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!

Stop!

We had a holiday last week, as it was half term. We found the most amazing converted barn in the country around four years ago, and have been going back there ever since for our annual October half term holiday. There is no broadband, very little 3G or mobile coverage…(there is electricity and heating!)…so we find it just the perfect place to retreat to, kick out, and relax. We are all off of our computers for the week, no access to emails, no work commitments, just the opportunity to play games, watch movies, stay in our PJ’s until lunchtime and visit a few places with good food. Heaven!

Stop!

Stop!

We at EBC did a series at the beginning of the year called Breathing Room which looked at elements of this, and I am aiming to read Richard Swenson’s book Margin at some point in the very near future. Stopping in our current climate is something we’re not always very good at doing…life and work and church and home and children and and and and…we are just busy!

I was thinking about the impact just stopping has in so much we do. So I’ve already looked at stopping for holidays, for breath, for time out to refresh. Which, maybe is an obvious one (or maybe not…)? But what other areas can have impact from a stop, however brief? How about:

  • Songs: Do you arrange stops with your band? I mean, aside from all ending together (and hopefully at the same time), arranging stops, or stabs in your songs can be really impactive. Of course, if you’re not actually doing any more than just playing the song, quite often everyone starts at the beginning, everyone finishes at the end, and you play the song all together… But a proper arrangement will involve musicians stopping and starting, verses without guitar, different singers taking the lead, maybe a complete stop and silence before you go into the chorus. Simple arrangements, easy to grasp principles, hugely impactive sound.
  • Service Orders: Do you put stopping time into your services? For instance, after the talk, is there a time to respond, to digest and take in what you’ve just heard? If you’ve ended your worship set on something quiet and responsive, do you as leader allow the time for people to just be? I’ve been in too many services where a song like this was followed by a reading, or public prayer, and instead of stopping and experiencing the moment, it was broken by footsteps down the aisle as the next part of the service had to happen…order trumped the moment. If you can see there is the opportunity, or likelihood for the Spirit to be working, people to be responding, times of quiet, then put it in. We regularly set aside specific time in our service orders to preserve this, and then will add space off the cuff as and when needed. Be sensitive to it. Stop!
  • Drama: I don’t claim to be a director or actor (although I have performed in the past…), but I do write scripts and skits regularly, and one of the key things (especially if using comedy) is judging the right amount of pauses. Jokes can be completely lost if the space is not inserted to absorb the humour. Dramatic scripts lose their impact hugely if they are just read through…a talent as an actor and director is putting in the right spaces…the pregnant pauses…the raised tension by stopping.
  • Service Content: Do you have a media every Sunday? Drama once a month? Always start with an uptempo song, and a standard 3:2 line up of songs in your service (three at the beginning, two at the end?). Stop! Shake it up a bit. Go 2: 3 with your songs. Have a series of related skits for a series. Drop the media one week. Try flipcharts, or interaction, or slides instead? Simple and subtle changes from the norm can have the most impact, without alienating or shocking your congregation. Familiarity is great for week to week services, as it gives your congregation a confidence in what to expect, and in inviting (they know you’re going to present a good service each week which they are comfortable bringing their friends to). That said, familiarity can soon evolve into complacency for all involved if you’re following the same order, songs and presentation each week…stop from time to time and just shake it up!

Now we’ve had that brief stop for half term, I’m back and ready for the Christmas run…you with me?

Editing Ideas

So in last week’s post I looked at some of the sources I use for collating ideas, along with how I start finding them. This week I wanted to continue the process with how I edit and refine them into something useful.

Where to cut first?

Where to cut first?

To start with, we have a completed service outline that has an overview of the subject, what we’re wanting everyone to learn and take home, as well as a hope of how they will feel. The outline of the talk is there as well, and I’ve hopefully found a good selection of creative ideas that will support and enhance the message. It is at this point that I’ll meet with whoever is preaching for that service, so that we can start to sort through the ideas together.

