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Tales of Adventure Blog

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
with the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.


Filtering by Tag: missional leadership

Why Social Entrepreneurship in Youth Ministry #3- Gracious Accountability and High Growth Environments

Matthew Overton

One of the things that has always been difficult for me being a minister is figuring out when to be nice, understanding, and gracious and when to be direct.  I think because the church is an institution that often represents people's highest ideals, their expectations of the institutions and the ministers that serve there are much higher.  And to a large degree this is justifiable. Scripture itself sets a pretty high bar for the leaders of God's people.

But, my experience of this on the ground is that this higher level of expectation often leads, in practice, to an environment that is often too polite and indirect. Many churches and their leaders are often shackled by having to be "nice" all the time.  There is often a sense working with church volunteers that if you aren't nice to them and indirect all the time then you aren't being gracious. Or to put it another way, the more direct you are the more unkind you seem.  I think many women deal with something similar to this on a day to day basis. Women often pay a penalty socially for being assertive and direct. This kind of dynamic is crippling to both leader and organization.

The result of this kind of unspoken code of nice is that it produces church environments that tend to be kind at all costs and are also heavily conflict avoidant. This leads to all sorts of problems that we don't need to go into here, but this culture bleeds into youth ministry.  The youth group, because it is essentially a free service put on by a church and because it tends to be numbers driven, forces youth ministers to try to attract and hold onto students.  To do so, the youth worker must make difficult decisions about how direct they can be with students. Head pastors deal with the same issues. You don't want to lose a student or their family, so many youth workers tend to be pretty cautious with feedback. Second, most youth workers are pretty kind and recognize that overly direct feedback can crush certain students.  This tends to produce an environment that is low in terms of expectation and accountability. This isn't as true in some of the other spheres that teens inhabit.

The dynamic is very different, for instance, than the way that a coach might deal with an athlete. The difference in that environment is that the student has paid for that activity, and probably has paid a premium.  So when a coach is direct with a student on the pool deck or a music teacher is direct following a botched rehearsal the student is less likely to run off and avoid further growth. Mom and Dad won't let them avoid practice for three weeks. Youth group on the other hand is often voluntary. They paid for the music program and their folks will tell them they have to stick it out.

All of this leads to youth ministry as a space that is exceedingly loving and gracious, but also to one that can produce little spiritual growth in the students that are a part of that ministry.  The environment tends to be low on challenge and low on accountability.  And while I would agree that our churches often need to be refuges from some of the awful feedback that students might be getting in their lives from parents, coaches, teachers etc., I don' think that is ALL that we can be.  And this is where social entrepreneurship comes in.

One of the advantages I have learned with students by creating an entrepreneurship is that it is an environment where direct feedback is critical.  If I am not direct with my students on the job, we don't get work done.  The jobs program I have created allows us to speak directly with students about what they need to do. It allows us to dive more quickly into conversations about character and accountability.  Students don't pay for our program, but what they do know is that if they don't show up on time or put in the requisite effort they won't get paid or won't have a job anymore.  Youth groups almost never have anything like this.  And to be honest, as much as I long for the Kingdom that is to come, that sink or swim work environment is what our world is actually like. It DOES make demands of us. It is a performance based culture. We cannot fully avoid that reality and need to lovingly prepare students for it. 

But, here is the beauty of a jobs based youth ministry. It allows your church to offer a salty kind of grace.  Social entrepreneurship creates a space in a youth ministry that allows the church to offer direct critical feedback over real time problems in a way that is an alternative to the destructive feedback that some students receive in our communities. We affirm their self worth, the indelible image of God, while telling them they need to improve in a certain area of life. Through direct feedback they become less blind to their own unique strengths and weaknesses. If we do this kind of work lovingly it is amazingly affirming work.  Compliments seem less artificial in this kind of environment. Students know they earned them. Grace seems more...well...gracious.

When you are in an environment that is always nice and you make a mistake you come to EXPECT niceness at every turn. In an accountable environment, when you screw up, you expect to get feedback and maybe even fired. When that expectation of immediate judgement is violated with a kind of "gracious feedback" it is a wonderfully disruptive experience. You expected judgement and you received honest love.  There is a fine line after all between grace and enabling.

