7 Steps to Great Worship Audio

Producing great sound in a worship service can seem as elusive as finding a soloist who always sings on key. However, this doesn’t have to be.

 

Producing great sound in a worship service can seem as elusive as finding a soloist who always sings on key. However, this doesn’t have to be.

Many factors influence the quality of sound: room acoustics, sound-system design and performance, operator experience, and quality of musical performance.

Here are some practical tips on how to tie all of that together toward an optimum result.

1) Understand The Basics

To get the most out of a sound system, you must first understand how it works. Basically, acoustic energy, or the sound you make, is converted to electrical energy via a microphone, then colored or equalized via a mixer.

The mixer sends the sound through processing equipment (crossover, equalizer, signal delay), then to amplifiers to enhance the signal. Finally, the amplified signal goes to speakers, where it’s transferred back to acoustic energy.

The key components of sound—processors, amplifiers, and loudspeakers—should be professionally designed and set in a church, then left alone. The mixing board is where you should make adjustments in tone and sound levels.

2) Build A Team

A sound system won’t run by itself. It needs a trained, motivated crew to function to its true potential.

I like to recruit one-on-one, much like a hunter who goes to the woods looking for a specific target. The hunter may see ducks, squirrels, and turkeys, but he sits tight for a certain kind of deer. When he sees exactly what he’s looking for, he pursues it with vigor. The same can be done when developing a sound team. Decide what kind of people you need, then recruit them vigorously.

You can also try the fishing-pond approach. That means recruiting candidates from a select gathering of people.

For example, when Marty O’Connor was at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, IL, he and his video crew offered a yearly seminar on how to make movies with a video camera. After the seminar, the crew would bring out their studio cameras and invite seminar attendees to try operating one of the “big boys.” All the while they’d look for people in that “pond” with special aptitude for working on a video crew. Then they’d recruit them.

3) Grow A Team

The acronym TEAM—meaning “Together Everybody Achieves More”—particularly applies to a sound crew. To be truly effective, team members must grow together on the job in knowledge and experience as well as in spirit and emotion.

Make sure that you provide spiritual, emotional, and technical food for sound-team members. Every week, I spend about 30 minutes in prayer and devotions with my sound crew before our hour-plus sessions in sound training. That time helped unite us and focus our work.

It’s also important to keep the team informed of what’s happening in the sound industry, such as regular visits to ProSoundWeb and reading other industry publications and sites.

Finally, to encourage ownership and 100-percent participation, every sound crew member should be welcome to make suggestions about the sound system. I take seriously crew member suggestions on equipment purchases.

And thank the team! Saying thanks is powerful, but showing thanks is even better. My favorite way of showing gratitude to crew members is to send thank-you notes to them and their spouses.

4) Aim For Consistency

“We are what we repeatedly do,” Aristotle once wrote. “Therefore, excellence is a habit not an act.”

Doing everything right with sound in a performance is hard enough, but repeating it can seem impossible, especially when different volunteers are involved.

To raise the percentage of success, standardize the layout of your mixing console, label it, then get everyone to conform to it. Example: I always lay out my mixing console with drums on the left, followed by bass, electric and acoustic guitar, then keyboards, and finally vocals. The lead vocal is always in the farthest right channel next to the subgroups and masters.

I’ve been doing that for the past 20 years, and my team follows this layout consistently. But how you lay out the board doesn’t matter as long as it’s logical and everyone follows it. The advantage is that when something goes wrong or there’s feedback, they know instinctively what to grab to fix it.

Aim for consistency also with equipment storage. Organize cables, stands, and mics so that even with last-minute changes, such as having to work with five singers instead of the four you had planned on, you can secure the proper equipment to keep a rehearsal moving.

5) Preparation, Preparation

When I was a sound technician, I was blessed with a worship leader who provided worship service outlines weeks in advance. I used to kid him that the Spirit moved in him two weeks before it hit the congregation.

One lesson I learned from him is that someone who is well prepared is able to respond much better to last-minute complications than someone who wings it. I’ve served as a consultant to churches that supposedly had sound system problems, only to discover that the real problem was poor preparation.

Example: A sound team shows up at 8 am to set up for a 9:30 am service in a temporary facility. By 9 am the sound system is set up, and a CD is playing. Musicians begin arriving for a last-minute rehearsal.

