Something goes wrong during the church service and all eyes focus squarely on you, the sound operator. It’s not fair, but that’s what happens. Too often people are recruited into operating the sound system that have some familiarity with technology; it doesn’t matter if they have experience with audio components and mixing fundamentals. The sad truth is that you can get recruited if you have ever shown any semblance of skill at either working with or troubleshooting electronics of any kind.
Unfortunately, this experience does not even come close to adequately preparing you for what’s involved when running a sound system with excellence. Sure, there are basics that will help you get sound out of your equipment, but if you only stop there, that’s all you will have…sound. There are subtle nuances in achieving a balanced mix, adjusting EQ, and knowing how to provide the best listening experience possible for the congregation.
I cannot tell you how many times I have attended a church service or function where mics are never muted when not being used, or are un-muted too late, resulting in a nasty “up-cut.” Or the sound is so loud and the EQ settings are so off that feedback is common and expected. How many times have you personally experienced someone picking up a microphone and asking, “Is this on?”
These are all signs of lack of training, trust and established standards within the AV department and these situations directly impact the quality of the service and the resulting impact of that service on those in attendance.
The good news is that there is a solution, but it will take dedication and commitment between the church leadership and the AV department. The church leadership must commit to providing resources to the AV department for proper training. The AV department must commit to being teachable and they must be willing to dedicate themselves to improving their skills and knowledge to provide the most seamless experience possible.
You may be thinking that quality AV doesn’t really matter in a small church; everyone is used to bad audio or issues with the system and that if you had better equipment than the issues would go away. I will admit that in some cases, the equipment is largely to blame. However, if you do not consistently do the best you can with what you have, it will be very difficult for the church to provide you with the finances necessary to upgrade the equipment you have. I also ask the question, “If you don’t know how to use your current equipment, what makes you think you will know how to use brand-new equipment?”
This is why I always encourage churches to invest in their people by providing opportunities for training by qualified professionals. Whether that be a DVD training series on fundamental principles, sending them to a conference or trade show that offers hands-on training or bringing in a professional to train on your specific equipment, showing your AV department that they are supported and appreciated is a huge first step in ensuring a quality service. Make sure any training you consider incorporates not only technical training, but also goes into the why that drives what is being trained.
Excellence in small church sound is not unachievable, but it does require a commitment by every person on the team to do it right, every time. This can, and should, be driven by the pastor establishing a vision of excellence for the AV team and a continued series of messages from the pastor of how excellence in their department translates to real lives being impacted. This is where the sweet spot lies. High quality AV is possible, but it takes a team!