Imagine for a moment if in the story of the Prodigal Son that the younger brother had returned home anticipating, even expecting, a feast and a fattened calf. I think many people expect just such a greeting at our churches.  The son would have been petulant to have not received it.  But, because the younger son expected judgement and accountability, it offered the father an opportunity to provide a kind of disruptive grace.  I would suggest that we needs wings of our ministries where high accountability is the expectation so that when students make mistakes and are greeted with calm, but honest and loving critical feedback, they can experience that same gracious disruption. Small scale social entrepreneurships create that kind of environment. 

In a way, social entrepreneurship can help grace be salty and powerful again. Students are empowered to work on real time problems related to the entrepreneurship (say for example, a food cart that benefits a charity) in situations that demand higher accountability. It leads to greater empowerment and fosters growth. A lot of times I think our current youth ministries are light on empowerment and therefore are environments that have low accountability. That leads to stagnation. Let's build some ministries that are both full of grace and growth. I think that would be pretty innovative.


Why Social Entrepreneurship? #2- The Ship in a Bottle

Matthew Overton

This is the second post in a series on the "why" of doing youth ministry (and ministry in general) through the lens of social entrepreneurship.  These posts spawned out of a conversation about the degree to which money/economics played a role in founding the ventures I run at my local church.  They did play a role and I have posted on those functions elsewhere, but there were many reasons why we headed in this new direction. I have felt that it might be important to lay those out.

One of the big problems in American Youth Ministry is that at its core it has often been more about security and control rather than risk and trust.  The very nature of the American youth ministry project of the last 60 years or so is that it was primarily begun in order to maintain the faith of teenagers in an age of eroding cultural Christianity. At other phases of its life American youth ministry helped keep kids busy and safe from sex, drugs, and rock and roll.  It also has been designed to give them solid middle class values that direct them on the road to college and "success".  We don't need to go on at length as to why this kind of ministry is rather stunted. Just look up Moralistic, Therapeutic, Deism and you can fill in the blanks.  The problems are legion.

The main issue is that what our youth ministries have effectively done, because of this aversion to risk and trust, is to create these kind of artificial environments in which a teenager in an insular church world is meant to be kept safe from an outer world that has been painted in the most rudimentary theological brush strokes as unsafe.  What this has produced are these ministries that effectively isolate our teenagers from the real life of faith that they need cultivated in order to have a vibrant trust in the living God.

The truth of the matter is that the entire world has a bit of unsafeness to it. It is often little different within the church than without. You only need to strip back the thinnest of veneers to discover that the same evil forces that tarnish creation beyond our walls (violence, racism, sexism, corruption, injustice, etc.) are sometimes tidily sanitized and hidden in our pews. But rather than preparing our students to see these realities and operate as Kingdom people within them (sheep amongst wolves, sly as foxes and innocent as doves) we have created spaces (youth groups, retreats, youth centers, etc.) that shield them from these realities.  I have come to think of most of our youth ministries as something akin to placing ships in a bottle.

Ships are quite clearly made to sail the ocean. Every bit of them is designed for active and penetrating waters that are often deeply dark and scary. Having grown up very near the ocean and been on a number of boats over the years I can tell you that sailing is beautiful and invigorating, but deeply scary at times.  You don't spend all the labor of building a ship with wood, rope, tar, and sails to place it in an environment in which it will never be used. You design it precisely for the open ocean because that is where it was meant to sail. And furthermore, you know that is exactly where it will end up. We cannot bottle and cork our teenagers. Eventually they will need to go out on the open ocean.

Our teens need to learn not to wall themselves off from the world in some sort of mid 20th century suburban monastery. But rather we need to help them wade into the suffering, pain, and nefariousness of our world with open eyes and hearts. Part of my thinking in starting a social entrepreneurship in youth ministry was that we had to prepare the students in our ministries to maintain their God given humanity while sailing the difficult oceans of our world. The problem that eventually crops up is that over time if you design ships for the open ocean and then place them in a bottle, you will eventually start making changes to the design in order to accomodate the bottle rather than the seas. The ships will eventually be nothing more than a model that has BECOME designed for the bottles in which you place them. And this is exactly what we have done over the years in many of our churches.