The service starts seven minutes late. That’s bad enough, but what’s worse is that there’s been no time for sound checks and input testing. The service proceeds, accompanied by hums, cracks, pops, and a lousy mix. Ninety minutes later, the crew is exhausted, the musicians disgusted, and the pastor fed up. He decides to call in a sound expert…

He needn’t have spent the money. Preparation would have alleviated most of the problems. Preparation means sending information to your team well in advance of a service. Distribute the order of worship for the Sunday service to crew members early in the week so they can get a jump-start on what they’ll need to do.

Preparation also means doing sound checks with musicians prior to the service and testing all mics. Even if the same person leads worship every week, he or she may have a cold or feel insecure about a piece of music and need the sound turned up.

The key is to show up early, anticipate the unexpected, and be prepared. You can’t be too prepared.

6) Provide Training

Offer ample opportunities for your team to grow in technical knowledge. Find an expert you respect and hire that person to come in two to four times a year to train your crew.

Team up with other churches to sponsor a regional conference on sound, led by consultants such as Marty O’Connor or Curt Taipale.

Further, send for brochures and guides, and reprint articles on sound for your crew. Many manufacturers, such as Shure and Crown, provide free guides, and often, these are posted online for convenient download. Encourage your crew to participate in focused online discussions about sound with online communities such as the Church Sound Forum here on PSW.

And lead your team by example. If you want the crew to be on time, be on time yourself. If you want others to keep the sound booth and related areas organized and clean, keep your areas organized and clean.

7) Encourage Relationships

To do its work well, a crew must work in harmony with musicians and presenters. All too often there’s friction between sound technicians and performing artists. Some of that could be eased organizationally by including sound technicians in the church’s fine arts or music ministry.

The lead person of the technical team should report directly to the worship leader or minister of music—no one else. They work things out, striving for communication and harmony.

Example: I saw how that could work at a sound seminar, where David Sheets, minister of music at Central Wesleyan Church, Holland, MI, and his worship team participated in a session I led titled “Mixing a Worship Team: A Live Demonstration.” We purposefully had no rehearsal or sound check before the seminar. We merely tested the inputs to make sure they were working.

During the seminar, a conflict arose between the piano and synthesizer players. The synthesizer player wanted more synth in the monitor, and the piano player wanted less. The problem: they were sharing a monitor mix.

David let me know about the problem, and I told the players that since there were no more monitor mixes available, they should work out a solution together. He led the players through a quick trial on the monitor until the players reached agreement. They reached harmony in less than three minutes.

Tip: The key was David’s willingness to tell me about the problem, and the opportunity I had to explain the set-up limitations to the players.

I’ve discovered that when technical people are given the opportunity to explain a problem, performers are very cooperative.

Of course, technicians must never abuse that trust by blaming their mistakes or ignorance on equipment, or by refusing to listen to a musician who needs adjustments in a monitor.

Trust can also be destroyed by performers or technicians whose egos get in the way of working with others. In the sound booth or in front of a mike, the motto should be: “Check your ego at the door.”

I also know how important a good relationship can be between a technician and artist. I spent four years working with Jack Lynn, a worship leader. We had such rapport that we could communicate from sound booth to platform via hand signals.

When Jack put two hands on the mic, I knew I had to put more piano level in the monitor. Two hands with a raised index finger meant he wanted more voice. A step back from the monitor meant it was too loud. The signals worked well because I kept my eyes on the platform, and Lynn always made eye contact before signaling.

Bonus: Serve Others First
If we serve others first, we have far less friction between sound technicians and performers. Here are some ways sound people can serve others to enhance their ministry to the church. Show up early to set the sound equipment with enough time left to pray with speakers and singers before a service.

Provide little extras for platform participants, such as a glass of fresh, cold water near the lectern. Take the pastor and/or worship leader out to lunch in appreciation for their support. Tell them how much you value their contribution.

Explain to singers or speakers what you’re doing to adjust their sound and why. For example, tell them you’re moving a monitor two feet to the left so that the sound from the monitor is in the non-pickup area of the microphone and will thus give them a purer sound with less risk of feedback.

The Ultimate Goal
The sound ministry is like custodial service. When it’s done well, few will notice. When done poorly, everyone will notice.  Work as a respectful team, and you’ll find that your sound is consistently excellent—and you’ll have a great time to boot!

 

4 Ways You Can Make Your Church Facility Fabulous

If you want to have a facility that inspires, then this could be the article to help make that happen.

Churches come is all sizes and shapes:  From a retail store-front, to soaring and elaborate cathedrals. Churches are where people congreagate to connect and to be inspired.

What makes a church inspiring?

Some would argue that the building’s architectural style and structure make it inspiring.  Others would argue that the people or the service held in the building are what make it inspirational.

