It seems like about half the churches I work in have a knowledgeable, experienced, passionate sound person at the helm and the other half have a nice person who stayed at a Holiday Inn Express once. Some churches are even lucky enough to have the super-gifted people just hanging out as volunteers, and like a lot of things in life, won’t appreciate what they had until it’s gone.

It’s the second type of church that keeps Guitar Center and Sweetwater and the install companies in business. These (usually smaller) churches have problems, and the Internet is full of answers. The bigger churches have awesome expensive stuff, say the smaller churches, and we have old boring stuff, so buying more stuff must be the answer, and all our web searches confirm it.

But this is flawed logic: the most important thing the big church has that you don’t is a great sound person. The truth is, their sound person would do a lot better with your cheap outdated gear than your sound person is going to do with all the nice things you think you need. No one really believes that buying an expensive guitar for a beginning player is going to make him or her a better musician, but that’s exactly how we think about some of the terrible, very expensive PA purchases we make.

I’m guilty. I’ve listened to the sales pitches:

“It’s digital: it basically mixes for you.” (It doesn’t)

“It’s just that this room is bad” (it probably is, but that’s probably not the main thing holding you up)

“We just need a drum shield/ cage/ electric drums, DI everything, and in ear monitors” (here comes a terrible mix at a low and uninspiring volume)

I’m not necessarily against any of those things, the point is simply: if you have a novice sound person, no piece of new gear is going to magically make great results happen. Luckily, I have a really simple solution that’s going save you a ton of money.

Hire a sound person.

Hear me out. How much money are you going to spend on equipment this year? It’s not unusual for this to be one of the most expensive budget areas in churches that are trying to do modern worship with any type of production at all. For ballpark $200 a Sunday, you will spend $10,000 a year to have a professional at the helm all the time.

Imagine:

No more: “Hello? Am I on?” (Followed by screaming feedback.)

No more worrying about hurting the feelings of someone that got up at 6:30 on their only day off to be told by people all morning that the mix sounds bad.

No more quiet prayer moments at the end of service ruined by accidentally blasting a track from the youth playlist over the house system.

Imagine: just being able to fire your sound guy.

But still, you’re like: we can’t afford it. But take a moment to consider:

  • Over time, you’re going to spend (waste) much more money buying equipment that will have much less impact.
  • Most other positions that we decide to hire are based on their importance to the weekend gathering. How about a person that could accidentally hit one wrong button and bring the whole thing to a grinding halt? Does it really seem fair to put that much pressure on the 15 year old with no training? Are there any other positions that the entire service depends on that you don’t hire?
  • Maybe you could get the pro to do some on-the-job training and develop an assistant. If you decide work volunteers back into the position, there would be a new normal for what a service is supposed to sound and feel like, and a new seriousness about the importance of the job—which in many places is sorely needed.

So many times, I’ve done audio consulting at churches that have three great fully functioning mixers piled up in a storage closet. Often, the first conversation we have is the worship leader or lead sound volunteer telling me how their stuff isn’t that great and their room is bad and the band is a challenge and all the stuff they think they need to make it awesome. (This is often followed by me asking them to please stop buying things, and then showing them that their subwoofers are unplugged.)

What’s your equipment budget? Maybe—just maybe—there’s a better way to invest it.