Expensive Equipment … Lousy Sound?

Here’s an interesting story I’ve heard told several times by several different churches over the past month.

A church invests in a brand new sound system (one church spent $125,000!) and everyone unanimously agrees on one thing: The sound is horrible.

You can imagine the drama of spending a ton of money only to have what you spent it on work 10 times worse than what you had before. What’s going on?

Growing pains.

Churches are discovering the complexities of modern worship. In other words, you can’t have a new mixing console that resembles the cockpit of the space shuttle and expect a volunteer to (ever) be able to get it to work right.

Here’s a potential scenario: A church of 500 managed just fine on their less-than-cutting-edge sound system. Rotating volunteers could easily manage the knobs and sliders to get a decent sound. Then the church starts growing into megachurch territory—shooting up to 2,200, maybe moving into a new building. The new state-of-the-art sound system is rolled into the loan of the new church, and on the grand opening they end up with music that sounds like it came out of a tin can. They haven’t yet realized they can’t invest in pro equipment without hiring a pro to run it.

Soundmen are the new hot commodity in the megachurch world. I know of one megachurch that just hired an excellent soundman away from another megachurch—they’re paying him $60,000 a year and he was making $30,000.

And, boy, does a pro make a difference. I visited a local megachurch a few years ago on Easter Sunday and heard absolutely the worst sound I’d ever heard in a church. A ministry of this size should have known better—tinny, bright frequencies that hurt my ears and no bass. A few years later, they hired a worship leader who “gets it”—one of the first things he did was hire a full-time soundman. The next time I visited, I was stunned—I experienced the best church sound mix I’ve ever heard, and they were using the exact same equipment—only run by someone who knew what he was doing.

Bottom Line: Megachurch worship costs more than you think.  

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Arranger/composer Don Chapman is the creative energy behind several websites devoted to contemporary worship: HymnCharts, WorshipFlow, and WorshipIdeas.com. He's the editor of the weekly WorshipIdeas newsletter that is read by over 50,000 worship leaders across the world.