loren Eric Swanson: February 2008

Friday, February 29, 2008

Externally Focused Leadership Community 6.1 Day 2

Another great day yesterday. There was a lot of energy in the room and the teams worked very hard to create a "what could be" future for externally focused church. The manner in which we work during the first gathering is to go non-stop the second day. Folks take thier own breaks and pace themselves. But we started at 8am with Breakfast yesterday and finished dinner at 8:30 at the Texas Land and Cattle Steakhouse. It was a good full day as "what could be" transitioned to the hard work of "what will be"--their actual strategic and action planning

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Externally Focused Leadership Community 6.1 Day 1

Today was a blast! Leaders from 12 churches crowded into Leadership Network's facilitation space for a 2pm start. We opened by talking about the difference between entering this process with "expectations" and "expectancy"--and there is a big difference. Anne Lammot says, "Expectations lay the groundwork for disappointment." Expectancy on the other hand is entering with anticipation of what God will do at the unexpected intersections of life. We also talked about building on the ideas of others rather than just using our "critical thinking skills" to say what is wrong with the suggestion. So we pulled out a "yes, but" jar. Folks who were guily of saying "yes-but" had to put in a buck. We'll have a drawing for the money before we leave.

After the orientation each church shares thier current models of externally focused ministry. They did a great job--concise and crisp. The rest of the afternoon was spent in various exercises that help us think outside the box regarding what externally focused ministry could be. There was a ton of energy in the room and it just got stronger as the day went on. We ended the day with an incredible catered Texas barbecue. Here are a few pictures from today.

Externally Focused Leadership

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Final Externally Focused Leadership Community

Later today I am flying down to Dallas to begin the first gathering of the final Externally Focused Church Leadership Community. These communities have proved to be a great method of creativity, learning, growth and accomplishment. This should be a great ride! Twelve great churches will be in for the 2-year journey:

  • Center Street Church--Calgary
  • Christ Community Church--St. Charles, IL
  • Christ Fellowship Church--Palm Beach Gardens, FL
  • Foothills Community Church--Arvada, CO
  • Frazer Memorial UMC--Montgomery, AL
  • Grace Church--Greenville, SC
  • (Hill Country Bible--Austin, TX)
  • Mount Pleasant Christian Church--Greenwood, IN
  • Mountain Christian Church--Joppa, MD
  • North Way Christian Community--Wexford, PA
  • Saint Paul Baptist Church--Montclair, NJ
  • Wheaton Bible Church--Wheaton, IL
  • White River Christian Church--Noblesville, IN


On Saturday John Lamb, Rich Lotterhos and I cooked lunch at First Presbyterian Church's Lamb's Lunch--a Saturday lunch for the homeless population of Boulder. Drawing from the Elvis Cookbook (recipes for 70...or Elvis twice) we put together "Graceland Spaghetti"--sauteed peppers, garlic and onions, italian sausage, meatballs, blended together in a marinara sauce with diced tomatoes. Working together w/ 20 other big-hearted people who created a fabulous chopped salad.

The best part of Lambs Lunch is having lunch with the 80 or so folks who crowd around the tables. I had lunch with George and Dave. Dave has worked his whole life as a painter but is now experiencing vertigo, which has left him unemployed and staying at the shelter. This was the third time in George's life that he was homeless...gambling is what put him on the streets this time around. People need relationships...we need relationships as much as we need food. What many are surprised by is that 30-40% of the folks are women...some young, some have seen their years. There are mentally ill who sit by themselves on the fringes talking to themselves. Some folks are addicts and some have fallen on hard times. Many of them have full-time jobs but cannot make ends meet in today's economy.

When we cook, we want to do our best--life is hard enough on the streets and perhaps an extraordinary meal and good conversation lightens the burden. I think of the transforming power of a good meal in the movie "Babette's Feast." Food can be a work of art...a labor of love. One middle age woman commented, "I can tell you put a lot of love into the spaghetti." One man joked, "We thought this spaghetti came directly from Italy." Another said, "This is the best spaghetti I have ever tasted."

We are cooking every month for the next year. Next month we are thinking about Jambalaya. Could be good. If you'd like a pdf copy of the Elvis Cookbook drop me a line at eric@tangogroup.com

One more thing--one of the highlights was John's interaction with a Navaho Indian over lunch. John worked on a reservation in college and has basic language skills. I've enclosed a video of their interaction in Navaho.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


On Friday, I met my daughter Kacey for lunch at Chipotle's. As we were standing in line, looking at the menu I noticed the manager filling a large order to be picked up. As he put each item in the box, he checked off the item on the order. Very simple, but Kacey and I talked about how good that would be if all businesses would do that. How often have you gotten a take-out order only to get home and find something was missing.

This morning I picked up the March 2008 issue of Fast Company. I'm becoming a fan of Dan and Chip Heath--authors of Made to Stick. Each month they write a column and this month's column was called "The heroic Checklist: Why you should learn to love checking boxes." Here's the story they tell:

The holy grail of checklists may be the one created by Dr. Peter Pronovost of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Intensive-care units (ICUs) often use intravenous lines to deliver medication, and these lines can become infected, causing nasty health complications. Pronovost, frustrated by these preventable events, compiled a five-step checklist.

The checklist contained straightforward advice: Doctors should wash their hands before inserting an IV, a patient's skin should be cleaned with antiseptic at the point of insertion, and so forth. There was no new science and nothing controversial--only the results were surprising. When Michigan ICUs put the checklist into practice over a period of 18 months, line infections were virtually eliminated, saving the hospitals an estimated $175 million, because they no longer had to treat the associated complications. Oh, and it saved about 1,500 lives. (http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/123/heroic-checklist.html)

Isn't that good?

Monday, February 04, 2008

Thai Artist

One of the best discoveries in the shopping center was an artist who drew Jenda's portrait off of a photo for a mere $30. Pretty cool huh.