belly-dancers and the chinese seminar drill

in my seminar this past weekend on ‘leading change in your youth ministry’, we were deep into a discussion on level 5 leadership (a term from the book good to great). researchers found, if you haven’t read good to great, that leaders in organizations that moved from (their definition of) good to (their definition of) great, were cut from the same cloth, and it was surprising and counter-intuitive. these leaders had a surprising combination of professional will and personal humility. they look ‘in a mirror’ when it’s time to apportion blame, and look ‘out the window’ when it’s time to apportion praise.

just as we’d finished talking about this, three belly-dancers came into the back of our room and started belly-dancing up the main aisle. i’m not kidding. it was probably the single most random thing that has even happened to me in the middle of a seminar presentation. i assumed they were with our convention ‘a-team’ (the affirmation team, who exist to be silly and affirm people at the event), which was partially true. i found out later they were real belly-dancers who were part of a conference for women in another part of the convention center, and they heard about our event and wanted to ‘help’ (i’m not sure belly-dancing up seminar aisles is ‘help’, but it is intriguing that they had this desire). i sent them through a door in the airwall into les christie’s seminar on games, which was (very loudly) happening in the room behind us. but a couple minutes later they popped back into our room, a bit lost and not sure where to go next.

after they left, i said something like, “i need to go back to my office, look in the mirror, and ask myself how i have failed this organization that we would have belly-dancers making interruptions in seminars.”

then, in my seminar the next day on creative teaching for middle school ministry, i’d discovered that chap clark was doing a serious seminar (on the content of his book ‘hurt’) in the room behind me. i’d teased him that we might come up to the airwall and pound on it during the seminar.

he beat me to the punch. 30 minutes into the seminar, there was a massive pounding from the other side. i hung my head and told our seminar audience that it would be completely lame for us to merely respond by doing the same thing, and that we, the middle school people, should be able to be much more creative than to merely copy. i asked if anyone had a suggestion. someone yelled out, “let’s do a chinese fire drill” (i’m guessing this is a north american teenage phenomenon — which it has been since long before i was a teenager, and still is — so i’ll explain: driving in a full car, the driver stops, everyone gets out and runs around the car in a crazed manner, then gets back in the car, usually ending up in different positions. yes, it’s juvenille and absurd, and i have no idea why it’s called a chinese fire drill; anyone know the etymology of that one?). we quickly decided that it would have to be a ‘chinese seminar drill’, since we didn’t have a car. all 200 or 250 of us gather up by the little door in the airwall, then screaming and waving our arms, streamed into chap’s room, running around the entire room and back into ours (though, with 200 or 250 people, it took a bit longer than i expected!). chap pretended to continue teaching and not notice us. but it was a beautiful moment.

12 thoughts on “belly-dancers and the chinese seminar drill”

  1. I was part of the “leading change” seminar- nice to know at least the explanation of where the belly dancers came from.

    And next year, I think an off-campus site for the games seminar would be great! =) Either that or a sound-proof room…

  2. hey marko i have pictures of the bellydancers and you…they will be up on my blog soon :-) yeah know for all to see and enjoy…i also promised copies to carrie so they could be passed around the office..i mean we can’t let that moment ever go without documentation…i was sent up for that reason alone…glad that the Deaf group didn’t need me during that time :-) ahh the joy the joy :-)

  3. The “Chinese seminar drill” was awesome. I told the Sr. high pastor about it and now he is worried the I may have grand visions of trying it out on the them (we share a wall) I may wait a couple months so he forgets.

  4. Glad to know you liked our belly dancers…they were very eager to help out. We had swing dancers ready to go the next day…but it sounds like it was a good thing we didn’t bring them….ya’ll made your own break in. :) Had a great time on the A-Team, and looking forward to more years of God moving through YS. :)

  5. the belly dancers were awesome! one of the best seminars i’ve been in. plus, it helped showing that leaders (meaning you) are able to have fun while engaging in leadership.

  6. Awesome.

    You have not failed YS – simply improved on it. Yac is laughin’ his butt off somewhere!

    Purely Awesome. :)

  7. Marko,

    Sounds like you had a lot of fun with the seminar!

    You asked about the origination of “Chinese fire drill.” There’s a lot of stuff on the Internet about it, and according to Wikipedia,
    “The term is traditionally explained as coming from a British tendency around the time of World War I to use the adjective Chinese as a slur, implying “confused, disorganized, or inferior.”

    I’d say it still has that sense and probably we could drop the “chinese” aspect of it as can be very offensive. Would love for those of us in leadership roles, tho, to not perpetuate these stereotypes. Heard about a similar use today from a group of 2nd graders describing a move in a game as a “Chinesee.”


  8. May the “Chinese” part in “Chinese Fire Drill!” go the way of the “Chubby Bunny”. Any alternative phrasing ideas out there?

  9. wow, oregonian — amazing! yup, i’m with you in dropping it. given the whole “tip of the hat to confusion” aspect, maybe we should call them ‘protestant fire drills’!

  10. Hm…raising of hands, jumping around and acting crazy? It all makes me feel that, “Charismatic Fire Drill” is a much better fit.

  11. Dang – I wish I’d been able to see the _______ fire drill! I laughed all day from the mutual wall-pounding and belly dancers exchange – not to mention Les’ final act of sending three guys with blown-up latex gloves over their heads into our room. By the way – the leadership seminar was excellent – even without the memorable moments of complete random hilarity.

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