Personally, I have been in a lot of churches that have been inspiring, and some not so much.  The inspiring ones – be it a storefront or a cathedral – had several things in common.  Each was welcoming, well-maintained and offered me a personal sense of connection.

The ones that were not so inspiring also shared similar attributes.  They were “cold.” Both the people and the building felt cold, and it was apparent that each was neglected. The general feeling was that no one really cared that much.

4 Things That Keep Your Facility From Feeling Neglected

1) Clean it
Nothing says “I don’t care” to me more than trash on the floor, dirty corners, finger prints on the wall and stains in the carpet.  It doesn’t matter if your facility is 5 years-old or 50 years-old, a dirty facility gives the impression no one really cares.

2) Maintain it
Broken door handles, cracked windows, loose siding and the like also communicate that no one cares.  General building maintenance is a must.  If things do not work or look broken, a feeling of apathy is communicated.  Imagine if you invited someone to your house for a special meal or event (like a graduation party) and then did not mow the grass, fix up a falling down fence and left the front door half of its hinges unrepaired.

Would your guests feel like you cared about them?  Probably not.  However, if you fix and paint the fence, mow and clean out the landscaping, and fix the loose shutters hanging from the house then your guests will more likely feel comfortable and welcome.

3) Update it
Orange shag carpet died in the 70’s (all the people said AMEN). Pull it out.  That homey country look went out in the early 90’s.  Unless you are in a historical building and are purposeful about reflecting the era the church was built in, it’s vital that your church doesn’t look dated.

To me a church with obviously dated finishes communicates a feeling that the church it out of touch with today’s culture. The church is living in the past.

4) Envision it (what could it be)

What could this space be used for?  How can we give our sanctuary a more contemporary look? What if we repainted the lobby?  These are the type of questions you should be asking.

Recently I was at a church that updated the front of the sanctuary with wood planking.  The idea came when they saw a similar installation at another church.

The front wall at their church was a yellowish color that they were never fond of.

Built in 2003 that yellowish color was in, however today it is out. So, they talked about repainting. That’s when they saw the wood wall at another church.  The other church had simply stained 1”x4” and 1”x6” boards attached horizontally in an alternating pattern.

It was inexpensive, installed by volunteer labor, and offers a beautiful more contemporary look.  Updating the look all started by seeing what others had done and by visualizing what it would look like in their space.

A great way to get ideas and get started on the items above is to perform a facility audit.

You need to understand that the look of your facility is communicating something about your ministry. Does it inspire or does it say we don’t care?  The choice is yours, what do you want to communicate?  Let’s be an inspiration.

 

Designing and Maintaining Church Buildings of Excellence

In many ways Churches are very unique buildings and they need to be designed to meet a myriad of functions.  How can you maintain buildings of excellence.  Take a fresh look at your building, or an eyes-wide-open view of one that you are planning. Will it inspire or meet at mediocrity?

In many ways Churches are very unique buildings.

They need to be designed to meet a myriad of functions.  From private one on one counseling, to corporate worship, a church building has many activities that take place.  Churches are also unique in that there are a plethora of stakeholders as well.  From the staff to the constituents, many people are invested in both being financially tied to the building as well as users of the space.

Back when I was in college and pursuing a business degree, facilities management was a new discipline being offered.  I took of a number of facilities classes as I was intrigued by how buildings and space influence and support business in tangible and intangible ways.  I eventually decided on getting my general business degree (this was after achieving my broadcasting degree) but my intrigue and love for facilities would always be somehow interwoven through my career.

In my days as a technical director at a mega church, that intersection was primarily on Sunday mornings as I made use of AVL (audio/video/lighting) systems to help support and enhance worship.  As I moved on to AVL system design and sales I learned how to integrate these systems in what seemed like a constant battle between form and function. Today as I work in business development for a design build firm in essence my world revolves around buildings.

As I look at the uniqueness of a church building 5 important things come to mind.

Form

I remember it like it was yesterday sitting in a facilities class in college with the professor going over a handout/spreadsheet (computer spreadsheets were new and there were no projectors in the classroom, just whiteboards) on how to determine what was needed for an office space. To this day I have a love hate relationship with spreadsheets.  They provide great data but I believe can be overused to manipulate that data to get the outcome you desire.

The professor emphatically repeated throughout his lecture/rant that form follows function.  The phrase “form follows function” according to Wikipedia is attributed to Louis Sullivan.  I believe that Sullivan’s was conveying the idea “form follows function”, as opposed to “form follows precedent”. In other words what the building is going to be used for, in Sullivan’s case a skyscraper, required a different form than what was being currently used in construction.

