In an era where audio, video and lighting technologies cannot be ignored, churches are often challenged with determining what will work best to enhance their worship (and social) spaces while being careful to not distract from their message or community’s core identity.
How do churches prioritize what needs to be improved?
You may have the best technology in your city, but the wrong hands on the controls. Rather than immediately throw money at more equipment to fix distortion, video blur, or lights flickering, consult a professional to do an overall analysis of what you have, how it is being used and where the opportunities for improvement are in order to deliver your weekly production.
How do you combine new technology with old, dated equipment?
Be at peace knowing that nearly every piece of technology and equipment has a definite shelf life. As you upgrade, be strategic about what and why. It is often best to budget until you can purchase in complete phases so that you are not left with a repetitive cycle of sacrificing quality and longevity. But be mindful that some technology trends may look appealing, but may end up simply being a 15-minute fad, and will not bring you the value that you once thought.
How do you stay fiscally responsible?
The most responsible thing you can do is maintain the gear and equipment you have. All too often, a call for help comes after technology has failed. Whether your budget is modest or has 5 or 6 zeroes, be proactive before you have to invest in new technology. Protect what you have, educate your human resources and seek out a professional firm.
Understanding which areas of technology are more scalable than others is also very helpful. For example, audio is probably the least scalable, compared to video and lighting, especially in regard to the worship center’s main PA. If you do not get your main PA right the first time, you will always be chasing an ever elusive “sound” with each piece of gear that you purchase. In contrast, lighting is the most scalable, provided your lighting control console has expansion space. Adding lights, realigning zones and reconfiguring your lighting plot is very simple to do with proper guidance and instruction.
How do you achieve a responsible audio environment?
Get a true sense of the baseline decibel level by metering just the stage monitors, guitar amps and drums, experimenting first without the PA on to identify the loud source(s).
Depending on your stage layout and building accessibility, relocating amplifiers to a controlled environment or room off stage with an appropriate mic can be a huge relief for your audience, and puts total control into the hands on the console. If you cannot relocate equipment, consider isolating them with a method of sound absorption. In some cases, shielding acoustic drums and setting up a strategic overhead mics along with a kick and snare mic can cut the cymbal splash to tolerable levels in the front row while still being heard through the house mix in the back row.
Most of the noise coming off the stage is a result of live monitoring battles. Every signal push to one monitor tends to lead to a greater signal push to another, as each person instinctively will want to be heard above the other. Many churches are introducing personal monitor systems for their musicians and worship leader but are keeping the standard floor wedges for backing vocals.
Lastly, ask yourself if your musicians are using the right equipment and if they know how to play it with fluency? If the musician’s source is reliable, the result can more easily be improved. However, you are only as good as your weakest player; your mix depends on solid signals from well-played musicians and their respective instruments (a click track may help, too).
How should you approach technology in different types of spaces?
Many of today’s churches are moving into repurposed buildings (e.g. retail stores, mixed-use complexes, etc.) that were not originally designed to easily accommodate the demands of audio, video and lighting. Similarly, other churches are challenged with trying to modernize their aging, traditional worship settings. Also more common are church start-ups that simply need portable solutions for rented or temporary facilities.
The emphasis should be on determining the best solution that will complement your church’s culture and help you stay true to your own identity. Be honest and confident about your church’s community, there will surely exist a smart combination of technology available to fit within whatever walls you occupy.
How should we handle staffing for technology?
Someone needs to be in charge of maintenance, training volunteers and evaluating the life of your equipment. If you rely heavily on volunteers, you need to keep in mind what your expectations are, and, most of all, where your boundaries are. In order to best serve volunteers within this area, someone dedicated to lead and provide hospitality for volunteers is crucial to their spiritual growth and avoiding burnout along the way. Further, be prepared to tackle the ever-delicate question of “At what point do you need to start paying your volunteers for their efforts?” Revisit your holistic mission to help determine if your decision has already been made up for you.
How much technology is too much?
If the message of your church has become solely image or band-based, you may have already missed something along the way. It is important to ensure that the delivery of your message does not become the message. That being said, be sure that you are staying relevant and using current technology to ensure that your audience does not perceive that the church might be slow to adopting what’s necessary.