Waiting Here For You

So by now the decorations should all be packed away in the loft, there may be the odd mince pie left lurking in the cupboard (they never run out, and rarely go stale…), and the days go back to normal now Christmas is all done for another year.

This past December at EBC we looked at Waiting Here for You as our Christmas theme, using the song by Martin Smith and examining the topics: God works while we wait; While we are waiting on God we are waiting with God; and Who you become while you are waiting is as important as what you are waiting for.

We all waited with eager anticipation in the Kerslake household for Christmas, possibly our favourite time of the year. I love sharing food and gifts together, bringing friends and family under the same roof and having a joint celebration together. There were 13 of us for Christmas day, and 9 for Boxing Day, and the following days were spent catching up with more friends and family. And of course the three smaller Kerslakes were excited to see what was going to appear under the tree.

But now Christmas is over, I wanted us to start the year looking at the same song, and the lyrics behind it. Even though we are into January, the words are just as pertinent. Over Christmas we were waiting for Jesus’ arrival on Christmas day, an event which had been foretold throughout the Old Testament. And this Sunday, Wednesday, Friday, every day…we do the same. We eagerly await His arrival in our services, in our offerings, in our day to day, week to week. We know He is always with us, no matter where we are.

I challenge you, this 2015, to approach each day with the same anticipation which was there for Christmas. That we have an eagerness and expectation for our services, that we offer our songs of worship in open and honest praise, fully expecting Him to be there as we sing, pray, listen, stand there with our arms lifted high or are seated with our heads bowed. He is waiting here for us, He is always there, expectantly waiting for us. I pray we will be doing the same, as we sing, pray, and are silently there.

Waiting Here for You.

If faith can move the mountains

Let the mountains move

We come with expectation

Waiting here for You, waiting here for You

 

You’re the Lord of all creation

And still You know my heart

The Author of Salvation

You’ve loved us from the start

 

Waiting here for You

With our hands lifted high in praise

And it’s You we adore

Singing Alleluia

 

You are everything You’ve promised

Your faithfulness is true

And we’re desperate for Your presence

All we need is You

 

Singing Alleluia

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Written by Chris Tomlin, Martin Smith and Jesse Reeves 2011

Stop!

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

Stop!

Stop!

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

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

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

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

Just One More Thing

It’s been another busy weekend: my girls needed new glasses, Joel had a party, we had a great Sunday morning service celebrating and reviewing the time our teenagers spent at New Wine, and then the afternoon was taken up with clothes shopping (the girls have grown so much over the summer, nothing fits!) And yet another rehearsal squeezed into the evening!

I don’t know about you, but life is just busy these days…last week I had a leaders meeting, church meeting, staff meeting, worship team rehearsal, jazz band rehearsal. And on top of that there was my role as Dad’s Taxi, so we drove to and from beavers, piano and violin lessons, ballet and swimming with friends. And somewhere in between it all we worked, cooked, cleaned, showered, slept… All of this is important, most of this needs to be done, preferably not all in the same week (fortunately meetings are generally monthly so I do have time to shower at least three times a month….) But there is a stage when we just become busy without being productive, we run around so much and build up so much momentum, it is difficult to actually stop.

I read a great story about a professor who had a large jar which he filled with rocks, and then asked his class “is it full?” And some of them said yes, so he then poured in the gravel, which went in the gaps. And he asked the same question, “is it full?” So more of the class thought it was full….until he got out a bag of sand. Which filled the air gaps that were left, and by then the class were agreed that the jar was full, there was no more space. Then he poured in a glass of water… There is always space for more stuff, but at the expense of what?

