Sunday, 31 July 2011

Hanging with the kidz

Today I have been setting up a site and tents ready for the start of the Newday youth camp which will have 6633 teenagers in attendance.

While I am here I will be blogging about this event at

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Judged - rejected, crushed, shunned, hurt, cast out, unloved

Judged is a short film of stories of people who were judged when they should have been loved.

Watching this can be hard and may bring up things in your life that have been hard to handle and there are no easy answers so I won't try and give them. I just hope that watching this will in some small way help.

A video of

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Admin Lessons - Planning

"If you fail to plan, you plan to fail", it's an old adage but a true one especially when it comes to achieving a vision, goal or even just a one-off event.

My job as the administrator at my church gives me a key part in leading the planning of our church events, ministries and strategy. We normally do this a year in advance, producing an annual plan for the church running from September to August.

I believe there are three key factors you need to focus on to be effective in planning - Aim, Process, Review

The clearer you are about where you want to get to - your vision - the easier it is to get there. Sounds such a simple common sense thing to do, but so rarely is it done.

So before you start to plan ask, "What do you want to achieve?". Whatever time frame you are planning for, do you have a vision of what success will look like if you get there. Another way of thinking about this is to imagine you are writing a summary looking back over what has happened in achieving your vision. What can you envisage writing about? If your vision is to see your small groups increase from 10 to 20 then looking back after getting to 20 groups we might see the highlights were the:
- small group training course(s) that successfully identified the leaders,
- the successful launching of new groups,
- the focus and priority of small groups in church life.

Developing activities, actions and strategies is easier if you can picture where you want to get to and start to visualise what you will need to do, consider, think about to get there.

Both the development of vision and the planning process itself will benefit from the widest possible inclusion of people.

Over the years the steps I have used to plan have changed and developed but the process I have found best is in three parts as follows:
Session 1 - very much sets the scene, paints the big picture, and generates ideas and actions
Session 2 - is the nitty gritty of details and choices
Session 3 - reviews the process and agrees the detail of output and actions

Session 1
Gather together as many as is possible of elders, ministry leaders and staff (ideally you have people covering evangelism, kids work, youth work, small groups, worship, social action, men, women, teaching, etc.)
Over the course of 2-4 hours you will:
- Review our long term goals and vision and what God has been saying to us?
- Decide on your priorities for this year?
- Agree the principles of planning- e.g. no more than X sat events in a month
- Generate list of ideas* for activities, events and actions to help us achieve our priorities (and vision)
- Map these ideas onto a year plan

* we can and do use last years plan and activities as a start point
NB - the output of Session 1 is written up and circulated for reading before Session 2

Session 2
Again as many as possible of the people from the first session should attend this next session.
This session should last about 1-2 hours where you will:
- Review the notes / big picture plan from the first session
- Work through the details:
   > are there any date clashes?
   > does it actually help our priorities / vision?
   > can we deliver it? over crowded diaries / not enough resources?
   > does it meet our planning principles?
- Check if you have missed anything? A chance to add other bright ideas!

Session 3
A final session reviewing changes from the previous session, probably just a core team needed for this part of the process.
This session will review:
- dates and activities.
- communication of plans - see my previous post on communication
- action list
- agree review points for the plan over the course of the year

If you have a goal and a plan of how to move towards achieving that goal. It is madness if you wait until you've done everything or got to the end of your plan to see if it has been successful.

W Edwards Deming the man who is generally credited with helping the revival of the Japanese economy after World War II taught people, amongst many other things, about the PDCA cycle, Plan - Do - Check - Act.
After planning and starting to work on or towards your goal we should study how we are doing. Is it working? Do we need to refine things? This leads to action which is planned and so the cycle continues.

Does this sound too business like for a church? What if I was to replace the word Check with the word Listen - listen to God, listen to what any measures may be telling you, listen to what the church says (the wisdom of the crowd).

How often you review things probably depends on how long you are planning for. If you are planning for the year Sept-Aug, review in Jan/Feb then again around Easter. The Easter review could immediately precede or be part of the start of planning for the next year.

In summary...
No system or process for planning is perfect and can it always be improved. But being systematic whilst being open to change gives you a framework to achieve your vision, God willing :-). I would love to hear your thoughts and comments on planning, what works, your struggles, what you think of my structure, and anything else.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Oslo Tragedy

Watching and listening to the news over the weekend it was hard to imagine what it must be like for the people of Norway, especially the hundreds if not thousands directly effected by this tragedy.

This video brings across the shock of the event and the spirit of the people. Norway may the peace of God be with you.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Introductions and Communion

This post is for preachers, worship leaders, and church leaders but hopefully of interest to the rest of us.

How you introduce anything sets the scene, gives it its foundation and hopefully captures the attention and interest of those being spoken to. I believe Rob Bell is a master at this and below is an audio clip (6 minutes) from his last message at his church, Mars Hill Bible Church*. He does a number of things in this introduction. - welcomes people, tells them what he will be preaching on, uses humour to engage people - but most importantly he talks about the communion they will take at the end of meeting (0:57-2:52).

