Tech Savvy Churches Becoming More Common
“Approximately half of the churches I work with these days are willing to roll up their sleeves and handle at least some part of their own sound system installations,” says TC Furlong, whose Chicago-area firm has been designing and installing sound reinforcement systems for over 30 years. “This is typically not done to lower the overall cost of a system, since that’s designed around a fixed church budget, but rather to improve the quality or quantity of equipment they can put in. After all, they’re maximizing my time and effort by doing the labor-intensive work themselves, so I can turn around and deliver more microphones, better signal processors, or other similar upgrades for the same package price.”
Jason Breda, Worship & Arts Pastor at First Assembly of God in nearby Joliet appreciated the merits of such an approach when his church recently decided to step up the quality of the audio system in its 750-seat main sanctuary.
“I’ve been around sound systems for years as a musician and engineer, so TC’s approach was ideal for us,” he says. “By installing most things ourselves, we were able to scale up the quality of the products we put in. And although it required a fair bit of our own time and energy to do the work, having a first-rate system comprised of really high-quality gear is a reward we’ll enjoy week after week. Our room now benefits from a nice Soundcraft mixing console, full self-powered Meyer loudspeaker system, and Aviom monitor system, among other things. Unlike our previous P.A., this is a system that our volunteer sound operators won’t have to fight to make sound good.”
According to Furlong, another one of the inherent benefits of this approach is that the church is “invested in the result.” He explains, “When church production teams agree to doing their own installations, they are committing to their own education. Of course, I go through with them step-by-step on specifically how they should go about installing everything, but they are dramatically increasing their familiarity and comfort level with their systems by personally pulling wire, mounting rack gear, wiring, and so on.
“After I come in to do the final tweaks and commission the rig, which I do for every installation, I find that the churches that drove most of their own install work contact us less frequently for service calls because they have a much more comprehensive understanding of their gear than those churches for whom we did everything and simply handed them the keys. So this approach can save them money in the long run as well.”
Aside from helping install the gear, churches with tech-savvy pastors or system operators can further improve the quality of their new equipment by streamlining the design process. “Jason knew specifically what kinds of equipment he wanted to see in his mixing booth,” says Furlong, “which reduced the time I’d normally spend conducting a needs analysis and putting together a design. Not every church has someone on staff with this level of technical competency, but those that do can certainly expedite their projects.”
A 48-channel Soundcraft MH3 mixing console was one of those pieces of equipment that Breda selected with Furlong’s nod of approval. “I’ve had a lot of good experience with Soundcraft consoles and keep coming back to them,” says Breda. “TC used to bring in a 40-channel K3 desk on rental for our Easter and Christmas pageants, and I’ve worked on many of their other boards in the past. They sound great and are very intuitive to use, which is an important consideration for our lay production team.
“As for the MH3, I felt that its feature set was particularly well-suited for our sanctuary. I appreciated the fact that it had VCAs and balanced inserts, and the flexibility of its auxiliary section for running stage wedges and in-ear monitors definitely appealed to us. We got a lot for our money with this console, and with our whole new system, really.”
Breda concludes by adding, “This whole experience really boils down to trust. TC trusted that we had the capability to take on elements of this project that other sound contractors probably wouldn’t have even considered. And we had a lot of trust in his ability to give us good direction and walk us through what we would need to do. TC’s done everything from giant houses of worship to major touring sound systems to broadcast studio installations. Considering his years of experience with many different pro audio situations, we knew we’d be getting sound advice – and we did.”
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