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.

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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.

Simplicity

The summer holidays are zooming by, and half of the things we had planned to do we haven’t done…oh well. As we’re actually properly away next week on a proper holiday, I’m trying to work through my “to do” before we run out of time…so Sunday planning, new song lists, rotas…all the fun stuff…

My eldest is off at Soul Survivor this week in Somerset along with the youth from EBC and about 9,000 other young people. I am most jealous not to be there, but a real bonus this year has been God TV broadcasting the evening celebrations, so we have been sharing in it (and she’s been texting us “you have to watch this talk, you have to listen to this song!” etc… Soul Survivor also blog their new song lists so we can take what has been sung in the big top and share it in our churches. And I was working through our autumn song lists today, so I thought I’d get ahead of everybody coming back next week “You have to do this, this is the greatest song ever, no really, it goes like this, you have to do it!” (and that’s just from our senior minister….)

Anyhow, I was listening to some of the songs they have been using, and I came across this gem from Rend Collective, Simplicity. And it got me thinking about where we’re at currently; at home, at work, and at church. Let me explain further…

Simplicity

This summer we undertook to redecorate and reflow our lounge. The reasons were twofold, 1. it really was looking a bit tired having survived 13 years and 3 children growing up, throwing up, potty training and the like. And 2. our middle daughter, Noo got diagnosed with being her allergic to dust, so the carpet had to go to alleviate her breathing. It was a major project, as we had to get everything out of the lounge in order to get the floor up, so the 13 years of books, CD’s, ornaments and toys had to be vacated before we could even think about shifting the furniture. Military planning was involved, the kids went off to the grandparents, and fortunately the weather was good enough that the furniture could live on the patio for a few days. And we did it, and it looks great…but we didn’t want to just put everything back in. So books have been passed on, toys have been downsized, all of the CD’s have gone into slipcases, the hifi has stayed but is in a sleek glass rack with new, smaller speakers and the TV is on the wall. We have simplified our cluttered lounge, and it feels a restful place to be again.

I have recently started my own business which in some respects is a big deal, and in others just feels like a natural progression. I work from home the majority of the time, I can set my own hours, I am trying as hard as I can to eliminate paper and to all intents and purposes, as long as I have my laptop and phone, I can work from anywhere, anywhen. No office, no staff, no files…simple.

And finally, church. We seem to struggle in the same way Spinal Tap did in retaining drummers…fortunately none of them have died in strange accidents, but again this term we are drummerless. Now I’ve tried to make sure this doesn’t affect our services, or our repertoire, but again listening to some of the recent Hillsong and Soul Survivor songs, they are very rhythm led, and there is a concern we won’t be able to be as contemporary without a full rhythm section. But you know, taking a step back, rearranging some of the songs and taking a different approach makes me think we can do this, if we approach it in a simple way. A good song is a good song whether it has five guitars and two drummers, or is led by one bloke on an acoustic.

Keep It Simple

We can cram our lives, our work, our services with things, and quite often nice and good things, but stripping out, making space, keeping things simple allows us to focus on what is important, whether its the space around us, the clients we work with or the God we worship. Of course I love having a drummer in the band (I love being the drummer in the band!), and the haze machines, jumping and moving lights are great! But God doesn’t need it, we don’t need to complicate things, and so this term we’re going to concentrate on simple and effective worship with some space to breathe, think and worship. Want to join me in our simplicity?

Nothing New Under the Sun

Have you heard of the IXI, or the SaeHan/Eiger MPMan? Me neither. I have heard of the Zune, and the Diamond Rio. But most of us know about the iPod…I somehow have three of them.mp3_evolution_1-100350068-gallery.idge

Karl Benz invented what is recognised as the first motor car back in 1885, but it was the Ford Model T in 1908 which became popular, usable and affordable. The English chemist Joseph Swan invented a lightbulb in 1850, but as Victorian vacuum pumps weren’t very effective, it never went into production, so Thomas Edison some 30 years later was credited with inventing the lightbulb (after more than 3,000 attempts).