This discussion allows us both to get a better feel for how the talk is going to go, where the emphasis is going to be, and what the one line take home is. We always aim to have a take home in the talk, the rationale being that whatever has been said, and no matter how long, there is a line that will resonate and stick above all the others and so be easy to remember and apply long after the talk has been heard. Knowing what this is will then influence which elements we choose to use.

There may also be timing issues to take into account, if there is a lot happening one week (we have communion once a month, we had a gift day this month which took up extra time, and several times through the year we have a “What’s Up With That” slot which gives more of an overview of some of the other things happening day to day at EBC which our congregation may not be as aware of.

Every story has a different angle

We’ll also weed out things that become irrelevant or unrepresentative once we’ve established the main thrust of the talk…every story has a different angle. And we try at this point to make sure that whatever we’re using is culturally relevant to our church. This is a pretty personal thing to understand, and can only really be sensed when you have been part of your church’s community for some time. For example, as we looked at last time, I may choose to refer to The Great British Bakeoff, Strictly Come Dancing, The Apprentice, as they are all current TV shows that are relevant and understood by a majority of our church. Old TV series like Friends and The Simpsons seem to remain relevant even 20 years after the event. And many movies, especially family movies, will work if they are popular and recognised…or they may even encourage the congregation to seek them out and watch them in a different light. But at the same time, I am pretty sure that Big Brother and Jeremy Kyle are not big crowd pullers at EBC, so they probably wouldn’t entertain a mention.

There are times when the clip is so good that it warrants inclusion, so we used a Big Bang Theory clip called The Friendship Hypothesis a while back which went down really well. But we’ve also used clips from popular movies like Mr and Mrs Smith and Defiance which just didn’t cross over, possibly because our set up wasn’t clear enough, or they simply didn’t appeal to our congregation.

Who is as important as what

With regards to music, often we can find the perfect song that reflects and illuminates the talk perfectly, so the only question becomes do we run it as a media or do we perform it as a band. And for that, we have to make a call as to if it is playable by our musicians within the time frame. We do try and get a balance of this, as the impact of having a song performed live is much higher than simply watching the video…although of course if it is done badly then that impact is significantly diminished! And we always make sure that the words are displayed whether it’s a live performance or video…just to make sure that everyone gets the words!

So in summing up, it’s great to have a lot of ideas to choose from so that you can then edit them down, and when you edit, think of the specific point you’re trying to deliver to the congregation, think about who is going to be delivering it, and think about your congregation

Conflict

Whenever I think of conflict, I generally go back to that amazing Monty Python sketch, “Argument Clinic” where Michael Palin (in a fabulous 70’s outfit) walks into a room and asks “Is this the room for an argument”, and John Cleese replies “Well I’ve already told you once…” But, as discussed in my past posts, we’re always trying to be more culturally relevant to our congregation and our peers, so here’s a clip from Friends instead…

In the clip from Friends, Joey has moved out of Chandler’s apartment, so Chandler has got a new roommate. This has caused obvious tension, as they have such a long history together and at the end of the day, are missing each other’s company terribly. But is something that neither of them want to tackle. The empty juice carton is the catalyst for their angst, but still neither one is willing to take the matter head on…digressing from juice to eggs, from eggs to chickens.

Heat rising

Don’t you find it’s often that way, the smallest thing can trigger long supressed anger and feelings, often leaving the other party confused and wondering where it came from? And of course it makes no sense…because usually the trigger is nothing to do with what caused the conflict in the first place! As they say, never go to bed on an argument…or even better, don’t have an argument in the first place.

I know of many friends that just shy away from conflict. At the first sign of any sort of argument flaring up, or even the slightest disagreement, they will back off, shy away or compromise, just to deflect from any potential conflict. And at the same time I know (fortunately far fewer) people that just seem incredibly able of inciting conflict at a moments notice, in fact they almost go out of their way to be disagreeable and will not back down, no matter what the cost.

Is it just me?

