Jesus never used a Countryman Microphone

B2SB13 (43 of 112)How do you prefer your worship service?

I have been leading worship at Abundant Life for nine years. The sound for the weekly service is always a topic of discussion for me. As a media professional, it is always a frustration that I cannot be in the sound booth and on the stage at the same time. Obviously there is not a one setting fits all with the preferred volume level or song selection of a service because every room is different and every setting is different. When you go to big mega-church worship service, they are sometimes running at 110 decibels or higher without any issues – but they are also mixed professionally.

It is real easy for people to have an issue with a mix at 95db when it is mixed poorly and painful to the ears whereas that same individual may not have any issue at 105db if mixed properly – especially if the given song is one that they like.

I’m not at all interested in a concert style worship service. However, there is something to be said if the volume is loud enough that you can’t hear your neighbor sing. This helps those who are tone deaf not be worried that others will hear how bad they sing. It also helps many to feel more free to belt it out without concern that they will be heard by all.

Like many worship leaders, I also want to be able to hear the congregation singing. I am usually very intentional to provide times where the various instruments cut back, or out, with the purpose of boosting the congregational singing clarity.

When I enter the discussion of “what decibel should be the target for a worship service,” it often is followed by the other person implying we have “gotten away from the heart of worship” or something similar to that. As a media professional, I fully understand that every room is different and every band, board and sound man will play, function and hear things differently. If OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, is capable of stating standards for health safety to a specific decibel, then why would we feel that the church is incapable of at least setting some reasonable goals to work around?

Many worship leaders are not very versed in sound and as such, this topic is simply not discussed. It seems that one of the more typical difficult relationships in the church is between the worship team and the sound man. Perhaps if the worship team had better understanding of sound, this might not be the case.

The congregation where I serve is multi-generational and multi-cultural. We run between 150 and 200 in the sanctuary Sunday mornings. Like many, I have fought the typical fights of hymns vs new songs. I am very intentional to include at least one hymn in every service and to not go overboard with newer songs for a number a reasons. Typically, the young people on the worship team don’t recognize the theological depths of the hymns. The melodic values are not as emotionally moving to the younger generation (who didn’t grow up with them) as the new songs. The younger ones also seem to prefer the volume at higher levels. They regularly talk of being able to get into the music much more when they physically feel the kick drum and the bass guitar vibrate their body. I can understand this and it makes complete sense. It incorporates one more of the senses by adding feel to seeing the words, hearing the music and of course singing themselves. The younger worshipper still needs to recognize that the worship isn’t for them.

However, I serve the entire congregation including those who prefer the hymns and would like the sound quieter. To these individuals, I have to help them understand the young person’s side of the debate. I also work with these individuals to understand that the songs they grew up listening to are no more sacred then the songs that are new today. The main difference is familiarity. These individuals may simply be complaining because they do not like the song selection. I believe that there are times that the levels are equally hot during a hymn with no complaints.

I know that it doesn’t seem very spiritual but the technological aspects of a worship service are equally important as the quality of ones voice on the stage or the lyrics that are being sung – well, almost as important as the lyrics. In order to have excellence, it requires being intentional. Education, research, and focus on the physical elements that comprise a typical worship service in America is part of the process.

What often happens in smaller church worship teams is people tend to think everything they have is junk. I cannot count the times someone has implied “this” or “that” stinks and we need to replace it with “First Church of X” has. Being intentional about the physical aspects of a worship service is not focusing on what we do not have by comparing what bigger budget churches may have. It is focusing on being the most faithful we are capable of being with what we have already been made stewards over.

I don’t care for the seeker friendly or trendy settings. I am interested in pointing people to Christ and doing whatever I can to lead people into worship.

My initial question was simply intended to get a pulse for what others do. It sometimes seems like there are more who are “too spiritual” to focus on practical elements like sound quality. Of course, David didn’t struggle with a sound system and Jesus never had to use a Countryman microphone or worry about feedback. This doesn’t mean that those things are less spiritual than if we were to simply chant acapella or have a biblical style harp as our only instrument. They also didn’t use the printing press to print the scriptures they would read and they didn’t have a projector to display the words.

Let’s talk about this stuff. These are my thoughts. Let me know yours.


2 thoughts on “Jesus never used a Countryman Microphone

  1. Well written. I appreciate the words of understanding for both sides of the matter. “It is focusing on being the most faithful we are capable of being with what we have already been made stewards over.” Amen!


  2. I started out as a musician directing high school bands. Then, though a certain set of circumstances, got saved and started attending a church. I played drums on the worship team after a while and then helped in tech. That led to getting a job at that church as a technical director. After a while I transitioned jobs because of some other ministry opportunities and now I work as an AV systems designer for an integration company.

    All that to say I’ve seen these things from many different perspectives.

    I run into a lot of people who have the “if you build it they will come” idea about technology and I get pulled into that as well. The main issue for discussion is what is this technology stuff really for?

    It’s all about communication. Sound systems, video screens, all that stuff is to aid the communication of a message. Just like there are good tools and bad tools and better tools to get a job done, the same is true here. You can use a hammer to drive a nail, or an air nailer, or a cucumber. Two will do the job, one faster, and one won’t do it at all.

    The point is that a lot of people mistake the technology for the message. The technology is the conduit through which the message travels. If your message isn’t solid, amplifying it with 25,000 watts of the best amplifiers out there though the most awesome steerable line array is just going to deliver a shaky message to a lot more people.

    Just like a painter picks the right brush to apply the right shade of paint, with just the right stroke, picking technology must consider the over all picture that your are trying to paint, and hopefully that picture is something God has shown you and your leadership. The second most important thing to knowing the message you are delivering is who you’re delivering it to. Really understanding those two points will help guide you through the tricky parts of these decisions.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s