Be Our Guest!

We had a great session last week with Nick Cuthbert, the founder of Riverside Church in Birmingham, who came to talk to us about being welcoming as a church.

I don’t know if this is something you pay attention to at your church…we do, but in the business of everything else which happens on a Sunday (music, media, sound, lights, coffee, cake, the talk…note this isn’t a list of order of importance…if it was then coffee would of course be first….), it can get forgotten, or maybe not fully thought through…

Be Our Guest

Nick was great, having led the church for over 30 years and now working with Lead Academy he had a wealth of experience, knowledge and anecdotes to share with us. So I thought I would share some of it with you:

  1. Watch your language: It is said it takes 6 – 12 months for people to become fully indoctrinated into a church…and by then they are used to the language, or Christianese as we like to call it. But if you’re coming to church for the first time and they are talking about being washed in the blood of the lamb at the front, or sharing in the peace together, or practicing the Lord’s supper this morning…what would you make of it? Similarly, how would you react if the service leader stood up at the beginning of the service and said “we’re going to worship now…”? Worship what? And how? Does it involve fire? Dancing? Is there a chant which goes with it? So think about your language…we are going to sing some songs together that express how we feel about our faith. We’re going to stop for a bit to greet each other. Today is communion, where we share bread and wine (non-alcoholic) to remember Jesus. Small changes, but language which is understood. And similarly…
  2. Be inclusive: When it comes to the announcements, or the service order, or publicity, are you thinking about 1st timers? If Geoff is having a mens barbecue at his house on Friday, or Jane is collecting money for Tearfund in advance of her trip to Uganda…it’s all great…but who’s Geoff? What does Jane look like? Thursday Fellowship is meeting this week on…well, Thursday. But what is Thursday Fellowship? Who is it for? Where? When? Why? And when you do these announcements, is it something which the whole church needs to know on a Sunday? If Thursday Fellowship is targeted at our older people, announcing it in the morning service is probably irrelevant to 75% of the attendees.
  3. Coffee time can be a lonely time: We often start and finish our services with refreshments, and its an opportunity to catch up with friends, recover from the previous service and be social. But it can be part of the problem…as we naturally congregate with our friends who we may not have seen all week, any newcomers can be left, in a corner, by the door with their coffee cup for company. Try to keep an eye out for newcomers, and then be social with them! Something Riverside did was have gift bags for 1st timers…a freebie with info and something nice is always well received, but of course, when it comes to coffee time it is clear to the rest of the congregation anyone holding a gift bag is new (or going to a party after the service…?)
  4. Smile! We put so much effort into Sundays, from the creative content, to the music, the talk, refreshments (thinking about coffee again…), graphics, cleanliness, tech… But so often it can seem what people are singing, or listening too, may be well received and understood by their heads and hearts…but their faces aren’t necessarily reflecting it. We don’t go to church to have a bad time. We don’t worship a grumpy, miserable God. Our songs and services are mostly joyful, colourful celebrations…isn’t that what “worship” is about? So what would a 1st timer make of a church full of grumpy looking, sighing people? I wouldn’t come back. A smile is something which can be contagious. And finally:
  5. 1st timers: We’ve always made the point of welcoming our visitors at the beginning of the service, but as Nick pointed out…if you call someone a visitor, does it mean you’re not expecting them to stay? Or come back? So rephrasing as 1st Timers (as you may have noticed I’ve done throughout this post) is another subtle, but inclusive change.

So a short (?!) summary, there was lots more and making sure you are welcoming every week is something which always needs to be addressed. And by everybody…we have a Welcoming Team whose duty is to be welcoming…but really, it’s the job of everybody who is there. Every week. Every day!

All The Time!

So approach every Sunday, every element, every word from the viewpoint of having a room full of 1st timers, and make sure you are addressing all of the above and more.