I think most of us can identify with either personality, and it seems to me that there are a very few that tread the middle ground, not wanting to cause an argument, but at the same time standing up for their principles and returning a balance, healthy and wise argument. The longer that things remain unsaid, the more they fester, until when it finally bubbles to the surface it erupts, literally blowing out of proportion whatever the issue was in the first place. Now I’m no counsellor, and don’t want to offer relationship advice or the like…but I know that Mrs K and I generally talk over most stuff…no matter how awkward. And there are some topics that will always cause more “discussion” than others…money for example. But we still have the conversation, and have it early before it grows into something bigger than it was.

Being open, honest and up front is a great way of avoiding conflict, and at the same time putting your hands up and saying “sorry, I was wrong” is also a great sentence to diffuse a situation. Neither response may solve the issues, but they will allow you to move on with the conversation without resorting to an argument.

And now, for something completely different…

For those of a certain age, and as a half term treat….here’s the Monty Python sketch in full… Now I’ve told you once….

Our Templates

Last week I looked at templates, how we all have them (even if we don’t realise it), and why its important to use them. This week I thought it would be good to look at the evolution of our templates at EBC.

In The Beginning

What does your Template achieve?

What does your Template achieve?

When I first started at EBC our service order consisted of an A4 sheet which had a basic order on one half, and a list of songs and their corresponding Songs of Fellowship number on the other. It was primarily so the musicians were able to locate the songs in the book, and in those days the musicians did use books (including Baptist Praise and Worship), so we also had super strong reinforced music stands that were up to holding several large music books, as well as a significant supply of post-its to mark the pages. The music didn’t flow quite so well, especially if the first song was in book 1 and the second song on page 557 of book three, but the music team did have good biceps from carrying several kilos of hymn books around with them each rehearsal and service.

The first transition we made was to get rid of the two half sheet and condense it into one…each week we used to rip it in half, the musicians would take the numbers and the preacher would take the orders. And when I questioned “why” we did it this way…well, we always had. So we just had one A4 sheet which had some basic details on it (service leader, worship leader, preacher etc) as well as the basic order. We started putting in some detail for transitions between items, so we could introduce some flow into the service purposely, rather than as a happy accident!

The second minor adjustment was to get rid of the songbook numbers. By this point we had stopped using Songs of Fellowship, we had condensed down our song list and were mostly using our own chord charts which were in standard, singable keys and regular arrangements. This was a gradual transition as the church office liked to be able to use the numbers to make sure they had the right song…and in fairness there are some songs with similar titles…we did have one Sunday where I had chosen “Great is Your Faithfulness (Unchanging)” by Chris Tomlin, only to be greeted by the hymn. But generally this wasn’t a big issue.

The sea change came after our visit to Atlanta, to the Drive conference at Northpoint where we learnt about the “funnel”, or their Rules of Engagement and how to narrow the focus during a service. Off of the back of that we created a new template which had the three elements: Engage, Involve, Challenge, highlighted down the side, so we could then fill in the template accordingly. We also expanded the columns to give more direction in terms of technical notes and cues, so our Sunday team had a better idea of how it all would fit together and we could have some more control of the flow.

EBC Service Order 26-05-13 10.15

Our current template takes all of these things into account, again it has evolved over time to fit with what we do, just as we have. The template extends over 2 A4 sheets (we now have a double sided copier!), and as we also now have a more complex lighting set up with moving head spots and a full DMX set up, we include lighting cues with our technical notes and information. This is what also necessitated moving some of the service detail to a second page.

EBC Service Order 26-05-13 10.15

You can see from the templates I’ve put up here that they contain more or less the same information, and our actual structure and order is not wildly different over the course of the years. But now we have an understanding of it, and are intentional with it, we can achieve much more comprehensive and impactive services. The elements that we put into our services, be it music, drama, media, interaction, along with sung worship and the talk can be arranged so that they have the most impact and effectiveness in communicating the message that we want to get across that week. And the feedback we are receiving from our congregation would suggest that this template is working.

What does your template look like? And more importantly, what results is it getting?

