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Editorial: Who You Gonna Call?

You might still be chewing on January's Line Out: Sermon on the Rackmount, by Brian Blackmore. Yet before you put aside that topic, here are a few more

Editorial: Who You Gonna Call?

Feb 1, 2004 12:00 PM,
By Mark Johnson

You might still be chewing on January’s “Line Out: Sermon on the Rackmount,” by Brian Blackmore. Yet before you put aside that topic, here are a few more thoughts on the subject. I’ve had the opportunity to speak with several well-meaning but undertrained church technical staff. My church, for example, has a sound team of relatively technically astute people who are totally untrained in the world of professional audio and video.

To save money, many churches take on the task of systems design in-house. All too often, the systems wind up not being used to their full potential because of lack of training. In some cases, the equipment is simply set up incorrectly. One church technician I spoke with lamented the fact that when his church designed and installed its sound system, not enough mic inputs had been installed, and the placement of the existing ones was pretty inefficient. My reply to him was, “How would you know?” Relative to itself, the church had done a good job and had used good components. However, though the church members were technically competent, they were not versed in the logistical or ergonomic requirements of the system because they had no experience.

Whenever I give a seminar or participate in a panel discussion regarding technical aspects of houses of worship, I stress one theme: involve a professional.

My first recommendation is to hire professionals to do the job entirely: design, installation, and performance verification/troubleshooting. My secondary recommendation is to at least hire someone to take on the consultation/supervisory role for the duration of the project. Professionals can provide the practical background and insight needed to make sure the right equipment is specified, installed, and used correctly.

I may be preaching to the choir, but we can do a better job of communicating why it’s important for churches to hire professionals.

Liability issues from safety to system operation are a major concern. Anytime something is being suspended over people’s heads, I tend to rely on someone who has training, certification, and insurance. The same goes for anything electrical. I know of members who have left their churches after suffering the ire of other members because their best efforts in system design and implementation were not good enough. Why take the chance of alienating (at best) or having legal action taken against (at worst) a well-intentioned volunteer?

Or how about investing in a technology but not having the infrastructure in place to support it? What happens generally is a large sum of money is paid for some piece of equipment that winds up sitting idle. Things like this erode the trust of the staff and church members, and further requests for equipment are not met favorably.

It’s important to make the customer understand the value of paying for your expertise and experience.

I’m interested in hearing your thoughts about this (or any other topics covered in Sound & Video Contractor). Send letters to the editor to s& or submit “Line Out” articles on industry-related subjects to me at In the meantime, keep mulling things over.

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