How We See

Inside Out is currently doing fantastic business in America, released to overwhelming critical acclaim, everyone is flocking to the cinema. I know we can’t wait to see it as a family (unfortunately it’s not out until the end of July in the UK….just in time for the school summer holidays…)

Inside Out is set inside the mind of Riley, where her five emotions: Joy, Anger, Disgust, Fear and Sadness, try to lead her through life as she moves with her family to a new city. Pete Docter, the director, first began developing Inside Out in 2009 after noticing changes in his daughter’s personality as she grew older. The film’s producers consulted many psychologists and researched the mind in preparation for building its story. Initial drafts were unsatisfactory, and the production was revised significantly with the realization that interpersonal relationships guide human emotions.

Winning With People

We are just about to start a new series at EBC called Winning With People, based on the book by John Maxwell, and the first part is titled How We See. And if its not obvious by now…this Inside Out clip is going to be used to open the service. The story we’re using is from Luke 7: 36-50, where Jesus is anointed by a sinful woman while at Simon’s house. Simon is self righteous and believes he is better than everybody else…and so does not see Jesus for who he is, nor the woman for who she is. Whereas the woman knows herself, and so sees Jesus for who he really is.

Who we are affects how we see other people. Who we are affects our relationships with other people. Just as illustrated in the Inside Out clip, our emotions and the thoughts in our head can often dictate how we relate to one another. It can be as simple as if we’re angry or happy, tearful or sensitive, we can either rub others up the wrong way or misinterpret how others are acting towards us. I know I’ve been guilty of that (although not very often as I’m usually so perfect and fun)….

But at a deeper level we can all have ingrained opinions and almost subconscious reactions whether these are genetic, from our background, from other influences or experiences. It could be argued that certain press and media outlets thrive on these negative preconceptions…we seem to be in the thick of a raft of headlines about “benefits scroungers”, “work-shy”, “immigrants” and “celebs”…and we get hardened to the images and articles we read when often the real stories are somewhat different.

The Lens Principle

John Maxwell better defines this as The Lens Principle (again from his book Winning With People), which he defines as:

Who we are determines how we see others.

The big question is:
What is my perception of others?

This means:

  1. Who you are determines what you see.
  2. Who you are determines how you see others.
  3. Who you are determines how you view life.
  4. Who you are determines what you do.

At its simplest we could define this as stereotyping: all artists are flighty, all singers are divas, drummers hang around with musicians, all programmers are dorks etc… But how we’ve been brought up, who our friends were (or still are), parent’s opinions, the press we read and much much more will have an affect on how we view the world, and how we see people.

W.W.J.S.

163-1468Now I don’t think it’s my place to say what you should or should not be reading or listening to; my point of view, my background, my family situation, the newspapers I read and the TV I watch is possibly the same or maybe completely different to yours. But I’ll leave you with this:

There was a craze in the late 90’s for wearing WWJD bracelets, which, if you were around in the 90’s you’ll know stood for What Would Jesus Do? So maybe a subtle change to this, as we think about How We See people would be to have a bracelet with WWJS on it: What Would Jesus See?

Here to Serve!

I don’t think I have any guilty pleasures…as I don’t feel guilty about them! And while many of them may be distinctly “uncool”…I am now of an age where I don’t feel too bothered about them. So…confessions: I still love Level 42 from my 80’s teenage years, I have penchant for rom coms (as I have confessed to before), and these past few Wednesdays two of my favourite US TV shows have started their new seasons in the UK, Castle and the country juggernaut which is Nashville.

Great songs, pretty actors, lots of fabulous guitars and outstanding music week after week. Admittedly some of the storylines are a bit “soap”, but captivating and light at the same time. I also love the fact all of the actors can sing and play…when the audition process took place it was a prerequisite….no dubbing or voice doubles…if you were going to act as a country star, you had to sing like one too!

OK, all well and good you may say. Nice music. But how does it link to the blog? Glad you asked…

Well, 3 seasons in we’ve seen the ups and downs of most of the character’s love lives, big concerts, intimate gigs, ruthless record execs and even murderous fathers. And there are at least three songs in each episode…often at The Bluebird Cafe (I wish we had one locally!). And our “stars” are always there in one way or another….at the front or behind the scenes.

This is where it gets complicated?