Busyness

In our busyness of life, when there is so much going on, so much to do, pressure to be places and to achieve, it is often our praise and worship which are the first to go. I am old enough to remember when the shops were shut on a Sunday, church was the main event on a Sunday and the day was set aside as special…as in creation, the sabbath remained the sabbath. These days most shops are open on a Sunday, and are pushing for normal working hours. Church is no longer a Sunday requisite, and even regular church attenders and members often don’t come weekly…a trend which is replicated across the UK and the USA. Rather than Sunday Services being the thing that starts the week, they are becoming an also ran in competition with giant shopping centres, football matches and car boot sales….whatever becomes more attractive, or in a 24 hour seven day a week society, necessary when it is the only time to do these things.

This week we are continuing with our Story series at EBC, focusing on the book of Ezra. This book of the Old Testament looks at how the Israelites were restored from a long time in exile, as a tribe, as a community, and as God’s people. Chapter three, which is the section we are exploring on Sunday, tells of the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem so the people were able to once again worship and celebrate, something they had neglected to do for a long time. They are so keen to worship, and put God back at the centre, they don’t even wait until the temple is finished.

Just One More Thing

This great song by Sara Groves looks at just that, as the chorus says:

Everything is important
But everything is not
At the end of your life your relationships
Are all you’re got

And love to me is when you put down
That one more thing and say
I’ve got something better to do
And love to me is when you walk out on
That one more thing and say
Nothing will come between me and you
Not even one more thing

Is church your just one more thing? Are your relationships just one more thing? Do you juggle your social calendar or work diary in order to squeeze in that just one more thing? Or is now the time to stop, take a step back, and start with the one thing which everything else revolves around?

I know I don’t do it often enough, how about you?

The Fraction Principle

You may well have seen this clip already, it’s doing the rounds and I have been mailed it several times…but if you have or haven’t, it deserves a second (or fourth…) viewing:

Awesome drumming! The guy has chops…and kudos to the leader for keeping it going while he plays his flamaramaparadiddlecues (I know they’re not real…I am a drummer…but anyhow….)

Teenage Kicks

When I was learning bass and guitar during my teenage years, I was a typical “bedroom player”, in that I would come home from school and then spend hours alone in my room, learning songs and riffs off my favourite cassettes (I am that old…) and eventually CD’s (but not quite that old…). Whether it was the thundering thumbs of Mark King from Level 42, the guitar solo from Living on a Prayer or the jangly riff from The Beatles And Your Bird Can Sing, I would be lost in listening, learning and memorising new and old tunes. It was great…albeit not a very social pastime.

Something we learn as a worship team at EBC is about playing as a band, playing within our limits, and listening to one another. This is something which can only be learnt as a band, as it’s an important communal aspect to playing you cannot learn on your own. We usually have 5 – 6 musicians in our Sunday morning band, and while we are all of different abilities, if we all played to our maximum then it would be a big mess of noise…free jazz, a smorgasbord of notes! We learn to make space both in terms of frequency, and notes. Let me break this down a little.

Frequency: At its most basic level, we can split our sound frequencies into three; bass, middle, and treble. Bass is occupied by the bass guitar and kick drum, treble is occupied by cymbals, the attack of the guitar and the sibilance from our voices. Pretty much everything else (drums, guitars, keys, vocals, violins, cellos, banjos…) fills the middle. But there is crossover….the piano and drums cover the bass and treble frequencies, and the bass and guitar move around depending on how high or low they are played on the neck.

Notes: We can play fast and slow, we can use lots of notes or be sparing. Chordal movement comes into this equation as well, for something like How Great is Our God has only four chords which go around and around, whereas How Great Thou Art has almost a chord per beat at points (this is from the transition from organs/keyboards to guitar…you can usually tell when a song has been written on guitar or piano based on the key and the number of chords!) And if we’re a really hot drummer, we can squeeze at least 1208 beats in per minute…always useful during ministry time…or Oceans…

Application?

