Equality is not a balance of power segregated by race lines, but all of God's children seeing each other as such without color and race. The biggest beef I have with racial anything is that no one seems to focus on this, rather they are focus on segregated balance. I don't feel that helps stop or slow racisim, and feel it's a reason we've only made it this far yet. Individuals seem to want recognition as upstanding citizens of their race, rather than human beings or children of one Father. I think this is due to a couple prominent factors.

People confuse culture with race.
Race is genetic, culture is experiential. I am an Austrian-Hungarian, Croatian-Bohemian, German-French-Irish individual … and I think I missed one or two in all seriousness. The fact I'm Caucasian with hazel eyes and red hair in no way binds me to the culture I've experienced - period. Hold onto your culture, lose the racism.

People are naturally more comfortable with those whom they have more in common with, whether by race or culture.
Pull up some multi-racial situations in your mind. How often do you see all races equally dispersed, sitting amongst each other? More likely than not, you'll see groups segregated by race or culture. Why, because they're all racist? No, because people drift toward others whom they have more in common with, more likely by culture. I think this bends us naturally toward segregation.

You know what we all have in common though? Humanity. Can we focus on this instead?

April 11, 2006

Winning Gen-X for Christ - Part II

Through my thinking I came up with three steps to making a Gen-X / postmodern friendly church, and want to share them because I feel they are important and dependent on one another.

Create The Right Environment
Create an atmosphere that promotes learning. Imagine in your mind a casual environment where people are coming to relax, learn and follow. That environment should not be formal. Don't make it feel like a rigid environment where they have to be on their best behavior. Salvation is not forefront in their lives, so do not charge at them with that goal. Appeal to how Christianity is relevant in their lives today, and to the fullness of life it can produce. Create a learning environment where they are eager to think about religious subjects and deepening their faith through growth of knowledge. The environment should not be constructed with the ease of leading in mind, but with the ease of following.

Open The Doors
The church should be flexible and open to people showing up, sitting down, and getting to know others. You can't have an environment where people have their own seats they always sit in, or things that can only be done, used, or put away one precise way. You also can't make visitors feel like you are so very thankful they are here because the church just couldn't go on with out them, and would they please consider coming back next week, please, please, please. ;) Be personable with them. This interaction is very much like a blind date between the church and the first time visitor. Treat this situation with the same respect.

Reach Out Gently
As pastor Laura Guy put it, "it's much like feeding a wary deer from your hand." You have to be delicate, and make them comfortable enough to approach you. No fast movements. You can't charge over, open their mouth, force feed them, and make sure they chew it up appropriately. Don't reach out trying to win some for Christ being the first and foremost thought. Beware the salesperson filter! Danger Wil Robinson, Danger! Don't try to sell Christ to them. Instead, let them know there is a place that is open, has friendly people, and is inviting to perusal of the spiritual inventory. Appeal to the challenges they face with Christianity. The bible is a book of old stories written by uneducated people claiming this dude Jesus was born miraculously, died and saved us somehow, and then came back to life. In the words of a postmodern, "Whatever!?"

April 09, 2006

Consulting opportunity

My friend Jennie Ver Steeg is Director of Online Libraries for Career Education Corp. She asked me to post the following in case any of you out there are looking for consulting opportunities.
I am in the process of gathering prospective Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) for the various courses in the Network Administration, Management, and/or Design field. Prospective SMEs will be contracted to help on coursework and will be working with instructional designers to develop appropriate course materials.

Prospective SMEs are required to have at least a Masters Degree in the appropriate field with at least five years real world experience. Potential SMEs must also be used to working under aggressive deadlines and take feedback well. SMEs will ideally also have previous experience in teaching, training, or developing coursework. This is a short-term (8 week), part time contract. Please contact Brandon Morrison at bmorrison@careeredonline.com.

April 08, 2006

Perhaps it's not primarily a "conversation" after all

Dave Winer, the father of blogging and RSS, says that blogs are not primarily a means of conversation. Rather, they're primarily about sharing your thoughts and things you've discovered. Search engines (and I would add hyperlinks and RSS) then connect your blogged ideas to others who are thinking about/struggling with similar issues. In Dave's words, "I blog to share discoveries, large and small, mundane and profound and everything inbetween." He doesn't feel it's his job as a blogger to write things that provoke a reaction.