However, what I took my professors lecture/rant to mean was, who cares what it looks like as long as it is efficient.  I have seen many times, where an architect will have an inspired vision and a desire to create beauty in his design, only to have a committee shoot his idea down calling it too grand, even ostentatious. The committee would always seem to come back to function alone as the driving factor. Often a beautiful design was squelched even before price or feasibility came into the equation.

Lest you think I long for gaudy, ornate and the somewhat cold architecture of the past. I believe a church building should somehow reflect tradition as well as contemporary culture and at the same time be inspiring and inviting.  Not an easy task, but it can be accomplished.

Function

If the space is not useable for its intended purpose it is useless. For some reason it always seems to be that acoustics are the thing that is consistently overlooked.  The results usually end up on the opposing ends of the spectrum.  They either seem to be overly reverberant or exceptionally dead. There never seems to be a healthy balance where congregational singing is carried well and at the same time have the programming (music and the spoken word) work well.

As Sullivan stated, the true form of a building is dictated by the function.  This I agree on. After all, if you want to create an intimate space that seats 1,000 people with the furthest seat 60’ away from the platform, a great deal of the form has been determined.  Most likely it will need to be a wide seating area that requires a balcony.  It could also be in the round or steeply raked seating like a movie theater.  The point is that function obviously has a huge impact on form.

I would argue and I am sure you agree that the function does not have to impact the beauty of the space and in common use of the phrase “form follows function” I see beauty as the “form” that everyone seems all too eager to sacrifice on.

People

Another often used phrase is, “The Church is really the people”. Yes biblically and hopefully practically this is true.  The church building is really just a place where we gather together as believer (and no believers) to explore and grow in our faith and in community together.

Where the people part of the equation comes in for me is twofold.  First is the space inviting and inspiring? Secondly the practical side, do we all fit comfortably in the space and is it functional, enough bathrooms, appropriate heating cooling, lighting to make the space comfortable.

The best experiences I have had at church usually happened because the building supported people in the proper way.  It was not too warm or cold, the seat was comfortable, all the tech worked without creating distraction and the bathroom was easy to find, it was clean and also I did not have to wait in line out into the hall before using it!

So when a building functions well and supports people properly it frees us up to concentrate on the purpose that we are there for.

Perception

I have been in buildings less than a year old that screamed mediocrity, just because they were not well-maintained.  Simple things, like a door not working properly, or a picture or signage that is crooked on the wall or the aforementioned stains in the carpet – all said in a subtle way, we don’t care.

I have also been in century-old buildings that are inspiring. The heating and cooling was up to date, the technology fit the space and worked well, and there were no dreaded stains in the carpet or evidence of great wear to be found.  Building that are well maintained convey a message of overall excellence.

People notice things and quickly form opinions. What are people’s perception and opinions of your building?

Purpose

With almost every project I am involved in, purpose has to continually be driven to the forefront.  As humans our personal interests become what is important, we push for things we want. Also, it becomes so easy to get focused on the process and the actual building, that we forget why we are doing it.  By understanding and keeping purpose the primary factor, helps bring clarity and also can keep us from getting hung up in the details.

Ask yourself these questions:
Is your building currently serving your needs?
Do you need to look at the form and function?
Does your building project excellence or an old worn-out shoe?
Do you know and understand the purpose of your building?

Take a fresh look at your building, or an eyes-wide-open view of a proposed building that you are planning. Work to make sure that it’s not just functional, but will be a facility of excellence which has the capacity to inspire, and brings beauty to all those who enter it’s doors.

 

Why Your Church Needs An Ambassador of the Throne

Nobody likes to talk about restrooms, but they are a very important statement about the church and the perceived quality of the ministry. Here are 5 steps to bathroom perfection.

Something that I have noticed at some growing churches I have visited is that they have really clean restrooms. From the door handles—-to the sink—-and mirror, everything is clean.

In fact, the room sparkles.

No, nobody likes to talk about restrooms, but they are a very important statement about the church and the perceived quality of the ministry.

One of the negative experiences a guest or casual attender can have is visiting an untidy restroom.

Imagine Mary’s (first time visitor) reaction when she enters the restroom and sees paper towel on the floor, cobwebs in the corner, water splashed on the counter and a mirror which has not been cleaned in months.

Top that off with toilets that have yellowed in color over the years and stall partitions that have rust spreading on them. Obviously, Mary would not feel good or welcomed by this experience.

