House Of Worship

Building A Vibrant Worship Space

Planning Is Everything - Part 1

Breaking news! House of Worship (HOW) leaders found guilty of hiring architects to design their worship space. Oh no! When? Where? The answer: “Often” and “almost everywhere on earth.”

Sorry for the sensational opening statement, but in light of the roar of fake news spinning around us, I thought I’d have a little fun.

I am sure you are thinking, well duh, we need architects to design our worship spaces. Yes, we do. However, unless designing HOWs is their specialty, I believe that these brilliant designers do not necessarily create worship spaces with ideal acoustic dynamics in mind.

In addition, they are often not informed that the structure may need to support thousands of pounds of line array speakers, lighting and video imaging equipment.

Furthermore, odds are high that they are not given information that accurately describes the power needs and power distribution required throughout the building. And, they probably have no idea that thousands of feet of communication cable must be run inside conduit throughout the worship space.

My point is that architects need detailed information that will enable them to create a worship space that will look great, that will sound great and that will function efficiently. The obvious question, then, is, “Who is preventing architects from receiving this valuable information?” The short answer is HOW leadership.

I have been working with HOW leaders long enough to know that, when they begin to visualize a new worship space, they are driven by the desire to get the auditorium built as quickly as possible. Sure, they may know they want lights, sound and video projection, but they rarely think deeply about addressing the acoustics, structure, power and cabling that are required to make them function. Instead, leaders often assume these important issues are either known by architects or can be addressed once the worship space has been built.

Like me, you have probably been brought into a HOW project near the end of construction. When we arrive, we find finished sheetrock walls, some type of drop ceiling (or a ceiling with exposed air-conditioning ducts), carpeted floors, tile floors, cement floors, and some type of fluorescent or mercury vapor lighting. The leadership explains that their goal is to have great sound in their worship space, great lighting (with numerous moving lights) and multiple video screens. And, “We are on a tight budget.”

Let me state clearly that I respect worship leaders. I understand that they are practitioners of their Faith. Thus, they don’t have a great need to thoroughly understand communication technologies and all matters associated with their use. So, I am calling on us to dig deep and find ways to get the message out that detailed planning in the design phase is the key to building a vibrant worship space.

When I have the opportunity to share my gospel of planning in the design phase, HOW leaders ask me to explain the key areas they should consider. As you know, there is a host of vital information that must be gathered in the planning phase that is vital to building a vibrant worship space.

At the top of the list is creating a realistic budget for construction and for technologies they will need to achieve their communication goals. But looking specifically within our area of concern, there are four prominent areas (and certainly many lesser areas) that I believe represent the fundamental types of information we can compile that can help leaders and their architects build a vibrant worship space. These are acoustics, structure, power and cabling.

To help all of us to examine these four fundamental areas, I am going to present this discussion over the next four months. In Part 2, I will discuss how great acoustics lead to great sound. In Part 3, I’ll discuss how to properly support heavy loads. In Part 4, I’ll cover setting up power for lights and sound, and Part 5 will cover conduits and cables.

I believe that this series will provide fundamental and easy-to-understand explanations that can help leaders appreciate how developing information in the planning phase will enable them to build a vibrant worship space.

That is what I believe. Please tell me what you believe.

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