It Ain’t Easy

Making Cheetos is no easy process.  You can read all about the science of cornmeal, friction, frying, and applying cheese powder here.  But after I spent some time reading about how Cheetos are made, I was most struck by the end of the process: Quality Control. According to Wired Magazine, “Every half hour, an in-house lab analyzes the chemical composition of samples pulled from the cooking line to verify that the Cheetos have the right density and nutritional content. Then, every four hours, a four-person panel convenes to inspect and taste the snacks, comparing them to perfect reference Cheetos sent from Frito-Lay headquarters.” It’s pretty clear, the makers of Cheetos care deeply about the process and the end product.  Think about it.  How often do Cheetos get tested? •    (Scientifically) 2 times an hour x 8 hours x 14 plants x 5 days x 52 weeks = 58,240 tests every year •    (Team taste test / Performance check) 2 times a day x 14 plants x 5 days x 52 weeks = 7280 tests every year by an entire team How often do we test what we are doing in our ministries?  How often do you gather the team to review what happened in a service, to run through the plan, to refine the service components?  Recently I have been reminded of how important it is to gather our key leaders to debrief after a large group...

What Matters Now in Children’s Ministry- Print Version

Starting today, you can get your own printed copy of the book What Matters Now in Children’s Ministry. It’s only $7.99, but you can use the discount code N8XZJLWK to get 10% off (this week only). When I met with with Amy Dolan and Henry Zonio a few months ago to discuss the idea of gathering many voices from the field of children’s and family ministry to answer an epic question, we had no idea that more than 3000 people would download the resource.  What Matters Now in Children’s Ministry has struck a chord with children’s and family ministry leaders.  But we knew that no matter how many people downloaded the ebook, there would many more leaders who would prefer a printed book over a screen-based resource.  So with the help of IMAGO, who donated their amazing work to the project, we designed a version for web and print. Here’s some ideas for how I would use the printed resource: •    Several children’s pastors and leaders have bought multiple copies for their volunteer teams.  I would use the book in this setting to spark conversation, especially if one of the themes in the book resonates with the themes in your ministry OR with proposed change in your ministry.  I would ask questions of the volunteers ahead of time such as: What theme speaks to you the most?  Why? What theme resonates the most with our ministry? What theme resonates the most with where we want to go/what we want to accomplish? •    I plan on using the book as a one-on-one coaching tool.  I’ll ask the mentoree to read...

The Importance of Process

In the summer of 1998, the world of chess was changed.  Battles between chess grandmasters and computers ten years earlier were dominated by human intellect and intuition.  Then in 1997, the $10 million supercomputer “Deep Blue” soundly defeated Gary Kasporov.  Then by sheer mathematical brute force, computers became better at chess than humans.  But something changed in the summer of 1998 when a grandmaster’s match allowed players to play alongside a computer.  Kasparov called this style of play “Advanced Chess.”   Then in 2005, there was an entire online chess event that allowed players to combine their talents with a computer. Here is Gary Kasparov’s recap of the event (excerpted from an article in the New York Times): The surprise came at the conclusion of the event. The winner was revealed to be not a grandmaster with a state-of-the-art PC but a pair of amateur American chess players using three computers at the same time. Their skill at manipulating and “coaching” their computers to look very deeply into positions effectively counteracted the superior chess understanding of their grandmaster opponents and the greater computational power of other participants. Weak human + machine + better process was superior to a strong computer alone and, more remarkably, superior to a strong human + machine + inferior process.” I am not a chess player.  I had visions of being part of the chess team in high school, but other than attending a few practices, I never played a timed match.  Kasparov’s recap of the chess event holds a key for leaders about the value and importance of process. “Weak human + machine + better...

Creating a Smaller Here

The following paragraphs are taken directly from Stephen Johnson’s blog. In his essay introducing The Long Now Foundation, Brian Eno tells the story of visiting a wealthy friend in her downtown loft, in an otherwise destitute Manhattan neighborhood circa 1978: I just didn’t understand. Why would anyone spend so much money building a place like that in a neighbourhood like this? Later I got into conversation with the hostess. “Do you like it here?” I asked. “It’s the best place I’ve ever lived”, she replied. “But I mean, you know, is it an interesting neighbourhood?” “Oh ? the neighbourhood? Well– that’s outside!” she laughed. The incident stuck in my mind. How could you live so blind to your surroundings? How could you not think of “where I live” as including at least some of the space outside your four walls, some of the bits you couldn’t lock up behind you? I felt this was something particular to New York: I called it “The Small Here”. I realised that, like most Europeans, I was used to living in a bigger Here. Part of Eno’s point is that what we mean by “here” has a sliding scale to it. Sometimes “here” is the room you’re sitting in; sometimes it’s your block; sometimes it’s your neighborhood; sometimes it’s the Greater Metropolitan Area. We make those spatial adjustments all the time without thinking about it. When we’re looking for a paperclip nearby, the “here” is even smaller than Eno’s friend’s; but when we’re looking for a new apartment, the scope widens dramatically. “The Small Here.”  I like that phrase.  As I’ve been pondering...

Caring for Volunteers

As a staff team, we think about the life of a KidsWorld volunteer in four simple phases: recruiting, placement, training, and care.  Probably the hardest phase for me to address is care.  In the remainder of this year, one of my goals is to come up with one significant step in honing the care phase for the 2nd-5th grade volunteers I lead.  In the middle of that effort, I came across the research of Richard Ryan, a psychologist at the University of Rochester. Ryan’s article in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology came to the conclusion that happiness increases for most people on the weekend.  No surprises here (except maybe for some workaholics out there), time away from the daily grind, deadlines, and the pressures of work would suggest an increase in happiness.  The interesting thing about Ryan’s research is the psychology behind the increase.  According to Ryan, the increase is due to “relatedness and autonomy.” Relatedness is the connection people feel with others.  Autonomy is the presence of self-direction.  In other words, people have the freedom to choose the things they want to do and then they do them.  As Daniel Pink summarized, the findings were conclusive across age, marital status, education, and profession. Takeaways for children’s ministry volunteers: The time our volunteers spend on the weekend has higher stakes because their service should be self-directed. The quickest way to burn out a volunteer is to create a serving environment where their contribution is obligatory. Volunteers feeling fulfilled and satisfied in their role is subject to the amount of relational connectedness they feel.  This is a focal...