So Gunner and Scarlet (who sing in the clip above) met at the cafe while she was waitressing and he was working sound. And they’ve gone on to be signed, make a lot of money from publishing, done tours…but they still come back, and serve behind the bar, work the sound board. Avery Bartlett was a wannabe star who dropped his band so he could pursue a deal in LA…the deal went sour, he came back to Nashville with nothing then got hired to be guitar slinger for one of the biggest artists…major tour, living his dream. And he still comes back to the Bluebird to help behind the bar, work the sound desk, support the artists. Deacon Claybourne, the guitarists guitarist who has played with everybody and is renowned…still makes the time to help at the bottom. Zoey Dalton is realising her dream to be a singer…but she still serves at the Bluebird.

Any regular readers will know we did our church weekend a couple of weeks ago, and again, this servant behaviour was modelled by our band, by our leaders, by our congregation. So although the musicians were very visible at the front over the weekend, they were just as active behind the scenes in the setup and clear down, the loading of vans and lugging of boxes.

Happy to serve!

Our leaders may have led us over the weekend, but they were also there on the Thursday preparing the marquees, putting our chairs, refilling the urns for hot drinks and taking out the rubbish.

And this happens every weekend at EBC…those who are in an upfront role are also working tirelessly behind the scenes, serving refreshments, winding cables, hoovering and taking care of business! We’ve always said if you are serving up front, you need to serve up back too, and I’m pleased to say it’s something we don’t have to enforce, our teams just do it! And I hope it is the same in your church.

I used to listen to Kids Praise albums when I was a little kid….Psalty the singing songbook…was it just me? And the songs have stuck with me…straight out of the bible, easy to remember:

If you want to be great in God’s kingdom

Learn to be the servant of all.

Nashville doesn’t have room for divas, and neither does church. 

Community wasn’t built in a day

There are countless books, videos, courses and step by step guides out there on community. It’s one of the things which most churches aspire to, and arguably one of the ingredients of a happy and rounded life.Tents

But it seems in our busy, 21st century culture, community is becoming more and more relegated to being online when we can fit it in and contain it. For instance, I have 422 friends on Facebook, of which probably 22 I see regularly. I am connected on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest (yes, I am a man with a Pinterest account). I probably still have a MySpace profile somewhere, I’ve dabbled in FourSquare and I set up a TuneTeams account recently. And that doesn’t include old school emails and texts. So I am incredibly overconnected in my digital realm.

But the reality is, most evenings (when I don’t have rehearsals, meetings or are carrying out “dad taxi” duties, I am at home…with my family, enjoying catching up on the events of the day and unwinding from a days work. Which is not a bad thing. But it’s not community.

Face Time?

I was in London today for a meeting about a couple of upcoming audits which I am doing. Now I could have emailed it in, we could have exchanged data, maybe even Skyped if it came to it. It would have saved me the commute, and the train fare. But putting in the “face time” as we call it develops my relationship further with the client, it shows I want to make the effort, and we talk far more about work and not about work than we would have done in a brief email or a focused phone conversation. It takes time and effort, but it builds community.

This coming weekend we are having our church weekend, something we try to do every year. This year we have taken the step to share it with another church in our area, FBC. We’re camping at Wellington Country Park, we’ve hired in huge marquees, generators, toilets and showers for the 200 or more who will be sharing the weekend. It’s almost a mini festival! We are running events on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday, we have a visiting speaker, children’s and youth work. There are leisure activities being planned, movies, a very silly quiz night and much much more (did I mention the buffet, hog roast and barbecue?). We’ve been planning it for probably the best part of a year, it’s taken a huge amount of planning and logistics, and I will be on site from Thursday to Monday, when the inevitable big clear up has to happen. And I don’t even want to thing about Tuesday evening yet (when I’m going to have to reinstall our sound and lights ready for next Sunday).

Is it worth the effort?

It’s taken a massive amount of effort to put on; time, money and heavy lifting! But we will have a whole weekend together without the distractions of work, TV, cooking and general day to day. We can do what we do on a Sunday without the need to rush onto the next service, or to get home to put on lunch. There is a program so there are things to occupy us through the days, but there will also be plenty of time to be together, to share, to chat, to eat, to just be. And although I know it’s going to be a great weekend with fantastic content, the opportunity to spend time with friends, make new ones, and just grow our community together is going to be the most important part of the whole weekend.

