Friday, October 30, 2009

We Are Mountain People

Mountains are fantastic examples of the power and mystery of nature, and the routes we climb on them are expressions of all that is best in the human spirit. Mountains and routes are only animated by our interaction with them, however, and it is the people we share the mountains with - the relationships we have with them - that are ultimately the most important.
- Michael Kennedy from the forward to Extreme Alpinism by Mark Twight

Thank-you my friends.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Marketing Ideas: How do ideas spread?

Following is a list of questions that I pulled out of a marketing book that I read some years ago. The Anatomy of Buzz by Emanuel Rosen looks at how information spreads best and quickest. Here are a few thoughts to work through before reading the questions.

Identifying Network Hubs
"Whether you spread an idea, a product, or a service, you always have a choice. You can broadcast or you can connect. Broadcasting involves massive mailings or buying media time and packaging your message so that it can be transmitted simultaneously to all nodes in the network. Connecting involves starting a dialogue with certain individuals in the network that you are trying to influence." -Emanuel Rosen

How do we identify these certain people?
1. Let network hubs identify themselves. These are people who come to us for something they want more then anything else: information. Network hubs feed on information.
2. Identify Categories of Network Hubs. The way to look for a category is to look for people who, by virtue of their position, have a higher then average number of ties with people in the networks you are trying to reach.
3. Spotting Network Hubs in the Field. It's easy to find these hubs when you are apart of a community. In fact, when you are apart of a community don’t really have to search.

Seeding Ideas
Successful seeding is an active process. It goes beyond the Field of Dreams cliché "If you build it, they will come." Rather than waiting passively for people to come to you, you go out and plant seeds all around the forest.

1. Look Beyond the Usual Suspects. Think broadly. Who are the people outside of our normal networks that could be 'seeded' with new ideas about young adults?
2. Put Information/Product In Their Hands. What piece of young adult product can we put in people's hand that will 'germinate itself' into other people's hands?
3. Listen For Silence. Successful seeding requires that we pay attention to dead networks and go further in order to reach them.
4. What seeding efforts are we doing right now? What should we be doing in the near future?

Questions to Ask Your Teams
1. From who do our newcomers typically learn about youth/young adults?

2. What do people say when they recommend youth/young adults?

3. How fast does information about youth/young adults spread compared with other churches/young adults groups/organizations?

4. Who are our network hubs? Are there any mega-hubs? Which are social hubs and which are expert hubs? Are there any categories of people who might become network hubs for youth/young adults?

5. Where does information about young adults hit a roadblock? Do our hub people know what the heck is happening?

6. Which are the most important sources of information that our youth/young adults rely on to know who we are/what we are about?

7. What other kinds of information spread through the same networks?

8. Who are our inactive markets that our youth/young adults are not reaching? Are we listening for silence where we are not known?

9. Do we offer a quality event, program, and community?

10. Do we underpromise and overdeliver?

11. Does youth/young adults enhance the lives of the people come?

12. Contagious products and ideas draw attention to themselves; how well does youth/young adults draw attention to itself?

13. Do we offer anything new? Buzz reflects excitement and excitement does not build around old ideas and predictable approaches.

14. Are we operating in a spirit of truth, honesty, and directness?

15. What are we willing to do to accelerate the contagiousness and word-of-mouth spread about youth/young adults?

16. What do students/young adults tell their friends about us? About other churches/youth groups/young adults?

17. What is the general church culture saying about young adult and youth ministry right now?

18. How receptive and responsive are we to our student and young adult concerns, comments, suggestions? How easy is it for people to talk to us?

19. Can we limit access to youth/young adults to create buzz? Scarcity build interest.

20. What sneak previews do we want to give to grade 12's for young adults and grade 8's to youth?

21. What can we do that will surprise people?

22. How outrageous can we be?

23. Who and how can we take people 'behind the scenes'?

24. What is the story and drama that we need to keep telling about our communities?

25. What events can we stage to get people talking about youth/young adults?

26. What kind of "pass it on" promotional material and mechanisms do we have?

27. How visible is youth/young adults to youth and young adults?

28. Are our youth talking to each other? The more that they interact, the more involved they will become with youth/young adults and the more likely they will tell other people. Can we find ways to help them talk to each other, socialize, and exchange comments?

