Have a stage manager / organiser
Just recently we were due to perform at an event. Unfortunately the band at the event spent nearly an hour sound checking (did their whole set and some) so it meant we weren’t able to mic check, sound check. Then, with 20 mins to go with people inside the venue, the band finished enough for us to rehearse. Unfortunately the mic check didn’t work well with a mic refusing to work! So we didn’t perform.
The lessons we learned from the sound engineer was to have a stage manager for larger scale events. This means that people know when to arrive, who practices when and which songs. It means that not only the event needs scripting (as mentioned below) but also the rehearsal time.
Have one organiser
One thing we learned at the last event we were involved with was that we need one organiser. When I run an outreach event, everything should run through me (it doesn’t always in practice) but the actual planning of the event comes from me and is sorted on the day by me. Why? Because you need one central person. At one event, I was one of 4 people who had a say in the organising it with little structure. Bad idea. The result was the lack of soundcheck (see above). The band were then left waiting outside a church for 25 minutes and things didn’t go so well.
In addition, you should be aware that duplication of roles in the interests of involvement and politics needs careful management. Accept hassle from people about one person leading an event if the event works smoothly. But don’t alienate or dominate. Involve but lead clearly.
Depending on what you are doing, you’ll need a list of what you are going to need. For our own event, this meant assembling lots of technical equipment. Note the technical side is often a prime target for spiritual attack. Pray before setting up and during. It is worth it!
Have a script
It didn’t take us long to realise that we all needed a script and a plan of what went where and when. Everyone needs one of these before the night starts. More than that, it must be clear enough so everyone knows where you are in relation to the script. Practice going through – the movements, staging, positions etc. It will be worth it.. We now script events and have provisional scripts given out a month before. We email out something with different columns – timings, cues. You should even decide on mic changes and who uses which mic at larger events.
The latest developments in scripting is that we now have cues for lighting, audio, visuals. We have a stage plan of where things will be, what lights will shine where and when. The timings are quite important so for the visuals and programmed stuff we plan and script the timings. I also visit the place where the event will take place and we stage manage and assess the venue. We are increasingly working as a professional outfit and yet taking on board and training up suitable interested young people.
Plan in advance
I can’t express this strongly enough. You must plan, advertise and gain support in advance. The time period is up to you but I would advise nothing less than a month unless it’s a rolling monthly event with a steady team! Get the church(es) on side, the leadership, the young people, youth and children’s leaders, the church secretary, the local Christian book shop etc!
Get yourself a good, enthusiastic and able team. We have always used young people but have had experienced and capable leaders there to lead and over time, train the young people. Unless you have to, don’t go it alone. It leads to great tiredness and may harm the impact of the event. I have learned to delegate to trusted team members. Be careful how you choose your team but remember it is a flexible and dynamic process. Apart from me, my teams have changed for each event
Our last event saw us using a computer for live visuals, a video projector, a sound system with sub bass, a lighting rig with faders, smoke machine, DJ, rappers, band, video clips, talks and so on.. it was massive. We now have a full run through the week before the next event to get lighting, computer and sound cues correct and smooth. For the rap/r&b songs we gave out CDs and mp3s with the original tunes, instrumentals etc. out to people a couple weeks before.
This is essential and will make a difference. You can critique what happens, check technical equipment, look at your own performances and get placement, links and more up to highest standards to help improve the event.
It’s very important to communicate your expectations to those involved before the event. If you are getting in people from outside the normal ‘circle’ this is especially important. What are you trying to achieve, any rules, child protection, behaviour, what is expected from them etc.
This is real simple and is said elsewhere but use people according to giftings. Help people develop them, especially young people, especially where they are keen and willing. Be honest if you don’t think the gifting is there or won’t develop but offer alternatives and support.
Consider actively using young people please! It’s so good for them and they will usually respond. Make the whole process fun! We involve 12 young people from our church for each event and they are awesome. Get young people to perform, lead the event through, in talks (with training and feedback), help set up and down, do the lighting and computer work! At more recent events they have done visual work, worked on filming, acting, storyboarding videos, led worship, done filming on the night, and loads more roles. Over time we have involved other young people from the other city churches.
As you involve others the administrative task grows ever larger. We are seriously considering setting up a new ministry to cope with the demands of what we do. I guess each event is taking me personally a month full-time work, support and admin. However, it is worth it!