I’m typing this from my MacBook (Apple Fanboi…), and while Apple is recognised as the originator of the Graphic User Interface, using a mouse and desktop (which was subsequently “borrowed” by Windows…), Steve Jobs actually got the idea from the Xerox 8010. Yes, I had to look that up too…

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

I posted the other week about our new stage design for our series “Boats of the Bible“, which consisted of a boat (surprise) and a series of neon inner tubes across our backcloth. While I would love to take credit for this (and I was the one who produced all of the puff to inflate them and put them up), the idea was not mine. It came from Pinterest, which as many of you know is a great source of ideas and inspiration.

Ecclesiastes 1:9 says:

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.

The phrase “There is nothing new under the sun” is common in society, even being used by Shakespeare in one of his sonnets. We can make life difficult for ourselves, put ourselves under pressure to reinvent the wheel each week, come up with something new and different every Sunday. I try to write a new drama every Christmas for our Christingle service, have a new theme for our Christmas services and feel bad if we reuse a song or clip rather than something brand new and different.

Everything new?

But we don’t need to. We can source ideas from Pinterest, Facebook, Blogs (like this one!) and sharing with other leaders. We can copy, refine, adapt and integrate ideas, presenting them in a way which benefits our congregation, works in our churches and is achievable with the resources we have. And this applies to all aspects of our worship services…while I’d love to be able to play Cornerstone or Oceans with a Hillsong sized band, we are able to worship with our band of five…even if there is no drummer (and only 1 guitarist instead of 5!) This Christmas (as I have done before), instead of writing something completely new I’m going to adapt a book I’ve found.

Apple didn’t invent the MP3 player, Henry Ford wasn’t the creator of the automobile and while Edison clearly had a lightbulb moment, he wasn’t the first. But what they did do was take what existed, refined it, added their ideas and personal touch to it and made it into something better. And we can do exactly the same.

Beg, borrow, steal?

So next time you’re sweating over a Sunday, struggling to come up with ideas and discarding the obvious or already done…step back, take a breather, beg, borrow and steal and remember there is nothing new under the sun…

In Praise Of Slow

I saw this story and thought it was a wonderful illustration: Brian Cox, from New Zealand, spent four years growing a church from trees! Our current building project may take this long…but I don’t think it will look quite as pretty. Although we do have many, many trees in Bracknell…

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Man spends 4 years growing church from trees

In our always on, ever connected, 24 hour cycle we are encouraged, pushed and cajoled into getting everything done yesterday. Microwave meals, digital photos, Skype, touch payments…so much around us is designed for speed and practicality, to fit in with our evermore busy lives. Why queue at the shops when you can get it delivered, or if you do venture into a store, don’t waste time counting cash, signing the receipt or even punching in your pin code when all you have to do is touch your card on the machine! There used to be a day (which I sorely miss) when you would spend a Saturday afternoon browsing a record store or an evening deciding what video to rent in Blockbuster….now I can browse, download and stream what I want when I want through Netflix and Apple Music.

We can be like this in church, with our strategies designed to speed up growth, programmes to move our attenders and congregants from A to B in the quickest and easiest time possible…often so we don’t overburden people with more things in their already busy schedule. Rehearsals are rushed in order to get through the set, planning is curtailed, and we can fall into the trap of examining our performance at regular intervals: have we grown the team, have we achieved our objectives, will it be complete before the year/month/week is out? Not to say strategy, objectives and growth is a bad thing of course. But the path along the way, and the time spent doing it can make a huge difference.

Slow Growth = Strength

I read a story about Alfred Russell Wallace this week, a naturalist who was around at the same time as Charles Darwin. He was observing some moths emerging from their cocoons, and thought he would help one creature who seemed to be particularly struggling to hatch. So he made a small incision in the cocoon to enable the moth to stretch it’s wings and emerge more quickly. He soon realised this was a mistake…sure enough, the moth did hatch quicker, but because of Alfred’s help, its wings hadn’t developed or gained their full strength by the normal process of straining and stretching. So the moth was fully emerged, but it had less colour, strength or vitality compared to the other moths. Over the course of its brief life it flew poorly, fed inefficiently and ultimately died long before it should have.

