Many churches are currently in the midst of either renovating an existing worship space or building a brand new one.
So when should the audio/video/lighting (or AVL) provider be brought into the project?
It is easy to spend time on things that don't really matter and forget how important other things are. Many churches wait too long or don't put much importance to the audio, video and lighting portion of a project, until it is too late. The problem is that you are going to spend a large amount of money on your sound, video, lighting, and acoustics, and if you don't plan such a project out correctly with purpose, you are really just wasting your church's resources, and your time. This will cause frustration with the wrong or inadequate equipment, but also a lack of trust in future projects and decision-making.
There are some good practices to follow to make sure your project not only goes well, but also finishes well.
Bring your AVL folks in at the right time
All too often, planning tied to audio, video and lighting is almost an afterthought. Once it is brought up, the mad dash to get something planned and then executed is a crazy mess.
So when should the AVL provider be brought into the project?
Before the architectural concepts are finished: If they are handling acoustics, such as room shaping, angles, absorption and reflection, or the AVL systems need to fit around the aesthetics of the architecture.
While drawings are in development, and well before the plans are finished if AVL has to specify: Conduit, power requirements (how much and where), structural loads, or house-light designs.
Define your ministry values first
Before you start doing specs on specific equipment, you need to define what ministry values the equipment will need to satisfy. The why will dictate the how.
What are the main drivers of this project? Are current needs being met? Is future growth being limited? Why are we doing this project at all?
What are the core values of how the space will be used? What kind of space will it be?
What is working in the current space? What feels good?
What isn't working in the current space? What doesn't feel good?
The answers to any of these questions should never be about the gear itself, it should be about how you do ministry.
After you have defined the ministry goals and limitations, then, and only then can you proceed to deciding what the key values for how the technology serves the mission. This is the time to ask the gear questions; what is the vision for audio, video and lighting, and the acoustics?
What kinds of capabilities does it need to have? This is where you decide how things need to sound, what level of volume the sound system needs to attain, how large and bright the screens need to be, etc.
How flexible do your systems need to be? Will the sound system need to provide for a wide range of musical styles? Will the lighting system need to be flexible enough to do both worship and theatrical events? Will the venue be rented to outside groups, and what might their needs be?
What is the level of expertise of your techs? There is no sense installing a complicated system, if your technicians will not be capable of operating it. You may not need complicated systems at all, but you have to determine that up front.
What is the quality level of your musicians? You may end up with an amazing system, but the quality of both the musicianship and the program material in general will dictate the level of equipment you really need to have in your venue.
Develop A Plan For Strategic and Effective Implementation
Regardless of how your systems are implemented, get the whole plan designed first so you know what the target is. This is especially important regarding conduit runs and power installation. It is way more expensive to rip out walls and core concrete floors after the fact then to do it while construction is happening.
Once you have the "Master Plan," you can decide if you want to implement it all at once, or break it up into phases. Having a real plan from the start gives you an end goal, a real budget, and infrastructure that will help you both at the beginning and all through the audio/video/lighting build.
Once you have this plan, you can determine who should install your audio, video, lighting, and acoustics and why. Some churches have the qualified staff to implement the install of new systems, some don't. Knowing your staff and their limitations before you build will save you a lot of money and grief all through the project.
Most large churches with qualified staff members still hire an AVL company to design and install major projects for two reasons; focus, this is what the AVL company does 24/7) so they can do it faster and without distraction, and time, the AVL company is committed to get the install done in a timely manner and they are not distracted by the tech staffs actual job, week to week.
Bottom line, get ahead of the game.
Get out front of your audio, video and lighting upgrade or install. Don't wait until the last minute. You and your church will reap the benefits of being both organized and prepared.