Bob Dylan sang, “The times, they are a changin’.” This is true for Houses of Worship. For many, services and events don’t resemble anything from the past. Today’s modern church and services can be very different than those enjoyed by our parents or grandparents. Sitting on a hard pew like our parents and grandparents, listening to a sermon, doesn’t appeal to everyone today. We are a different people, living in a different culture, with different needs and priorities. People today learn and retain information differently. Churches with musical elements play the same music heard during the week on religious radio stations. In some cases, houses of worship rival secular concert halls.
The days of people just showing up to worship are over. We now have to worry about security and managing traffic flow during a mass evacuation. Churches need to provide a safe, welcoming environment, conducive to protecting large numbers of people during corporate worship.
Many churches are implementing the same concepts, math and sciences used by interior decorators, major corporations, educators and the entertainment industry. Therefore, churches are looking more and more like secular facilities providing professional child care services, education and entertainment. The only difference is the message.
Audiovisual systems consist of all things audio, video, lighting and staging. Audiovisual is key to creating an experience. Good or bad, this experience relays a message about the ministry of the church. That’s why Brent Handy, CTS, consultant, designer, engineer with Advanced Sound and Communication in Kansas City, Missouri, believes that bringing in a respected consultant in the first planning stage is most important.
“Audiovisual cannot be an afterthought,” Handy said. “It must be one of the first things considered. It is as important as the air conditioning, plumbing and electrical. We aren’t just concerned with what happens on the pulpit. We need to address everything that is audible or visual, indoors and out.”
“First impressions make a huge impact,” he continued. “Young families with children expect to have the same level of service as, if not better than, secular facilities. They desire a secure, properly staffed, sanitary, child care facility. They want to feel comfortable leaving their children in the hands of strangers. When the mother is guided through a computerized check-in process, handed ID tags and a vibrating pager, she receives the message that child safety is a priority. When the father sees digital signage displaying church floor plans or hears ushers and security teams communicating on radios, he feels relaxed enough to engage in worship.”
Handy offers a few tips which might be helpful in getting started in design and installation of a great church audiovisual system.
- Visit facilities similar to yours in geometry and seating capacity. Audiovisual systems are like heating and air conditioning systems, parking lot spaces, restrooms, etc. They can be broken down in a cost per seat. You will have a general idea of cost if you compare 3-6 systems in the same geographical area.
- Never be your own contractor. Since 1989, Handy said he has never, EVER had one church client do its own installation 100 percent correctly. He said Advanced Sound has always billed for more service hours to repair the damage, than if it had done the install.
- Select a contractor that is a legitimate business, not an individual working out of his home or van. Make sure the business is insured, bondable and staffed with full-time, insured employees. Many companies allow the church and local college students to provide labor. This is a HUGE liability for the church. It might save some money up front, if everything goes well. But, any on-site injury or death as the result of the work is the responsibility of the church. Make sure you will have a factory warranty by purchasing all of the equipment from a factory-authorized dealer in good standing.
- When you are dreaming of your new system or facility, have the consultant show you the math, computer modeling and other tools used to determine what they have recommended is the right tool for the job. If someone recommends 50-inch TVs, for a room that is 100-feet long, where elderly people sit in the rear, ask them to show you how they came up with that recommendation. A good consultant will be happy to share with you as much as you are willing to learn. It will solidify your relationship with the consultant and equip you for your meetings with committee members.
Handy said that when he and his crew at Advanced Sound & Communication are hired to provide audiovisual solutions, it’s typically the third time for the church to buy. The first system is usually a compromise in quality to meet the construction budget. These systems are often designed by someone who comes packaged with the architect. The second system is usually a band-aid to get the church by. These band-aids become permanent for decades. The third system ASC installs meets all their needs.
“It’s sad how often we see this occur,” Handy said. “How many people moved on from these churches because of poor sound and vision over the years? We hear of it happening frequently. We want to continue to help churches stop this from happening to them again.”