steve ball

personal thoughts on family, faith and work

Archive for the month “January, 2012”

reflections on… january

The start of 2012 has been a series of ups and downs and we’re only a month in!  I tend to remember the downs clearer than the ups, so I thought each month I would look at the positives and things I can be thankful for – not to dismiss the negatives as unimportant, but I know that at the end of the year I will remember them more than the the positives if I don’t write the down.

Family:  I am truly blessed to have a fantastic family – both immediate and extended.  It’s easy to take something for granted when it is a constant in your day to day life, but that’s one of the strengths of my family – it is a constant.  Speaking with my sister last week, she commented that our families are pretty similar – probably slightly boring – but boring can be good!  I’ve had some interesting chats with dad over the weeks which has been great, and also helped him play sudoku (which he is still better than me at!). Mum has had loads of support from family (especially her sister) which has helped with looking after dad.  Barbara and I went on a lovely walk together, which was great just spending time being on our own, chatting and ‘doing lunch’.

Faith:  Church life quickly springs back into action after the busyness of Christmas and we have had some good times.  Our monthly ‘Overflow’ service was great with lots of people being spoken to.  We had our first Worship Team training session a couple of weeks ago which I was really pleased with – mainly seeing new people emerge and take new things on, and doing them very well!  This I find exciting!  We continue to meet as a Leadership Team each week, and I’m sure God has lots of blessings in store for our church throughout the coming year.  I am thankful for an incredibly supportive Worship Team and Leadership Team.

Work:  I started a Level 5 Diploma in Management this month (with Barbara) and I’m up to date with all that I need to do which is a relief – we are only a few weeks in though!!  I am working on a couple of large and interesting projects at the moment which should keep me busy for the next few months on top of my usual responsibilities.  My teaching continues to  be as busy as I need, which is amazing considering the financial pressures on many households.  I am blessed to have two jobs that, for the vast majority of time, I enjoy.  (I don’t think there is any job that is always perfect if you’re dealing with people!)

So… ups and downs in January, yes – but still a huge amount to be thankful for.

Highlights of the month…
  • Going out with Barbara for a walk and lunch.
  • Forgetting I was leading at church last Sunday and being told two minutes before the service started was not good – but it certainly made me rely of God which is always a highlight!

Points to ponder…

  • Do you take time to think on the blessings as much as the more difficult times?
  • What are you thankful for in January?
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what is worship?

This was a question I was asked several years ago, just before being asked to head up the worship at my previous church.  After much thought, I came up with a definition which, at the time, surprised the church leader.  I am a musician, and music plays a vital role in our worship (especially corporate worship) but my definition has no mention of music at all.  Worship is so much wider than music alone.

I would define worship as ‘The unselfish, conscious act of giving adoration to God’.

‘unselfish’ – it is not about us, or how we feel.  It is not about somehow getting recognition for what we are doing.  It is all about Jesus, and ensuring that whatever our act of worship is, it detracts from us and focussing on Him.  If our personal worship becomes a distraction to others, we have to watch that we are not acting selfishly and therefore preventing someone else from worshipping.

‘conscious’ – worship (certainly corporately) is a conscious, or deliberate, act.  It is difficult to worship ‘by mistake’ during our Sunday services.

‘act’ – worship is something that requires us to do something.  Whether that’s singing, giving thanks to God, dancing, drawing or any other number of activities that could be defined as worship – all are actions.  I don’t know how we could worship by doing nothing.

‘giving’ – worship is not about asking or getting, it’s about giving.  Too often we can leave a service and say something like ‘the worship didn’t do much for me today’.  We have missed the point of what worship is.

‘adoration’ –  worship is about expressing our love, gratitude, devotion, respect to God.

‘to God’ – our worship must always be God centred.  It is not about us.  We can strive to excel in what we do to in the worship team, but this should be in order to give God the glory – not to gain attention or accolade from others.

It strikes me as interesting that the last mention of worship in the Bible is also about keeping the focus on God and not on anything/anyone else – Revelation 22:8-9 – where John gets ‘told off’ for worshipping the angel and told to worship God.

Below is a link to a great video called ‘The Gift Of Worship’, which I think summerises it up pretty well – it’s quite a challenging watch…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrmcKTzUdw8

As ever – I’m interested in your thoughts and comments on this!

capacity – not boxes

Yesterday I started a new qualification – a Level 5 Diploma in Leadership and Management.  Barbara is also doing the course, and it will be interesting to see how we approach the same issues from different perspectives.  Thankfully, assignments and alike are only marked as a pass or not, or there could be quite a competition going to see who could get the best marks!