5 things to make your restrooms sparkle.

1) Deep clean the restroom monthly. Most of us are familiar with spring cleaning, that time of year when you open the windows and wipe away the cobwebs.  With your restrooms, every month should be spring cleaning month.  Check them out to make sure all of the corners are clean, all of the smudges are removed from the wall and ensure that everything sparkles.

2) Fragrance can be your friend.
I say can. If you are trying to use fragrance to cover up a bad odor, then people will smell what you are trying to do a mile away.  If there is a bad odor, first find the source and eradicate it.

What a light amount of fragrance can do is give a fresh clean smell to the room.  I would recommend staying away from floral scents and anything that is to over bearing.  Really, what you want is to have is that just been cleaned smell.

3) Fully Stocked. Have you ever washed your hands and then went to grab a paper towel only to find the dispenser empty?

Yes, that is frustrating. Even more frustrating is when a stall is out of toilet paper and you have to look for another stall that has toilet paper, praying the whole time you will find one that is stocked.

Really it’s simple; Check your restrooms before services or events and top off anything that is needed.

4) Lighting and sound.
Proper lighting helps everywhere.  In a restaurant we may desire low level lighting (mood lighting). We like the atmosphere it creates as we don’t want to go to a restaurant and have it feel like you are in a surgical center.

On the other hand, in a public restroom you do want to see that everything is clean so surgical level lighting will also help give it a clean look and feel.  Another thing to consider is background music.  Again this creates a nice atmosphere and let’s face it, it can also mask some of the noises created in a restroom.

5) Keep up appearances. Before and after a service or event your restrooms get a lot of traffic. This is where the Ambassador comes in, the Restroom Ambassador.

Assign a gender appropriate person to keep tabs on the restroom, wipe up water when needed, pick up paper on the floor and make sure everything is stocked.  Doing this will ensure that throughout the event or service everyone will have a positive experience.

One note of caution here, the Restroom Ambassador should be invisible, just randomly entering the restroom to make sure thing look good.

If the Ambassador hangs out in the restroom waiting to take action or continually goes from stall to stall checking supplies, people will become uncomfortable with the Ambassadors presence.  People really do like privacy in the restroom.

A lot of ministries get the first 4 steps, but miss out on assigning a Restroom Ambassador.  To make sure that everyone has a positive experience having a Restroom Ambassador is a necessity! So go and clean, put in a fresh scent, get the proper lighting and make your restrooms sparkle.

 

Simple Steps to A Fantastic Guest Experience

Offering those who visit your church a great guest experience really is as easy as 1 2 3.

Years ago I was the opening manager for the first location of a brand new movie theatre chain.  One of our mottos was “Being #1 is as easy as 1-2-3

1. Welcomes, pleases and thank you’s
2. Next in line service
3. Suggestive selling at the concession stand.

We wanted our cast members (employees) to have something simple, tangible to grab on to that expressed what we felt was important.

We posted signs in the back hallways, the locker rooms, the employee room (basically everywhere we called “backstage” yes, including the restrooms).

Another thing that we did in training was to talk about the “Zone of Influence”.

The Zone of Influence was a designated area around each employee, that when a guest entered into that zone, the employee either needed to engage them in conversation or at least offer them a greeting.

To help put this policy into action we took an 8’ piece of PVC conduit, painted it orange and put a rope that would go around the cast member’s neck so the PVC would hang at about knee level and extended 4’ on either side of the guest.  In training the cast member would walk around (back stage) wearing this contraption and teaching each employee where their “Zone of Influence” was.

I am sharing this as I recently had a flash back to that experience.

It happened while I was attending a business/ministry seminar.  The experience started when I walked up to enter the building and someone was there to open the door, welcome me and give me directions as to where I should go for registration.  As I hit the registration table I was greeted with a hearty “Welcome, we are glad you are here”.  After receiving a name tag, the person at the table told me where the complimentary snacks were located and where I could purchase a book that the presenter had written, if I was interested.

Leaving the registration table and heading towards the snacks I walked into the “zone of influence” of someone else that was working the seminar.  As I entered their “zone” I was again greeted and was asked if I had ever been at this place before.  What transpired was a couple of minutes of great conversation with this “ambassador” of the church.

Turns out we knew some of the same people and he ended the conversation with a welcome to come back and visit on a Sunday.

It was a no pressure, kind invitation.

It was as I sat down for the seminar that the flashback from my movie theater days came back. I thought it really IS as easy as 1-2-3!