How does this apply to the band? Well, if I’m playing acoustic on my own (which sometimes happens), then I am the bass player, keyboard player, guitarist and drummer. So I will strum pretty rhythmically (drummer), use the full range of the guitar (bass and keys) and lead. But if I’m then joined by a bass player, I should drop off the bottom end of the guitar to give them space. And if there’s a keyboard player, I may play in a higher register (or get the keyboard player to play higher). If we have a drummer too then there’s less need for me to be so rhythmic, as the bass and drums (the rhythm section) can drive the song for me. Paul Baloche has a great video which explains this really clearly:

The Fraction Principle

Brian Doerksen calls this The Fraction Principle, in that you play to the nth of your ability depending on how many musicians are in the band. So if there are five of you, you play to a 5th of your ability. The rationale behind it is if everyone plays 100% to their ability all the time (look back at our drummer friend…), then it’s going to get tiring for everyone and ultimately detract from the song.

Same with the notes….why play several when one will do. The congregation hasn’t come for a jazz gig, they’re not going to applaud your knowledge of the mixolydian scale or how your keyboard player is able to vamp over a Fdim7flat5 with a boogie woogie left hand. Our congregations are there to be led in worship, which is what we’re there to do.

So the next time you’re rehearsing with your worship team, listen to everybody else around you. Are you giving each other musical space as I’ve outlined above? Does your keyboard player have a heavy left hand? If you have two guitarists, are they mimicking each other, or do they make use of a capo and/or the dusty end of the fretboard? If any of this rings true, make some changes. Arrange it as a band. Listen to CD’s of the songs you’re using. And in time, it will become second nature.

Stop the World

It’s Monday morning, Hannah is at work, and I’m working from home with two ill children. (am slightly envious that they are watching The Hobbit snuggled up on the sofa, but not at all wanting their colds….)

Not the best start to the week…and I had a band rehearsal last night, leaders meeting tonight, worship team rehearsal Tuesday, staff meeting and church meeting Thursday…where oh where did the weekend go?! We all get weeks like this, sometimes too often.

How Did We Get Here?

The assumption was, with all of the technology which we have and are constantly creating and upgrading, that life would be simpler. The machines would take care of the mundane, simplifying our day to day so we would have more spare time to do the things we loved. But a hundred years ago, whole days would be set aside for wash days, as clothes were boiled, pounded and mangled…not deposited in a drum with some liquid and put on an eco wash for a couple of hours. If I wanted to contact a friend in America, I could write a letter, or telegram in the 1950’s. I could call of course, but the cost of the call and the quality of the line would mean it would have to be particularly important to justify. Today I know exactly what my friends and family are doing on the other side of the world through Facebook and email, and I can message them and contact them instantly. When I got my first job back in 1997 (only 17 years ago!) I had a terminal…this machine had a green tube screen, internal email as an option and no internet. And 50% of my job involved paper forms and ink stamps. Today I am working from home, with a lightning fast internet and paperless.

All of this technology, all of these advances, and yet we are busier than ever. How can this be? Well the many reasons could probably fill this blog post several times over, and I don’t want to speculate. I know for me I enjoy doing, and so find it hard to say no to things which I enjoy…which has to balance with the jobs I have to do but don’t necessarily love, and also my wife and family (who of course I do love and want to spend all of my time with). I have been pretty fortunate over most of my career so far in that I have been able to set my working day to avoid rush hour. I’ve always started early and finished early so I was home in time for tea and bath and bed (for the kids, not me…), and it is something I have stuck to wherever possible even now as they are older. This may well have scuppered my chances for promotion and pay rises as I generally wouldn’t work late…but then I got everything done during my work hours…anything else would just be for visual effect and status…and I got to spend precious time with my family.

Stop the World

Stop the World is a just incredible song by Matthew West we have used a lot…the words and the sentiment just seem to reach people where they’re at, as so many of us can relate:

The T.V. is talking
The telephone’s ringing
The lights are all on and the radio’s screaming
A million distractions are stealing my heart from You

I’m tired and empty
This life is relentless
It weakens my knees and it breaks my defences
It’s wearing me down and I’m desperate to hear from You

Stop the world, I wanna get out
I need an escape away from this crowd
Just to hear You speak to me

I am still busy, I still have a crazy week this week on top of my usual work, and I know come Friday we will probably just end up dropping off on the sofa. But a while ago I made a concerted effort to work with this, so I consciously watch less TV, we plan out our weekends well in advance and block book “NOTHING” for some of them, I don’t ever take my phone to bed (and of course it’s rude to text at the table). And I have been struggling with (but mostly managing) to get up earlier in the morning so I can just have some quiet time with my bible, with my thoughts, and with prayer.

