Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Outfitting a New Building

Do you ever have the experience of attending a conference, or reading a book, or hearing a sermon and thinking, “Yes! That’s exactly what I’ve been saying.” That was WFX for me last week. For years I’ve been thinking on the right way to outfit a new church building with A/V equipment. And WFX was one of the crystalizing moments where all the thoughts that have been swirling around in my head came together like sugar crystals when you’re making fudge (with apologies for the foodie analogy).

When it comes to making decisions about what kind of equipment we install into our church buildings, I’ve noticed a few disturbing trends. Some churches think about it roughly 3 weeks before the grand opening. They scramble around, make a few phone calls end eventually ask the electrician to hang the speakers a volunteer picked up on sale at Guitar Center. I wish I was making this up, but if you’ve been around the church for any length of time, you know this happens.

Another strategy is to call in a consultant early on with the direction of wanting the biggest, baddest and best sound, lighting and video systems in the city. $1.5 million later, the church does indeed have an amazing system. But get a look at that price tag. And sadly, many churches that take that route don’t end up with systems that their volunteers can run, so they never get the bang for the buck they hoped they would.

A third strategy is for the church to start off with the good intentions of wanting a quality A/V system. But as the project progresses, and the budget begins to escalate, money is borrowed from the A/V budget. Eventually, the system is “value engineered” and significant compromises made. The thinking goes, “Well, we know we’re cutting here, but people won’t really notice, and if they do, we can upgrade it later.” We all know how that turns out. People do notice–they can’t hear the pastor, the music is too loud or soft, they can’t see the screens because they’re too dim–and they end up upgrading sooner rather than later. Which means they pay for the system twice. As the saying goes, “Most churches are on their third sound system.”

What if there was a better way? What if we could find an appropriate balance between going crazy and ending up with a crappy system? What if, and this may sound just radical, we designed our A/V systems to fulfill the specific mission that particular church is called to? What if, instead of having to fight other departments for dollars, the A/V system was thought of as an integral part of the church’s calling and mission (just like the café or the kid’s wing)? Might that be a more effective way to put a system together? Check back tomorrow and we’ll talk more about that.

9 Comments

  1. acmul82@gmail.com

    i’m with you, mike. we have pending new construction for which i have gotten bids on the audio, visual, lighting that will meet our needs going into the next 5 to 10 yrs. the price tag – approx $150k for a 500 to 700 seat facility. the project team was shocked. the preferred contractor gave us a bid for bank purposes that budgeted $35k for avl. i was shocked.

  2. acmul82@gmail.com

    i’m with you, mike. we have pending new construction for which i have gotten bids on the audio, visual, lighting that will meet our needs going into the next 5 to 10 yrs. the price tag – approx $150k for a 500 to 700 seat facility. the project team was shocked. the preferred contractor gave us a bid for bank purposes that budgeted $35k for avl. i was shocked.

  3. chrisvacher@gmail.com

    Very timely post – we are in the homestretch of an addition on our building AND a renovation of our auditorium. We have (of course) had to make some cuts from our hoped-for final result but our process looked something like this.

    Step 1 – Q&A with ALL ministry directors (not building committee, not architects, not construction people) on how they see each of their programs using the new facility and the re-worked auditorium over the next several years.

    Step 2 – Develop an “A1 Plan” which would allow us to meet all of those desired requirements.

    Step 3 – Hire a consultant to price the A1 Plan and work with the building committee to figure out how much of that plan we can afford now, how much we need to plan to purchase over the next several years AND how much infrastructure (ie. lots of empty conduit, cabling, hang points, electrical, etc) we need to put in place now to allow us to finalize our A1 Plan.

    Step 4 – Don’t compromise on the quality of the initial components of the plan. Because of budget restrictions, I cut out adding new lighting rather than putting in mediocre projection and mediocre lighting. Instead we went with our ideal projection scenario – two screens, two nice projectors – and will make lighting happen with capital budget in the future.

    I’m pretty happy with how things have gone so far. We will basically end up with a 500-seat room with great PA and great video and a 250-seat room with great PA and functional video. We are in a good place to move towards our A1 Plan over the next few years.

  4. chrisvacher@gmail.com

    Very timely post – we are in the homestretch of an addition on our building AND a renovation of our auditorium. We have (of course) had to make some cuts from our hoped-for final result but our process looked something like this.

    Step 1 – Q&A with ALL ministry directors (not building committee, not architects, not construction people) on how they see each of their programs using the new facility and the re-worked auditorium over the next several years.

    Step 2 – Develop an “A1 Plan” which would allow us to meet all of those desired requirements.

    Step 3 – Hire a consultant to price the A1 Plan and work with the building committee to figure out how much of that plan we can afford now, how much we need to plan to purchase over the next several years AND how much infrastructure (ie. lots of empty conduit, cabling, hang points, electrical, etc) we need to put in place now to allow us to finalize our A1 Plan.

    Step 4 – Don’t compromise on the quality of the initial components of the plan. Because of budget restrictions, I cut out adding new lighting rather than putting in mediocre projection and mediocre lighting. Instead we went with our ideal projection scenario – two screens, two nice projectors – and will make lighting happen with capital budget in the future.

    I’m pretty happy with how things have gone so far. We will basically end up with a 500-seat room with great PA and great video and a 250-seat room with great PA and functional video. We are in a good place to move towards our A1 Plan over the next few years.

  5. bob.nahrstadt@clarkpromedia.com

    Mike – I agree with the points you raise here. Clark ProMedia out of Alpharetta GA has been helping churches with all kinds of budgets find the unique systems that are born out their unique mission, passion and DNA – and budgets.

    CPM has worked with churches as varied as Northpoint Community Church in Alpharetta, GA and Horizons Community Church in Ham Lake, MN. The one constant of every engagement we have is that they all have a budget.

    Our encouragement to every client is know who you, know who you are wanting to reach and why – know your mission – build on that!

    Thanks for the insights.

    Bob

  6. bob.nahrstadt@clarkpromedia.com

    Mike – I agree with the points you raise here. Clark ProMedia out of Alpharetta GA has been helping churches with all kinds of budgets find the unique systems that are born out their unique mission, passion and DNA – and budgets.

    CPM has worked with churches as varied as Northpoint Community Church in Alpharetta, GA and Horizons Community Church in Ham Lake, MN. The one constant of every engagement we have is that they all have a budget.

    Our encouragement to every client is know who you, know who you are wanting to reach and why – know your mission – build on that!

    Thanks for the insights.

    Bob

  7. ryan.quattlebaum@gmail.com

    Are you sure you don’t go to my church? This article couldn’t have come at a better time. We’re getting squeezed in our budget to the point where we had a sound board specced out that was a lesser model than the one we currently use. I can’t wait to hear the rest of your thoughts.

  8. ryan.quattlebaum@gmail.com

    Are you sure you don’t go to my church? This article couldn’t have come at a better time. We’re getting squeezed in our budget to the point where we had a sound board specced out that was a lesser model than the one we currently use. I can’t wait to hear the rest of your thoughts.

  9. Church Tech Arts » Outfi

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