Are you amazed as I am about how fast technology increases? Back in 2001, more information could be sent over a single cable in one second than in 1997 was sent over the entire Internet in a month. As well, 220 million tons of old computers and other technological hardware are trashed in the United States each year.
Whether we want to except it or not, our churches are part of this statistic. In America, our churches are in quest for a standard of technological excellence. There are many who have achieved this standard, but far more who have not. This article is not about whether it is right or wrong for churches to pursue technology. It is about those churches who are in pursuit of it and not finding it.
I myself am a volunteer at my church, were each Sunday we load all the audio gear into a rented school gymnasium, were I setup and run a 16 channel mix (from on stage), sing, play guitar and keyboard and lead the praise and worship team. Talk about a challenge. Right in the middle of a song, I have to leave my mic, stop singing and stop playing the guitar, motion with the spinning arm in a circle motion to my bass player, singer, and flute player to “keep going”, while I turn around and adjust the screeching mix, while the drummer didn’t get the hand sign and stops playing. That pretty much quenches anything that is going on. This scenario is not the case for many churches who have their own worship facility and are not faced with an installation every Sunday.
Legend Theatrical, Inc., a Scotts Valley California based Lighting Design, audio/video, staging, rental company spends a great deal of it’s time with churches emphasizing on integrated media systems. Dave Dunning, CEO of Legend Theatrical, inc. says, “Many churches and schools that we meet with want to look at all the options available to them, from new installations of audio, video and lighting systems to upgrading their current systems with newer technology. We look at the most cost effective way to introduce new technology and improve existing conditions, and/or assist them in refurbishing their antiquated systems.”
Technology changes fast. The very equipment going into churches today will be outdated within two years. Many churches I have been in have; arcing wires, blinking stage lights (not intentionally programmed), muddy unintelligible sound, and lighting systems that drain money from the churches electric bill.
Unfortunately, what I am seeing happen is that many Pastors are asking their “Sound Booth” volunteer to go on-line to websites and try to find inexpensive equipment. Oh yeah, don’t forget to make sure they have free delivery. The result is a cheap stack of components, hooked up wrong, that will most likely need to be replaced within a year or so, if they even use the gear. And at best, one or two “Sound Booth” volunteers will actually know what the gear does and how to use it. What is happening in essence is that the funds being given by the congregation to further the vision and take steps toward “Excellence” are being misused and the “good steward” is needing help.
Another issue that I’ve seen in many churches, as they grow, are that they are very eager to incorporate video into their services. They can offer it to the congregation and the on-line community via streaming video and Pod-Casts. The problem that has arose is that many churches have spent very large amounts of money on video cameras, switchers, monitors, screens and recording systems, only to find out that their Pastor is blue or orange and is distorted. In turn, the Pastor, who just spent truck loads of money for new technology looks at the video volunteer and says, “what happened, fix it”? He don’t know the answer because it’s a lighting issue, which the video sales company neglected to inform them on. And that’s where the money pit factor kicks in. The Pastor wants it fixed because he don’t like the new color of blue that his skin has become. So more money goes into fixing what could have been prevented in the beginning if the church would have hired professional technical designers. Legend Theatrical states, “we fix and undo” many permanent installations of audio/video and lighting systems that were supposedly “professionally” installed. The result, the church was taken down the “Good-Old-Boy my friend knows how to do this stuff” road.
Suggesting and implementing ways to help save money on their electrical utility bills is appealing to pastors and congregations involved in a rebuild or upgrade. By converting and/or supplementing many conventional lighting systems with low power consumption, high-output LED lighting technology is the route many churches are taking.
I once assisted a church that had professional front of house mains and sub woofer cabinets installed. Their problem was sound quality. They had spent thousands of dollars on audio equipment, but the installation company failed to set gain structures on the console, tune the room and do acoustic measurements, resulting in a muddy, tone and quality deficit empty processed sound. This facility even had a digital speaker management system in place that turned on but never programmed. Unfortunately, factory defaults won’t cut it. Pastors should make sure that after a installation, in-depth training follows were all volunteers are shown how to tech the gear.
I even heard a story recently were an audio contractor was called into a church to see why their sound was so horrible. Upon the site visit, looking at the sound console and equalizer, to his amazement, all the faders were arranged in a beautiful curving sine wave looking pattern on both the console and the EQ. When asked if these were the current settings, the response received from the “Sound Booth” volunteer was very comical. “This is what the picture on the boxes looked like, so we put’em this way.” That is why it is important to have a technology design team come along side you, in the beginning, and who will also provide your team training. What good is it to have your church spend the money on technology only to have it fall prey to the, “that’s what the picture on the box looked like.”