Templates

Last week I wrote about how we had changed the format of our Sunday service for a “Soul Survivor Special”, and how off the back of it we had discovered some really useful changes which we were applying to future services, both in order and setup. And on of the things I mentioned was templates.

I realise that this is the longest blog post to date. Sorry. But it's good. In the words of Miranda...bear with....
Templates

Do you have a template?

 

In 2013 I was fortunate enough to attend the Drive conference at Northpoint Community Church, Atlanta. We went as a group of emerging leaders from EBC, and the three day conference looked at many different elements of church leadership, from being on the stage to small groups, music to drama, welcoming and hosting to the graphic design and presentation of your materials. It really did cover everything. Now I could probably start a completely new blog devoted to the take homes from this event alone, but to give some semblance of planning and continuity, lets look at templates.

Every church has one

As we learnt at the Drive conference, every church has a template, whether you realise it or not. So the order you run your service, the way you present the words of the songs, the format, folds and font of your service sheets and notices…they all follow a template. It may be that someone has consciously designed these templates, they may have evolved over time, it may even be that you do it that way because “it’s always been done that way”….whichever way you do it, you are following some sort of template. So take five minutes out and think about your last three services: how did they start, where did the songs happen, where were the offering and announcements, how was the talk or sermon introduced, how did it end? Chances are, unless you have some sort of freeform meeting that you hope people turn up to and then see what happens…that yes, you have a template…you just didn’t realise it!

 

The second thing to learn, now we’ve established you have a template, is your template generates the results you are getting. So attendance, attentiveness, engagement and response will all be affected by your template. Which can be tricky if you didn’t realise you had a template in the first place! At Northpoint they use the principle of a funnel, with the start of the service at the wide open mouth, and the end of the service being the point, narrowing the focus throughout the service. You can find it here. This is broken down into three separate sections, Engage, Involve, Challenge. Let’s unpack that:

 

Engage: is just that. Your congregation most likely comes from different walks of life, a mix of ages, men and women, workers, retired, long serving christians, new believers and visitors for which this may be the first time they’ve visited a church. So we need to engage them and ensure that we’re all starting on the same page. A great way of doing this is a straightforward welcome and a genuine warm smile. You cannot assume that everyone is a regular, so introduce yourself and talk a bit about the service, today we’re looking at x and we’ll be together for about an hour. Then it can be useful to have an opener. This can be a set of slides, some observations about the week, a short media clip from a relevant TV show or movie, or a song. The important thing here is commonality…something that everybody can relate to. I always find that if you can use some gentle humour  that everyone can laugh at, it relaxes people, breaks down some of the walls that may exist and starts everybody off in a happy place.

 

Involvement: follows afterwards, this for us at EBC is sung congregational worship. Again, we explain what is happening, so for those that are new it isn’t a great surprise. If I stand up and say “we’re going to worship together” then for a visitor, what does it mean? I could be chanting, lighting some candles or incense, possibly even some strange dance? If I say “we’re going to stand and sing a few songs that express how we feel about Jesus”, even if your visitor doesn’t know the songs, there is an understanding of what you’re about to do. And the funnel principle applies to the songs as well. Assuming you have a mix of songs in your repertoire you probably have songs that profess how great God is and aren’t butterflies pretty, through to how He died on the cross and His blood washed away my sins. Now this isn’t the place to have a discussion about the biblical accuracy of how pretty butterflies actually are…but if you start your set of songs with something that is lyrically broad and musically upbeat, transitioning into songs that are more personal and challenging, you have a better chance of taking the congregation with you.

 

Challenge: This is the second half of our service. In terms of the funnel, we are starting to sharpen the focus. You’ve engaged the congregation at the start so they’ve come together, and then involve them through singing, maybe shared dialogue, a pertinent clip or drama that sets up the talk. But that doesn’t mean that you have a license to challenge from the start. If I were to have a conversation like with someone, I wouldn’t lay into them from the start: Hey Steve, you suck because… It would be the perfect setup for a fight, and the net effect would be that I had lost a friendship (and probably gained a black eye). No, again we employ the funnel all over again, so the talk is about engaging, involving and challenging. And the challenge comes towards the end. Now I don’t preach, so it’s not my place here to say how you should do so. But having been on the receiving end of many talks, and also with the job that I do, I think I have pretty good understanding of a good talk structure.