29. Is there anything that we can do that makes youth/young adults more useful as more people use it? Example: email is more useful when more people use it; myspace is more useful when more people use myspace. People will spread the word more readily if they perceive some sort of personal benefit.

30. Is there anyway that we can offer any type of 'referrals reward program'?

31. Can our ads be clever enough to create buzz on their own?

32. How well can our youth/young adults articulate who we are and what we are about?

33. Are we supplying our networks with a constant flow of innovations that people can actually talk about?

34. Are we keeping people involved? If people join us but never think about it again, we can't expect them to talk about it too much. However, if we involve them, engage them, make it interesting for them, they will talk. Involvement translates to action, which in turn translates to buzz.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Anti-Bush Rally: George Bush in Saskatoon

Yesterday, while catching a city bus from the Saskatoon ‘international” airport to downtown, I happened upon a large, loud, and angry crowd corralled by police and barricades. This crowd, made up of mostly young scenester kids, goth kids, and a few old school revolutionaries, where there in protest of George W. Bush’s speaking engagement here in Saskatoon. This crowd had all the elements of a revolution: social misfits, music of the people, accusations, and the alternative media to tell the story of David-vs-Goliath injustices that “the people of the world face.” The speakers/presenters/agitators played on the naivety and emotion of the teenaged crowd whose chants of “shame on you” were as monotonous as the speakers themselves. Additionally, this crowd was ripe with marijuana activists that would have made Tim Felger proud to be Canadian.

The other crowd, the hundreds of suit-and-tie people with their long wool jackets and trendy scarves, slowly filed into the building while smirking at the young protesters from the safety of their police line bunker. These – the obviously affluent or lucky – had tickets to see one of our times’ most controversial leaders live and in-person. This crowd seemed unfazed by the bullhorns and guilt-trips and, as one suit I interviewed stated, “We couldn’t give a sh!t about what some 18 year-old with fingergloves and a bullhorn cares about.” As ticket holders looked down their noses at protestors, it became glaringly evident that the seeds of this revolution will not be won or barely even advanced on the street.

Anyhow, the strangest thing was the protestors calling for justice. They – alleging Bush to be a war criminal – were demanding justice for his alleged crimes. Whether Bush should be tried for war crimes or not is a different story, but what was interesting here was watching drug dealer’s (at least the ones who offered to me) chant that justice be held for criminals. It reminded me of a story one man told about having a plank in an eye. It seems that hypocrites can be found in many places…


A funny moment that emerged out of the event came when a man in his late-50’s placed a twenty-foot pole down the back of his jacket with a small sign on the top. The sign read, “Terrorist. Torturer. Moron.” As this man was walking around with a twenty foot sign coming out of the back of his jacket, he walked under a tree and became tangled in the branches. With sign man stuck in the tree I fumbled with my phone to get a picture before he escaped. Moron? At very least, it was ironic.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Who is my neighbor anyways?

Today I found myself at a conference hosted by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada which is a Canadian lobby group that petitions politicians for things like the conservative definition of marriage, human trafficking, the sanctity of all human life, and other moral hot buttons. The speakers did a fantastic job at presenting - through stats, numbers, and case studies - the cultural realities facing Canadians today and are doing an amazing work on the Hill.

However, what I wanted to talk about is the audiences response to a presenters question, "Who is your neighbor?" The more and longer I listened to peoples responses, the more and more I became agitated and, eventually, flat out angry. People had some real compelling and biblical arguments to support their claim and justification as to why they had no need to know their actual neighbor. Responses like, my real neighbors are my co-workers, the people at my gym, and that weird high school buddy who keeps calling for decades and decades. Though these people are people who need Jesus and who should see the Gospel at work in our lives, conference attenders kept leaning on the Good Samaritan crutch to tell us why they didn't know their actual next door neighbor. Too busy. Long tiring commutes. Language barriers. Religious and political differences. A bad smell. Excuses.

