“Church AV is no longer a luxury,” says Davida Rochman at Shure. And it’s a sentiment that many churches would do well to take to heart.
People go to church because they want to hear what the priest or preacher has to say. But while many churches are quite beautiful, their acoustics aren’t always up to the task. It’s why most modern churches have some sort of pro AV equipment — and why churches with poor audio equipment often find that their pews remain empty.
But as Conference Technologies, Inc. has pointed out, good audio equipment isn’t the only thing that makes a good worship service — visuals also play a very important part.
Not everyone is an auditory learner, and not everyone will be engaged by a spoken sermon alone. Visual elements can improve the worship service by engaging people on multiple levels
That can mean the difference between rapt attention and wandering minds. Traditional AV, however, often cannot meet these needs.
If your church’s AV equipment is too out-of-date or too complex to meet your creative vision, you might find more success with AV over IP — a flexible, powerful solution for modern churches looking to engage with their congregations.
The Role of Pro AV Equipment in Worship
“The main purpose of a Sunday morning service or Wednesday night Bible study is to communicate a message to the congregation,” says Texadia Systems. “If the pastor or speaker is not audible or the sound mixing is not done correctly, people may not be able to understand the majority of what is being said.”
Your first priority when building an AV strategy for your church is to find equipment that sounds good. You also need to find people who know how to work it, and who can be counted on to be reliable.
It’s all right to start small. AV Specialists note that the use of speakers, video and personal listening devices can improve the church service for many worshippers. Your AV strategy can begin with something as simple as offering personal listening devices to members who may have trouble hearing from a distance.
From there, you can grow to accommodate more members using both audio and visual elements. And once you’ve made your sermon accessible, you can make it creative.
One example that you might consider is adding a video wall, like this one Just Add Power president and CEO Ed Qualls donated to his former university. This can make your church stand out and help to keep your congregation members engaged.
Managing a Church’s Pro AV Installation
An important part of building an AV strategy for a church is learning how to manage it. After all, as WorshipU points out, your team will be made up of volunteers, which means there will be quite a bit of transition. In addition, you usually won’t hear feedback from your congregation members unless something is going really wrong.
What both of these things comes down to is this: You have to know your congregation. You have to know what will interest them, and you have to know who can help. And the best way to know is to ask.
If you’re trying something new in your AV strategy, don’t be afraid to ask your congregation for help. Ask if anyone has expertise on the subject — and more importantly, ask what they think once you implement it.
Once you have a clear AV strategy, and an understanding of how you’ll be using it, the final step is to get technical. Figure out the equipment that will work best for you.
If you’re unsure where to start, Dale Alexander suggests focusing on demographics. Does your congregation skew a little older or younger? “This matters because the demographic profile of a congregation can help the acoustic and sound professionals understand the musical quality and speech intelligibility expectations,” he says. “It can also be a determining factor in the implementation of other technical aspects, such as video projection and lighting systems.”
Another thing you need to keep in mind is troubleshooting. Ben Coleman warns that you need to prepare for the unexpected. “Similar to a basketball game, our world of managing this complex and expensive pool of equipment is filled with intangibles and situations we cannot predict,” he says. “But looking at both the short-term and long-term views and putting into place a master plan will give you and your church a greater peace of mind and financial stability.”
Having your long-term goals in mind can help you pick the right equipment now, instead of realizing that you want something different a year later.
But while you want to make your AV equipment last, Mike Sessler notes that you shouldn’t be afraid to update your equipment: “See, I think most churches look at A/V/L equipment as a one-time capital expense. They buy all the stuff they need once, and forget about it for a long, long time. At least until it breaks. At which point there is a sense of panic and urgency to get it fixed or replaced.”
There’s something to be said for updating your AV equipment before it breaks. But updating traditional AV can often be expensive, and usually you’ll have to learn a whole new system, as well.
However, these problems are eliminated with AV over IP.
Why AV Over IP?
Traditional AV is often bulky and made for a specific purpose, with no room for creativity or flexibility. It can be difficult to update, and even more difficult to train newcomers on, which can be a problem when you factor into the high turnover rate of church volunteers. If you’re trying to implement traditional AV into your church, it can often feel like an uphill battle.
AV over IP, conversely, is something that most people with some AV knowledge have at least a working understanding of, and it’s easier to learn. Also, it is incredibly flexible, meaning it will work with just about any church.
Manesh Kalidas at Marathon Professional Services explains what makes AV over IP so powerful: “Distributing audio and video signals over the IT network is an innovative approach that allows for flexible, configurable and scalable installations, which can be easily controlled and centrally managed.”
The ease of control is what makes it so perfect for a church environment. Making it easy to adjust for new worship leaders, new sermons and more helps you keep the service fresh and interesting.
AV company ZeeVee is also quick to sing the praises of networked AV. “AV over IP is a practical, cost-effective solution to deliver high quality video while reducing complicated delivery systems and high cost equipment.”
For many, AV over IP is the perfect mix of powerful and cost-effective. However, ZeeVee does warn that this equipment “might be the target of some wannabe hackers. That’s why it’s critical to emphasize security when deploying AV over IP solutions with strong access controls, encryption, and digital content protection.”
However, if you build security into your strategy, you likely won’t face any problems. “If you aren’t having AV over IP and network security conversations along the way, you need to recalibrate your approach,” Sensory Technologies’ CTO Blaine Brown says. “The sooner conversations occur with your AV partner, the better; they will be able to design a solution that can measurably meet specific business initiatives.”
Atlona’s Michael Crisci agrees that the pros of AV over IV far outweigh the worries. “Solutions are addressing IT-specific needs like network redundancy, AES encryption and forward error correction within the AV environment. The fears of IT and AV convergence have passed.”
So, how do you find the right AV over IP system for your church?
“It’s all a balance, and understanding the variables is key to choosing and successfully implementing an AVoIP system for your clients,” David Meyer at Hidden Wires says. “A good place to start is the infrastructure, the network.” Things like bandwidth, network speed, compression and latency must be taken into account.
If you take the time to research and find the perfect AV over IP system for your strategy, you’ll be able to completely transform the worship experience for years to come.