In my many encounters with church building committees over the years, there’s often an overwhelming theme: build a room that can be utilized for a multitude of functions including worship, theatrical productions, concerts, special events, dinners, receptions… the list goes on.
It’s a discussion of compromise and of thinking to the future. For example, wouldn’t it have been nice - 25 years ago - if the building committee had considered that there might be need of more than a “roamer mic” and organ at the platform?
Of course, caution should be taken when addressing the subject, because we may be talking to some of the same committee members who helped make that initial decision. That said, the same committee members may also remember the subsequent funding needed for more conduit and floor boxes for the stage, including cutting up the concrete floor to get this done.
Meanwhile, the sound crew regularly trips over a bundle of mic cables and faces the unnerving challenge of tracing a bad cable to the soloist five minutes before the service begins.
All of it points to the fact that we need to be thinking about cabling and connectivity, as it will affect future generations, perhaps even long after we’re gone.
What can we reasonably estimate to happen in the next 15, 25 or even 50 years?
We start by listing out what currently will – and likely could - be needed on stage. Such a list may include singers, preachers, pulpits, baptismal, communion table, drums, guitars, piano, organ, bass, strings, brass…
Next, the question becomes location. Can we really anticipate the exact position of each of these items in the years to come?
One answer is yes - we can anticipate positioning because we will control it with a stage design. This is a popular option among larger churches, but can be very unpractical for the small-to-medium church. The approach, basically, means designing the stage with fixed choir, piano, organ, orchestra, monitor mixing, and other positions, and the result is superior sound quality in addition to consistent entrance and exit to various areas of the stage.
The other answer is no – we can’t possibly anticipate accurately. In reality, this is the case in the majority of situations. But let’s back up. When discussing systems, I always have two perspectives: musician and technical (or “techie”).
The musician side of me wants a stage free of cables, with plenty of space to interact with other musicians and the congregation. And I want the ability to plug in any instrument at any realistic place on stage. For example, if the drummer’s in the back, the technicians should be able to mic all of the drums if needed.
Meanwhile, the techie side of me wants easy cable runs, clean signal, and happy musicians. The easy answer: provide a ton of wire and conduit from that stage to the control area(s). Not just to the mixing console, but also to video rooms, studios, etc.
This is not to say that you should have 400 mic lines running all over the place. But build in the flexibility to run individual lines, snakes, fiber, data or whatever else may be encountered now and in the future. Make sure there are several conduits; it’s cheap to do now, very expensive later.