The only way to build community is to be one. The only way to cultivate relationships is to invest in them. Which takes time, lots of time, spent together. So instead of reading the books, working through the programs or “liking” your friend’s status, why don’t you spend some time, quality time with your community this weekend.

I’ll be posting about this next week, as I’m probably going to be off grid, in a field, with deer for the next 5 days!

Thank You

As I was taught when I was younger, manners cost nothing, and it’s generally polite to say please and thank you. And as I write this post, from my Salvation Army days I have the song “I nearly forgot to say thank you” going around my head…Oscar

This Sunday we are celebrating with our annual (ish) EBC Heroes day, where we recognise all of those who volunteer in our church. My role as Creative Arts Director and Worship Leader, as well as fairly regularly leading services means I am pretty visible in church, being on stage most Sundays. But it goes without saying there are many, many volunteers and staff who do so much behind the scenes.

Besides Sunday services our children’s work, youth work, older people’s work, our cafe and Messy Church, clusters, social events and small groups all rely on volunteers. I may be paid to lead on a Sunday, but it would be pointless without the rest of the band, our tech team manning the sound and lights, operations staff to sort out the words and the caretaker to open up the building.

And we, all of us, do make a point of regularly thanking our teams, whether by email, cards, chocolate or dinner…nothing is assumed or taken for granted. But as we have this one big celebration every year we can more publicly acknowledge, thank and celebrate all of the time and effort that our volunteers offer.

Nominations

We have nominations so members of our congregation can actually put forward any unsung heroes that they know of, and we also have some categories ourselves which we as a staff team nominate. So we have the “Feeding the 5,000” award for catering and refreshments, the “Bridging the Gap” award for those who work with young and old people and the “Edward Scissorhands” award for copious amounts of cutting out, as well as recognition for long service, reliable service and all round good egg.

It’s run like a mini oscar ceremony with red carpet, guest presenters, everybody on stage in suit and tie (which is unusual in our church) and of course awards. But it’s more than recognising just the small number of volunteers who “win” awards. It’s all about saying thank you. It’s all about the recognition that we can’t do it on our own. It’s all about acknowledging the local church is the hope of the world, and grows, blesses and cares in the community because of it’s congregation.

Who can you thank?

So next time you’re sat in church, look around and see what everyone, and I mean everyone is doing. And maybe after the service, as well as thanking the minister for his excellent talk (or not as the case may be…), see if you can thank the band, or the organist, or the choir, or the tea lady, or the welcomer, or the sound team…all of those volunteers who make Sunday happen. They’ll appreciate it. We appreciate it. And we appreciate all of you, so much, who help us, support us, and enable us to do what we do at church.

Thank you.

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?

With Every Act of Love

Our Senior Minister came across this song, which is surprising, as his general musical taste is awful (Genesis/Phil Collins anyone….?) We use it last Sunday as part of our Follow series (from Northpoint), where we were looking at What We Wear…which, as you can probably imagine, is more than being just about clothes…

Collosians 3: 12-14 says:

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

So compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. And over all these virtues put on love. Beats jeans, T shirt and trainers (which is my usual daily outfit…)

The lyrics to this song are just amazing, I am going to check out more of his material. But it is the bridge that to me is the most powerful:

God put a million, million doors in the world
For his love to walk through
One of those doors is you

What are you wearing?

I am one of those doors. And so are you. But I’m not too proud to admit I don’t put on my compassion outfit regularly enough, or my kindness hat. Harry Potter had a cloak of invisibility which I was envious of, but I have a cloak of humility that too often I’m too arrogant to wear. And while I consider my self a gentle and considerate person, I know there are plenty of times my “patience trousers” wear thin. And I won’t mention my “love” outfit here for fear of it being misconstrued…but if all above and beyond was approached With Every Act of Love…well, as I’ve said before, the world would be a better place.

So clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Then with every act of love, be one of the million million doors that God put on the planet.

What could you change about your outfit today?

