Church Sound Systems & the Volunteer Engineer

Guidelines for Volunteer Sound Engineers: How to Work in Churches and Public Spaces

Previously, we discussed how to choose a sound system for a church or other place of worship.

We will now address how that church sound system is put to use.

Guiding principles for using volunteer sound engineers:

In setting up the sound system in a church or house of worship, it is important to remember that your sound engineer is usually a volunteer or at most a part-time professional. To accommodate volunteer sound engineers, the sound board should allow easy operation. By the same token, even the most straight forward sound system requires a sound engineer who is dependable, cooperative and has a “good ear”. Ideally he or she should be knowledgeable about overall sound operation, and familiar with your particular sound system’s technical strengths and limitations. Ultimately the person who operates your sound board can – quite literally – make or break or your sound system.

Operating guidelines for volunteers operating the sound system:

You, as a volunteer sound engineer, should plan to be present during rehearsals of the choir, instrumentalists, orchestra or drama group.

You should see the rehearsal as an opportunity to chart settings for use during the live performance.

Perform sound checks by doing a walk through with a colleague and/or by using a decibel meter. Remember, sound-checks should be made before an event actually begins – especially when a you are new to the venue.

In addition, as part of the process of rehearsal, all equipment should be tested at least once – avoid opening night surprises! You should also be prepared to readjust settings during a live performance; as a sound engineer you already know (or soon will) that the number of congregants in attendance at a church service, and where they are sitting, will directly affect loudness. Spotters in the audience can help fine tune the system. A system of hand signals is generally used to facilitate communication between the spotters and the sound engineer; Intercoms are a more sophisticated option.

At all times remember that you, as the sound board operator, should be familiar with a sound system’s limitations. Finally, in spite of the venue being a house of worship, both the congregation and the religious leaders should understand that the engineer – even a professional – cannot always perform miracles.

Call or email us if you have any questions about which Sound Systems are right for your house of worship.