Technical Essentials For A Sunday Experience
By: Holly Tate December 17, 2013
I recently chatted with Josh Walker about trends he's seeing in church technology. Josh is the Creative Director at Catalyst Church in Morgantown, WV. He's also an audio and technical guru and blogger.
Holly: Josh, you're over all things creative at Catalyst Church, and you've also helped other churches and church leaders stay up-to-date with their audio system. Why do you think technology is important in today's church culture?
Josh: Well, we all do Sundays differently and by no means does every church need to have the latest sound systems and technologies. Every church has a certain feel to it and certainly has a unique budget. More often than not, the technical side of things get dismissed in budget meetings and conversations. As long as the preacher's mic is working, we're good to go, right? Why would we spend money on something that is clearly working? However, I think that with technology progressing as quickly as it is and becoming as affordable as it is, there are fewer barriers to jumping into high-quality production elements. Our culture has become consumers of high-quality digital and live content, and the church has incredible resources out there to use multi-media technology within the worship service.
Holly: But there are so many options out there, that it's hard to know where to start. What are the key things I need to think about if I'm a church leader and want to incorporate high-quality technology into my worship services?
Josh: Absolutely, it can be overwhelming. I've put together four starting points for church leaders to consider, whether they are a church plant or a church that's been around for years.
1. A fully-functioning and up-to-date audio console. You need to have a desk that not only fits your current needs, but those of the future as well. Look at consoles that have a few extra channels than what you need right now, and look for extra outputs and special features. You want to be able to get sound in and out of your console in as many ways as possible. Look into some of the newer digital desks. They are more affordable now and are often easier for volunteers to use. Digital consoles are great because you can save all of the settings from a great Sunday experience and then use them the next Sunday, regardless of who used it at Thursday night band practice. Also, you can lock the board with a password so volunteers can't change the settings.
2. A quality video system is more important now than ever. Operating in a visual culture carries some extra responsibility; you are expected to produce HD video content that is relevant to your message. If you don't, you risk losing the attention of some of your audience. Consider using a mix of projectors and HD TVs to display ambient video and text content in a way that grabs people's attention. These systems are becoming much more affordable and highly modular. On the content side, there are many companies producing great content that is relevant to the topics your church discusses. These are typically affordable one-year subscription plans and you get access to a lot of HD video content.
3. Lighting is the next area to look at. You can only get so far with audio and video. White lights are plain. Boring. Dull. Full illumination in a room opens your audience to distraction. Instead, use colored gels and focus your lights on particular elements of your stage. This tells people where to focus their attention, and then you can incorporate your audio and video content. It should be a seamless package. Colors, in addition to a hazer, bring life to your lights and help control the mood and visual temperature of the environment.
4. Streaming your event, whether live or post-event, is a huge way to make a big impact for a very low cost. With services like YouTube, Vimeo, LiveStream, uStream, and more, you can spread your message as a church to the entire world. A reliable video streaming/recording system is very cost effective in terms of your overall production. It is a necessity for any live event today especially church events. People want to see what you're doing even if they can't be there.
Holly: Thanks, Josh! I think this makes the steps to staying up-to-date technologically easier to digest. Thank you for imparting your tech knowledge to us!
Josh: You're welcome! Continue to review your approach to ensure that it is the most effective way to deliver the Gospel. There will always be new technologies. Some are worth adopting, while others may need more time to develop. Depending on your church and community, you may be better suited with one system over another. Also, I can't emphasize enough how one of the biggest ways to maximize your investment in your building, PA, lighting, and video systems is to invest in not only your paid staff, but your volunteer team leaders as well. Send them to industry seminars and workshops for additional hands-on training. This gets them even more excited about what they're doing in your church.
What advice would you add for churches who are utilizing technology in their Sunday experience?