So Help Me God

I’m just emerging from a particularly busy and difficult season in my life. Our senior minister has been pretty unwell since last summer, so I was doing a lot of extra work at EBC (which I really enjoyed doing) in addition to my usual responsibilities. But I only “work” at church 1.5 days a week, and the rest of my working week I work for my own company doing royalty accounting and specialist music business advice for musicians, bands and labels. And I am very happily married with three wonderful children…who are all at school, have homework, go to bed late and still get up early…(I thought it would all change once they were out of nappies?) And I do try (sometimes!) to have a social life and date my wife…who is also working full time! So with all of the above, and of course Christmas…I was (we were!) somewhat frazzled by the end of 2014

Now I’m pleased to say I’ve come out the other side, church have been particularly kind and given me a lot of recovery space in January (I felt semi-retired to be honest…but they assured me I am wanted back….) and now we’re at the end of February, I am right back into the thick of it. And we’re again ramping up…we did a great joint service at the beginning of the month with our friends at FBC, we’re planning a big church weekend in May, service prep is well under way. I’m in the middle of setting up a new limited company to take the music business forward, there is just as much homework to do, the house needs redecorating desperately (our middle daughter Naomi has been diagnosed with severe dust allergies, so we need to rip out the carpets and remove the soft furnishings a.s.a.p.) and we’re still attempting to squeeze in a social life and actually date.

When I were a lad…

I remember from when I was but a young boy (not that long ago…) we used to listen to the Kids Praise cassettes in the car, even today I can remember most of the songs which Psalty the Singing Songbook used to sing. Do My Best came from Kid’s Praise 5, Psalty’s Camping Adventure, and the opening line was

“I can do most anything, through Christ who strengthens me. Even climb a mountain when I’m four (even three!)”

I am sure that under many other circumstances we would have just crumbled, and there are still days when it’s the most we can do to crawl out of bed in the morning. But I know I’m not doing any of this alone. We work together as a couple. We do it together as a family. We share it all as a community at our church. And we do it all through God, who strengthens, guides, and carries us when it’s too much.

This is an oldie but goody from dc Talk…so the clothes may not have dated well, but the song and the sentiment are bang up to date:

You’re there when I call
And You’re there when I fall
Even though I don’t deserve it all
You, You light my way
Through the night and the day
And from You I will not stray

So help me God
To put my faith in You
So help me God
Before I come unglued
Call it my addiction
I can’t get enough of You
So help me God
To put my faith in You

I have days, and will continue to have days where I try to do everything under my own steam, and in my own strength. But more and more I’m learning that if I share the load, stop trying to do it on my own, and look to Him who is here for me…I can do a much better job of everything. So Help Me God. 

What Love Really Means

You probably can’t have failed to notice it’s Valentine’s Day this weekend (if you have, go ahead, there’s still time to get flowers/chocolates/card/iPad (if you follow the Apple ads) etc….) Have you ordered? Good. Let’s carry on…

Love is a many splendored thing. Love lifts us up where we belong. All you need is love….as Ewan McGregor sang to Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge. Love makes the world go round. The Truth About Love. Love, Love me Do. Strange Love…I have over 500 songs about love in my iTunes library, Steven Curtis Chapman wrote an entire album for his wife called All About Love (it’s great), whether you’re an incurable romantic or have a heart of stone, you can’t escape it. And this song by J.J. Heller is just incredible in words, melody and sentiment.

I’m currently reading Andy Stanley’s new book, The New Rules for Love, Sex and Dating…and while I am only just on chapter three, it is (like all of his other books), an essential read. Chapter one is called “The Right Person Myth”, and it unsurprisingly looks at finding Mr or Mrs Right. Spoiler alert: there isn’t one. You should read the book, but I’ll give you this quote:

“Looking for the right person is a great idea as long as you don’t assume that finding the right person ensures everything will be all right”.

The right person doesn’t mean everything will be all right. Now I am a self confessed incurable romantic, Love Actually, A Lot Like Love and Notting Hill are firmly (and proudly) in my top ten movies of all time, and I have an idealistic image in my head of my wife and I, strolling into the sunset arm in arm, happily ever after. Now clearly my wife chose me because I am Mr Right, I am obviously a great catch and who wouldn’t want to be married to me but we work really hard at being married, which is why we are still happily married. Of course we’re very compatible, there was an attraction there initially which has only grown over time, and we genuinely enjoy being together…which helps. But it’s not like it every day…I know there are days Hannah would quite happily push me out of a window… probably deservedly.

