The audio amplifier was invented in 1909 by Lee De Forest and it changed everything, now with a little electricity and an input sound one could change even the smallest whisper into a deafening trumpet. Much like the amplifier your media and tech departments have the ability to turn the smallest service into a much farther reaching event.
So I’ll go straight to the point, the goal of anyone in tech or media at their church should be one thing: amplification. Whether this is by the literal amplifying of the music and preaching, amplification by providing visuals, or amplification by making our services and beliefs available to a wider audience, our goal should always be to increase the number of people that we can reach with a single service. When you think back to the first piece of tech to be used for the modern church—the printing press–you see that it was used to make the Bible more accessible to the common man. Thus, our priorities remain the same: we are to use technology to make the word of God, and worship, more accessible. So let’s talk about how we can better amplify the services we are a part of.
Speakers and audio should be the first thing that comes to your mind when we talk about amplification. Audio is a powerful tool in that it helps us reach more people in each gathering that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. Could you imagine trying to speak at a large gathering without a speaker system? It would be almost impossible. Someone would inevitably miss something that was said or the “amens” would drown out the preacher. Not only should we seek to amplify the service, but we should make sure it’s as good as it can be.
We need to strive to always have our audio in line first and foremost because it completely surrounds us during a service. With visuals you can look away, but with audio there is no such escape. We need to strive to have all the squeaks, squeals, buzzes, and muddiness all driven out before the service begins to make sure that we provide the most distraction-free sound environment that we can. In addition, we need to make sure that levels are properly adjusted in order to maintain a high sound quality. Having a service that sounds like it’s being broadcast by an AM radio is often times just as distracting as having a service with constant feedback and buzzing.
Images are a powerful means of communication, after all a picture is worth a thousand words. Visuals during worship and a sermon can be powerful aids to those on stage, and can help people better relate with the subject being presented. One thing that really struck me after beginning to do unique title slides for every sermon at a church that wasn’t used to them was that I would have people come up and say, “Thanks, that really helps me remember the sermon”. This struck me as odd, but after some consideration, it makes sense. Some people are visual thinkers and the way they recall thoughts, ideas, and concepts are through visual cues. Others learn differently and have different methods of recalling this information.
Getting visuals right is more about church culture than any other variable. You must work to tailor your personal style to the style that your church is most responsive to. I’ve been to places that didn’t like the clean cut style that I most enjoy. It was a challenge, but I had to change my style to meet what they expected, and the results cannot be understated.
Streaming of services may be the greatest thing for the church that’s happened in the last 10 years. Streaming allows us to reach people anywhere from 5 minutes down the road to halfway across the world. On top of that, it’s incredibly cheap compared to other forms of broadcast (see our article on streaming setups), it requires minimal hardware, and most media staff can learn how to do it with minimal training. Every church of any size can at least have a webcam set up in the back and have a line run from the soundboard to the computer.
We should strive provide a clean, easy to use, and distraction free interface for streaming. Seems like a no-brainer, right? What if I told you more than half the churches I have seen get this wrong? There should be a direct link to your broadcast from your church website, and also a clear section for archives if you offer them. Your service should always be on some sort of searchable provider as well. The good thing about Livestream and Youtube is that these capabilities are built into the service, but there are other smaller stream service providers that do not do this as well (see SundayStreams and similar).
Let me give you a practical example on how much of a difference amplification can make. The ministers, music, and worship teams that we work for do an incredible amount of work for each service. However, there are a limited number of people that they can reach. Imagine if you did 100 hours of study and research on a sermon and say that you got to preach it three times to the average-sized church of around 100 people. You would only be able to touch 3 people per hour of study, which seems pretty great until you consider mental retention and the inevitability that not everyone would respond to the exact message you preach, which would cut the minister effectiveness way down. There is hope, however, to increase this effectiveness, all without having to increase the hours spent by the minister.
Let us say, however, that this same minister does 100 hours of study on another message, but preaches in a church where they have a web broadcast. Then we would be able to increase the number of people reached by around 10-20% (from what I’ve seen). Then if this church went and did a podcast of this sermon, and archived the video on a searchable provider like Youtube, or Livestream, the upper limit of people that could be reached would be innumerable! The benefit for each hour of study goes from three people to how ever many people your tech department can reach. Once you couple this with a strong social media presence that is always promoting your content, you can easily expand your reach tenfold.
If there is one thing that I wish every church all over the world would get a hold of, it is that the minister and the outreach departments should never be alone in reaching out. Every office of every church should be involved in supporting the ministers and reaching out towards the lost and enabling more effective ministering to the congregation.
Going back to my opening illustration, when you’re amplifying sound you often run into a situation where you can no longer maintain the integrity of the initial sound while still adding volume. This is known as distortion, or noise, and this principle still remains the same when trying to amplify a service or a message. There has to be a balance between style/promotion and substance. Too far off and the attraction becomes misplaced. Instead of being attracted to the the presence of God, they become attracted to the idea or image. We must walk a fine line with our ministry and not stray too far into the territory of being a spectacle.
I hope that this article helped you get more of a handle on what the purpose of each discipline is and the pitfalls to watch out for with each discipline. If you have any questions please post them below and I’ll do my best to answer them.