What social entrepreneurship does is that it engages real world projects that function in real time. Because social entrepreneurship engages the market place it has to work, at least in part, within that environment.  It has to deal with failure, risk, money, integrity, all sorts of people, and a thousand other things that reveal the goodness and power of the gospel story. The gospel is only powerful when you can see how diametrically opposed it is to so many real world values and calculations.  This requires a real time juxtapositioning. Our students must be allowed to place the gospel values next to the values of this worlds various kingdom narratives. They must do so in the marketplace and not in a kind of cloistered theological laboratory. I call this "Hull on Water" youth ministry.  Hull on water is the only way to reveal the saltieness of the gospel to any of us.  Social Entrepreneurship requires students that engage entrepreneurial ventures to think about their faith in real life situations. A student working at a charitable food cart for instance has to learn to deal graciously with customers who may not share the overall vision for what is taking place there. They will have to recognize that while their project might be virtuous, that does not exempt it from the demands of a customer who wants the best food in the world for as little money as possible because all they know are the selfish mantras of a consumeristic culture. A group of students seeking grant funding for a missional venture will need to have explored the actual problems facing the community they are seeking to help thoroughly enough to merit the grant they are seeking. Such a project would teach them all sorts of gospel truth about how to do social justice in a way that honors the recipient of the good they seek to do. It would teach them that in order to do good they will have to labor to find the best solutions for the most pressing problems. This world of sharks and waves won't fund anything else. And it shouldn't.  They might get to experience the goodness of rejection, a honing process that is a necessary function of this side of the Kingdom.  These sorts of endeavors are a much better alternative for instance than the church that simply pays for a bunch of backpacks for their local school and then simply says to their teenagers, "Here go hand these out 'over there'."  Social entrepreneurship seeks to enable students to make real world impact in an environment that has to keep pace with real world sailing. Sails and rigging must constantly be adjusted rather than being sacrilized. What does not help the ship sail needs to be considered flotsam or jetsam. Students engaged in missional ventures and social entrepreneurial ventures will need to trust and risk as they learn new skills, come to terms with their own strengths and weaknesses, and learn how to problem solve without compromising their integrity as a child of God. In short social entrepreneurship is ministry in the real world.  It prepares them for just the sorts of difficult moral tensions that they will have to face when they leave our churches in a few short years.

If you build ministries that exist in real time and in the real world, chances are they will help students function in the real world. Social Entrepreneurship forces us to design ships that are meant to sail dangerous waters because that is all they will ever do.  There is no safe harbor. You cannot dry-dock a teenager. At least not for very long. Despite the best efforts of helicopter parents and the modern world that seems to perpetually extend our collective adolescence.  They are going to have to sail. Our hope is that students that are a part of our youth ministries might enter into the real world knowing exactly how to maintain their humanity and their Christian faith in a world that is often dehumanizing.

So why did I start doing youth ministry through the lens of social/missional entrepreneurship? Because I was tired of building teenage spiritual ships that were only designed to sail within the confines of a youth room. I felt like I was running the ecclessial version of the Truman Show while wearing a ministerial collar. Too much safety. Too much control.  Let's build ministries that help students live the gospel truth on the open ocean. It's scary as hell, but the spray on your face is pretty invigorating.


"Under the Table": A Conversation on the Job

Matthew Overton

One of the reasons (there were a ton of reasons) that I began this project of seeing if it was possible to do youth ministry through the medium of work/teen jobs was that I had a sense remodeling my own house that the conversations I was getting in were better than those I had on Sunday nights at youth group.  Regular youth group still has a very important place in my book as it ministers to other needs, but it was just easier to get into more meaty conversations about life while doing work.  Further, I had also found while paying students to work on my house that it was very easy to link those conversations to issues of faith and in doing so, faith becomes more real and therefore less abstract.  I encountered this again recently while working a job with one of my Mowtown students. If you are new to this blog or this conversation Mowtown is the particular small business that I have started to put teens to work and do ministry at the same time. Essentially I created my own social entrepreneurship or missional entrepreneurship (if you want to use churchy language) as a means to do more impactful ministry. 

