If you are part of your church tech team or even a pastor with no other staff, and you know that your sound system is in bad need of upgrading, it can be a difficult task to persuade your leadership team to spend the cash on a new church sound system installation.
Here are 8 good reasons I think that could be shared with a leadership team to highlight the need for upgrading church sound systems.
1)Enhance the preaching
Now if you have a bad preacher there probably isn’t much you can do about that, but assuming you have quality preaching it is a travesty that in so many churches, a great deal of effort goes into the preaching and preparation in prayer, only for the message not to be heard clearly because the PA system isn’t working correctly or is inadequate. If you can tweak things to make the preaching clearer, all the better, but sometimes you may come to the conclusion that the live sound gear you currently have just isn’t up to the job.
If preaching is central to our worship, then it is of the utmost importance that there is good sound coverage throughout the building and sanctuary and that everyone can hear.
2)Enhance the worship with better sound
There’s nothing worse than a worship band that is too loud, or has distorted instruments or voices. I have another posts about this very thing if you are interested click here. If worship music is meant to help the congregation to worship God, then it is difficult to do that if the church sound system itself is a big distraction. Some churches may just have an organ or piano, for leading the music. Others may have a worship band, which is technically more challenging for the sound tech guy. If you have singers, guitars, keyboards, drums, other acoustic instruments, it’s all got to work together and be heard clearly.
You may already have a great church sound system installation, but you realise that your microphones aren’t the best quality. And no amount of post-processing can make a bad microphone sound better. So it might be that for your situation, you may only need to update part of your system design to enhance your worship experience.
One part of the system design I see churches scrimping on all the time is loudspeakers, and I would probably argue that speakers are the #1 most important part of buying a new church sound system. If you bought cheap speakers, it might be that the one thing that could enhance your worship more than anything else is a quality set of loudspeakers. You will need to look at what you already have, look at overall church sound system cost and judge for yourself.
3)Obsolete Technology and Planning for the Future
Technology moves on at a rapid pace, but fortunately for us, audio equipment tends to progress slower than other forms of tech e.g. the Sure SM58 vocal mic design is 50 years old and still one of the best you can have! , vintage valve amplifiers are still ‘the’ thing to have if you are an electric guitarist. (See just how much audio technology has changed) Power amplifiers haven’t changed a great deal over the past 30 years or so either. Having said that, there are things within audio world that are improving and being upgraded all the time; powered speakers, digital mixers, digital DI boxes, wireless microphones, iPad mixing apps, recording tech.
There will, however, be a need from time to time to upgrade your church sound equipment. Some equipment may be so old that if it develops a fault, it would be very difficult to get repaired. Other equipment such as VHF wireless microphones may not be able to be used for much longer because governments are selling off the channels that you currently use. A digital mixer may be the most expensive part of a new church sound system, but the step up from an analog mixing console can make life a whole lot easier and has many added features that can make other things, such as effects units, redundant – click here to read my church audio guide..
So there are all kinds of reasons why you need to plan ahead for the future, but it’s not so easy to raise with church leaders when they say something like “What do you mean we need a new wireless mic system, we bought that one 20 years ago and it still works fine!” You need to be armed with all the information before going into a meeting if you want to convince anyone that you need to spend money to future proof your audio system. You should also have an ongoing budget for maintaining and expanding what you have.
4)Expanding the Worship Band – Adding Instruments
I already mentioned enhancing worship. but this is more about adding more instruments or singers. This is one area that I see so many churches don’t give much thought to and then later regret it. People tend to budget for the worship band they have at the moment, rather than the one they might have in 2 years, 5 years time. For example, you might have wireless mics for the preacher, you have 6 singers, a couple of guitars, a keyboard, bass guitar, DVD player, laptop input and you bought a 16 channel mixing desk because you thought that would be adequate. If you add a couple more singers and you want to mic up the drum kit, how are you going to do that?
The fact is you cant because you haven’t allowed for expansion. I know, it’s difficult to foresee the future and what you might need, but if you need to upgrade your sound gear for expansion, you need to have a good argument for the new church sound system cost and be prepared for difficult questions. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend anything less than a 24 channel mixer for any church with band no matter how small(unless you are setting up in a school hall, but that’s another post entirely). It gives you plenty of wriggle room. And always have a few more microphones than you think you will need.
Most churches put in a PA system with only the preaching and worship in mind, but what if you gave some thought to wider outreach activities. If you wanted to host a concert by a band or even and orchestra, would you have an adequate set-up? Some band will bring there own gear, but others who are perhaps on a tour expect you to provide your own live sound PA equipment, with a digital mixer, effects etc. What if you wanted to host a 200 strong choir? If overhead microphones are needed do you have something suitable? What about your youth ministry, is your set-up geared up for reaching young people and what your youth group would like to do? What about theatre and drama? Would you have enough wireless mics if you wanted to host a play? To do some of these things might require a portable PA system – click here to read my other blog post on portable systems.
6)Engaging Men – Recruit to your Chruch Audio Visual Team
Now it is not my intention to be sexist it anyway, but merely an observation that men love sound technology. You only need to visit a church with a developed audio/visual system with a mixer, laptops, sound booth, podcasting, video production, screens and there will be a group of younger men(although not exclusively so) hovering around and actively involved. You want to engage men more in your church? Grow a church audio visual team and keep your gear up to date!
7)Opportunities for service – Powerpoint and Podcasting
Now this is kind of related to number 6 above, but yet different. A church sound and audio/visual team can present so many different opportunities for service in a church. Apart from the obvious roles that there are such as someone on the mixing console, another person doing Powerpoint(or whatever you use), there are other things that need to be done. If you have someone(not necessarily guy on mixing console), to switch on all the speakers(if they are powered), monitors, test microphones and help with sound check, it can be a great help to your main sound guy on the desk. Also a couple of extra people, to switch off and clear up at the end of the service.
It shouldn’t all be left to the one person. Another way that someone can serve behind the scenes is if you are recording the service or just the sermon onto a SmartMedia card on uploaded to the cloud, someone could have a weekly task of editing the raw sound file before it gets uploaded to the church website or podcasting platform. This is a great help as it can be quite time-consuming, and other opportunities for service.
8)Engage Young People – ask them what they think about the church sound
Now I am not so shallow that I believe that tech alone is going to attract young people to worship or to church. Young people need to hear the preaching of the gospel first and foremost. However, in terms of outreach and evangelism, you need to earn a right to be heard first of all. So many churches are preaching the right message, but haven’t figured out how to share that message effectively with a younger generation who are extremely tech savvy and learn so many of their values through their phones etc. If something isn’t authentic, young people will smell it a mile away, so just having great tech is not the answer.
However, if you have a message worth hearing and it is presented in a way that doesn’t use any of the technological tools that engage with young people, then we are making it harder for ourselves. So how could we engage better? If you are doing a youth outreach, how do young people react to the sound system? Is it great or is it mehh? You should ask them for feedback and listen carefully to what they are saying.
If you are doing a youth event and a roving mic would have been helpful for a Q&A, is that something you already have or need to get? If you record what you do on audio or video, how does that come over on social media? Is the sound clear, is it engaging? Also in church board meetings when discussing the church sound system cost, push home the point that if your youth ministry is important to the church, then the sound system installation has to be a top priority.
Hope you have found this article helpful, please feel free to comment or if you have any suggestions I could add to this list.
Another post you might find interesting is – How to do a church soundcheck (inc. free checklist and PDF download)
You may also be interested in a huge post I wrote about 101 Ideas for Church Sound Systems. Click here to read it.