While the gospel is timeless, the tools that are available to present and proclaim it are drastically different from the days of our parents’ church. Audio, visual and lighting (AVL) solutions and other tech are not just popular—they are essential to consider in church facilities today.
Ministry technology can be the biggest help or hindrance to your church and its mission. Here are some common problems and their solutions, and ideas for every church to use technology to make ministry easier.
Your AVL system is complex, and can take time to develop and strategize. We recommend getting started by developing a customized plan for your church’s AVL gear. Start by working with the worship leaders and audio engineers to define your short- and long-term goals. Determine how much you can spend on upgrades, maintenance and training before beginning to purchase equipment.
Buy quality, reliable gear that will last. Talk with other churches, read up on new technology solutions and educate those making the decision. If you’re beginning a renovation or a ground-up construction, your design team will have lots of recommendations and solutions for your facility, and will partner with an AVL company that is the best fit for your unique facility and worship needs.
LED Lighting Solutions
Lighting design can be incorporated into your church to enrich the worship experience. Lighting affects the overall ambience of your church, plus it is a creative art form designed to enhance the experience in worship services and special events. Lighting design includes stage lighting, sanctuary lighting, halls, children’s classrooms, offices and restroom facilities.
Choose a cohesive aesthetic design, and match your light fixtures to it. Throughout the process of choosing lighting, take time to visit other places that have the types of lighting you think will work best in your facility. Rather than just reading about various options, ask for demonstrations and go to locations so you can see how they perform in real time. This will give you a better comprehension and more realistic view of the products.
More and more, LED shines as the popular choice for lighting because of its improved output, budget friendly price and low maintenance features. New church construction projects often choose LED lights not only for the present, but also for the future. Almost all LED light fixtures have built-in dimming, and many have color controls.
Environmental Projection Systems
An Environmental Projection (EP) system is a term that describes the art of visually transforming your surroundings from a blank palette into a digital canvas through the use of projection technology, and is becoming an increasingly popular way to change the feel of a space. Adaptability and diversity are the key points of an EP system, and when used in conjunction with video systems and LED lighting, it allows the effects to be synched to one show control system, allowing for seamless transition. The result is so effective that the template used can have new graphics dropped in at any time, making the entire room customizable using imagery and light that can be changed based on a sermon series, a special event, or as a backdrop for Christmas and Easter plays.
A great example of this is Asbury United Methodist Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. At the time of installation, it was the largest environmental projection system in a church in the nation, spanning 300 feet wide, 30 to 60 feet tall, and fully customizable.
Asbury’s investment in an EP system is adaptable to both their traditional and contemporary services. For example, when they completed their new campus in 2003, they moved their original stained-glass windows from their former location to the smaller, 650-seat chapel on their new campus. Many of the churches longtime members were sad that the stained glass that had overlooked Asbury’s worship since their first facility built in 1965 was no longer a part of the central worship service. The solution was the same one that they used to make the sanctuary feel more contemporary: EP. Leadership was able to take high-definition images of the historic stained glass and project them back into the architectural features in the sanctuary, with a powerful and beautiful effect. Stained-glass windows are projected during the traditional service, and imagery that supports the theme of the sermon series is projected at the contemporary service.
Additional AVL Needs
Further consideration should be given to tech necessary for your unique recording and archiving needs. Does your church want to be able to film and broadcast sermons live to your website or YouTube channel? Do you need a better microphone and sound system to be able to turn sermons into podcasts? When you upgrade your AVL system, will a sound booth need to be installed?
The scope of AVL is vast and, especially to someone unfamiliar with it, can be overwhelming. Headphones, video cameras, sound booths and boards—the options feel endless. Consulting with a design build company, or an AVL expert is the best way to find out what the best options are for your church and will help narrow down your options to the best fit for your ministry, while being conscientious of your budget.
Building Automation Systems
More and more, we are automating our homes with solutions such as Amazon Alexa, Ring Security and Honeywell Home, which automates a thermostat using geofencing technology. A building automation system (BAS), also known as a building management system, does the same thing on a large scale, and operates buildings in all different types of climates to meet a variety of needs. From cooling the church facility to heating and so much more, building automation systems monitor every aspect of your facility’s operation. Reports are typically sent to and controlled by an app or an iPad that your facilities team can use. Building automation systems can be installed in new construction projects or retrofitted into an existing building.
Some of the systems that can be controlled and automated through a BAS are electric power control, temperature control, ventilation, and security and observation software that includes access control, surveillance, and intrusion detection and monitoring. This system does this by attaching sensors to different areas of the building. These sensors then collect data and communicate with other devices such as thermostats and lights to keep the church environment stable and consistent. Also, the individual elements can be preset and scheduled according to your needs.
For example, let’s say you only have one Tuesday night community group a month. You can preset your HVAC to be on, lights to be on, and the doors to be unlocked in advance of the actual day, or you can control it from the app or iPad. This allows for minimal waste of resources while providing comfort for your members so they don’t have to arrive hours early to cool down the building or endure a warmer (or colder) room. Additionally, the 24/7 monitoring will alert you in real time to a problem such as a power loss, water leak or break in so that it can be addressed before it becomes worse.
Security such as exterior floodlights, parking lot lighting, automatic door locks and video surveillance can all be automated through a BAS as well. For example, if you are near a residential area, there are requirements that prohibit your parking lot lights from being lit past a certain hour. This could be scheduled into the BAS and preprogrammed, preventing any midnight phone calls from a neighbor who can’t sleep. Utilizing a BAS for security not only eliminates the potential for human error when someone forgets to lock a door, but also allows you peace of mind and accessibility from anywhere to check on the facility.
Initially, there’s going to be an added expense for this purchase, but as you are making your facility more technologically and ecologically friendly, installing sensors such as occupancy sensors will help decrease costs for utility use. An occupancy sensor detects movement within its given range, and transmits the signal to the control unit. If no movement is detected after a period set by the user, the unit determines the space is unoccupied and switches off the lights. This sensor can also be used to make your facility more accessible to your congregation members that are elderly or have reduced mobility. An occupancy sensor differs from a vacancy sensor, which can also be used. A vacancy sensor will require the lights to be turned on manually, but will turn them off after a preset amount of time once it senses the room is vacant.
The most common, and perhaps obvious, automation we are currently seeing is in bathrooms. In the wake of COVID-19, many people have gained a heightened awareness of the health risk involved in public surfaces. We don’t have a single design, construction, renovation or expansion project that isn’t installing fully automated bathrooms. Toilets, soap dispensers, paper towel dispensers and faucets are now exclusively touch-free, which allows surfaces to stay cleaner, and provides a level of comfort to people who ar