There is nothing like opening up that new cardboard box, throwing the packaging to the side, ripping off the plastic, and plugging in that new piece of beauty. I am speaking of electronics –new and pristine, default settings and all.
However, reality sets in, and we realize that we cannot always have the shiny new equipment. Many times we simply have to take care of what we have and get the most use out of it. If you find yourself in this situation, there are seven primary things you can do to maximize your existing equipment.
1. Discover – It is important to discover your challenges, desires, equipment, and talent. An example of a challenge is when the pastor hands his notes to the media crew five minutes before service each week. Poll your staff and volunteers to understand what challenges exist. If you know what they are, you can work through them.
As a church, it is also important to understand what your media desires are. Sometimes, simply by reconfiguring your existing equipment, you can achieve these desires. For example, it may be quite simple to begin streaming or podcasting with the very equipment you have. Do not be afraid to discuss ideas and dream about what you feel your needs are.
If you are an organization that does not share equipment between departments such as youth, children, and the main auditorium, break down the walls right away. Even if you have equipment that is not in perfect working order, it could work well enough for another area in the church. I have seen many churches enhance areas of their ministry simply by pulling out old equipment from other areas of the church.
Talent is another thing you should discover. It amazes me the hidden talent that is sometimes found in a church. Work hard to continuously uncover and recruit the hidden human creativeness and skill sets that could be right in front of you.
2. Document – Your system needs to be well documented. This documentation should consist of an overall system schematic and proper labeling on everything from racks to the AVL consoles. I often hear the excuse that a system is not documented because of the inability to have it drawn in a CAD program and neatly printed out. It is okay to possess hand drawings of the system layout. Simply draw out your system showing how the equipment connects together in a format that you understand.
This documentation will be valuable when something goes wrong, or you want to understand how to add a feature. Productions work much smoother when there are few questions about what knobs are programmed to do. Use dedicated console writing tape that does not leave a sticky residue. You will be amazed how someone’s confidence level goes up with good labeling.
3. Clean – It is fascinating how wires in equipment racks and beneath counters at front of house locations get out of control so fast. Take time to straighten out those cables. Pull out anything you are no longer using. Also, do not forget to clean those filters. Most all projectors, amplifiers, and DSP processors have an air intake located on them somewhere. Some of these devices have filters that periodically need to be cleaned. If you have not cleaned the filters in your projectors in a while, you should do this immediately. Some projector lamps get as hot as 300°F. If you have clogged filters and no air can get inside of the projector, it is equivalent to placing the projector in a 300° oven. Just imagine how well you will understand your system once everything is cleaned, documented, and labeled.
4. Test – It is common to see a bad microphone cable ruin a great worship service. Use a cable tester to make sure your cables are in good working order. You should test your microphone cables, speaker cables, and any loose auxiliary cables periodically. Cable testers are relatively inexpensive and should be something you have readily available. Another big thing you should pay attention to is your existing rigging. Whatever is hanging has a potential of falling. Check the rigging integrity of these items. If you are uncomfortable verifying this, call in a professional.
5. Repair – I find clients that have great equipment but are not using it because something is not working correctly. Why not take action and get these items in good working order? If you have poor acoustics, a loud air conditioning unit, a buzzing sound system, or anything else that is obviously not appropriate, get it fixed. These issues can be resolved by you or an expert and often are not as expensive as you may expect. However, do not settle for poor audio, video or lighting simply because you think it is too complicated to correct. At the very least, explore your options.
6. Prepare – Always have a plan “B.” As your systems get older, the inevitable is going to happen. Things are going to break. Prepare for that now. If you are in a large room, have a handheld megaphone near the stage in case the sound system completely goes out. Install a programmable wall station loaded with presets such as the Doug Fleenor Pre10-A that will take over if the lighting console goes out. Think of the catastrophic situations that you could experience and prepare for them.
7. Enhance – There are simple things that you can do with your existing gear that will make a difference. Relocating some of your light fixtures can help give the room a different feel. Using updated and unique backgrounds on your video presentations can make a big difference. Also, adding something as small as an Apple TV and allowing your pastor to present his own graphics can give your worship experience a new flare.
Maximizing the use of your equipment is simply good practice. You could also argue that we have an ethical obligation of caring for these investments. When it comes to the media systems in your church, always have justification and purpose for what you are doing.
His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy!’—Matthew 25:21 (HCSB)