Involving other churches
Are you going to do this? How? Think about the advantages and disadvantages. Advantages are that the load is shared, you utilize other skills and share ownership and can increase numbers etc. The disadvantage is that the visions can be clouded by too many opinions, it can be extremely hard to practice involving other leaders and young people from other churches, and people often want a say but don’t want to do the work! In time you get to know your team though and begin to build a competent and effective team.
Will you consult the leadership of the local churches ? We actively kept local leaders informed through a youth team representative.
Appoint specific roles to specific people. Lighting; sound; publicity; advertising; graphics and dynamic media; chairs; lifting and lugging; prayer (we’ll come to this later); games; the up front stuff; on the door/stewards/car park etc; people making and buying stuff. Have people there in good time.
The prayer team is the engine house, the place where the ‘business is done’. Get the church prayer warriors behind your vision. Get other churches behind you. Get them there on the day in another room – the same room – both! Ask them to pray for an hour before and an hour after as well as through. Too much? Not if you’ve caught the vision or have a heart for young people or prayer! Without the prayer team it’s not even worth having an event. Make space in your day for a specific and team prayer time.
We also meet in the local area to prayer walk the day before. This brings in all kinds of people from across the churches of all ages, young and old, and the rest of us somewhere in between 😉
Leave yourself enough time to set up (and down) on the day. Plan the times carefully. Revelation used to be from 7.30-9.30 or around those times, on Saturdays or Sundays, so we could set up and set the stuff down before it got too late. As an example, in our set up with sound, stage, TV and lighting, it would take a good 3-5 hours to set up as we weren’t practiced in doing it quickly. Give yourself time in case equipment goes wrong or you need to buy new leads etc!
If you haven’t got PA equipment, you need to consider what you need. If possible, ask other people in other churches. Better to have a trusted Christian (hopefully!) than you may consider taking on the risk of hiring from secular companies who know much more than you! Even better (well, it should be), get Christians in!
Speakers; all the necessary leads; a power amp (the power for the sound); a mixing desk (so you can have lots of things on the go at once); foldback monitors (speakers positioned on the front of the stage which relay the sound to people on stage – absolutely essential); microphones (spare batteries if you use radio mics). I would stress the importance of getting the very best you can. Don’t accept second best unless you have to. Remember that equipment is built up over time and the more you involve others, the more you can share equipment. Honour God by the best in every area you can. We use a professional sound engineer with increasingly high end equipment. Good speakers and a good ear for sound can much a huge difference. Huge.
The lights and stands if needed; all necessary leads; spare bulbs and coloured filters; a lighting mixer (these come from basic on/off ones to ones that dim and do fancy effects with your lights); what about a smoke machine (enough smoke in there?) or other special FX lights (often called ‘gobos’ for example – these are the ones that change colours/patterns). Lasers are much more expensive but recommended for very large venues. Practice lighting and make sure the performers are in enough light for the audience to see them. Show the performers where to stand to be ‘in the light’. Practise with the smoke machine too. Remember that lighting may have to be brighter than you may expect if you are filming as cheaper cameras don’t handle low light well. You should be able to hire basic lighting for around £35-£100.
Other technical equipment
If you can, use a good video projector. If you do use a video projector and it’s not a very modern one, you’ll need to make sure the lighting is very dim otherwise the picture may not be very clear.
Feeling more adventurous? Mix live video feeds and computer visuals via a special video mixer or video software on a computer. Both expensive.
When you’re not playing any specific visuals, use things like iTunes visuals in the background.
Again, we now have stuff committed to DVD or hard drive, with words, timed and professionally created. It may take time to get to this stage but keep on going and learning.
If you intend to film the event a few pointers. Firstly, have more than one camera if possible, from different angles. If you intend to have a roving camera on the night, make sure the person filming is in black and doesn’t get in the way of people enjoying themselves or worshipping. Be careful filming if there are children involved. Second, plan your camera shots before. This may entail scripting camera shots. Third, train anyone doing camera work to not zoom in and out all day or mess with the focus or effects. Fourth, get a decent tripod and don’t pay less than around £100. Some cheap stands make panning very jerky and noisy. Use as high quality equipment and settings as you can.
And remember that good sound often covers even poor filming whereas bad sound can’t be covered over by a high quality video! So if you’re recording sound, don’t use a camera mic but use specialist mics or use a lavalier mic attached to a USB recorder.