I’ve not done any formal studying since I did my Certificate in Teaching (for music) six years ago, so the thought of assignments, a large project, and lots of self-reflection should be quite a challenge on its own.  Add to that, the fact that we are very busy with work, church, family and friends and you could wonder why we are doing it at all.

This raises the question of capacity and boxes.  A friend reminded me last month that we tend to think in terms of boxes all of the time.  If someone is doing lots of jobs, and has fingers in lots of pies, the inclination is to think they would have no time to do anything else.  Yet it doesn’t actually matter how many ‘things’ you are doing – what really matters is your capacity to do them.

For example, if my spare capacity is ten hours and I do five jobs that take two hours each, I have no capacity to take anything else on.  If I have ten hours spare capacity and do ten jobs that take half an hour each, I still have a lot of spare capacity, even though I fill more ‘boxes’.  Capacity can be measured in different ways too.  It’s easy to think of it in terms of time, but we all have an emotional, financial and social capacity, which are just as important.

If we think in terms of capacity, I think this gives us much more flexibility in organising our lives.  I’m pretty busy doing lots of things – some are related to others and some have no relationship at all – and on the face of it, entering into a full on, time consuming course would be a strange decision to make – especially with the uncertainty of dads health.  If I took the decision based on a ‘box’ mentality, I may not have gone ahead with course – one more thing to do – but my capacity to do the course (and the course structure) gives me the flexibility to do the work over time, and therefore (hopefully) I will have the capacity to do it.

One thing I’ve always said to people at church is that you can ask me to do anything – but don’t give me a hard time if I say no!   Whether I can fulfil their request or not wont be a question of how many other jobs I’m doing, but a question of capacity.

Points to ponder:

  • Do I assume that people who do lots do not have the capacity to do more?
  • Do I assume that do people who ‘appear’ to be doing not as much could actually be at full capacity?
  • If I didn’t put people in boxes, would this help them to develop their potential more?

benchmarks for being in the worship team

As discussed in an earlier post, I believe we should all be aiming to excel in what we do – both individually and as part of the worship team.  But having a musical benchmark that doesn’t enable new members to join easily really bothers me.  Maybe it’s my ‘music teacher’ background wanting to see students develop, but I’ve seen too many people get discouraged (or worse, hurt) over the years by being told they are not good enough.

I believe in being as inclusive as possible – but sometimes this can create more work for the person responsible for worship, which maybe why some worship leaders shy away from the challenge?  We also need to create an inclusive environment within the worship team, as it will usually not be as easy to play with musicians that are ‘less competent’. Below are my personal views about the musical benchmark, and I would be interested in other peoples approaches.

If someone comes to me and says they want to join the worship team, but can only play four chords, I think that’s great!  There is no rule that says every musician must play every song, so why not encourage the newcomer to join in the songs with the chords that he knows (or better still, show them how to use a capo and transpose the chords for them!).  You will be surprised how quickly they will want to learn more.  With this approach, you are setting the benchmark very low, but still encouraging someone to develop.  When I think about when I first started to play at church on my tiny Casio keyboard, I’m sure it wasn’t great – and I still make plenty of mistakes now!

I’ve also heard it said that someone can’t be in the band unless they have grade three or four on their instrument.  This is complete nonsense!  I once had a student come to me because he wanted to pass his Grade 8 piano. He was a brilliant music reader, but when I asked him to play ‘Happy Birthday’ by ear, he had absolutely no idea what to do (quite shocking!). On the other hand, I’ve had students who are not interested in exams who are extremely good musicians – they just haven’t got a certificate to prove it.  I would much rather have someone who is musical in how they play, and so can fit in with a band set up, rather than a ‘trained’ person who can only play what they see.

On a practical note (no pun intended!), I have used the process of ‘shadowing’ several times and it is really effective.  Get an experienced person – preferably with the same type of instrument – and let the newcomer join in with what they can, and if they go wrong, the more experienced person is there to take over straight away.  This method can be used with any instrument – even the drums.  I started two (now very good) drummers off with someone with a tambourine right next to them to keep them in time if they lost concentration.

In this post, I have only been talking about a musical benchmark.  There are other benchmarks for joining a worship team that are equally, if not more important which I may well go into another time.

Points to ponder:

  • What musical benchmarks do you set for your worship team – and why?
  • What other benchmarks should there be for the worship team?
  • If you have a higher benchmark, how can we ensure inclusivity?

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