Church sound system operation can
be broken into two different groups: systems that are just turned
on and off (with everything pre-set), and systems that require
a dedicated operator. Pre-set systems are typically found in more
traditional churches. They can be simple systems with a few microphones
connected to an automatic mixer or small very flexible systems
that were well designed (and therefore don't require an operator).
Now, "flexible" doesn't mean complicatedit simply
means the system can be used in many ways and has been designed
such that it can accommodate many different needs. Automatic mixers
are typically used in situations where there's a concern of feedback
or where the sound system seemingly adds reverberation to a room
when too many microphones are turned on at once. This suggests
an acoustical or design problem. A system well designed in a room
with proper acoustics should work well with a standard mixer that
can be set and left with two or three microphones turned on. Having
such a mixer installed allows for expansion in the future and
will accommodate special events the church may have that are above
and beyond the normal scope of a typical church service.
Systems that require a dedicated operator are found in churches
of all denominations and are used for all types of worship. A
traditional church may have several microphones that need to be
turned on and off; a more contemporary church may incorporate
music playback or even a band during the service.
For all types of sound reinforcement systems, someone is operating
it whether they're just turning it on, or if they have a role
in its operation during the course of the service. If the system
is only turned on and off (not adjusted by anyone), just about
anyone can "operate" the system. However, in larger
systems that require an operator, the person or people operating
the system must know what they're doing! They need to know how
to operate the equipment without having to consult the instruction
manuals during the service.
As with any piece of equipment, if you don't know how to use
it properly, you shouldn't be using it at all. "Playing around"
with the controls often does more harm than getting things to
work the way you want them to. Some churches have resorted to
putting locks on the equipment so only people with keys can get
to it and operate it. Locks also help defer theft and vandalism
(churches are not exempt from theft and vandalism). So what happens
when there's a wedding or a kids music rehearsal and no one has
a key? Often a set of master keys will be kept in the church office
and someone will get themthen everyone stands around the
sound equipment trying to figure out how to "make it work".
The outcome is usually a bunch of controls adjusted in improper
ways and still no sound coming from the speakers!
A few churches have written a list of qualifications that need
to be met before you're allowed to operate the sound system. Qualifications
such as being chosen by the music minister to be on the team,
passing some sort of sound "exam", having been through
a training session or two, or even having been a sound apprentice
for several months. Some of the lists of qualifications are short
and to the point while others may be several pages long. Why is
this needed? Why must you meet a list of qualifications before
you operate the church sound system? Simplethe church leadership
realizes the sound system is an expensive piece of complicated
technical equipment, and they want only people who really know
how to use it running it. You need a drivers license before you
can legally drive a car. To get that car license you need to meet
a list of qualificationsoften a written test and an on-the-road
test. Passing these tests means you've met (at least) the minimum
standard qualifications for driving a car. This doesn't mean you'll
always do well, it doesn't mean you won't have accidents, it doesn't
mean you know everything there is to know and you'll never have
to be trained again. It means you've met the qualifications that
state you know enough under the present conditions. (I bet many
people would fail an on-the-road test in winter when there's snow
and ice on the ground!) Your driving license can be taken back
if you fail to follow the rules. Many of the churches that have
incorporated a list of qualifications will also disqualify people
if they continue to fail meeting certain criteria. If you're always
a half-hour late for the service, you'd be disqualified. If you
were always goofing off or not paying attention like you should,
you'd be disqualified. Having a list of qualifications helps the
church lay down some rules that keep things in the best interest
of the entire church.
Once the sound system has been used, it needs to be closed up
and cleaned up properly. This includes setting all of the mixer
controls and knobs back to their normal positions, coiling cables
and packing them away, packing away microphones, monitors, and
mic stands, etc. This helps the next person use the system because
theyre starting with a nice clean slatethey don't
need to figure out how the system was last used and what needs
to be changed for their event.
Finally, the people who operate your sound system are the ones
that should keep tabs on the equipment. Is it all working properly?
What cables are bad, do you need to purchase more microphones
or microphone stands? Is the sound system being left in good condition
when you come in to use it? These problems should be reported
to whoever heads up the sound or technical ministry at your church.
That person should then do whatever needs to be done to fix the
The person or people who are in charge of operating your church
sound system should know how to correctly operate the equipment
and what to do when the system isn't working right. The sound
system isn't just a big home-stereo systemit's a complicated
product that needs to be treated right.
Take a look at your sound systemhow complicated is it?
How much training and knowledge is required to successfully operate
it? Would you have a smooth church service if an untrained or
under-trained person were running the sound? These questions should
help you determine whether your church needs to establish some
qualifications for operating the sound system.
So, who operates your church sound system? Are all of those people
qualified to do so?