Small Change Big Difference

I have another day job aside from my day a week with EBC, as a royalty auditor and royalty accountant. This generally involves sorting and manipulating huge amounts of data on big spreadsheets…which requires a decent computer and a good knowledge of excel shortcuts! Recently when I was out on an audit, my computer (which has been getting progressively slower) needed rebooting three times in order to work! I’d already got accustomed to getting into the office in the morning, switching on my laptop, then hanging up my coat, using the bathroom, making a cup of tea and checking through the post…by which point my computer was just about through booting and I could log in. Pile-of-Laptops

Clearly this wasn’t productive, the laptop is only a few years old and pretty high spec…so I got in touch with our IT support to see if it was something worth saving, or whether I just needed to invest in something newer and faster. To my surprise Simon at Response IT said “just replace the hard drive with an SSD (solid state drive), it’ll fix everything. We’ll pick it up and take care of the rest!” So they did…

Now I’m not by any means technophobic, I handle most of the IT issues in our office, and I generally have a good overview of how these things work. And I had already got a decent laptop on which I had doubled the memory…I didn’t think replacing the hard drive would make that much difference. But when I got the machine back…it was incredible!  My three year old laptop was now a sleek, speedy and capable machine again! When I switched it on…it booted in about 20 seconds. It was ready before I was ready. Programs opened seemingly instantly. There were no perceived delays when switching windows. It had no errors, no crashes, no need to reboot. It just worked…but like it did when it was new. I was simply amazed…so much so that my home tower is this week going in for the same treatment!

Small change big difference?

This got me thinking: are there other areas in church life where a small change can make such a significant difference? I’m not talking significant and expensive overhauls of equipment, programs and teams, but the small and life changing adjustments which can make a really large and readily discernible difference. If I look back over the past few years at EBC, I can identify a few small changes which have made a big difference to us.

Our Song List: we cut our regular list of Sunday songs from …well basically the contents of Songs of Fellowship…around 2,000 songs, to a smaller list of around 150, and ultimately we now operate a list of around 60 songs which are revised on a termly basis. Result: The band and the congregation know the songs much better as they are on a regular rotation, so we are all freer to sing them without thinking about them too much.

Lowering music stands: Now I am approaching the other side of 40 (41 this coming May), I am finding I have to resort to glasses when on my computer and reading. We used to be in the habit of having our music stands up pretty high on a Sunday morning…probably because we were still using the small print out of the Songs of Fellowship books and the rest of us needed glasses. But this creates a real barrier between the band and the congregation. So when we revised our song lists and stopped using Songs of Fellowship, we created our own song sheets on A4 paper in big print…so moved the music stands down more to waist level. Result: the congregation can see us worshipping and so follow, we can see the congregation. (in addition to this, when we did our main hall redevelopment we installed a comfort monitor which displays the words to all on stage…potentially eliminating the need for song words on stage at all.

Smiling on stage: So we reduced the height of our stands, and now everybody can see us. Us, the worship band, singing songs about love, happiness, isn’t life great…although we weren’t always reflecting this in our facial or bodily expressions. Now our bands (especially our singers) are reflecting far more what they are singing on stage, which models how to sing in worship to our congregation…and they soon follow. Result: A congregation who are far more understanding and in tune with our musical worship.

Service Orders: I have talked about this a lot before, so I won’t cover it too much here. But suffice to say, if you want your service to run smoothly, to time and coherently, having a planned order with timings, transitions and technical directions will make a big difference to your services.

What else?

There are many more small changes we have made, and are continuing to make which are making big differences to our services, and I know will continue to do so. And you’ll also notice from the small selection above, there was no significant financial impact, generally just a bit of planning and some printing! Why don’t you take a fresh look at how things are operating in your setting, and see what small change can make a big difference?

January ideas and resources

So we’re (almost) at the end of the month, and as we looked at all things new this January, I thought I’d share some of the things I’d been using for inspiration and training and will be for the rest of the year:

Resource heaven?

Resource heaven?

