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Is Your Worship Sound Too Loud? Sometimes It’s Hard To Be Quiet

An experience driven essay on how loud can be too loud at the house of worship, from Willow Creek Community Church Audio & Systems Director Chris Gille.

By Chris Gille April 29, 2009

I get the same emails and letters you get.

“God has ears too, you know!”

“The church is to be an example to the world, not as loud as it!”

“It’s so loud I don’t come anymore.”

“I wish your staff cared about the congregation.”

“You are damaging our ears.”

“Don’t you know about OSHA’s volume limit of 85 dB?”

Any of this sound familiar? Few comments seem to offer anything really helpful, validated with a name and contact information, which service, where they were sitting, and what the author’s “normal” music style preferences are.

Otherwise, these are just comments that leave us frustrated. Especially when so many of us are trying so hard to squeeze every drop of excellence out of whatever we have to work with.

I have decided, with God’s Grace, to let these comments instead fuel me towards excellence, accuracy, knowledge, experience, and authority in facts, and I hope any words and experiences I can share will do the same for you.

My hope is that you may relate, be encouraged, and at least have another opinion to help you more confidently derive at your own.

We all need encouragement with how complicated the topic of volume can be in church.

I have been self-immersed in this very topic for not months, but years, and wanted to take the risk of sharing where I am on a journey to answer the question, “How loud should it be in my church?”

Opening
Almost four years ago, Willow Creek Community Church opened the doors to our new facility. And we went online with awesome overall improvement in sound. Indeed, there was an adrenaline rush amidst the exhaustion of getting to that point.

Over the months that followed, we were getting reports that were all over the map. From “best sound ever” to “way too loud” and “can’t understand the vocals.”

We knew it was way better, but we had only begun the long process of experiencing all 7,200 seats and what actually happens there during a service. Because of the range of reports coming in, hard decisions had to be made.

We knew that many factors beyond volume were playing into the range of reports.


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Todd Arbogast says

Do you use time align delay referenced to your stage sound or monitors. An example for live touring is alignment to drums.

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