Do You Need A Church Sound System?

Do we need a better Church Sound System? This is the question that many congregations across Canada, and around the world are asking themselves. Churches are bombarded with opinions from church members and audio companies. Confusion is rampant. In order to make sense of all this, a look at our past may guide us toward a solution.

One hundred years ago, or more, sound systems were not even thought of, since amplifiers and speakers were non-existent. During this time, churches were generally built with quality acoustics, and with intelligibility in mind. Hearing was generally good since architects kept to proven traditional (biblical) acoustical shapes and designs. Earlier this century the sound system made it’s appearance, promising to replace the need for good acoustics (which are more costly), and to maintain intelligibility in lower cost buildings. Since this was accepted as the gospel truth, architects began to build non-traditional buildings with the understanding that the sound system would make up for any acoustic inferiority’s. It soon became apparent that the sound system could not replace the well-built acoustically designed church, and furthermore it was discovered that the sound system was only as effective as the acoustics. This didn’t stop the mass building of inexpensive, poorly performing sanctuaries, which continue to be built, and are now all too common.

Many of the churches which have been built over the last 60 years are totally dependent on some sort of artificial sound reinforcement, whether there is need for it or not. It would be easy to say our epidemic hearing problem (as some would say) is only linked to poorly designed buildings, but there are other significant changes in the last quarter century that we must observe. In my travels, I constantly hear the phrase “This church was built for sound” or my favorite, “We don’t need a sound system.”, ” I don’t have any problem hearing”. Often I would like to say, “Since your church went to the trouble of calling me, there must be a problem”. The truth is that a large portion of the church population today has some degree of hearing impairment. This is confirmed by the latest studies conducted by the Canadian and American hearing societies. They conclude that 20% of the population is afflicted. Many of these people (young and old) would prefer not to advertise their disability. The faithful come to church every Sunday, hoping to hear the entire service. Is it right for those of us in leadership to allow this to continue?

Today we have busy streets full of Sunday shoppers, aircraft noise, and new heating and cooling systems, which are incredibly loud, to name but a few. Many churches have installed thick carpet under the pews, which radically alters the acoustics of the room. When we look at the big picture, noise, poor acoustics, poor hearing, and not to mention useless buzzing P/A systems, it spells out simply that “we’re no longer in the good old days”. Churches from many traditional denominations are now introducing contemporary music into their worship styles, which automatically requires sound systems with more capabilities. As this trend continues, more members (especially youth) are now able to get involved in the worship service. This, I believe, is a great opportunity for the church. Many of the singing stars (secular or Christian) that we hear today began their careers at their local churches.

So how do we solve our sound needs? The first step is to obtain understanding; wisdom as directed to us in the book of Proverbs. Fact: church acoustics, and sound systems are unique. There are no secular applications that are equivalent. Find out what your church needs, now and in the future. Seek out a company that can help you with your needs. Remember that there are hundreds of companies that claim to “do churches”, and there are hundreds of churches now that wished they purchased a church designed sound reinforcement system. One Pastor was quoted as saying “There is never enough money to do it once, right, but plenty of money to do it poorly, three or four times”. The fact is that if the sound system is designed properly for your church, it will often never need to be redesigned, but possibly updated after 20+ years. The laws of physics don’t change why should your sound system?. Finding a professional church audio specialist will save you time, money, and heartache. Visit churches that have installed systems. See them at work, and compare. The good church audio contractors will offer you a minimum system performance, and money back guarantee in their proposals. This is for your church’s protection, and an indication you’re dealing with a true professional.

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