I don't think that Jesus meant for us to forsake our actual neighbors nor does he give us excuse to do so. He does, however, expand our context of who our neighbors are and calls us to a life of self-sacrifice for God's glory and our neighbors good. As I sat there listening to the feel good excuses, I thought of the many people in my building of widely diverse backgrounds, worldviews, language groups, and experience who God has brought into the proximity of my life simply because we are neighbors. I thank Jesus for the people I live around and pray for them regularly realizing that many of the excuses offered today can play havoc on my responsibility to be a good neighbor. However, when we take the responsibility to be a good neighbor seriously, I guarantee that the excuses will be overcome.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fraser Valley Bouldering: Hope

The bouldering in Hope, BC is, and continues to be one of my absolute favourite fall bouldering spots. With the diversity of areas and stone, there is sure to be something to suite even the most critical of boulders. Of all the areas, the Hunter Creek bouldering is where I find myself most often. Flat sandy landings in an open forest cluttered with fine grain granite boulders keeps me scrubbing and climbing nearly all year long. The boulders themselves are covered in holds and range from low-ball traverses to high-ball fright fests that’ll make you wish you’d spent a little more time learning how to pull on classic Squamish-like slopers. Early developers Marco and Nate along with a handful of others took care to pick many of the plum lines like the conditions-dependant Goldfinger (V10) and the stunning Tube Socket (V9).

Hard bouldering is not all that New Hunter has to offer though. There are clean and classic circuits for everyone from beginner to rockstar to enjoy in a peaceful quiet setting away from the circus that is Squamish. There are also many many many unclimbed or rarely climbed lines that need to see more ascents and – if FA’s are your game – bring your cleaning tools! Just don’t be too eager to spray about your new super-burly-vee-hard-whatever as the problem may have been climbed just last year before mossing over again through the winter. Either way, the bouldering at Hunter is amazing!

Mountain Project
lists a fraction of the problems at Hunter Creek but serves as a starting point for anyone looking to explore. Also, Marco Lefebvre recently published a short spot check with tons of info in Squamish Climbing Magazine, check out his work here. Finally, early summer 2010 will see the release of the Hunter Creek Mini-Select guidebook. Here are a few stand-outs as you wander through the forest:

V0 - The Frayed Edge of Sanity is a tallish and fun slab wandering up the Goldfinger boulder just left of the slickery and overhung Ecocide Arete (V10).

V1 – The Hoover Traverse put up by you-know-who is Hunter Creek’s Any Rock Will Do but much better! Don’t miss this fun warm-up climb.

V1/2 – Pale Face
which is the tall-but-not-too-tall blank face that you are sure to walk past. Reach dependant for the grade, this classic climb is a great introduction to highball bouldering with a flat landing and mellow topout.

V2 – Precious Metals is one of the first lines you will see walking into the forest. Start with two blocky holds at about 7 feet on the Goldfinger boulder and boulder strait up and over or, for some extra value, hit the lip and continue up and left to the peak. Classic!

V3 – Split Tip is a low slappy arĂȘte and maybe high in the grade. Good fun.

V4 – Grendal’s Mother a scary highball put up by Andrew Itkonen a number of years ago. This problem sees few repeats with many backing off at their mental crux!

V4 – Miniblade, also known as The Mark of Zorro, was named for its eerie similarity to the Old Hope testpiece Blade of Lightning (V10). Miniblade is a classic trailside slopper problem with a troubled past.

V5 – Slight of Hand
is found close to the creek and moves off fingery sidepulls to an airy mantle. Great movement!

Sleight of Hand -V5 from Trevor Edwards on Vimeo.

V7 – Autobot
is a recent addition to the forest with both Marco and Ryan projecting and then climbing within days of each other. Very good problem!

V9 – Tube Socket is a Nate Woods classic which should be tried by those capable. A stand-up start to the problem in the V5 range is a fantastic problem in its own right.

V10 – Goldfinger, without its original and critical hold, is looking for a repeat with a new sequence. Any takers?

Directions and Beta to Hunter Creek:
Take Hwy. 1 East to Hunter Creek Exit.
As you come off the highway, turn right and then, instead of turning left to the Hunter Creek rest area, turn right and follow the service road for about 0.7kms.

Turn left onto a gravel forest service road called Lorenzetta/Hunter Creek FSR. and drive up the short hill to an obvious pull out on the right. Park here. WARNING: Vehicles with low clearance should be cautious.