Moses

Moses was a pivotal character in the bible, but by the time God called Moses to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt he was already an old man. He had been a fugitive guilty of murder, a refugee without a land or a people to call his own and a shepherd in one of the most desolate places on earth. He was not a young leader, he was not working out shortcuts and ways of achieving actions via the quickest possible route. He had lived, learnt, experienced and submitted, ultimately ready to lead God’s people after a long period of developing for this moment.

I’ve written before about the song I am Found In You by Steven Curtis Chapman…which has one of my favourite lines:

I may not see, in front of me

But I can see for miles when I look over my shoulder

I’ve been at EBC for around 14 years now, and I’m always striving to make things better, grow the teams, increase the congregations, be more effective with our messages on a Sunday service and keep abreast of all which is new in culture…and do it all yesterday! But if I stop and look back to where we were a year ago….five years ago….ten years ago…it is incredible how far we’ve come. And of course, because we’ve spent the last 14 years doing this gradually, the foundations we’ve laid, the relationships we’ve built and the experiences we’ve shared have made us incredibly strong and together as a team, a church and a community. My closest relationships have been built over time, my marriage being a particularly strong example. I’ve started a new business this year, but it is based on almost 20 years of experience and relationships which I can now call upon as there is a strength there.

In Praise Of Slow

A moth which hatches too quickly will be weakened. A building with rushed foundations will have no strength. Battery farmed chickens and hydroponically grown tomatoes may be quicker and more efficient, but the speed will directly affect the flavour of slow growth. Relationships, no matter how friendly and approachable you are, can only be grown over time together…there are no shortcuts.

So next time you’re trying to do 15 things at once, your drummer’s dropped out of Sunday and dinner is boiling over….try to take a step back, take stock, look at where you’ve come from and be in praise of slow. Easier said than done, but still possible…

And thanks to Skye Jethani and Simon Guillebaud for the daily inspirations which contributed to today’s blog…I read Choose Life daily and also get Skye’s Daily Devotional to my inbox every day. Both hugely recommended.

Shanzhai

No, I haven’t been taking Chinese lessons (although from a business standpoint it would be a useful faculty to have). Shanzhai means “mountain stronghold” and gives a sort of Robin Hood image of taking from the rich to give to the poor. Growing consumer culture, manufacturing techniques and a blatant disregard for international copyrights and local regulations means the Shanzhai manufacturers in China have become experts in not only copying western goods, but also improving on them.

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The most common Shanzhai products are mobile phones, but you can get versions of sports goods, tools, even architecture! In 2011 a US blogger discovered an entire Shanzhai Apple Store in the Chinese city of Kunming. It was full of Apple products, Apple advertising, there was a genius bar, correct decor and signage, even the staff were wearing Apple uniforms and badges. The staff actually thought they were legitimately working for Apple and had no idea not only was everything in the store a fake, but so was the store itself! The Shanzhai went beyond the actual products and as far as the shopping experience itself.

But this isn’t all! Around Shanghai there is Thames Town, a village built to resemble an English market town complete with a copy of a chip shop from Lyme Regis, cobbled streets, red telephone boxes and even the double yellow lines to stop parking. It’s one of a set of towns planned including Swedish, Italian, Spanish, American and German styles. The Austrian village of Hallstatt was made a World Heritage Site by UNESCO because of it’s picturesque beauty….so sure enough, amongst the tourists visiting in 2011 there was a team of Chinese architects photographing and analysing the village. The Guangdong region is reportedly soon to have it’s own copy of Hallstatt, although whether you’ll be able to ski with the subtropical heat North of Hong Kong remains to be seen.

How To Do, or Can I Help You?

We Christians love going to conferences…I’ve been to many myself, and more often than not they’re led by big churches passing on their experiences, techniques, and trade secrets. These can be really helpful, extremely influential and challenging… I know for all I’ve been to, I’ve come back with a list of ideas, areas to improve and things to look at in order to transform church/get a bigger congregation/whip the band into shape/choose our songlists/re style the senior minister. And on and on and on.

Now I know they don’t really do that. The conferences I’ve been too (Willow Creek, Northpoint, Mosaic, Mecklenburg…) have all shared their experiences, failings, and personal direction to help us with our churches. But they’re always keen to emphasise how it’s their way. Not the correct way, or right way, or the only way.

