A spark to a flame

A big group of our youth went to Soul Survivor this summer, my eldest daughter included, and they had a ball! They all came back excited, passionate and full of ideas and songs we could use at EBC.

WkBC-Venues-BigTop-Header

We were able to watch a lot of the evening celebrations on God TV this year, which for us was also a fabulous experience…seeing and hearing what they were doing every night (from the comfort of our sofa with a nice cup of tea…so we’re not experiencing the Pot Noodles and damp camp site…) They want to put a youth band together to lead the songs they were using in the Big Top, have different ideas about services, stage setting, lighting and prayer. And its a great thing to see and hear.

But as I talked about some time ago, vision leaks. And so does excitement and passion.

We are just back from summer holidays (hence a complete lack of posting on my part), where we had no pulls on our time, no school, not as much work, a reduced service schedule. An opportunity to have family time, catch up on some things around the house, lazy mornings, movie evenings, too much food. But a chance to refill, refuel, rejuvenate and recharge ready for the return to school/work/church. And Soul Survivor did this for our young people…they came back overflowing with excitement, ideas, Spirit and passion.

But now we’re back, we’re two weeks into school and work, and holidays seem like a lifetime away. In fact at one point last week we felt more tired than we had before we’d been on holiday!

We as leaders, as parents, as part of the church need to nurture our youth. If they want to put a band together, introduce new songs into our services, produce creative ideas and input experiences and ways of working learnt at Soul Survivor, we need to encourage it. We need to make it happen!

Otherwise all of the passion, energy and Spirit will leak out of them before we get to Christmas. And just like the post holiday blues…a few weeks will go by and we will have settled into “normal” daily life…the holiday experience and refueling feeling like a distant memory as we count down the days until Friday/the weekend/the next holiday.

Like a spark to a flame, the potential is there for something big and fiery. But if it’s not nurtured, protected, handled properly, it will extinguish.

I don’t know how we’re going to do all of this. But I’m going to try. We will have a band with our youth. We will start to incorporate some of the songs they worshiped to (already have!). We are getting a plan in place as to how we can more frequently and strategically use our youth in services…not just on “special” Sundays. And I am sure that as we do this, they will push us, they will encourage us, they will supersede us and we can watch them grow amazingly.

What I Want to Want

So this Sunday sees us deliver the past part of our Follow series at EBC, and it’s titled What I Want to Want. The basic premise is that it’s better to follow God’s will than to try and impose our own. If you want to catch up with any of our talks you can find them here, or the original series from Northpoint is here.

Now those who regularly read this blog will know how much of a Big Bang fan I am, and this clip illustrates the point perfectly. Sheldon is tolerating Penny coming over regularly, but there are a few rough edges which he wants to smooth in order to make life better for himself. So by using positive reinforcement (chocolate), he starts to train Penny to be a better house guest. There’s a second part here:

Now I’m all for change, change is good, and I personally love to experiment with new things, the latest gadgets, new music and movies. I wouldn’t say I’m a cutting edge hipster by any means, but I do keep up with what’s going on in the world. And I will freely admit I struggle sometimes when other friends and family don’t see it the same way…that the latest release by St Vincent or John Mayer which I think is wonderful is just muzak to others, or Level 42 are a hugely underrated band, and Prince is just a purple genius. It’s all true. In my world.

Walking on Sunshine

 

My eldest daughter was recently off ill, and so scanning through Netflix discovered Walking on Sunshine, the movie. I’ll let you check it out if you so wish, but if you imagine Mama Mia set in Italy with lots of tanned young people breaking into 80’s classics at a moments notice…you’ll get the picture. So being a child of the 80’s, I did the only decent thing and put together my version of the Walking on Sunshine soundtrack but with the original tunes. We listened to it on a road trip over half term. Out of the 13 tracks (which included Don’t you want me, White Wedding, The Power of Love (by Huey Lewis) and of course Walking on sunshine), the general consensus from both of my daughters were that the new versions were far superior (something they also think about Glee songs…) And try as I might, I could not argue them to think my (obviously educated and correct) way of thinking.

We so often do this in other areas of our lives…try to persuade others to think the way we do, or justify a purchase or expense based on other’s perceptions or the idea it will change us for the better. And sometimes we may go even further, trying to persuade those close to us to be someone they’re not so they can fit the mold which we want them to be modeled into.