The Bible is of course full of love: God so loved the world that He gave His only Son; Love your enemies; Love your neighbour as yourself; Above all love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

God’s story is a love story, He who loved his people, He who wants the best for us, He who is forgiving and loving. And we as Christians are called to love… and if we loved more instead of judging, comparing, condemning or generally not being interested in others…wouldn’t the world be a happier, better place? And I’m not resorting back to sugar coated happy ending movies again…if we did love our neighbours as ourselves…and they did the same…and so on…how different would everything be? That may be incredibly simplistic…but a little bit of love goes a long way.

So this Valentines as you exchange gifts with your beloved, or send cards to your secret crush, or maybe just sit at home quietly disapproving of the whole consumer driven cardfest and overpriced roses gone mad…try to remember what love really means.

He cries in the corner where nobody sees
He’s the kid with the story no one would believe
He prays every night, “Dear God won’t you please…
Could you send someone here who will love me?”

Who will love me for me
Not for what I have done or what I will become
Who will love me for me
‘Cause nobody has shown me what love
What love really means

Her office is shrinking a little each day
She’s the woman whose husband has run away
She’ll go to the gym after working today
Maybe if she was thinner
Then he would’ve stayed
And she says…

Who will love me for me?
Not for what I have done or what I will become
Who will love me for me?
‘Cause nobody has shown me what love, what love really means

He’s waiting to die as he sits all alone
He’s a man in a cell who regrets what he’s done
He utters a cry from the depths of his soul
“Oh Lord, forgive me, I want to go home”

Then he heard a voice somewhere deep inside
And it said
“I know you’ve murdered and I know you’ve lied
I have watched you suffer all of your life
And now that you’ll listen, I’ll tell you that I…”

I will love you for you
Not for what you have done or what you will become
I will love you for you
I will give you the love
The love that you never knew

5 Observations from Joint Church Services

We have just this weekend had a great joint service with our friends at FBC. This is the second event we have done together, and it was great! So I though it would be a great opportunity to look at how we worked together, and maybe some pointers for other congregations who are dipping their toes into churches together or joint events. I have used the acronym of the 5 C’s…just because it panned out that way….

Common Ground

Together!

We are similar churches in terms of ethos, locality and congregation, which naturally draws us together. When planning for this joint service, we looked at the things we had, and did, in common and aimed to meet in the middle as far as possible. As I’ve discussed before, all churches and church services have a template whether they realise it or not. Our services are not very far apart in terms of order and content, so we had a straightforward starting place. Rachael and I were leading the music together (as we had before last summer), so we compared song lists and picked out those songs common to us both, as well as a couple which were new or we were wanting to introduce to the congregations.

Communication

This is crucial in all aspects, as we are two different churches in two different locations planning other services and events as well as running the day to day. So regular emails and planned meetings were the order of the day, and we had been planning for this one joint service from about November, having earlier penciled in the date we would be holding it. We put point leaders in place, so we would know well in advance who would be responsible for the main aspects of the service.

Community

This was and is all about coming together; we may be two different churches in different locations, but having a joint service is all about sharing what we do together, growing our congregations and learning together. Over the course of our joint events so far I have made many new friends and experienced different ways of working, worshiping and communicating together. We also planned to have a big lunch after the service that all were invited to (and expected to) attend. Community is also a long term relationship, which leads us into…

Commitment

We have held two joint events so far, a great summer celebration followed by a barbecue, and this service where the weather wasn’t quite warm enough for barbecues but we did get to play outside once we’d eaten together. And we are now gearing up to a joint weekend away in May with combined music teams, leaders and congregations. We are committed to doing this together, and I hope we will continue to meet regularly and have big shared events (and smaller joint gatherings) in the future, as they work so well; they encourage, uplift, and share our numerous resources.

Celebration

After all of the hard work, planning and execution, it’s great to kick back over food and drink and just enjoy how well it worked. Job well done! We will have a debrief, review what worked well, what needed tweaking, and what we do next. And, to just celebrate a job done well!

Have you had any experience of joint church events?