Be Yourself

I wrote about how we were starting a new rebranding project last week, and how in the initial stages of working with the designers, we needed to outline who we were as a church, what we did, and what we were there for. I know there are some churches who struggle with the questions, or who model themselves on other churches…trying to replicate the Hillsong worship style or Northpoint teaching style, rather than being themselves and being a church who relates to their community.

This applies in many different areas…I know there are times I as a worship leader try to replicate the Passion or Chris Tomlin arrangement of a song with its loops, seven guitarists, gospel choir and Christy Nockels…although on Sunday I have only one guitarist a violin and no drummer. Or those weeks when we’ve come back from Soul Survivor full of excitement and vigour (and mud), wanting to replicate the concert lighting effects and multiple smoke machines which work so well in the big top with 10,000 worshippers…but don’t translate so well into a hall of 200 with a varied age group.

Copy of a Copy of a Copy…

In addition, over the years I’ve seen so many blatant copyright ripoffs or secular industry bandwagon jumping that it almost seems as though there are no new creative ideas in the Christian spectrum today…(Adult christian colouring book anyone? EasyChurch?)

So before this turns into any more of a rant (apologies), can I encourage you to be yourself. Work to your own strengths. Learn about, and serve your congregation. There’s nothing wrong with using film clips, setting up cool lighting rigs in your hall or playing David Crowder songs. But do it your way. And then if someone wants to Shanzhai your work…encourage them, help them, point them in the right direction…and teach them how they can do it better when they do it their way. Just like Frank and….Elvis?…both doing it their way

 

 

Getting it all to line up

Only the one meeting today, which was short, to the point, and left us all in furious agreement…which of course is good. But it got me thinking…which is either dangerous, or what I’m paid to do… This infographic (which I know isn’t new) sums it up perfectly…this week I’ve definitely been working on box 6…

I-Think-I-Do-Worship-Leaders2Inevitably a lot of my time is spent on admin, whether its of the “fun” kind (choosing new songs, transcribing songs, putting service orders and creative ideas together and restringing my guitars) or the “more of a chore” kind (rotas…) And this morning’s meeting was an extension of the “more of a chore” element. Not that the meeting was a chore of course, but it was about….rotas. As is next week’s meeting…its all rock ‘n roll at EBC this summer…

How we got here…

But seriously…a bit of background: I’ve been sorting out the rotas for the morning bands for about 4 years now, we have a pool of musicians we can call on and a smaller group of worship leaders, so every term I construct a rota to make sure we have a consistent band lineup every week consisting of drums, bass, keys and/or guitar and some singers. Sometimes we get a solo instrument, some weeks we don’t have a drummer, but as a general rule and lineup we have a five piece band who can deliver the songs on our list. So the morning service has been going really well (musically) because of it.

We also run afternoon/evening services at EBC which I’m not a part of, although I do support and play with from time to time. These are run as a “Songs Of Praise” style service and attract good numbers from the older generation. They use a more traditional repertoire (although there is some cross over of songs), and have a smaller team who generally cover each week. So (you can probably see where this is going…), this morning’s meeting was to discuss combining our rotas for morning and afternoon…as we’re generally using some of the same musicians, similar repertoire, and have a growing band who we can call on.

And where we’re going…

And then next week’s meeting is to look at how we schedule our speakers, service leaders and worship leaders, as we have a growing team who are able to do this, but aren’t being very strategic about how we do it…defaulting to a small group week to week rather than developing the newer and potential leaders which we have.

And the thing is, although it’s not particularly interesting, it’s definitely not exciting, it is inspiring seeing the potential we can release as we get it all to line up. You see, as in many churches of a certain size, there is the inevitable doubling or trebling of roles. So some of singers also serve on refreshments, some of our musicians also preach, a few of us lead the service from time to time too. But I do the band rota, the preaching team collate the preaching rota and refreshments, sound and service leading is put together by the church manager. And although we are all good friends and really (really!) do get on well, we don’t talk to each other about it. So there can be some weeks that our bass player is also serving coffee, or one of our keys players is also preaching or some of our leaders only lead once a year…not the best planning…

A change will do you good.

But it’s all going to change from September onwards. Not rocket science. Not particularly interesting. But definitely impactful, growth focused and a very, very easy win.