Responsibility

As parents we try to educate, encourage and discipline our children so they can be the best that they can be. And our influence and passions will inevitably rub off on them…all of our kids are turning out to be musical and artistic, we share similar tastes in films, music and humour and they also share our complete lack of interest in anything sport related. But we never impose our will or our dreams on them…we support them and help them to be who they want to be, not who we think they should be. And much as my desire is to have a band of Kerslakes, for my children to share my love of Level 42 and Prince and for them to agree that Star Wars is the best movie trilogy ever…I have to accept they much prefer Glee, The Hunger Games and 5 seconds of summer.

And God is a lot like the above…if He’d wanted us to be perfect clones submitting to His will without question then free will would have been taken out of the equation long ago. But He loves us more than that…which is why we are free to make our own decisions as to who we are, how we act, and whether or not we choose to follow. So are we willing to want what God wants more than what we want?

Chocolate?

Mother’s Day Ideas

dead-flowers

Now I know this post is titled Mother’s Day Ideas, but if you’re looking for suggestions for the ideal bouquet, where to buy the cheapest chocolates and tips on how to cook the perfect roast (you are at least taking your mum out for lunch, aren’t you?), this is the wrong place.

But what I can give you is a small selection of clips and skits which can be used in your church, either to publicise your upcoming Mother’s Day Service (you are going to celebrate the mums on Mother’s Day, aren’t you?), or as a great opener, discussion starter, or just a celebration of mums…which, lets be frank, is just what Mother’s Day is all about)

Now this has been doing the rounds on Facebook this week…a really cute little short which should raise plenty of smiles (and nods of appreciation from the mums…)

We are thinking of using this next one as publicity (and a reminder…you did remember it’s Mother’s Day next week?) for our special next Sunday. Great idea, brilliant content, and I would say it appeals to the men in the congregation as much as the women. My wife put me onto this one, she thought it was great (and who am I to argue?)

And then finally, a slightly longer (and all together great) short from the Skit Guys and their Mom Goggles…premise: they are looking after the kids for the weekend, and when they put on their Mom Goggles they see the world…differently. Very funny, very touching, I properly Laughed Out Loud at points…this is going to go down a storm in our services.

We’re also going to be treating mums with special cakes, hopefully a bit of silver service from our youth, chocolate, hand cream and George Clooney. Well, that’s the intention…if George turns up.

Of course we should be celebrating our mums every day of the year, but in case you need reminding again…Mother’s Day is next Sunday (you haven’t forgotten, have you?)

The Toilet Brush Christmas Tree

Just this past week we completed our annual Community carols, a tradition we have had for many years now, which is growing year on year. We bring together several of the local primary school choirs together to perform some Christmas songs to their friends and family, which we chain together with carols, a generally silly Christmas theme and a short talk. This year the theme was Weird Christmas.

Did you know Germany created the first artificial Christmas tree? But, what was it made out of?Toilet Brush Tree

  1. Hedgehogs?
  2. Feathers?
  3. Toilet Brushes?

Now the correct answer is 2), feathers. They dyed goose feathers green and attached them to rudimentary branches. But, answer 3) is also vaguely correct. The Addis company, who made (and still do) toilet brushes employed the same factory equipment to make fake Christmas trees…in fact if you look at many of the artificial trees we have today, you can see the resemblance. And as if to prove the point, Amy our youth worker and I presented out schools with an extremely authentic and hard to find antique toilet brush Christmas tree. I can guarantee you will not find another one of these in the shops!

We also looked at weird facts about Santa (did you know there’s a Santa Winter Games every year in Sweden, and the Chicago Tribune holds an annual “Scared of Santa” photo competition?), Weird Food (did you know KFC has marketed it’s fried chicken as a delicacy to the Japanese, and that in Greenland there is a dish called Kiviak which is made by stuffing 500 auks (cute penguins) into a seal carcass, smothering it all in whale fat and then burying it for 7 months. The aroma and flavour is akin to a strong stilton apparently….)

And then our final round was Christmas injuries. Can you believe 4 people broke their arms last year in cracker pulling incidents, several were injured by out of control Scalectrix cars, and over a 141 (I am sure men) had injuries from not removing the pins from their new shirts….

But Why?

