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?

A New Old Song

Do you ever listen to albums, and find sometimes a big song will pass you by? I mean, there are always the catchy singles which pique your interest, and sometimes there are songs which touch you on a personal level (which no one else seems to get in the same way). But how about track number seven you maybe didn’t get to…or track number 9 which is sandwiched between the third single and the bonus track.

I listen to a lot of music, I can say partly because of my job at EBC hunting out creative ideas and songs for the worship band…but mainly because I just love listening to music all the time. Like all the time. I have big speakers on my home computer, little speakers on my office computer, an iPod dock in the car, DAB radio in the kitchen, bluetooth speaker for my iPad…I am generally always connected, and subsequently listen to a lot of music.

And from this I pick songs for Sunday, revise our song lists, find performance songs and videos and share some of the spoils here with you so you can do the same for your church. But I’ll hold my hand up and say I have missed some corking songs from albums I’ve had for a while. They may not have been obvious at the time, and sometimes they are rearranged or performed differently…which just adds some special sauce to an already great song.

Planning together

Today we met with our friends at FBC as we’re planning a joint service for the beginning of February. Rachael and I are going to lead the combined band, so we did what we did last time…compared song lists to see what matched, which songs both congregations would know. But I also thought it may be a good opportunity to do some new songs (and she also had a copy of their new song list so I could peek at what they were doing…FBC are currently revising their list just as we did…cutting it down to something more manageable). Rachael asked if I knew “Guardian” by Ben Cantelon, as they had recently introduced it and it had been really well received. I had to say no, never heard of it…but if you think its that good…lets do it!

So we completed our order of service, arranged rehearsal time and then went off to our next meetings. When I finally got home in the afternoon I typed “Guardian” into my iTunes search, and apart from the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack (great album, great movie), I got two further hits. Guardian from the New Wine Stand Together album, and Guardian (feat. Ben Cantelon) from the Worship Central album. 2013. I had it all along…in fact I’d had it for some 18 months, and yet it had slipped past me.

It Doesn’t Always Have to be New to be New…

So the point of this ramble, and to bring this blog back into line with my January theme of New is: Don’t always be in a rush to look out for a new song that you leave some good old ones behind. Don’t wait for the 2014 songs of the year list to be published before you revise your song list. Don’t be afraid to revisit those albums from 2009 which had a great song on it and 9 others you didn’t notice. Don’t even be cautious about introducing some classics from way back…a lot of hymns are timeless, and its apparent from a lot of live worship albums that these hymns (when contemporised and with an added chorus or bridge) are incredibly popular and just as impactive as they were 50,100, 150 years ago.

What New Old Song can you introduce this Spring term?

Goal!

Welcome back! I trust you had a good Christmas and New Year.

Now the eagle eyed among you will have noticed my last post of the year was a bit advanced…as in it should have been posted in January (not that it was complicated and/or required a doctorate to understand it!) But now we actually are into January, the decorations really are put away in the loft and focus moves on shifting the excess Christmas puddings and mince pies which I accrued over the festive season (oh it was so good), let’s look at the coming year.

Goals for 2015

Goals for 2015

January is traditionally a time of renewal, a time to make resolutions, break bad habits, and start as you mean to go on. And of course, so often we make our lists about working sensibly, being more healthy, losing weight, reading more, spending more (or less?) time with family, be better at reading the bible, join a small group/gym/band… And then we maybe put the list up, or internalise it…or maybe we share it with someone close to us…but by March we’ve slipped a bit, come Easter we have a house full of chocolate, and once we’re into May and the sun’s out…well by then I’ve usually clean forgotten about my resolutions. I remember we did a top 10 resolutions last year as a service opener….which were exactly the same 10 as the previous year.

This year I haven’t done any resolutions…but I have set myself some goals. Arguably there isn’t much of a difference…apples and oranges. But let me tell you more:

10 Goals

I have set myself 10 goals for the year, which are balanced between work, church, family and purely personal. And I’ve been pretty specific about them, so rather than “lose weight” I’ve said “be under 200lbs”. And I’ve made them measurable and targeted, so “be under 200lbs by September”. And then I’ve also put my motivations for each of the goals, so I clearly want to be fitter and healthier by losing weight. And then finally I’ve done some next actions, so “healthy breakfasts, exercise more regularly, no sugar”.

I have all of this down in my note taking software of choice, Evernote, I have a separate entry for each goal, and in addition to to all of the above (Goal, key motivations and next actions) I also have space for progress reports and any other observations…almost like a space to journal on it.

Now this may seem like a colossal amount of effort, but then as in the L’Oreal advert…I’m worth it! And the fact I have next steps, trackable goals and motivation for doing them…I’m confident I’ll stick to them over the year unlike last year’s resolutions (whatever they were…?)

My 2015 promise to you

And one of my goals is to be consistent and planned with my blogging. So here it is. Happy New Year to you all. Look forward to sharing more goals, ideas and experience over the coming months.

Do you have any goals for the year? Care to join me in following them?

Review All You Do

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

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

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

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

The Sunday follow up email

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

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

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

Picking holes?

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

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

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

Do you review all that you do?