 

So there you have it. A simple, three part guide to your template. Now having a template doesn’t mean boring, routine, or the same service each time. As I said last week, we mix it up often. And a template is just that, you slot things into it. So we don’t have drama or media every week, sometimes we have three songs at the beginning and two at the end, sometimes we flip it. This Sunday with communion we’re only going to have four songs to make more space for reflection. When it’s all age we have a completely different template. But it does make for a consistent and familiar service, it means that we’re not starting with a blank sheet of paper each week, and it gives us the space to be creative in the spaces that we make for ourselves. 

 

And finally, it’s our template. Northpoint has been a huge influence…as has Willow Creek, New Wine, Soul Survivor, and so on. But we don’t try to clone their services and steal (all of) their ideas. Having it explained in such a clear way, and experiencing it first hand gave us a really good understanding of what it was all about, which then enabled us to look at what we were doing and then work out how we could apply the ideas and principles in a way that was beneficial for us and our congregation.

 

So I hope that this does just the same for you. Feel free to steal and use anything from this blog…that’s what it’s there for. But you’ll do it your way, in your church, for your congregation. And I hope to hear back from you what happened as you did it.

If you want to read more about this, then I highly recommend Andy Stanley's book, Deep and Wide, where this is covered in much more detail.

Review All You Do

My car passed its MOT last week, we’re meeting with my eldest daughter’s tutor tonight, and I have an objective reporting and setting meeting with EBC next week. We review all the time, often formally (appraisals), sometimes legally (the MOT), maybe not always as often as we should (medicals, servicing, finances…). But do you take the same approach with your services? After all, if you’re putting so much time into planning, rehearsing and programming your services, would it not be wise to also review them after they’ve happened.mechanic-bum_2479768b

What is the purpose of a review? Well if we look at some of the examples I’ve outlined above, I would say they boil down to three key things:

  1. Is everything working as it should?
  2. Are there any causes for concern?
  3. Is there any room for improvement?

So with my car MOT, it passed (everything is working as it should be), the rear tyre is worn within required limits (cause for concern) and my clutch is quite worn but working (room for improvement).

The Sunday follow up email

I talked about routines and habits on Monday, and one of the habits Chris, our senior pastor and I have got good at is the Monday review email. It’s nothing too formal, but most Mondays we mail each other about the previous day’s services while it’s still fresh in our mind, after there has been some breathing space. There’s nothing worse than critiquing yourself or someone else straight after you’ve done it…(although I do find there will always be members of your congregation who think it’s the best time to remind you of the wrong chord/forgotten words/faux pas which you made in the talk). We cover exactly the same three things:

  1. What worked,
  2. Were there any causes for concern, and
  3. What could we improve?

This doesn’t feed into any great review system, we don’t do five star ratings and if the guitarist put his capo on the wrong fret (me two weeks ago….), it doesn’t reflect in their appraisal. But what it does allow us to do is to continually tweak and modify our services, much like tuning an engine, so we can get the best out of our teams, our facilities and our content, and the services we deliver every week can communicate the message in the best way possible. We have made great leaps in previous years with our facilities (we had a major spend on sound, lights and media), our teams (using the facilities and changing the way we rehearse and organise our bands) and our messages (the structure and delivery of our sermons), so arguably we are already creating really good services. Going back to the engine tuning analogy, once you’ve made the obvious big changes and made huge leaps in performance, anything above and beyond that consists of small adjustments for small percentages of difference. But they’re worth doing, and doing regularly. Look at time and money which is spent on Formula One cars, measuring, adjusting and refining so they are at their absolute peak performance when the difference between first and second can be fractions of a second, any performance benefit no matter how small can make a crucial difference.