I have also been asked many times along the way, "Isn't providing jobs for teenagers just its own form of therapeutic deism? How are you going to link Christian faith with this? This is a valid question and one that I spend a lot of time thinking about.  The last thing I want to do is create another ministry that simply makes money for its own sake or simply lives off of the church, but rather one that really makes little significant Kingdom impact in people's actual lives.  For those with that question, here is one bread crumb vignette from along the path of "A Youth Ministry that Works".

This summer, one of my students was forced by the necessity of family need to take a construction job under the table. This particular students was engaged in our church's volunteer summer internship, but had to pull out because of this job need.  Well, as we were headed out to our job site, we started to discuss the problems with being hired by someone "under the table." I explained to "Paul" that for every hour I hire him above board, I have to pay the government additional funds that help cover part of his social security, disability, unemployment, etc.  So, for every hour that he works under the table he is robbed of part of his retirement and he is robbed of recourse if he gets injured or is out of a job.  Furthermore, he was being baldly robbed since he was being paid significantly below our state's minimum wage.  All of this was news to him, but the connection points were huge!

For starters, his mother works multiple jobs under the table.  We had a long discussion about social security and his mom when she "retires".  He had NO CLUE as to how social security worked. I think this was actually a really scary conversation for him when he started to think about what it meant for his mom's present and future.  This lead us into a discussion about the political debate surrounding immigration which matters to him as a hispanic latino student. We even discussed a bit of economics. We talked about how I am at a competitive disadvantage as a business owner in terms of making a profit because of folks that hire under the table. They make more money off of his work than I do. In other words, both he and I are being robbed by the practice.  And what all of this finally lead to was a discussion about justice and God.  We talked about God's desire to set things in the world right and we discussed how we are a part of that. We talked about integrity in life and why doing things legally and above board are signs of loving our neighbor.

The revelation in this midst of all this conversation is simply that I was equipping a kid to see the world through more of a gospel lens in the most natural way possible. Most of my discussions about justice with my teenagers tend to be abstract. We end up talking about issues that seem more dramatic because they happen in the 3rd world or on a mission trip outside of our small city or someplace that seems like "over there." If we struggle with dichotomies between our Sunday life and our weekly job lives (and we surely do), we certainly also struggle with false dichotomies between mission work and justice issues in our back yard and seeming like things that happen "over there".  Conveniently this dichotomy allows our communities of faith to avoid dealing with our own first world poverty and the messiness of the personal politics involved. That kind of avoidance is of course its own justice issue. So much of what our churches need to talk about in order to convince teenagers and young adults that faith actually matters to real life are just these sorts of issues of justice and injustice.  There is almost an entire economy of issues that operate, in their own way, as "under the table" issues in our churches. They never really are engaged and this leaves our people with the sense that faith just doesn't matter out in the real world.  We don't know how to engage these issues from behind the pulpit as that feels like a kind of power play. Many ministers feel like preaching too heavy handedly about justice to their congregation limits dialogue and further bifurcates our congregations along political lines. I agree with this to an extent. But, to not find a medium for engaging these issues at all isn't acceptable. Here is the thing though, the inbreaking of the Kingdom won't be slowed. It will happen with us or without us. The church can engage a justice filled life or be left wondering where God went? He may in fact already be absent from some of the vacuous old time sanctuaries and suburban worship centers we already occupy.

This conversation was also the most real and natural discussion about integrity I have probably ever had with a student. Most of the discussions I heard about integrity in churches (mostly during my more evangelical college years) were cheapened by the fact that they tended to be had around moralistic issues like telling lies and human sexuality etc. etc. etc. You know the kind of thing I mean, "If you don't have integrity in the small stuff...." This is all well and good, but it only tends to appeal to the most structured personalities who by sheer function of their own personal anxiety levels and desire for control tend to do EVERYTHING by the book already. For the rest of us, life is a bit messier. When you can talk with a student about how a complete lack of integrity grinds up other human beings over time....that has power. That actually points to the import that a life of faith actually has.

