Idea Camp – Human Care

Posted on September 22, 2013

I spent the weekend at Idea Camp in Austin, Texas. I was not sure what I was getting into by attending this conference-but-not-a-conference event. I just knew there would be a lot of people who work in nonprofits and ministries that do social justice service in the world. I knew by going I would be inspired by them and maybe gain an idea or two. It’s called Idea Camp, yes?

I need a few more days to process what I heard and figure out which parts are most relevant to me. For now, though, I can discuss these three things:

1. What is Idea Camp?

2. Organizations that impressed me.

3. Words of wisdom that I heard.



From what I heard and understand, Idea Camp is a two-day event that happens in different cities each time. People who care about the event’s topic get together, listen to presentations (some like sermons, and some interviews) and then get a little break-out time to discuss that topic in more detail. During lunch and dinner, people are encouraged to meet each other, network, and see what partnerships might develop. This Camp’s topic was Human Care. Specifically, most of the discussions I heard centered on care for orphans and children, care for oppressed women, care through the church, and the self-care of leaders. It has been a couple years since the last Idea Camp, and they are not sure when another one will be done. When it’s time, I guess someone will make that decision and spread the word.



 Brandon Hatmaker, pastor of Austin New Church and author of Barefoot Church, inspired me by openly discussing his past struggles and the journey that led him to become a pastor who has a radical focus on the needy in his community.

 Mark Horvath founded where he shares the real-life stories of America’s homeless people. This brave, quirky man extends dignity to the population that much of the rest of America believe have no redeeming qualities. He listens, and shares, and thus has good ideas about how to make a difference among the homeless.

 Peter Greer, president of HOPE International, gave a message that was important not only for nonprofit leaders but for anyone who ministers anywhere. His organization impacts the global poor through microfinance, but he spoke mostly about how self-love contaminates the moment of service. I was really impressed by this guy.

 Steve Graves is an organizational strategist who coaches a select number of people who lead – whether in business, nonprofit, or ministry. He spoke about what is takes for a leader to flourish. It made me wish I had a coach like him.

Ashlee Heiligman works for Compasio, which strives to protect the vulnerable children on the border of Thailand and Burma as they prevent sex trafficking and abuse and respond when crisis occurs. She led a break-out discussion about how short-term mission trips need to be carried out with special consideration and preparation. She gave examples – as did other nonprofit leaders throughout the weekend – where well-meaning American short-term mission groups have accidentally done damage to the work her organization.

 Charles Lee. Whoa. This guy is polished. He makes me excited about innovation and running organizations that are meaningful. He’s the one that came up with the idea for Idea Camp. His presentation reminded me of the kind of stuff Seth Godin writes about.

Laura Lasky and her team at solaceSF minister to strippers, escorts, and porn stars in San Francisco. I loved her emphasis on relationship over rescue … to think of them as people, not projects. I listened closely when she said, “I am not Jesus. I do not save. It’s not my job to tell you that I sin differently than you.”



“Successful entrepreneurs don’t actually risk more. They’re just smarter on what they risk.” – Charles Lee.

“No one ever paid me to work on my character. I have to take that on myself.” – Steve Graves.

“Missions and international development is a place for people to be burned. Why? People have no ability to say no. They are passionate. So we (the leaders) enforce the no. We have a travel cap. If you are away from family at 5:30 at night, that counts as time away. That adds significant cost and personnel, but it’s for the long-lasting vision.” – Peter Greer.

“Culture can trump strategy. Ideally an organization will move from working on vision – to culture – to innovation – then Growth – then value. Most skip from vision to growth and value. But if you don’t build culture and innovation, you will lose your most talented people … and eventually burn out.” – Charles Lee.

“Men and churches want to have women working in their gifts and living out the calling. But when it comes to the actual work, it gets messy. Why is it so difficult? Because somebody has to do the dishes. Empowering and inspiring women is costly.” – Jennie Allen.

“Every Wednesday night our team brings cupcakes and foods to strip clubs just to show them that someone values them as more than a commodity. They know that whether or not they choose to engage with us that night, we will keep coming back. And when they need us or know someone in the future who needs us, we are going to be there.” – Laura Lasky.

“When what is offered to a person in poverty is decided by us – those who are privileged – they will take what we give them. Whatever it is. An orphanage where sexual abuse and terrible things are happening is still a better offering than what they had. But until we ask them what they really need, we will never know.” – Troy Livesay

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