1) I was politely greeted, everyone was polite and engaging
2) It was well staffed (there were about 1000 people attending the event) I never had to wait at registration, snacks or when purchasing of the book.
3) I was appropriately “sold to” by suggestion.  The person at the registration table sent me in the direction of the book table.  Also, the ambassador from the church softly sold me on attending on a Sunday morning.

To top off the great experience I had getting into the room for the seminar, the presenter was outstanding.

So the challenge is for you and your church to do this on a Sunday morning.
How?  It’s as easy as 1-2-3

1,2,3

1) Great people at the door, tell, show and take them to the places that they need to go. For example, if they have children take them to a special express lane for visitors where they can check their children.  Show them where the coffee is.  Tell them about unique things.

Remember they do not know your culture.  Tell them if they can take coffee into the sanctuary, tell them that is normal for people to be talking in the lobby until 1 minute before the service.  Explain to them that your pastor or members of the pastoral staff would like to meet them after the service, and point out the location. Very important, show them where the bathrooms are.

2) Make sure you are well staffed in the greeting area, coffee area, children’s area etc. Set up special lanes or stations that you can take the visitors thru –  and remember they do not know the culture or routines that are so comfortable to you.

3) As your guests return, tell them about special events and opportunities that might be interesting to them.  Best of all invite them to lunch, get to know them.

This is not just the job of staff, but it really is the job of everyone in the congregation.

Go and do it! It really is as easy as 1-2-3

Getting the Biggest Change in Sound Quality for the Smallest Investment

“How do I get the biggest change in my sound quality for the smallest investment?”

I’m often asked this question from cash-strapped churches that need a sound system upgrade but don’t have the funds to accomplish it all at once.

If it’s the sound operator who approaches me first, his goal is usually to get a new mixing board. If it’s the worship leader, he’s usually focused on microphones and/or monitors.

Then there’s the pastor, who’s most often interested in the solution that will get everybody else to stop bothering him.

So what’s the answer?

I go about solving this dilemma by looking at the number of people who can potentially benefit from each upgrade. With that in mind, what follows is a suggestion of how you can determine your next “best” upgrade.

First, look at what I call the “heart” of the system. That is, loudspeakers, amplifiers and signal processing. Not only are these usually the biggest ticket items (though the mixing console may compete), they’re also the items that in most cases will bring the most significant improvement to a system.

In surveying the heart of your sound system, first check out the loudspeakers to ensure that they’re working properly. Are there blown drivers? Hear any rattles or other strange noises?

Do some research to find out the coverage pattern of the loudspeakers, and map that coverage over your seating area. Is the coverage adequate or are there zones that are being missed? (You can also hear this by slowly walking through the coverage area with the system playing tracks.)

Continue your research and determine the frequency response of the loudspeakers. If they roll off at 180 Hz, it’s not likely that they’re producing the nice “thump” out of the kick drum or any of the deeper lows from the bass guitar.

Next, find out power handling of the loudspeakers and match that up with the power available from your amplifiers. If you don’t have enough “headroom” (available “extra” power), the system will always sound mushy and like it’s being “pushed.” (As in pushed too hard.)

Finally, give the signal processing a good look. If it consists of a number of analog devices (EQ, crossover, delay, etc.), it could be time to upgrade to a quality digital processing unit. Even better, have a new digital processor implemented by a qualified professional who knows how best to use it to maximize the performance of your loudspeakers.

And that leads me to an important point. If you find any of the above aspects lacking during your research, consider bringing in a qualified professional to help make the most of what you have.

While you may be able to address some of these aspects adequately, it’s not a game for amateurs. Quite often, the use of professional assistance, combined with a new component or two, can make all of the difference in the world while still fitting within the confines of a tight budget. And it’s almost always money well spent.

Once the “heart” of the system is taken care of, feel free to move on to mixing boards, monitors, microphones and other accessories.

I look at it this way: the best sounding microphone is only going to sound as good as the loudspeakers reinforcing it.

Biggest Facilities Failures

Often in life it’s the little things that can make the biggest difference. As we enter the season of higher church attendance, be sure these little things don’t ruin the experience at your facility.

Often in life it is the little things that make the biggest difference.

As related to a facility this can be so true!  Listed below are somethings that I have experienced that have made my visit somewhere less than pleasant.

While none of the items are cardinal sins they did make an impression, not a good one on me.

Dirty bathrooms

Okay I said that none of these were cardinal sins.  Yes, that is true but in my opinion dirty bathrooms come awful close.