I am learning a lot through this process of doing business as mission about my own blindness to certain issues. I am engaging students I never would have engaged before and our ministry probably would not have been able to sustain relationships with before. I am seeing the connection between my own faith and issues that I was aware of, but really had no personal connection to or visceral experience with in any previous phase of life.  This process has been a ton of work and stress, but so far it has been good gospel work.  I continue to see its usefulness to those it serves and to my own walk along the Jesus Way.

Rejection, Conflict, Social Entrepreneurship and You....

Matthew Overton

One of the main things that I am learning as I engage social entrepreneurship is how to deal with rejection on a regular basis.  For the last 10 years in particular I have worked in an institution ( the church) that is relatively static.  Most churches, at least the ones I have worked in, are fairly stable affairs.  There might be staff conflict or a budget crisis every so often, but generally WHAT the church does stays pretty stable.  Don't get me wrong, if you have a domineering head of staff who shoots down all your ideas, you can certainly experience rejection in the church.  Most frequently I have experienced it through the pain of folks that I care about within the life of a church choosing to go elsewhere. And of course there are many ministers/pastors that have subtly and not so subtly simply been asked to move on.  But, rejections come much more frequently, I think, doing entrepreneurial work.

As I have been building my lawn business I have learned to thicken my skin a bit.    Here are some ways that comes up.

1. Dealing with Conflict-You often have to have uncomfortable conversations with your customers.  This can be really tricky when you customer also attends your church.  As I have thought about the church and social entrepreneurship I have realized that for most ministers/youth workers to engage this way of doing ministry will require them to be pretty adept at resolving conflict.  Sometimes this can be hard. Especially if your congregant isn't good with conflict.

2.  Dealing with Rejection- As pastor, my call is at least in part, to ALL the sheep. You are supposed to remain at peace with people. If someone leaves your church it feels like a big loss.  In business it happens every day.  Sometimes people are picky. Sometimes you make mistakes that they just won't put up with. Sometimes the customer thinks they can get a great deal elsewhere. Sometimes they are sure they know what they are talking about and are sure you don't.  You really don't have that much control.  I have had to learn to just accept the rejections as they come.

3.  What Am I Worth?- One of the new features of rejection that I am learning in the marketplace is that not all rejection is bad. In fact, some of it is quite good!  I have had to learn the lesson that I need to set a price point that causes people to reject me. If I set my prices too low, I can't make my program for teenagers run.  So, I have to be prepared to charge what I think is right even if it is beyond what some people can pay. Again this is difficult if you are working with some of your church members. It's hard because they want to support your program, but they have NO CLUE about what you need to cover the basic costs of your business. The principle is pretty simple. If you are winning every bid that you put out there, you are probably bidding too low.

4. "It's Just Business"- The other part you have to get used to is that some folks just won't get the vision of what you are doing.  Sometimes it will be people in the church. My church has been great about this whole program! But, I think it might be a hard fight in other places.  I have often found that I have to tell customers that just because we are a landscaping company that works with teens and young adults doesn't mean they are going to get a basement deal.  If I played that game we would be broke and it would be a lose lose.  I can guarantee that the customer would expect great work even at a low price and when they didn't get it, they probably would just never call again. We try to do excellent work at a fair price. But, at the end of the day I have had to learn that for many customers, regardless of the nobility of our mission, this is "just business".

5.  Avoidance- I have learned in ministry that most people don't like conflict and that some will do anything to avoid conflict.  I have learned (and am learning) to deal with it head on.  Business/social entrepreneurship runs at a pace where avoidance simply will not work. If someone is frustrated or dissatisfied, you have to make the phone call...NOW!  If you don't your business and your reputation will suffer very quickly. The axiom in business is that the best time to take advantage of an opportunity is yesterday or now. I have begun to see conflict as an opportunity.