In a twenty four hour, always switched on, never disconnected world, it is difficult to hear anyone clearly above the noise, let alone the still small voice of God.

So why don’t you find your daily time to uncouple, listen, and just be. Stop the World.

Find Your Voice

Now I came across this video this morning on my Facebook feed:

Isn’t it great! 29 perfect celebrity impressions, performed perfectly in Rob’s front room…and a great song too. I’m definitely going to check out the album.

We have a culture where celebrity acts and bands are regularly impersonated…I’ve seen The Bootleg Beatles, Bjorn Again (Abba), The Doors Alive, The Australian Pink Floyd Show, Noasis, Blobbie Williams and Take Fat…and they’re all great. And even if a band isn’t trying to sell themselves as a tribute band, most of the pub gigs and duos, wedding bands, Christmas Party bands and so on consists of covers…musicians playing other people’s songs. I did it myself for a while, I played in The Bogus Blues Brothers, Steeling Dan (a Steely Dan tribute band) and The Wiltons, whose primary material was 60’s classics by The Beach Boys, The Stones, The Beatles… (I shall gloss over my misspent youth playing Bon Jovi and Motley Crue covers…)

Now all this is well and good, and for many musicians it’s where we first were inspired to play, the way and why we learnt to play, as we emulated our heros. For me it was Mark King from Level 42 who inspired me to pick up the bass, and by the age of 15 I could play pretty passable performances of most of their repertoire, thumbs a-flying as I had my headless bass high around my neck and in the crook of my arm (it’s how I still play the bass today, although it admittedly looked decidedly odd in a metal band….) And for some musicians that is all they’ll ever do, play other peoples songs as a hobby, or even as a full time career. Now many of these bands have broken up or passed on, the only way of seeing them live is to attend a tribute concert, and it’s big business. The bands themselves spend a huge amount of time and money looking and especially sounding like their heroes. And it makes a lot of money too…the Australian Pink Floyd show has sold in excess of three million tickets in the time they’ve been impersonating.

How does this apply to worship?

For me as a worship leader at EBC, we do essentially the same thing, we play cover versions of other people’s songs. Whether it’s Chris Tomlin or Matt Redman, Brenton Brown or Rend Collective, our repertoire is primarily influenced by what is popular in other churches, and what fits with our congregations. And there is nothing wrong with this, we have to stay familiar with the songs which we use otherwise we will alienate our congregations. But I believe there is a line to be drawn somewhere, and we have to be careful we don’t take it so far that we try to emulate other musicians, the arrangements of songs, even the style and content of other churches. Just because it works in church x, doesn’t mean it will translate to your church. Just because Chris Tomlin sings it in G#, doesn’t mean anybody in your team or congregation will be able to. Just because Hillsong play Gretsch/Duesenberg guitars, it doesn’t mean you have to. And even if Joel Houston has a big beard and wears deep cut V necks and scarves, I will not sound like him if I do the same.

I sincerely love all of these leaders, and we use a lot of their songs in our repertoire at EBC because they are good songs, they resonate with me, and I know they are a good fit for our congregation. But I don’t go as far as trying to copy them. We change keys (often down a lot!) to make them singable by our congregation. We alter arrangements to fit our services, and our band lineups…we do have a strong and large team of musicians, but generally our band lineup is 5 -6 people, so we don’t have the luxury of multiple guitars, complex harmonies and keyboard loops. We have a double bass player who is great, but double bass sounds significantly different to an electric bass. All of our musicians are of differing ability, they are all competent and I am delighted to have them in the band. But to accommodate them, we make changes so the music is accessible to all.