  • Choose Life by Simon Guillebaud is a great collection of readings for the year which I was introduced to by my boss, Chris. Each day has a verse, a reading, and a prayer. We did Simon’s course More Than Conquerors as a small group, highly recommended.
  • Become an Idea Machine is a book I bought off of the back of James Altucher’s book Choose yourself! It’s a great premise, you have an idea muscle which needs to be exercised, so the more you do it, the stronger it gets. So you have to come up with 10 ideas a day, every day, for 180 days. Each day has a separate challenge/inspiration, so far I have journalled 10 things I don’t like which I’ve turned into things to be grateful for, 10 apps I would like to use (that don’t exist), 10 movies which caused a deep impression…and so on. I do it at the beginning of every day, and it’s hard…but good!
  • With by Skye Jethani is a great book I started last year and am just finishing. He looks at how we often approach God from four angles: Over, Under, For and From, and how we should be With God. Thought provoking…
  • …as is his daily email With God Daily. Skye is one of those inspirational writers who thinks different but is approachable and understandable. Really enjoying these in my inbox.
  • The Passion movement is something we always draw inspiration from, and their annual album often forms the basis for our musical worship for the year. I get the Digital All Access Pass every year as there is so much content. Great music, great messages, great organisation.
  • Truefire is an online guitar teaching resource, you can access it on your computer, there are apps as well, and there are plenty of courses to help you improve your playing and get some new ideas. I’ve bought the course on open tunings (something I’ve wanted to get a better understanding of), Fretboard Phenom and 50 blues licks you must know (as I wanted to learn some better lead). The courses are cheap and often discounted, and you get video tuition, music and downloads. I am not yet John Mayer, but I still play a mean rhythm guitar!
  • I do a daily reading on YouVersion, it’s a free app, and they have lots of different daily plans you can follow. I’ve just finished the Catalyst Leadership plan and am currently working through a 30 day Oswald Chambers plan. They’re really easy to follow, it’s a great bible reading/study app. And did I mention it’s free!

So that’s my lot for this month…I will update on things I am reading, using and writing. And I hope you will come back to paulkerslake.com for some resources and inspiration yourselves!

What resources have you discovered for 2015?

 

All Things New

We’ve been looking at New for a few weeks now, so I wanted to include this song by one of my all time favourite artists, Steven Curtis Chapman:

Revelation 21:5 says: He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” and 2 Corinthians 5:17 says: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

We know we can be born again in Jesus, all which has happened before can be renewed, restored and made new in Christ. And we have the potential to apply this to all we do as well. Just because we’ve always played in a certain way, or sang in a certain style, listened to a specific genre of music or are only a “serious” actor does not mean we have to do this forever, no matter when and where we are in life.

All Things New

Alanis Morrisette started her career as a bubblegum pop artist after winning a talent show. It was only on her third album, when she’d lost the perm and changed her musical style that she became a huge and respected artist. Neil Gaiman was a struggling journalist following 80’s synth pop bands, including a biography of Duran Duran. Fortunately for those of us who read his books, he left it behind and became an incredible author. Billy Joel was initially in a Heavy Metal duo called Attila, screaming over the drums…which led to Piano Man, The Stranger and Just the Way You Are with a somewhat more sensitive vocal style (although he possesses a thumb which can break piano strings…)

And it’s not just Music…Will Smith was the Fresh Prince of Bel Air who became a comic actor and then an action star and was still able to do serious movies like Seven Pounds and The Pursuit of Happyness. Patrick Stewart, the thespian who became widely known as Captain Luc Piccard, or Sir Alec Guiness as Obi Wan Kenobe, the role he is probably best known for despite having a long and illustrious film and stage career. Our current obsession of an evening is House MD, the multi award winning for Hugh Laurie…who I remember from Jeeves and Wooster or Blackadder. And Duane “The Rock” Johnson regularly pops up in my kids favourite movies…they have no clue he is a former WWE wrestler (although he’s retained the impressive guns…)

Now these are all famous big name stars, but it doesn’t mean you can’t do the same. I would even argue it is even easier for you to be new, reinvented and different in whatever you choose to do. All of these stars have a public following, a history which they are compared to and often is difficult to break free from. You and I are unlikely to have a public history, or anyone to pick us up on it.

Just Have The Confidence To Try

I used to just be a drummer, I was more than happy to sit at the back and keep the beat, and I did it for years. And I fiddled with guitar, could sing (I was in several choirs and vocal groups), but again, in the background. But gradually over time (and I can’t remember the exact moment) I was gently challenged to be at the front, lead the band and sing. And the first few times, I was dreadful. But I persisted (and they persisted with me), so I am now really quite confident to lead from the front, and head up the bands at EBC. And this has led to other things as well…I started using electric guitars, introducing new songs; in the past few years I have led services, something again which was new, I was rubbish at, but over time I’ve developed a style, a confidence and a useful skill.

I am being made new constantly in all I do, and I am always learning, experimenting, trying new things. This blog is less than a year old and the initial setup and tech side was daunting, but I got through the learning curve and have settled into a rhythm. I’m still experimenting with different plectrums. I’m working out better ways of staging our Sunday services. I’m learning about lighting design and DMX systems so we can better use our lights. I’m reading books by people who have done it before, so I can learn. I’m watching movies and TV shows and noting ideas for future dramas. We just had a really successful Christmas including our annual Christingle service, which this year was Once Upon a Nativity, a new script which I wrote…I never set out to be a writer, but drama is something so underused in services, and I couldn’t find anything which fitted with what we wanted…so I wrote it!