6. It's Not Me, It's You- One of my friends in ministry told me early in my career that as a pastor you have to remember that 80% of what people bring to you as your problem (or the church's problem) is really just their problem or hang up getting projected onto you or the institution.  This has been a hugely helpful principle in the church and beyond. It allows you to not take things personally and not to become a victim to unreasonable expectations by others.

The main thing that I am learning is just to silence that pastor voice inside me that says rejection is bad or that I messed something up. It is just part of engaging ministry in the realm of business. As my Dad would say, "It just goes with the territory."

Bootstrapping, Cheat Codes, and Missional Entrepreneurship

Matthew Overton


We are at this tricky spot as a venture where we don't quite have enough hours/funds to pay a full time employee, but we almost need one in order to keep up with business and to continue to help business expand.  I have been running this landscaping company while working a full time job with a high burnout rate for the last year.  It hasn't been easy.

So a few weeks ago I phoned and met with a couple of friends to talk about how we might fund this project further.  I had to figure out whether I needed for profit investment or non profit grant funding and how to get it.  It was urgent because I have a sense that if I have to work the current model for another 2 years let's say, I might just implode.  It is high energy. The basic answer I got back from my friends was that I need to work my model until it runs smoothly and shines.  Whether for profit or non profit, no one really wants to fund an experimental venture.  They want to come in when there is significant proof of viability.  They told me that I would have to bootstrap until my model sang.

This was a hard word to receive in some ways. Bootstrapping your venture when you are 24 is one thing. Doing it when you are 36, have two kids, and are already working a job that is 60 hours/week is another.  Most mornings I am up at about 4:15 working on writing or the business. I often finish the day with a few emails or bids for jobs to customers.  If I could eat Ramen and work on this stuff in an apartment 12 years ago it would have been a bit easier I think.  But, in a lot of ways the answer I received about funding was something I already knew.  There are no shortcuts in starting a good business.

When I was 11 my good friend J.P. got a new device for his Nintendo called the Game Genie. It was this crazy thing that allowed you to plug in cheat codes to any game that you had. You could add lives, weapons, etc. etc. etc. until Kingdom come.  It described itself as a "Video Game Enhancer". It was anything but.  What I quickly learned was that short cutting the game did two things.  First, I tired of all the games quickly. Since there was no challenge they made the video games boring in a hurry. You never had to earn anything through game play. Second, the more I cheated the worse I became at the games. I loved playing sports games on my Nintendo, but what I discovered was that after using the Game Genie I was worse at those games. My friends would beat me when we played once I had used the Genie. I had gotten sloppy and learned bad habits because I had been using shortcuts.  This lesson is true for any startup social entrepreneurship.

If I had started with a 100K grant instead of 15K of my own money, this whole venture would have been hopeless. Part of the success of what I am doing IS the fact that I have had to learn it all myself. I had to learn to use the tools, how to walk into a local business and sell my idea, learn how to fix my equipment, learn how to make jobs more efficient, learn what the life skills trainings look like and so on. And most importantly, I have had to learn exactly what the work is that my employees are doing. If I hadn't done all those reeking filthy runs to the dump with wet leaves and rotten grass myself how would I know what to pay my crews?  I also wouldn't have had the relational time with our first 5-6 students to feel out what we need to be training them on in terms of life and faith.  What are their strength points that need to be honed further? What are the weak points that need to be addressed?  The point is that every little bit of learning as you bootstrap is exactly what you need. I think the best sorts of things in life are built one bloody step at a time.  It is the recipe for all things good.

My hope is that we will either get enough business that I can bring someone on full time or that we can get some small funding in the near future.  Yet, as much as I want to move onto that second phase where I can hand chunks of this business off, I also can see why understanding my operation and working my operation without any cheat codes or short cuts really matters. I am prayerfully gauging whether it might just be critical for me to bootstrap this thing for a bit longer. For now, I had better get outside and pray while I am swapping the wheels on my Honda lawn mower. The drive system isn't engaging and I have no idea why. Did I mention that I am not REALLY mechanical?