From your parking spot, head up the road on foot for about 1 minute before spotting a faint trail to your left. There is a small cluster of fun boulders here. Keep following the trail to find more boulders all the way towards the talus field.

Special Notes:

1. DO NOT cross any fences and DO NOT go down to the creek as it is private land. The land owners are cool with respectful boulderers in the bouldering area but DO NOT want people to cross down to the creek.
2. Bears, cougars, and horses are known to be in the area.
3. If you (re)scrub something out there, let others know so that it gets some traffic and stays clean.
4. Do your part to make the area a better area for everyone.
5. Spring and summer, watch for stinging nettles. If you run into any, don't touch it!
6. If you’d like a tour of the area, feel free to ask!
7. **JANUARY 2010 UPDATE** Access Issues!!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Emerging Adulthood

Christianity Today, in an interview with sociologist Christian Smith author of Souls in Transition, highlights some interesting thoughts for anyone who cares about the spiritual health of the emerging adults generation. Below are a couple of quotes that come out of the interview.

Again, we are sociologists, not church consultants. But in terms of the implications of our work for churches, the two key words are engagement and relationships. It can't just be programs or classes or handing them over to the youth pastor. Real change happens in relationships, and that takes active engagement.

But I would caution that emerging adults are smart about when they are being marketed to. So if the emergent church doesn't offer something genuinely different from what emerging adults have too much of already, they're not going to give it two seconds of attention.

Also, for those involved in University campus ministry, there are some interesting observations. Go check it out.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Team Leadership: Inspiring Staff and Volunteers

Part of my job as a pastor is to build ministry teams that are motivated, hopeful, and strategically pushing towards a clear and compelling picture of the future. These teams, made up of paid and unpaid staff, must be led by leaders who, though uncertain about exact outcomes, know how to encourage and lead their teams forward into an unknown and uncharted future. Inevitably, any pursuit into the unknown will provide set-backs and discouragement that, depending on the key-leaders ability to rally the troops, could either stall all forward movement or inspire creative and compelling solutions. Further, because most Kingdom-problems are community-problems, most Kingdom-solutions have community-solutions. As Christian leaders then, it is likely that we will find the majority of our leadership time sitting around coffee tables with our teams looking for these community-solutions. Follows are four things I have learned about inspiring my teams to hope and purposeful action.

1. No BS.

People know when the ship is sinking, crap in the fan usually ends up on the walls, and sugar coated razor-blades are always tough to swallow. There is no disguise that staff and volunteers will not see through eventually. Team leaders who try to divert their teams’ attention away from the cold hard realities are the leaders who end up losing credibility, build shallow solutions for deep problems, and who often end up discouraged and confused as to why the vision seems so unattainable. Teams that operate in their prime are known for clarity of analysis and interpretation, courage to move forward against impossible odds, and who have a face like Clint Eastwood in an arm-wrestle with Chuck Norris. Teams can only move forward if they know the reality of the situation they face; this means that part of the role of team leader is to strip away the peripheral and engage head-on with the task at hand. No flowers. No sugar. Cut the BS.

2. Never Waste a Crises.
There is nothing that will unite a group of people faster than a problem, crisis, emergency, or disaster. Some of the most powerful revolutions were born on the back of shared injustice, lack, or shortfall. People, bonded together through the memories of conflict and crises, find themselves at impossible odds orchestrating an impossible uprising of creative and unstoppable solutions that are totally surprising and, very often, from the ground up.

For years, one requirement of my leadership teams’ was to go on a roadtrip every six months with people they had just met in the last six months. Besides the community and relationships this built, it was fundamental in helping our team leaders use crises to look for creative solutions. Why? Every good road trip is bound to have a few wrong turns, a missed exit, a weirdo hitchhiker, a flat tire, or an empty tank of gas. Four people in a car, while learning to either love or hate each other, must put everything else aside to work towards crises resolution – most often resulting in strengthened relational bonds.

