A “Sound” Investment of God’s Money
Given your church’s growth plans over the next three to five years, are your audio, visual and lighting systems working for you, or against you?
A pivotal element of growth is your ability to communicate a meaningful message that is relevant to your church’s members and visitors – in a way that meets or exceeds their expectations of worship. Not only will the right media systems minimize distractions and keep attention focused on the message, but they provide new resources for creativity in your ministry. As a result, the right systems will create a greater impact for all of your ministry’s efforts, which has a direct impact on growth.
In contrast, the wrong systems can chase visitors away. An inferior audio system can garble the spoken word so that visitors can’t even hear the message. Worse still, if your speakers have overlapping coverage that blows out the eardrums of anyone sitting in a few select areas, then members will know to avoid those sections, leaving the worst-sounding space wide open to newcomers. If your lighting fails to eliminate distractions, visitors will not be able to focus on the worship. Those who prefer to hide in the back may even feel completely disconnected from the services because they can’t see or hear what’s going on at the platform.
Many churches are aware of these problems in their media systems, while others uncover new issues when a new pastor or music director comes on board with a laundry list of concerns. As a result, it seems that a vast number of churches try to “fix” their communications systems every three to five years by adding new components in a piecemeal fashion. In most cases, this is like trying to use a Band-Aid to fix a broken leg.
Yet churches who decide to invest in the right sound system avoid the recurring hassles and costs of piecemeal “fixes,” and a new pastor or music director will never complain about well-designed media systems that provide great musicality, clarity and coverage. Following are some tips to help you avoid the most common pitfalls in the media system selection process.
Staff your committees with the right people.
Give an equal voice to representatives of your technical, music, ministry and financial staff – don’t let one set of needs dominate the others. Even if you have benefactors who are willing to underwrite the total media system investment as long as you do it their way, it’s not worth compromising your church’s goals.
Protect the AV budget.
When other expenses in the build or renovation project exceed projections, everyone wants to cut back the AV system budget. It’s tempting to think that reducing your media system investment by 25 percent will simply slow growth by the same rate; however, an inferior system may create problems that chase visitors out of your church altogether!
Don’t compromise on quality.
There’s a good reason why you’ll find top-of-the-line equipment such as EAW speakers and Crown amps in major performance halls and touring production rigs, and not simply the gear that garage bands use. The quality of your communication is only as good as your sound reinforcement. The right system components aren’t necessarily the most expensive – but you’re not likely to find them at your local music store in the mall. Some manufacturers will even help design the right system for your space.
Consult with an expert.
Talk to a reputable media consultant with expertise in the needs of churches, and in the landscape of technologies and service providers who can help you achieve your goals on time and on budget. A trustworthy consultant will save you countless research hours and even reduce your total system costs.
In the short and long term, the right communications system will improve your ability to connect with visitors, while eliminating the ongoing cost and hassle of revisiting the same issues every few years. Best of all, between expert design assistance and high-quality equipment, the right system can easily help your church achieve its goals for up to ten or fifteen years.
One outstanding example of this is the First United Methodist Church of Tulsa, Oklahoma – which was finally able to solve the sound reinforcement problems that have plagued the church since its dedication in 1928. With walls of solid stone and stained glass, the interior aesthetics have always been too beautiful to cover up with acoustical panels, but all the hard surfaces echoed sound and, as a result, garbled the spoken word. But the church leaders were committed to solving the problem once and for all. They stuck to a budget that included expert design assistance, quality equipment and reputable installers.
As a result of working with true experts who understood the project goals, the church became one of the first in the country to install EAW’s new DSA series loudspeakers. The new equipment uniquely steers the signal at the congregation, not the walls – thereby eliminating the echoes without the need for acoustical panels that would mar the aesthetics of the space. For the first time in more than 75 years, the church sounds as pristine as it has always looked – and that makes a big difference for members and visitors who are no longer straining to hear the message.
Brandon, Florida’s Bay Life Church made a similar commitment to quality during the design/build project of a facility expected to last at least five to ten years. Because the church wanted to make the most of every year that it planned to be in the facility – not simply “make do” for the first few years – the project leaders invested in a relationship with a consultant who took the time to understand the church’s present situation and future goals.
For Bay Life, choosing the right system meant selecting top-of-the-line equipment, like EAW speakers, Crown amps and a Soundcraft console, all sized to fit the space, the worship style, and the goals for system expansion. The result has been great-sounding services that truly make an impact. Better still, the right system didn’t break the bank – and by doing it right the first time, church leaders avoided the hassle and cost of constant changes. The media system is powerful and flexible enough to serve the church’s needs for at least the next ten years, if not longer – with the only likely expenses being complementary enhancements, as opposed to overhauls or replacements.
Whatever your church’s technical challenges, make sure you treat your media system investment as one key opportunity to do right by your congregation – and your visitors. While members may tolerate ongoing problems, a visitor will give you exactly one chance to share God’s message with them. Compromising on quality may shave a few dollars off the project; but it’s a gamble that risks not only your church’s ability to grow, but your visitor’s ability to receive the message.
Pledge to resolve the technical issues in your media systems, and do it right the first time. God’s money is worthy of “sound” investment – especially when it directly impacts your ability to spread His word. Three to five years from now, you won’t miss the recurring challenges: you’ll be too focused on managing your church’s growth.