So I encourage you to take some of the ideas and pointers from this January series, find some books on subjects you are passionate about, change the way you approach your artistry, and introduce something new. And then let me know what happened, I’d really like to know!

It’s the start of something new!

Now you’re thinking: is he having a mid-life crisis? High School Musical hasn’t dated at all. Doesn’t Zac Efron look young…

I won’t have a word said against Troy and Gabriella…Sharpay maybe…as the three movies were on constant rotation in our house (as were the albums), and High School Musical 3 was the first movie we went to with our girls…fond memories. Of course they wouldn’t been seen dead with them now…such is growing up. What I wanted us to do was to embrace the song, as it’s January, it’s the start of the year and as I talked about on Tuesday, it can be a great time to set down some goals for the year.So why don’t you do something new. It doesn’t have to be big or dramatic, just different from your normal day to day. How about:

  • Listen to some music you wouldn’t usually entertain. Most of my CD collection is on my iTunes these days, but I find myself setting up playlists (I used to do mixtapes when I had cassettes) and listening to them constantly….so there are areas of my digital library which are gathering binary dust. I have a smart playlist set up as “never played”, so I can discover songs I have neglected.
  • Watch something new and different. I got given Amazon vouchers aeons ago, and so bought some second hand TV box sets with them…which then sat on a shelf for a while. And one evening we got around to starting one of them…a small US show called House MD. Needless to say we were completely drawn in and ended up hunting down subsequent series (it’s now on Netflix in its entirety, so we’re currently working through seasons 6 to 8).
  • Cook a new dinner. I have a shelf of cookbooks with a lifetime’s worth of recipes, but generally we eat the same (albeit very good) dishes most weeks. It doesn’t have to be ridiculously complicated, or have a list of ingredients as long as your arm. I’ve seen the complete book of mince…aside from lasagne, chili and spaghetti Bolognese, I didn’t think there were another 69 recipes…but clearly there are.
  • Read an unusual book. Aside from my extensive cookbook collection, we do have a lot of regular books. And when I say regular, I am including my personal Star Wars collection along with Tintin and Asterix which I still claim taught me more about history than school did. Now I read a lot of non-fiction business books, leadership books, Christian books, guides on worship…as well as big colourful guitar encyclopaedias and histories with pictures of expensive guitars for me to drool over. But I didn’t read a lot of fiction…so on our last holiday I bought The Martian which came highly recommended and reviewed…and I can highly recommend it…couldn’t put it down.
  • Do something different of a weekend. Get your food shop delivered, or do it Thursday night. Hoover Tuesday morning. Get up and get out, and go somewhere, preferably somewhere you haven’t been before. Hop on a train, visit a museum or stately home or park or exhibition. Go for a long walk. Go to the beach on a grey day. Take a ball somewhere.

Routine doesn’t have to be boring!

Routine is essential, especially when you have children (as we quickly learnt). But routine doesn’t have to mean the same all the time. We get into habits, drive the same route to work, listen to the same radio station in the car, and have the same sandwiches for lunch at the same time in the same place every day. But it doesn’t have to be this way, always. Just trying one or two of the things above will open your ears, eyes and mind to a different experience…which may lead onto something else. Inspiration comes from many sources, but if you aren’t exposing yourself to new or different sources, your inspiration and outlook will be limited.

 It’s the start of something new. What are you going to do?

Why Don’t You…

Just this past Sunday we did the first of our World Mission series, where we were looking at some of the outreach that we do as a church overseas, and in our wider community. Our focus was on our friends in Sierra Leone who we have been supporting for many years now.

I was reminded as I spoke of a TV series I used to watch when I was younger (showing my age now…) called Why Don’t You. It was a kids series which gave loads of ideas as to how you could fill your time after school, at the weekends and during school holidays. The tag line in the theme tune was “Why Don’t You Just Switch Off the Television Set and Do Something Less Boring Instead?”

Now this is one of my favourite times of year, not just because Christmas is coming up (although I do love Christmas). No, because come Autumn we as a family batten down the hatches, the heating is turned up and Saturday and Sunday evenings are devoted to watching Strictly Come Dancing. We all get into our PJ’s, dinner is sorted early and the social calendar is block booked so we don’t get interruptions. Although somehow we do have a dinner date in the middle of December….but they have agreed to leave the TV on in the background so we can keep the dancing in full view…

Square Eyes?