If you stepped back from your Sunday morning rota, could you spot the potential for an easy win?

Made For More

I think I came across B Reith completely by accident when he was offering a free remix album of his How The Story Ends album…and as is so often the case, I had to then find his back catalogue because it really was that good.

B. Reith is one of those artists who is comfortable crossing styles and genres… he sings amazingly (what I’d give to have a range like him), raps convincingly, and plays/produces/performs with considerable talent too…I dislike him immensely…

Made for More is one of the great songs off his last album (and there are many), featuring Lecrae and Lisa Gungor (as it says on the link). Powerful song. Listen to it.

Lead Me

We did some training this morning as a staff team, based on a talk which was given at this years Drive Conference by a guy called Clay Scoggins (seriously, could the guy sound any more American?!). The breakout was called How To Lead When You’re Not In Charge, and it was great. I went to the Drive conference back in 2013 and it was inspirational in every respect.

There was lots to take out of the talk, I have comprehensive notes, but some of the instant/brief take homes were:

  1. Choose Positivity
  2. Think Critically
  3. Reject Passivity

So we can grumble about what is happening around us, criticise negatively (and we’ve all been on the receiving end at some point), while sitting there with a “its inevitable” attitude. There is the infamous phrase “Fiddling While Rome Burns” which comes to mind…or “Shuffling Deck Chairs on the Titanic” although often in these situations the perpetrators don’t even shuffle the deck chairs and merely watch from a distance grumbling as the ship sinks…

Self Examination First

I know I’ve been guilty of this….”they didn’t ask me”, “I could do it better”, ” what they’ve forgotten is….but I’m not going to tell them because I’m not leading…” etc. The reality is we were all made to do something, we can all lead, even if we’re not at the front, or have a desk and plaque which says “Leader”. I read a lot of Seth Godin (I recommend The Icarus Deception and Linchpin for starters), and one of the ideas he regularly returns to is to Choose Yourself. We can wait for the call, work our way up the ladder, hope for a promotion, or sit back while those more senior/better paid/with a title do the work. And there is a place for that of course. But in reality, if we can see something which needs doing, or a way of doing things better…isn’t at the very least better to speak up, offer to help, or maybe just do it?

If Not You, Then Who?

We are all chosen, we were all made for a purpose on this earth, and sometimes the option to just choose ourselves is the best thing we can do.

We were made to be more than this
Oh, and we weren’t meant to fight wars like this
Something’s gone wrong
We’ve been broken
Who can fix us now, fix us now
We were made out of love not hate
Oh, and we weren’t meant to to give up on faith
Something’s gone wrong
We’ve been broken
Who can fix us now, fix us now

Progress

I got a new phone this past week, as I’d started the new business and my old iPhone 4s was starting to show it’s age. I upgraded to a brand new big silver iPhone 6, it’s amazing…big screen, fingerprint scanner, fast processor and 64gb of memory.Performa 6320

This is a picture of my first Mac, back in 1996 when I was a second year music student at university. It’s a Macintosh Performa 6320, and it came with a built in CD Rom drive, 120mhz processor, 12 meg of RAM and a whopping great big 1.2gb hard drive. It cost me over £3000, without a printer, and it saw me through the rest of my time at University and beyond. The year after I graduated I shared a house with some of my Uni friends, all of us had Macs, but mine was the fastest! I still have it, in the loft!

My phone, which I slip into my pocket, use to play games on the train and to Google pictures of kittens, has a processor which is 10 times the speed, over 50 times as much memory and is always connected…no dial up or waiting for a modem to download. And it certainly didn’t cost me £3000…

Now aside from asserting that I am a certified Apple fanboy, you may ask, so what? And to that I say, progress. In 20 years my big, beige, expensive desktop has transitioned into a small, shiny, fast and portable device which I slip into my pocket and generally take for granted. But if I look back…

Anniversaries!

This month sees a number of anniversaries for me, May is our wedding anniversary (16 years!), and my birthday this weekend also marks the one year anniversary of starting this blog, and also the 13 year anniversary of us moving (yes, we moved on my birthday….planning….!) to Bracknell to start the church plant which was part of EBC.