I have written about and often talk about the need for bathroom ambassadors. It really is not that difficult to keep bathrooms clean and presentable.  Someone just has to care enough to make sure it gets done!

Strange odor/aroma

I am sure Proctor and Gamble, the makers of Febreze could do well if they marketed to churches.  I have run into or should I say experienced the strangest odors at some of the churches I have visited.  The scents have ranged from enticing but poorly timed to just plain disgusting.

The enticing, the smell of a chicken dinner being prepared in the kitchen during the message had me so hungry that I couldn’t wait for the service to be over as I was literally drooling.  The bad, the smell of raw sewage in a bathroom where the floor looked like the drain had been backed up for weeks and the crusty state of the floor was giving evidence that it had just dried up.

Now if the sermon had been on the satisfying taste of good food and how God provides and blesses us with good things, the chicken dinner smell could have been a great illustration! Provided that we would get to partake of it after the service.

Inappropriate or outdated décor.

Through the years I have seen my share of well shall we say it, bizarre décor or too old to be retro finishing’s.  I know that interior design is a form of art and also very subjective.

So yes our tastes can differ, but I will say that when done well and appropriate there is a wide range of acceptable interior designs.  One strange case that I experienced recently was not even church related.

A new restaurant that opened in our town I am sure took its decorating and design cues from the Apple Store. Yes, white, clean, really clinical looking works great for the Apple Store, I will attest to the fact that it does not work that well for a restaurant.  There is something unsettling eating food in a place that is lit up and feels like a surgical room.

Crappy coffee…area

Like the bathroom, this example really bothers me.  Why can’t someone be the coffee ambassador and simply make sure the counters are wiped clean of coffee drips and spills? It’s also important to make sure the cream and sugar containers are filled. Also, while they are at it, could the outside of the coffee pot and handle be clean and dry?

One more thing, not facility related, why does church coffee also have to taste so crappy? There are plenty of hearty coffee roasts to choose from. Why not make your morning cup-of-joe one that’s eagerly anticipated?

Bad signage

Why is signage so difficult?  Just put it in a visible area, keep it simple and use common names for things.

When we use names like narthex, gathering area, the commons… how is someone not familiar with church supposed to know what that is?  Why not just call it the Lobby?  The Sanctuary? The Gym?

KEEP IT SIMPLE…I suppose one good thing about bad signage is I may not be able to locate the bathrooms, which could save me from a potentially stomach-turning experience.

As I said at the start, it’s the little things that make a big difference.

Plus, in this case the little things come with a little price tag. It doesn’t cost anything additional to keep the bathroom tidy, keep the coffee area clean or freshen up the smell.  Additionally, décor updates and signage can be done well on a very modest budget.

As we enter the season of higher church attendance, be sure these little things don’t ruin the experience at your facility.

What Makes A Great Church Building?

In the pursuit of worthy facility, what elements must come together to create a sacred space?

There are some facets that go into what makes a church building great and they all intertwined together.

It’s really the collision of form and function in an explosive manner that brings greatness.

Form can be looked at and described in many ways.  I would prefer to call it design rather than form.  Design in our modern vocabulary congers up ideas like beauty, inspiration and engagement.

Good design actually also includes function.

If we look at the iPhone most people would give it compliments on its design.  They would say, its sleek, classy, beautiful and it works great.

Shouldn’t our church facilities be referred to in the same fashion?

In my home town is Hope College, on its campus sits Dimnent Chapel.

The beautiful Gothic structure was completed in 1929. The construction cost was $404,000 (about $5.6 million in 2016 dollars).

At the front of the 1150 seat chapel is the beautiful rose window, a gift from the Hope College Class of 1916 and constructed at a cost of $4,000, it contains three rows of petals.  When the sun shines thru this magnificent work of art it is absolutely breathtaking. The tall walls and beautiful wood work gives you a feeling of awe and wonder as you sit inside and gaze around the structure.

There are two organs in the chapel, a four-manual Skinner organ in the chancel and a Dutch classic tracker organ in the balcony, built by Pels and Van Leeuwen in the Netherlands and installed in 1971. The Skinner organ with its 2,932 pipes was installed in 1929. Both organs sound fabulous in the space.

Yearly the college does a Christmas Vespers service. The program of Christmas carols and anthems features more than 200 performers. The choir with minimal acoustic instrumentation along with the Skinner organ is a thing of sure beauty.

For me the Chapel as the locals call it is a great building.

It is engaging.