TV marketers and advertisers devise their schedules to draw you in…as a demographic, if you’re the sort of person who switches on and then leaves it on, you’ll be there for all of the adverts. It works, my kids all have the Cillit Bang adverts off to a tee, and when Christmas comes and the toy advertising ramps up, they know exactly what is available and what they need! I had a friend a few years back who was so….devoted….to soap operas that she would start with Neighbours at 5:30 pm and watch straight through to 8pm via Hollyoaks, Brookside, Emmerdale, Coronation Street and Eastenders! These days I’m really not a big TV watcher in all honesty…we got upgraded at home a few years back, so have all of the channels that cable can offer as well as HD recording on our Tivo and a second box in the bedroom. But I’m finding more and more we don’t use it…apart from catching up with the news, Strictly (of course!) and Castle…it rarely goes on. And that was the whole point of Why Don’t You.

Breathing Room

We have so many pressures on our time, and only so many hours in the day to do all we want to do. But we all have the same 24 hours to use every day as we see fit, so why is it that some seem to get so much done, or are free to devote time to the things they are passionate about? Instead of switching on the TV, I can write this blog post, read a book, play with my kids, plan the service for next Sunday. My TV habits have changed dramatically over the past couple of years, precisely because of this. I still watch TV, as said above, we are loving watching Strictly as a family, and Hannah and I unwind with either a good series (Castle, Homeland, The West Wing) or a movie. But for us, switching on the TV is the exception rather than the rule.

So next time you’re finding yourself short of time, or wanting to devote yourself to a new pastime or mission, maybe you can reach for the off switch on your remote to give you the time and space you need?

How much TV do you watch every week?

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!

 

Just Dive In!

I was sent this video last week on my daily distraction of choice, Facebook:

Cute, isn’t it?! You know whats going to happen, you can see it coming, and yet somehow the penguin manages to drag it out…from ledge to diving board, diving board to ledge and back again. Teetering on the edge so many times, toes hanging over the side, and just when you think he’s going to jump…he waddles off of the board back to the ledge, then back to the board, then back to the ledge…

Will they, won’t they?

Isn’t this so like life for a lot of us? When it comes to a decision, no matter how big or small, we so often teeter on the edge, pondering whether to take the plunge or not. It could be a new job, a new romance, a step of faith, or something as mundane as buying a sandwich. As we weigh up all of the pros and cons in our head; what if it doesn’t work out and I’m jobless in three months; will she, won’t he; I don’t know if I believe all of it; do I want cheese and pickle or ham and mustard. Without the mustard. On wholegrain….  Just like the penguin going to the edge, balancing, and then pulling back, thinking about it, truing it from a different angle, juggling the “what if’s” in his head then going back for a third, fourth attempt.

A Crash of Rhinos

Granted there are some of us who hurtle in full steam ahead like a crash of rhinoceros’ (clearly the most aptly chosen name for a group of rhinos), with blatant disregard for those around them or subsequent consequences. And while I admire the bravado (and have been guilty of doing the same on more than one occasion), again, it’s not a position I would advocate.

I’d always wanted to start a blog and my own business of sorts. And I did have a few false starts many years ago, writing a couple of posts and then letting it drift. But this year, on the week of my 40th birthday, I made the step, bought the domain and started writing, creating and sharing. Little steps at first. I put the design of the site together, and started collating some of the material I had been writing over the years. Then I started posting. And I tweaked and tinkered, worked out how things worked, learnt about SEO and Ranking and other technicalities I was aware of but had never paid much attention to. And I started to build up a body of work, and set myself the goal of posting 2 – 3 times a week. And I did, and I kept it up, and my blog started to grow.

But, I hadn’t told anyone about it. So I said “I’ll launch it when….”. When I have a lot of posts. When I’ve built the shop. When I’m happy with the look. When I’ve worked out this SEO/Coding/Ranking thing. And so on. I could just have easily said “When we have 10 consecutive days of sunshine” or “When I get my 5th celebrity endorsement” or “When someone asks me”. So my when would slowly become whenever…

Ship It, Launch It, Hustle, Permissions!

Seth Godin talks about Shipping It, Jeff Walker just released a great book called Launch, Jon Acuff is just finishing up the 30 days of Hustle: Summer School! And Michael Hyatt put up a great post about permission on Friday. All of which essentially say the same thing: What’s the good of creating something, having the idea for something, setting your sights on a goal if ultimately you do nothing about it. You get 70, 80, 90 percent of the way there and then never finish because you’re eternally tweaking, forever changing, just waiting for the next best thing. Just Do It! It may not be perfect. You possibly won’t ever be 100% happy with it. It will most probably never be finished. It will be messy, just as ultimately the penguin’s “dive” into the water was. But unless you actually make the decision to jump in, dive, head first, it will remain that way: a promising, not-quite-realised, potential which needs to be released.

So have dreams, ideas and visions. Of course, be thoughtful, measured and informed before you make decisions. But don’t wait too long. Don’t stand on the edge looking over and start to get cold feet. Read up, think about it, pray about it…and then just Dive Right In!

What’s holding you back now from realising your dreams, goals or aspirations? What will make you take the final step off the edge of the board?