Blessings on your innovations, risks, and adventures! May you follow the Kingdom as it unfolds before you!

I Learned Entrepreneurship from West Virginia...

Matthew Overton

     The home I grew up in as a child had much of its roots in West Virginia and Virginia.  One of the things that bled into our home because of that cultural history was story telling. Over and over again around our dinner table was always story telling.  Their were stories about miners, rogues, moonshine, and turn coats from way back.  Every night we revisited stories that brought our sense of family our "Overton-ness" deep meaning.  Many of the stories dealt heavily in humor and in mischief. Like the time my Dad and 5 friends stole a mail truck in high school to get cigarettes a 3 in the morning.  Or my Mom would talk about the compassion of her Dad when she skipped school one day and found him saying with a wink and a grin from underneath his silver hair, "I am finally glad you broke a rule, please don't do it again." I knew at a young age that this was a gift of my family. I recall vivdly that in 5th grade while other friend's year books were filled with lines like "Have a bitchin summer!", an acquaintance of mine wrote, "Keep telling those awesome stories man."

     It's these stories, and the One great Story, that combined to create a kind of narrative of deep meaning in our house and I think that story telling is at the heart of any kind of social entrepreneurship.  There is no way to get any crazy idea off the ground unless it is combined with a good story.  In my experience with what I am building here in Vancouver, Wa. I have begun to cherish even more my family's gift of good story telling. I feel at times I have told the story of what I am doing and how it came to be several thousand times.  And it is exhausting work.  But the reason that it is so exhausting is that it is such a good story to tell.  But, the reason it works is that people truly long in our world (I think) to be caught up in something bigger than themselves.  They want to suffer for something good.  Stories help people to do that.  So as we are thinking about launching anything new, we better be able to tell a story about it that invites people into our adventure. Here are some thoughts:

1. Humor: Humor is like the intermission at a play. People love a good idea, but it is 10 times better with some irony, poking fun at self, and pointing out the absurd in life. No matter how good a play is, people need a break in the action.  Your story better have some funny (see my first post on when I mowed a lawn "professionally" for the first time).

2. Passion: Passion at its root means, "to suffer". If you didn't suffer for your enterprise and can't call others to suffer for the idea that you think is so good then forget it. I tell my students regularly that a significant part of the Jesus life is NOT about finding something to live for. It is about finding something that is so good that you would die for it (Luke 9:24). It's at that intersection that meaning and life tend to spring up.

3. Zeal: This is different than "passion" which has to do with suffering. A good story should be told with at least some zeal. It need geist, gusto, and elan. Even a sad story when it pivots to its telos should be delivered with some zeal.  People's time and attention span come at a premium these days. If you don't care enough about your idea or vision that it doesn't come bursting forth from you like new wine in old skins than you are wasting their time. I always think here about the time when David Hume the Scottish Skeptic got up early one morning to hear George Whitfield preach. Someone saw Hume in the crowd as Whitfield was belting forth and said, "David, why are you here? You don't believe this." Hume's response, "No, but HE does!" If it's worth telling, tell it as though it must be told.

4. Resonance- Every time I have told the story of what I am working on I can see the light bulbs going off for people.  It's like a flash bulb Disney parade. If our stories don't easily connect with the stories of a good number of others than whatever our entrepreneurial idea is might not have the legs to run. It's a clue that tells us we are on to something.

5. Transcendence- This overlaps with passion a bit, but the story has to get us to a higher or deeper truth about life, faith, or something! I almost never tell folks about lawn care when I talk to them about the stuff that I am working on. I don't usually talk about youth ministry either. What I talk about is the experience of teenagers and what they are wrestling with and how adults have an obligation to help them navigate the world we have created for them. I talk about kids coming alive!  I talk about the higher purpose of these project. People not only will listen to that, they will go after it.

These are some things that help me as I share stories, work on projects, and even as I preach my sermon. I hope they help you as you hatch crazy ideas worth dying for.

Here are two articles from the Duke faith and leadership publication that are also really good about story telling. Here and here.