Picking holes?

So a clumsy transition, a typo on a newsletter, withered plants in the lobby…none of these things are going to make a big difference to the content of the message, or diminish the truth of what is being shared. But they are small things which can make an impression on visitors, and when viewed as a whole, can decrease the effectiveness or our services. If our God is so worthy to be praised, if He is the great provider and source of every hour, if we as the church care so much about seekers and the lost…why are we His church not making the effort to at least keep the place tidy and serve good coffee?!

We continue to review weekly, our emails mean we tweak and adjust each week, we regularly praise, appraise and train our volunteers as to how and why they are serving, because vision leaks, and we do need to be reminded. And the more we do this, the better our services become, the bigger our congregation grows, and the message we deliver becomes clearer, goes deeper and remains memorable long after it has been received.

So the next time you’re in one of your services, whether serving or observing, try and look at it with different eyes, and see what small improvements you could make to go from good to great…great to awesome….awesome to spectacular…and so on!

Do you review all that you do?

Meaningful Mailing

This week we have been slowly winding down to a long deserved holiday, but before we get away on Friday, I still have the task of putting together the worship team rotas for the autumn. This is something which usually starts around 6 – 8 weeks out, as I try and coerce dates and availability from my team for the coming months. This happens with varying degrees of success. I started off by creating a paper form for everyone to complete, and I also set up an online submission as part of our worship team website. But these days I default to email as it is the general communication of choice.

But of course, everyone is bombarded in their inbox every day, and the last thing I want is to add to the pile of junk, while also making sure I get a response where it’s needed. So, wherever possible I follow the rules below when contacting my team.

The rules:

  • I only send emails to the relevant contacts. I have a “Worship Team” group email which easily allows me to send to all, and then I often copy (cc) others when needed (senior minister, sound team etc). They know if they are copied it doesn’t warrant a response.
  • I don’t send a long email, I try and keep it to the point as much as possible, and make it clear both in the title and the body of the message why I am contacting them and what I’m expecting in response. And if I am expecting a response, I also give a clear deadline as to when I want to hear back by!
  • Where possible, I try and keep each email about one subject. So if I’m planning rehearsals, sending the songs for Sunday and collating dates for the forthcoming rota, they will go out in separate emails. Otherwise confusion reigns, and I will either scare off my recipients, or create total confusion for myself in the responses (will be there/what key’s song 2/I’m on holiday 12th…) Of course this does mean you’re sending multiple emails, but as in point one they should be targeted (rotas will be sent to all, rehearsals and Sunday songs will usually only be sent to the week’s band).
  • I try to be consistent with regards to the days I send emails…especially when it’s for Sunday song and rehearsal reminders. Some of my team are so used to this now if I don’t send an email on a specific day they will remind me! If only it was always so straightforward. So we have rehearsal on the Tuesday before the Sunday, I make sure the songs are in the church office on the preceding Thursday and the band have them too, along with a reminder they are in the band.
  • I have been office based in my other jobs for well over 15 years now, and yet it still surprises me the number of people still don’t use spellcheck on their computers, whether in outlook, mail or online…there is an option in all programs to automatically suggest corrections when typing, as well as the option to check all before sending. Com on peeple, it doeznt look professional wen u send out error strewn messages!
  • And related to the above, read your email before you send it. Not only for spell checking (which by now should have automatically checked itself), but also for the accuracy of the other content. I’ve forgotten attachments, sent the wrong document, got my dates wrong and so on. A cursory check through of what you are saying should mean you won’t make those mistakes.

Going forwards…

None of these pointers are failsafe, you can guarantee not everybody will reply, and you will probably have to ask more than twice. And even now (we go away tomorrow), I still don’t have responses from everybody in the band! But, I have a big enough critical mass which has allowed me to complete the rota and send it out in draft status for all to check and confirm. (And of course, I’ve already had reported back one mistake…of course it was my fault….).

But follow these rules, and you should be well on the way to getting more timely and consistent responses from your team.

How do you organise your communications with your team?