Rice Rally 2012 and the Culture of Teams

September 18, 2012 | In Church, Production, Tech

On the 20th of August, I had the great privilege of serving at this year’s Rice Rally, held at the Sydney Entertainment Centre. I was blown away at the work God did that night, when about 1/5th of the 3500+ audience walked out, and either decided to follow Jesus for the first time, or recommitted their lives to Christ.

A good friend of mine, the audio engineer for Sydney Christian band, Garage Hymnal, came along to check out what we were up to from near the end of sound check, through to the end of bump out when we started loading two trucks worth of production equipment. He made an interesting observation while we were waiting for the event to start, that I had been completely oblivious to; “Everyone is so calm!!!”. That proclamation was followed by a discussion of the production team and culture that I’d seen (and been a part of) at the Rice movement, compared to many other Christian events I’ve been involved with or seen run. We both agreed that Rice was one of the best run large-scale Christian events that either of us had seen.

After a bit of thought, I think there were two main factors why this was the case:

1. The production team was experienced and well equipped

I won’t be the first to point out that Rice Rally has a reasonably large budget (roughly $80 000), but I’m sure that this in itself is not the driving factor in why everything went so well.

Anyone with even a small amount of experience in production will tell you that if you get great people on board, you can deliver great results. As my friend and I chatted, we realised that many Christian events are run by people who only have  experience working inside the Sydney Christian ‘bubble’. These people often don’t have the same insight into how a professional production is run (sometime where big money is at stake). At Rice Rally, every team member serving on the production crew in a key leadership role (TV, Lighting, Audio, Stage Management) had experience in their area of expertise outside of a church environment. We had all worked in secular environments where we had gained invaluable experience that went beyond what can often be found in Christian production teams in Sydney.

We also had the budget for good communications equipment (on top of the professional audio/lighting/vision rig), so that the team could effectively get messages between all the different people involved, which undoubtedly is the most important part of any successful event.

2. Amazing Volunteers

As well as a great group of knowledgable, and technical, production team members we had a great team of volunteers.

When I arrived at 7am to begin unloading the truck, right through to when I left at 10:30pm as the truck was being loaded again, there were around 20 people willing to help. They were ready to do everything and anything we asked, and did it without complaining. Rally would not have run without all the volunteers – they helped us with man power, moving road cases, (un)rolling cable, placing equipment, labelling microphone cables and many other things that are simple, but time consuming. This enabled the production team to get on with jobs that required technical knowledge and made these jobs a lot easier. It also saved significantly on costs as we didn’t have to employ 20 people to do everything they did. I was simply blown away at how great and helpful all the volunteers were!

Upon looking back, I’m honestly not sure how my experience at Rally can be applied to other events I work on. I think a lot of what my experience highlighted is a culture from the top down, that wants to glorify God and produce a great event where Christians can bring their friends. It appears that the vision for the Rice Movement is communicated very effectively, and that people want to commit to the vision and serve in any way they can to make it a reality. In my opinion, this was the key to the success of Rice.

I certainly learnt a lot about leading volunteers, which I’ll address in another post, along with other things I’ve learn through working in a mixed (Christian/secular) environment at a later date. However, for now, I’d be interested in hearing other peoples’ experience in leading with volunteers, finding the right people for a team, and thoughts on how to motivate people to get on board and serve. Leave your comments in the area below!

Check out the Rice Movement!

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