Find your own voice

And then we work together and we develop our own voice. I don’t sound or look like Joel Houston, and even if I had all of Nigel Hendroff’s Gear, I could never play guitar like him. Our drummer never plays like Travis Nunn. I don’t have any singers who harmonise like Christy Nockels or Kari Jobe. But I do have a passionate and dedicated team of musicians, who know their own voice, and use it to glorify God in our worship. And that is all I ask of them.

So be yourself, find your voice, practice, play, learn and enjoy.

And be your own, individual perfect, as only you can be. As perfect videos and songs often are nothing of the sort….

How 2 rehearsals are better than 1

This week we’re back to our normal routine again, having had the summer break…which means we’re back to our regular Tuesday night rehearsal slot.

Band Rehearsal

Now I’ve talked about rehearsals a lot. Probably because we do it a lot. But, a bit of history: We used to (around 5 years ago) be one church with three separate congregations who met at different locations. With three separate teams. As the leadership structure of the church has changed, as well as various other contributing factors, we are now in the position of having several meetings but now all in the same building. This has led to bringing all of our teams under one roof, and honing our song list, rotas and rehearsal schedule.

This has been a gradual process….the 9:15 band used to rehearse every other Friday, the 11:15 band every other Tuesday, the 10:15 rehearsed on site before the service…so the first thing we did was bring everybody together on one evening. This was fine when we didn’t have many musicians, as there was space for everybody on stage and enough inputs in the sound desk. But as time has gone on the band has grown (which is a great problem to have). And after having a few rehearsals when everybody turned up, and we had three to a microphone, more guitarists than a Passion concert and the unsolvable problem of how to share one drum kit between three drummers…we had to change our process.

New Regime

After a bit of deliberation, we have settled into our new pattern, which works like this:

The band for Sunday has full use of the main hall for their rehearsal, and they go through the set as if it was Sunday. Being in the same position, using the same instruments, being plugged into the same equipment means that come Sunday, there shouldn’t be any surprises and the services will go smoothly.

At the same time, every other Tuesday (as we have another group who use our church on alternate Tuesdays), we have a second rehearsal meeting in our backrooms. This is for everybody in the band not involved on the coming Sunday, but also open to any new team members and also for anybody who may want to attend and see what we do. We use this time to refine the songs which we are already doing, learn new songs (especially at the beginning of a term), work on our techniques together and also have the opportunity to share in some prayer together. I’ve also been able to set aside this time to have sectional rehearsals, so we had an evening with just the guitarists, or concentrating on the sound team with the band, and I have a music theory 101 evening up my sleeve at some time in the near future.

This has meant we are able to make much better use of our rehearsal time without taking up extra time in the week….I don’t know about you, but we already have so many meetings and commitments during the week that I don’t want to make demands on extra evenings with our band.

Benefits

Of course this requires a bit of administration, I have to keep ahead of what music we’re using and specifically plan what we’re going to do with our extra rehearsals. And I keep these fairly open…for all of the reasons above, and as we already have commitment that our band will be at rehearsal for Sundays, I am willing to cut them some slack for any additional rehearsal time. That said, most of our band come regularly enough, and seem to enjoy it! And the benefits have been huge to us all as a team…it means we are all meeting and playing together more frequently, we are learning the songs quicker and also growing much better as a team.

Now I don’t know how you schedule your rehearsals with your team…I have experienced all from weekly rehearsals three weeks out from a Sunday right through to pulling it together in the hour before a service. But I can recommend maintaining a regular frequency for all of our musicians, so they can grow musically, technically, spiritually and communally as well.

What is your rehearsal schedule?

New term, new songs

Well I think we’ve made it through the summer without too many injuries, avoided the worst of the weather and are now scrabbling around to find school uniform, work bags and car keys as we get back into the swing of things after extended holidays. And similarly, now we’ve completed our extended run of summer services we’re looking ahead to this coming Sunday when we resume our Manuscriptusual pattern of two morning services, a new series and new band rotas for the autumn. How about you?

