While today’s church audio technology allows for tremendous potential it also can present tremendous problems. Simple systems that always worked now need a bit more skill and dedication to keep operating. Sound is a vital aspect of any church ministry. Whether large or small, the ability to hear in whatever presentation venue you use is one of the core components of what churches do week in and week out. Auditoriums are designed around the ability for those sitting in them to see and hear. This month we are focused on hearing. (In the December issue we will focus on seeing.)
The technology that goes into hearing continues to grow in complexity. Gone are the days of a simple signal path from a microphone, to a mixer, to an amplifier, to a speaker. Today’s Sound is digital, zipping across IP networks as data — not analog sound waves.
These days, churches can’t rely exclusively on in-house sound volunteers. Experts are needed to make sure today’s complex systems are used well and without distraction. After all, the goal for a sound system should be “never be noticed.” No one should know it’s even there, but frequently it becomes an obvious distraction due to poor implementation. Sound is cool until it doesn’t work: during a church service — on a Sunday morning.
Another buzzword you hear thrown around a lot in tech and audio/visual circles is “convergence.” This is using network resources for audio/visual purposes. The concept is great, instead of buying one network switch for data and one network switch for sound, you use the same network switch for both. This saves money and it is supposed to provide the same level of reliability. Often times — again due to poor implementation — it doesn’t. This leads to churches spending twice what they need to. (Did I mention this gets complicated?)
The complexity of audio systems can also increase relational tension that already exists on both sides of the microphone. If the ministry teams on both sides of the mic aren’t working seamlessly, then high-tech sound only makes communication between people worse.
Don’t let complexity become the enemy of accomplishment. Determine what you need to accomplish your mission and then ensure your technology helps you to deliver the desired result. If your technology requires additional staff, either get the staff or use simpler technology. If your technology frustrates your teams, consider additional team training, or simpler technology. Don’t let the complexity drive you: the ministry and mission should drive the complexity.
Remember, on the Day of Pentecost thousands were saved without any sound systems, lighting, haze, projection, effects generators, converged audio systems, translation systems, or even electricity. They had the power of the Holy Spirit — and we do [too].