In 2002 we met as a church plant in our local sports centre, which meant loading up cars and trailers at 7:30 on a Sunday morning, transporting everything and meeting a small team to set up, rehearse, run and then clear up and hope to be home some time after lunch. Over the years our volunteers and members changed, children arrived, our senior minister moved to another church and so Chris who started as a student minister and then assistant minister became the senior minister of EBC…cue another change of direction, a bringing together of the three congregations and a gradual merging of the different teams. And we only had one child and a relatively empty house.

Where are we now?

We are now one big church with multiple expressions of worship during the week, we have actually just passed 500 regular attenders on our list. I have a big pool of musicians and artists to draw on for the band, for drama, for stage dressing, sound and lighting design. We had a major upgrade in our main hall which saw our sound go digital, plasma screens installed for the congregation and a comprehensive lighting system. Our song list has shrunk from 2000 to 300 to currently around 65. And there are now five of us sharing the space which is left in our house…

We don’t always notice this, as we’re planning for this Sunday, then next Sunday, then June. We can forget we no longer get feedback from our sound system (which always works on a Sunday and isn’t dependent on tape and string to hold it together). Although there may the odd typo on our PowerPoint very occasionally, we don’t experience our overheads being loaded back to front or not quite focusing on the screen. Bringing everybody together has led to better shared resources, less personality clashes, and a sharper focus than we had ever had in the past. Progress can seem slow in the day to day and week to week, but reviewing from past years…the rate of progress is incredible!

One of my all time favourite songs by Steven Curtis Chapman is “I am found in You“, the words of which I always come back to:

I may not see, in front of me

But I can see for miles when I look over my shoulder

Cause Lord it’s clear, You’ve brought me here

So faithful every step of the way

I don’t know what’s going to happen over the next 12 months. I’m not sure where I’ll be in the next 16 years. But I can look back, marvel at the progress, and see where I’ve come from, and who it was who brought me here. So as you look ahead and plan for the future, or as you watch YouTube movies on your phone, don’t forget to look over your shoulder, see where you’ve come from and how you got here.

Reason To Celebrate!

In January I ran a whole series of posts on the theme “new”, including Play With Something New, All Things New, A New Old Song and A New Wooden BoxCelebration!

Well I’m delighted to report I have a new job! Well, contract. And…business too!

A bit of background: I work at EBC 1.5 days a week as Creative Arts Director, and the rest of my week is spent in the music industry, working with artists, publishers and labels on their royalties. Now in an almost perfectly divine symmetry, I’ve this month set up my own company to manage this…which means I can contract out some of my time…to the church.

So this May I’ll be starting a six month project with EBC to overhaul and refine our communications.

How we got here?

Another bit of background: As I’ve blogged about on this site regularly, we’ve spent a lot of time as a church refining our Sunday services. From the music, to the media content, to the publicity, to the language used when speaking, we even refine down to timings, orders and transitions so the Sunday service experience for any attender is something memorable, effective, and hopefully challenging and inspiring enough that they want to come back for more.

What has struck me more and more over the past few months is, while we’ve got to a stage where our worship services are consistently great, our attention to detail and systems have not been applied to …well pretty much any of our other communications. So our emails, website, social media, paper (lots of paper) while by no means bad are just not co-ordinated, generally have a disparate feel and are overseen separately by several different people.

What to do?

So my new project is to examine all we do in terms of communication output and refine it. We’ll be creating and implementing a new logo for EBC, and setting an overall theme in terms of fonts, colours and presentation so all of our output is consistent, easily identifiable as coming from EBC and beautiful! Our staff emails will all have consistent footers, in a similar font, our website will be much more user friendly especially for first time visitors. And we will finally properly bring ourselves into the 21st century with properly set up and managed social media presence.

I am really looking forward to this challenge, and what I want to do is update regularly here, as I believe it’s another important part of communicating the message for and from the church. So expect to be reading much more about colours, identity and style guides in addition to the ideas and observations already being shared here.

Celebration!

This post also marks EBC passing the 500 regular attender mark, which is a major milestone in church attendance and growth (there were 300 of us in 2008). And finally, I realise this is my 100th post on this site…just before our anniversary (I started it on my birthday in 2014), so yay me! Let’s celebrate!

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?