Song Lists

Something I do on a termly basis is revise our song list*, and I particularly enjoy doing this after the summer break as so many from our congregation go to conferences such as New Wine and Soul Survivor, so have heard a great deal of new music. I always tap up those from the band, in charge of the youth, those with a good ear, even our senior minister, to get the low-down on what they thought was good, stood out and worked well in a worship and congregational setting.

There are so many good songs already in circulation, and so so many songs being released on a daily basis, it can be daunting to know where to start. We have a relatively small song list which has shrunk in number over time from the whole spectrum of the Songs of Fellowship book (circa 2000 +!) to our current list of 60 ish… but I do a regular rotation of this list three times a year, retiring some songs off of the list to make space for new songs while retaining some classics, some hymns, some popular favourites.

Sourcing songs

There is always a balance to strike between the desire to introduce the new and trendy as opposed to sticking with the comfortable old favourites…I have to work hard to resist introducing all of my new favourites, as the real danger is leaving the congregation behind and alienating your audience. Which is why I find this approach covers so many bases…getting feedback from a cross section of friends whom I trust, coupled with keeping an eye on the CCLI lists (we tend to look at the US version of the site) and new releases from artists who are a good fit with our style of worship at EBC (for us it’s Passion, Hillsong, Brenton Brown, David Crowder, Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin, Soul Survivor) gives me a generous selection of songs to start with. I then go through them and listen out for songs that are playable by our bands and singable by our congregation…which may warrant a key change, and may need rearranging to fit with our line-up.

I spent most of yesterday refining this, including a complete overhaul of our children’s/all age worship songs, so once this is finalised I’ll post it up in the resources section so you can all see what we’re doing for the next four months.

How do you pick and organise your songs?

*I will look at how we organise our songlist in a post soon.

Meaningful Mailing

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

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

The rules:

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

Going forwards…

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

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

How do you organise your communications with your team?

Keep It Shut – The Sequel!

Last week I posted with the title Keep It Shut!, which looked at keeping the main hall closed during soundcheck and rehearsals so that the congregation would not distract or comment while the band and Sunday team were refining the service. I realise that the title could be construed as referring to something other than just the doors…but for the sake of politeness, we’ll cLocked dooroncentrate here on keeping the main hall closed during rehearsals…

We put it into practice this past Sunday at EBC; clear and courteous signs were placed on the closed doors with a specific opening time and a polite request for early arrivals to stay in the lobby or back rooms. Everybody adhered to it, and there were no quibbles or questions. Or attempts to break down the door.

Lock the door!

The most positive effect was in the band and tech team who were able to rehearse and sound check without distraction. We don’t hold rehearsals over the summer, so our current band time before the service is even more precious as it is the only opportunity to run through the song arrangements as well as soundcheck. My wife was leading this week, and I arrived later with the kids for the service. There was such a palpable difference on stage, the whole band were relaxed, more happy and freely leading and worshipping. The sound was noticeably better than the previous week, with a good balance between the instruments and voices, and a clear lead. The musicians were almost enjoying themselves! And all of this, just from keeping the doors closed for an extra 30 minutes or so.

I have subsequently contacted the relevant people to make this a permanent arrangement for our morning services, (one of the benefits of my role is that I can make decisions like this without several meetings with elders and planning teams…) as it is clear that it benefits all. Well, with the exception of the early arrivals waiting outside. But then, does anyone really need to be at church that early before the service? Cakes are only put our after the 10:15 service. And there are usually plenty.

Happy Band, Happy Man!

Now I’m aware I am possibly preaching to the converted. You probably do this already. If so, great. And drop me a line about some of the other things I need to know about! But, if this is a new concept to you, and you’ve had many months, maybe even years of an audience for your soundcheck and preparation time, I heartily encourage you to Keep It Shut before the service.