Friday, December 15, 2006

How much is enough

It appears I have started something. I sent an email to my good friend Byron about a thread going on at the Pro Sound Web forums. Seems now he is getting a good bit of buzz from the local news blog of the town in which the story originated. If you are up to the task you can read through the forum to get the entire story, but I will sum it up for you much like Byron has done.

  • Westover Church in Greensboro, NC has built a new facility for the church, a 3000 seat auditorium.
  • As a part of the upgrade, they bought a new Midas XL8 mixing console to handle all the audio needs in the new room. This is the absolute top of the line console in the world for live applications costing nearly $350,000.
  • The people on the forum are upset that a church would spend that kind of money on one piece of equipment when there are alternatives available and they could spend the money on other more noble type of things.

I’ll try not to rehash what Byron has already written. Please do read his take on it because his perspective along with mine I believe paints a much better picture.

I suspect that many of the forum participants do not realize that most large churches have multiple services and events each week, and often on the same day. These services can have different musicians, singers, actors and media all just a few minutes apart. One could discuss the philosophy of multi-service strategies all day, which I may discuss at a later time, but that is what Westover is doing. When you introduce that much complexity into a single space over a short period of time, you need the infrastructure to support it.

It has been mentioned that the church could have spent less money and gotten the job done the same. I completely disagree. It’s not about entertaining people it’s about creating a environment where people can worship and hear the message. It’s not just about the quality of the sound, its about bringing our very best to the table. The Midas is going to be the best sounding console for sure, but I can tell you that after spending hundreds of hours researching every single digital console on the market, there are many things the Midas can do that nothing else can. When you consider the number of people they may have on the stage at once, the need for monitoring for all those people, the need for distributing the audio to other places in the building, there is simply no other choice.

Today’s larger churches often serve as a community gathering place for all kinds of events that have little or nothing to do with the church itself, much like they have for hundreds of years. This continues to add the complexity and diversity of the kinds of programming that occur in the building. There are very few other places than a church that have the number of different types of events on a weekly basis. Many people outside the church have no idea all the stuff that happens. It’s easy to throw stones when you don’t understand the real story.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The thing about children

I don't have children. Its important you know that before you continue as my perspective is possibly a bit skewed.

Today we had our children's choir in our main services helping to lead worship much like our adults would normally. Typically we only have a choir for the first service. We are pretty careful with our programming in attempts to provide a great environment for people. The two services are different in order to reach people from different walks of life. Our church is still in transition I believe. There are 30 years of legacy that effect us. Getting an established church to completly change its understanding of what church could be is not an easy task. While we no longer do a kids Christmas program during our main services, in having the children as a part of both services as well as letting them do a "special" song, what message do we send? On one had I see the value of having the kids a part of things. It says we value them. It says they can contribute to our worship even at a very young age. It gives the kids a sense of value in being a part of something big. And of course, mom and dad are thrilled to see Johnny and Suzie (or James and Mary to be more biblical) on stage. All good reasons to do it.

There is a significant change in the dynamics of what happens when the kids are there in that role. It changes our song selection some. It changes our lighting, which affects the environment in big ways. It changes the way we mix audio. Those are the facts. I wonder if the new person coming through the doors will understand. Its hard to not have the worship turn into a performance when they kids are there. We try to create a place where people can really worship, but with the changes that happen are we able to worship or do we end up watching the children? Are we just satisfying the parents? Are we better served by having them or not? What do new people see and take away from the experience? Its just a couple times a year and does that make it acceptable? Please understand I'm not against having them, I just wish I knew how to better integrate them. I wish I knew how to answer those questions. I truly can see both sides of the discussion.