I've heard Rob introducing communion before usually at the end of a message leading to a time of ministry, which he does at the end of this message as well. This time he shares the centrality of communion to Mars Hill and the importance they give it. What struck me personally is the depth this act can bring us into God's love. I found myself wanting to respond to invitation. It made me think do we just go through the motions with communion, should it have a higher place in our gatherings?

So if you are a preacher, worship or church leader why not listen to this clip a few times, if only as exercise in learning from a great communicator (listen to the wonderful prayer he says before he starts the message 4:16-5:44). I pray that we would all see more and more of the depth of this great sacrament that we have been given.

* no the other Mars Hill, yes there are two!

Friday, 15 July 2011

Six Things - Matthew Squirrell

Matthew Squirrell is about to get married, to the lovely Esther Barfoot, this Saturday in fact!

Matthew is a Director of property recruitment firm Dove & Hawk. In his spare time he is part of the Community Church youth team and is also to be found treading the boards in the Newport Amateur Theatrical Society. Matthew directed their last pantomime "Babes in the Wood" to critical acclaim (oh no he didn't, oh yes he did!).

One thing worth getting out of bed for
My friends. They do life with me and they are great company and so much fun. My best friends know EVERYTHING about me. It's a good thing.

One thing about myself that that often obstructs me
My enthusiasm to do too many things can some times be an issue. On more than one occasion I have made myself ill by doing way too much. The problem is that I get most of my energy when I'm around others and I love spending time with others; it just means that all of a sudden I can come to a halt.

One thing I've learned the hard way
Honesty is ALWAYS the best policy. Lying means you have to remember what you lied about, and often you find yourself trapped in your own web of lies. Always tell the truth even when it hurts, is something I've learnt the hard way.

One things that gets under my skin
Gossip! I don't like it. I suppose it's because I've seen the damage it can do. Over the past couple of years I've tried my hardest to stop doing it and asking others to stop it when I'm around. If you're not part of the problem or not part of the solution you don't need to talk about it!

One thing I'd love to change
People's view of church! Have you ever seen the Mr Bean sketch of him in church falling asleep? Hilarious episode, but at the same time that's actually what people think about God & Church; that he/it's boring, sleepy, weak and out dated. I hope to change the worldly view of our powerful, active, loving God and his church by living my life his way and stepping out in obedience!

One thing I hope for
My family, friends and work colleagues to meet Jesus & get saved! It's a big part of my prayer list! 

Six Things is a series of micro-interviews with interesting and creative people,
in which they’re asked to respond to a standard set of six prompts.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Today - one photo every day

Following on from my last post I thought I would share this film and website I discovered.

Jonathan Harris turned 30 on 27th Aug 2009 and decided to take one photo everyday and posting it to his website

He turned these photos into a short and quite evocative film. I hope you enjoy it and that its creativity will stir yours.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Interesting things I've seen this year

This year I have decided to try to look out for things that interest, amuse or inspire me and capture those images. When you look at these photos like these what do you see? What does it make you think, feel? There are no right answers, or rather everyone has an answer which is right for what they see. Doesn't what we see reflect what is in our hearts, and maybe what is in God's? If I could have recorded every 'interesting' thing I came across this year there would tens of thousands, no tens of millions of images. Every smile, laugh, tear, person, creature and creation has something of the divine in them. Enjoy discovering your interesting things today, tomorrow and the rest of your life.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The wisdom of crowds

Recently at church a word* was brought about there being "wells of wisdom" in people and these wells need to be released to serve the wider body. It just so happens that I had started to read a book called The Wisdom of the Crowd by James Surowiecki. The premise of the book is that the diversity and mixture of a large group comes to better decisions than a small number of experts time and time again - hence the crowd has wisdom.

To include many or the majority of people in any decisions or involvement in an organisation can be hard and even seen as just wrong. In leadership terms it seems counter intuitive. We think of the best leadership as strong, clear, leading ahead, setting the direction and coming from the few key leaders or indeed the one main leader who holds the vision for the organisation. But if Surowiecki is right then this is not the wisest course of action, to keep all decisions to the few or the one person - the crowd would help make better decisions.

So how do we release the wisdom of the crowd (those wells that we all have) in a church or indeed any organisation? I have some thoughts but not many and I 'm only half way through the book! I do think that this is something that we need to look at and investigate as our society (our communities and organisations) become both more fragmented (and disconnected from leadership) and at the same time more instantly connected (often through social media - facebook, twitter et al).

What do you think?

* "a word" is what Christians would describe as a prophetic word - a feeling, picture or idea that a person believes is inspired by the Holy Spirit. Funnily enough the bible talks about the weighing or interpreting of these is to be done by the crowd! (1 Cor 14:29)