You may ask, what is the point of all of this? I would say, its Christmas! We share the event with primary school children, and for many it is possibly their first experience of church. And if the statistics are to be believed, then a majority of them may not even associate Christmas with the birth of Jesus. So if we can find a way of including them, sharing Christmas traditions and messages with them, and making it as interactive as possible, for them and their families, then at the very least they will leave with a positive impression of us as a church, and also some stories as to why Christmas is Christmas and what we believe.

Both nights were really warmly received, the six choirs (we had three schools each night) did some great singing of a variety of Christmas songs, and we already have the schools booking in for next year…what an endorsement!

Same for Sundays

I apply the same mentality to planning this as I do Sunday services: humour, real life and common experiences will always go a long way to communicating to any audience.

So this Christmas, or next year, I encourage you to think of creative and interesting ways to communicate the Christmas message to all ages. And if you need some help, drop me a line! I have many years of material stored up in my archives!

A Change Will Do You Good

We just had a great service this past Sunday, celebrating and sharing some of what our young people had enjoyed at this year’s Soul Survivor. I put it together with our youth worker, Amy O’Melia, we led together and she also did the talk…her first (and a really good one!)

Change roadsign

A change is on the horizon

We had known for a while that we were going to do this, and although it was a special service, we were still continuing the current series from The Story, and it was also an all age service (as it was the last Sunday of the month), something else we wanted to keep. But to try and give a bit of a flavour of the Soul Survivor experience, we changed a few bits around. So:

  • We took half of the chairs out of the hall, and asked our congregation to bring picnic rugs, blankets and cushions (we did keep half of the chairs in the hall for those who might struggle to get up from the floor!)
  • We extended our time of worship at the beginning so it was a longer block of music, and we also got more of our young people involved in the band.
  • We picked songs that had been used at Soul Survivor (we did already have a lot of them in our list, but we leant more heavily on them when choosing for the Sunday)
  • We put some tents and camping chairs up in the centre of the stage
  • The first “talk” part of the service, we put together an interactive “24 hours at Soul Survivor” experience.
  • After the second talk we had a time of extended prayer, again copying the Soul Survivor style and presentation of praying for each other to make it more accessible for the younger people.
  • And after the service, our young people served up Hot Chocolate Mountains in addition to the usual teas and coffees.

It was great!

The whole thing was a great success, we got so much positive feedback from the congregation, and Amy’s confidence in her preaching has taken a leap…I can’t wait for the next one! And it has also led to us thinking about implementing some of these changes for future services, so:

  1. For our all age services which we hold at the end of every month, we’re going to try taking the front few rows of chairs out as a permanent feature…the children and young people prefer to sit on the floor, and their parents (especially of toddlers) find it easier.
  2. Rearranging the stage, something we had initially done the week before for baptisms, has made us realise that we can comfortably put the band to the side of the stage while improving sight lines, communication, sound and also the look of the stage.
  3. Being able to involve the youth for this one service is a great opener for getting them to serve and lead at other services…this is something that we have been working towards as a band, but hope to be able to do for all aspects of our church services.
  4. Amy: we as a leadership and preaching team have been talking about getting Amy to preach…well, she did, it was great, and she is a fantastic addition to our preaching team. I can’t wait for the next one!

Now some of these things may have already been in the process, or maybe in time we would have got the younger people more involved and moved the band. But the opportunity to do it at one special service meant we were able to experiment and try different ideas without getting too much pushback for being too different….we had already flagged up that it was a one off special service, and given notice of the changes they would experience. But because the congregation did experience it, and found it a positive thing, when we come to implement some of the changes outlined above, it will be a natural progression rather than the shock of the change!

Templates versus change

Andy Stanley talks in his great book Deep & Wide about templates, and how all churches have them for their Sunday services (even if they don’t realise they have them!). And your template will give you the results you get for your Sunday services. We have a template for our services at EBC, it is something we have developed over time and we stick to the basic structure as it works for us. But a template is just that, a guideline or framework for how to structure our services. And although we changed a lot of the content, presentation and personnel for our Soul Survivor Sunday, we still didn’t deviate very far from the template and structure. Just in the same way that all of our services use creative content, unusual ideas and sometimes colourful presentation…but the message remains the same.

So I encourage you to take a look at what you’re doing on a Sunday, and work out what you could do differently, how you could involve other elements and other people, and see if a subtle change (or a big change!) will do you good!