Just looking at it from the outside calls you to want to enter to see what the inside is like.  The soaring 108’ tower makes the approximately 175’ long by 60’ wide structure appears larger than life.  Once inside all of the elements I mentioned above, particularly the stained glass windows personally draw me through their beauty closer to my creator.

It is inspiring.

Just as it is engaging, drawing you in, its beauty inspires you.  The magnificence of the marble floors, the deep wood colors and colors splashed about by the sun penetrating the stained glass windows brings light and hope deep into my soul.

It’s functional.

Hosting events like a student lead chapel service that features modern music, an organ concert, a choral vespers service as well as bachelorette.  The building is well used and services multiple different types of events extremely well.  There have been modern elements and conveniences added to the building like Air conditioning, modern restrooms, a performance sound system along with production lighting and video screens.  But all of that has added to the function and comfort of the building without taking away from the beauty of its design.

Really what it boils down to is that the experience that you have attending an event there is enhanced as you walk up to the building and then as you participate in the event that takes place inside.

Today what are we doing in our worship spaces to bring design and beauty into the facility? Think of ways, like bringing in artwork or creatively using projection and lighting that you can use to bring beauty.

 

Forget the Greeter!

Hopefully your greeters are doing more than just being an obstacle to get around.

Forget the greeter, give me an advocate

I don’t know about you, but when I visit someplace new I rarely go alone.  I usually take a guide (someone who has been to the place before) or a friend that I can share the uncomfortableness that I feel when visiting new places.

There is something about being with someone you know, experiencing something new.  I also think there is something even better that happens when someone who already knows the territory takes your around.

Now, in general churches do a good job of greeting people.  You know the couple standing at the door wearing a name tag and a glued-on smile. They are eager to shake your hand and say welcome.

I have had the question on my mind, “Why do we just have greeters and not advocates?”  An advocate is someone who is on your side. They are there to help you succeed.

So what is the difference between a greeter and an advocate?

A greeter says hi, an advocate steps in and helps.

When you walk in the door, a greeter does just what the name says, they greet you.  One of the large chain superstores has greeters at the door.  At least in my area the greeters are nothing more than an obstruction to walk around as you enter the store.

Hopefully your greeters are doing more than just being an obstacle to get around.  A good greeter will smile, be courteous and give a warm welcome.

At the same chain store I have never heard a greeter add on to the welcome statement, “how can I help you?” Right there with that question a greeter now becomes an advocate, a person that is there to help.

So have your greeters add the simple question “how can I help you?” right after the hello.  Also the greeter (now advocate) should introduce themselves. You want to know the name of the person that is advocating for you.

A greeter points, an advocate takes you there.

Another store in my town has really worked at stepping up their customer service. Recently, I asked where I could find a light bulb.  The employee smiled and said, follow me.  WOW she didn’t just point me in a direction but actually was taking me there.

On the walk there she asked what kind of bulb I was looking for, she even added that she had just switched to LED lights and was saving over $20 a month on her electric bill.  As we walked down the aisle with the light bulbs she took me right to the location of the type of bulb I was looking for.  I have to admit I was impressed.

When someone walks in the door at your church and asks where the children’s area is, I bet your greeter dutifully points them in the right direction.  Let’s get them to be an advocate and walk the visitors to the children’s area and on the way explain how the check in system works and let them know how much the teachers love kids.

A greeter smiles, an advocate engages you

A good greeter will actually give you an authentic smile and a warm hand shake.  An advocate will not only do that but they will also look you in the eye, introduce themselves, ask a little about you and then assist you with whatever you need.

A greeter makes you feel welcome; an advocate makes you feel at home.

A good greeter who is genuine will make you feel welcome.  An advocate is unequally positioned to make you feel comfortable and at home.  Often its little things, like them asking where you live only to find out that your neighbors are best friends with the advocate.

Perhaps its finding out your kids have the same teacher at school, or it could be a number of other things.  The important thing is that there was a connection made, some common ground, friends or experience.  That is exactly what makes people feel comfortable and at home.

Your assignment.
Go fire your greeters and rehire and retrain them as advocates.  Advocates of every person who walks thru the door at your church.  If you do this, I think you will be surprised at how quickly new people will feel cared for and want to keep coming back.

What’s important to a worship leader?

According to worship leaders, what are the most important aspects of being a church sound operator?

I’ve been doing an informal survey on this topic, asking worship leaders for their views.

The answers have been surprising, at least to me. For example, to this point not one of them has mentioned that a sound operator should have musical talent. Nor have they brought up the value of having a critical ear when it comes to music. Continue reading “What’s important to a worship leader?”