The elements that go inside a church building are just as important as the building itself. This is especially true when it comes to AVL or the audio, video and lighting elements inside a church. It’s because the vision for ministry in so many churches incorporates everything from concerts and performances to sound for services and recording video for broadcast or distribution.
The three components of AVL also present key church design issues. There are many decisions that church leaders have to make, often before the cornerstone is laid, and those decisions often involve compromising “perfection” from a technical standpoint in favor of aiming for workable solutions that meet your ministry needs and also fit within your budget.
The Sound Booth “Elephant in the Room”
In this post, we’ll focus on the audio elements of AVL, beginning with the sound booth, because the sound booth often becomes the “elephant in the room” for many churches. You see, in order to ideally adjust sound for every event held in the space, sound technicians need to experience exactly what everyone else in the room is experiencing. This is why early church building audio booths that were housed in separate rooms or enclosed spaces didn’t work well. The “sound man” was experiencing sound only through a set of headphones.
The solution early on was audio control boards that simply used a table set on top of a row or two of pews, either in the center or to the side or back of the church. This presented its own set of problems, including connecting all those wires (often bundled together and collectively called a “snake”) without creating tripping hazards, and the fact that the sound technician blocked the view of everyone worshipping behind them.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
This question of a blocked view is arguably the biggest church design issue involving audio. Ideally, in addition to being in the center of the room, the audio booth should be elevated to the level of the stage. This allows the technician to see who’s grabbing which microphone, or who’s signaling that there’s a problem, even if everyone around the sound booth is standing.
Of course, an audio booth that high (or even at floor level) will block sight lines for everyone behind them, and the audio booth activities will become a distraction for everyone around them. This is why many churches compromise and decide to put sound booths at the back of the worship space, or even elevate the sound booth above worshipper sight lines in their new church design. This gets the audio “out of sight, out of mind” and allows participants to focus on worship.
Call in the Professionals
Moving the sound booth, of course, returns us to the issue of adjusting sound when your technician isn’t in the center of things. If your church has the budget to hire a professional sound technician (or get one to volunteer), the location of the board is more critical. Someone who adjusts sound on a regular basis can make the most of a centrally located, but sight blocking sound board location. If a church volunteer who is not highly trained is responsible for sound, the location of the board is less of a problem.
Another Element in the Church Design Mix
Of course, if your church design requires that your worship space be a multi-ministry space, you will have other considerations to worry about. You can’t have an audio booth out in the middle of a basketball court, or run the risk of getting it damaged when you hold a dinner in the space. This is why many churches choose the elevated option in a multi-ministry space, or put the sound systems on a mobile cart that can be locked up (along with other specialized sound equipment) when it’s not needed.
It’s Never Too Early to Think AVL in Your Church Design Phase
As you can see, there are a lot of considerations and compromises to discuss, just with audio. How many prime worship seats are you willing to lose? What’s your ongoing audio budget—can you afford to hire a professional to manage your sound system? How much space do you really need for additional equipment besides the sound board? These are all questions we can help you answer.
To learn more about church building design considerations, sign up today for our free i3 webinar series. Also stay tuned for part two in this series to learn more about AVL, which will address video elements in church design.