I really like this idea that bloggers should share what's on their minds, without concern about whether it will get others talking or draw attention and traffic. Having said that, I still think blogs are a means of public conversation. It's simply a different kind of conversation. It's a distributed, asynchronous conversation in which many people are talking at once and many people are listening at once. Blogs are about "shared discovery," as Dave put it, and conversation. These two different ways of thinking about blogging are not at odds. If you're thinking that "conversation" means comments and reactions to a post, then your view of the term "conversation" is too limited.

As I've said before, I like blogging much better than forums because they're driven by the blogger's creativity, writing ability, and personality. Unlike forums, they're not dependent on achieving a critical mass of community in which some people pose questions or make comments and then others react. And blog posts do contribute to the public conversation whether or not anyone reacts or comments.

Reaching Young Adults

Jim Hoffman posts on his blog starting a great conversation about how churches more often "do" church, rather than "be" church. This was close to my heart.

April 05, 2006

Young Christian's Weekend

Last weekend I went as a sponsor with my kids' youth group to Young Christian's Weekend (Christianity Today article from 2001) at Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO. This was approximately my 8th time to go as a sponsor over the last 20 years (started going even before we had kids). This is an event that is often life-changing for youth. They hear a big-name Christian band, a simple but compelling presentation of the Gospel, and Joe White, one of the top youth speakers in the nation, with a heart-tugging message at worship on Sunday morning. It's awesome.

The bus, the motel, the park tickets, the food, the games, the goofyness, the sleep-deprivation, the bunny ears, the bone-jarring bands, the air freshener ... thousands of dollars. One moment with Joe White telling kids about Jesus ... priceless. (That's why I keep going back.)

Saturday rally at the ampitheater

My son, Robbie (center with hat), chillin' at the rally

My daughter, Beth, with the trip mascot, "Super Turtle"

4000 youth rockin' out

Our youth (in green) rockin' out with the other 4000

Joe White preaching at Sunday morning worship

April 04, 2006

Winning Gen-X for Christ, Part I

Last week at staff lunch Clif's wife Laura joined us, and had a great question. How do you get in front of people of Generation-X? I'd never thought about this in-depth yet, so it immediately intrigued me, and I mulled it over a great deal last week and this weekend.

People of my generation have installed "salesperson filters" within our heads. For the most part we hate spam, direct mail pieces, and tv advertisements, and dismiss them immediately. I'm not sure about the majority, but I won't even answer an unexpected knock at my door most of the time. If you think about it, we're a really hard audience to reach! So how does a growing church-start get in front of Gen-X and let them know the church exists?

My wife and I discussed this and decided upon the two most effective ways of reaching us. Google.com, and word of mouth and outreach.

For those looking for church, most of us will hit the Internet. This is a passive method for the church of course, because we have to be looking for church. Your church should be on the first page of results when searching for a church in the local area. From there, you need a website that reaches us, and has a primary goal to get us to show up. (There are entire books written on effective websites. Don't Make Me Think) We will not pick up a yellow pages to look for a church. Also, make it easy for people within the church to reach out to others. Electronic invites, monthly newsletters, online conversations, etc., that we can forward on to others.

The active methods are word of mouth and outreach. Direct mail pieces will probably be thrown away as another advertisement. Don't spam with e-mail, just don't do it! We like person to person interaction, but beware the salesperson filter. Think of creative ways to tell them you are there and care about them. One thing my wife thought of was leaving a gift outside their door. (If you knock, we probably won't answer the door.) Perishables are tough in the summer but use some critical thinking. Small baskets with mugs (my wife collects church mugs believe it or not), Kool-Aid or lemonade mix, candy molds / Popsicle molds, etc. This has cost limitations, but it's that compassionate outreach we will respond to.

It sounds silly, but I'd give a church a chance if they left outside my door some beef jerky and a note of what they're about and their Web address, because it's outside the norm and took some creative thought. OK I may be weird, but you get the idea.

These ideas are nothing new, admittedly, but what I'd wager to say is different is the way of approaching us. Don't go out selling the church or prodding that we should really come visit. Salesperson filter switched to ON. Go out making us aware the church cares about us, hopes we are well, and is a we can come to. Compassionate outreach. Appeal to the challenges we have with faith. It's that difference that will touch us over missing us. Be prepared to touch us a few times too, because like most people it's easy for us to dismiss a one time event.