 

Try

Self image. Confidence. Fitting in. Society seems to demand a lot of us these days, whether it’s to do with our jobs, our cars, our houses. And even more personally, we have to wear the right clothes in the right way, have our hair and makeup on before leave the house, and make sure that we’re not over or underweight. Isn’t that what the entire advertising and marketing industry is geared towards? We must have the latest phone/dress/music/movie or risk not “fitting in”. “What do you mean you haven’t seen/heard/eaten/worn….etc?!*” (*delete as applicable)

Now I am a 40 year old father of three, who does to a limited extent pay attention to how he looks. I don’t tend to feel the pressure to wear/read/listen to the “latest thing”. I have lost a fair amount of weight recently, but this was a conscious decision rather than a question of style…I don’t think I’ll ever suit skinny jeans. But I do have two daughters who are approaching their teenage years…who are already aware of their bodies and clothes, don’t want to stand out from the crowd, and like “shopping”. But I’m pleased to say that somehow we’ve instilled confidence in them that they can be who they want to be, without conforming to the rigours and style that their peer group follow. 

Try

This track by Colbie Caillat is simply called Try, and the accompanying video is a doozie…it’s already doing the rounds on social media, and I can understand why.

You don’t have to try so hard

You don’t have to give it all away

You just have to get up

You don’t have to change a single thing

Be Real

My girls are forever watching Glee, and listening to Pink!, Kelly Clarkson, and more recently musicals (Mrs K and I are both musicians with an appreciation of musical theatre…), so they don’t have dreadful role models. And something that their teachers have always said (that could be said of us) is that they are individuals. They’re no great leaders at school, but at the same time they’re not followers. They do their own thing, and they’re happy to do so. Which I am delighted about as their daddy.

Be comfortable in your own skin. Be real. Choose your friends wisely. Remember, it’s all about what’s happening on the inside that counts. And if anyone tells you otherwise…they’re probably not worth listening to.

Thanks to LosWhit for this one…who probably says it much more succinctly than I.

They are the Roses

I have a confession.

I will admit now, openly, I do have a penchant for country music. Now I don’t do line dancing, I am very much a Brit, and although I have been to the USA a few times, I have never got very far south. But as time has gone by, and my listening has grown, I have developed a real love of country music.

The stories within the songs, the accomplished musicians, that Nashville sound, stetsons, cowboy boots… OK, scratch the last two*. I am aware of course that country music covers many bases, and so I speak of country with the broadest brush, which in my library includes Vince Gill, Brad Paisley, Martina McBride, Alison Krauss, Alison Moorer, Nickel Creek, Jonny and Rosanne Cash, Dolly (of course) and many others. And as of late Mrs Kerslake and I have been quite addicted to ABC/More4’s Nashville series…and while I’ll be the first to accept that it’s essentially Dynasty with Country Music…the music is oh so special. Guaranteed that every week between the arguing, the intrigue, the love trysts and dirty dealings, there are some great songs performed by great musicians. And as a musician myself, I am really appreciating the attention to detail when it comes to the guitars (Gretsch and Gibson are clearly sharing some endorsement), the live performances, heck even the microphone placement in the studio scenes (admittedly I probably need to get out more…)

Which leads me to: They are the Roses. (apologies for the quality of the video…it’s all I could find…)

I discovered Jessica Andrews on the Prince of Egypt soundtrack (the “inspired by…Nashville spinoff…why release one soundtrack when you can release three?) singing another great song, “I will be there for you”. So when I went hunting out some more songs, I found her wonderful album Now, Jessica’s last album before she was unceremoniously dropped due to label downsizing. Sigh…

The track is a stunner, the opening line “Born with heaven in their eyes, God sent innocence, the promise of life” . This is a song all about children, and we have used it for children’s dedications, family Sundays, Mothers Day…the list goes on. The chorus: “They are the roses, they are the lights that shine” always brings a tear to the eye and a lump to the throat, as we usually pair it (as on the video here) with baby and childhood pictures. The album is great too, more pop-country than “& western”, but great none the less. And she did all of this aged twenty (Now is her third album…) I highly recommend it as a purchase, perfect songs for a summer’s day. Here’s hoping that Ms Andrews releases something soon. And on the subject of albums, I can completely recommend the Nashville soundtracks from the TV series…

*OK, second confession, I do still have cowboy boots in the wardrobe but they’re actually leftover from my hair metal band days when we used to play Bon Jovi covers…honest…