Crisis bond people; it brings us together. As team leaders, we must never ever waste a crisis. These are absolutely critical times that will determine the strength and creativity of our teams. While we do not manufacture crises, we shouldn’t be all that fearful of them either. For the healthy team it tests them, allows them to do necessary purges, and brings about a closeness that is not possible when times are quieter, softer, easier, and greener ($$$).

3. Ante Up.
As one pastor puts it so eloquently, “Put your cup on, lower your head, and head back into the ring.” Volunteers and staff are more likely to face the challenges of adversary head-on when they go into battle side-by-side with their leader(s). Team leaders must respond to challenge by upping the ante themselves, calling people to action, and daring people to move with them. This often requires the blood, sweat, and tears of leaders in breaking ground and punching out new and exciting possibilities even when all the odds are against them. Staff and volunteers don’t mind taking a few shots and enduring a few hardships when they see that their leaders are out front bearing the assault as well. Leaders, ante up, and then challenge your people to put their money on the table as well.

4. See the Future.

Team leaders who inspire and motivate their team towards significant action open windows into the future that are both compelling and achievable. Sometimes these windows are very small and are only open for a moment to help re-direct the team; other times the windows into the future are massive floor to ceiling portholes that provide sweeping panoramic vistas of a land far away and beautiful. Either way, these windows into the future are what will continue to drive the church – staff and volunteers – towards imaginative and strategic movement. Vision is about hope. It’s about the people and places we hope for and about clearly seeing what might be. Vision is about community. It’s about where we expect to be and who we expect to be there with. It’s collaborative and felt by all, seen by all, and believed by all. There are times, however, where team leaders need to become the mouthpiece of “we” re-envisioning, re-imagining, and re-calibrating what exactly it is that the team sees. In some ways, team leaders become the teams’ optometrist ensuring that the vision stays sharp and in focus. A clearly defined image of the future is often enough to ensure the continued hope, inspiration, and creativity of our teams.

Leaders Get Discouraged

Finally, leading teams through discouragement, set-back, and failure is perhaps one of the more difficult leadership challenges that a team leader faces. In my own experience, these are the times I feel most vulnerable to feelings of inadequacy, thoughts of resentment towards team members, and to thoughtless reaction that further damages or slows progress. I am continually faced with the truth that not everything I do, the future that I see, and the current reality that I describe, are not always as I see them. Yet, I must continue. I must remember that God is at work and often in the most surprising of ways. I must remember that I am loved and cherished by the God whose image I am made. I must remember that my value as a person is not attached to my accomplishments, net-worth, or leadership skill set. Rather, my inherited worth is that I am undeservedly heir to the Kingdom of heaven, known as a child of God, and called and equipped to serve His community with humble faithfulness.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Shredders, sledders, and powdogs

Over the course of the last few days and week, mountains all around BC have started to see snow flying in them thur hills. This - for every shred - is the time of year that inspires us to sacrifice to Ullr by burning old snowboards, stinky gloves, and filthy doorags. The snow is near and, for all you snowshredding people, I've drudged up an old memory originally posted elsewhere January 6, 2007. It's almost time to ride.

Snowboarding Two Days Ago:
I have been snowboarding since 1991 and somehow managed to ride the funnest frontside turn that I have ever done in my life! Amazing frontside slasher on this double overhead windlip! Riding under the chair lift we will often get cheered for different jumps or dropping cliffs and such...but never for simply doing a turn on the snow. This turn was different: the whole chair lift was cheering and yelling and I rode the rest of the run down with my hands on my head in the shape of horns and yelling. I obviously snowboard for the glory.

Snowboarding Yesterday:

Imagine that there is so much snow falling that, on one of the resort runs, a ski patrol skidoo is stuck! Crazy amounts of snow.
Anyhow, my brother Jabin and I spent the day riding fresh pow, pillaging chutes, dropping some decent size cliffs, and just generally getting rad. Third last run of the day we dropped into this steep untouched face (in the dark) that was pretty unstable. I led and as I made my first turn the snow about 30 feet above me fractured and slabbed down sweeping Jabin, who was behind me, down the slope. He yelled and, as I turned around to see what was going on, I was hit with a wall of snow that carried me until the all the snow stopped moving. Crazy experience! We were both buried nearly to our waist, were safe, and were all smiles! A good reminder to for us to respect the mountains.