Posted in education on February 28, 2017 10:47 am EST

6 Key Considerations in Specifying AVL for Churches

It's not really about the equipment, designers and consultants report. In the church environment a good AVL design goes above and beyond the gear.

Images courtesy of Church of the Highlands, Birmingham, Ala.











Sign up for our bi-monthly newsletter Designer Today to stay up to date with all we do at Designer and with what's going on in the field of house of worship architecture.


TAGS: avl design, avl specification, collaboration, integration, worship space design,


By Carolyn Heinze

The phrase “audio, video, and lighting” conjures up images of sleek boxes, flashy fixtures, and giant screens displaying crystal clear images. While all this is exciting to tech aficionados and tinkerers alike, in the church environment a good AVL design goes above and beyond the gear. Here are some things to consider ...

1.) Watch their language

Donnie Haulk, president and CEO at AE Global Media Inc., an acoustics and AVL design firm based in Charlotte, N.C., underlines that when designing systems, the most important factor to consider is the church’s worship style. Designers, he says, must make the effort to truly understand how that specific church wants to worship in the space. “[We have to] be able to define the words and descriptions used by the pastor and staff to achieve the desired effect, because [they will use phrases like] ‘dynamic,’ and ‘we have great worship,’ and ‘we have an awesome praise band.’ But what does that mean?” he illustrates. “Dynamic, exciting worship” may mean one thing to a Methodist pastor, and something entirely different to someone charged with leading worship in a Presbyterian church. “It’s on the designer to understand what they mean when they use those words.”

2.) Establish a partnership

At Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, Ala., Production Manager Justin Firesheets seeks to build relationships with AVL firms that go further than focusing on equipment. “Churches need a ministry partner, not a retailer,” he says. “I need to partner with someone who understands our vision and [who] is committed to helping our organization achieve that vision. You can’t just sell me a cookie cutter system and convince me that it’s going to meet my needs.” A good partner, he says, will spend time with his team and attend the church’s services so that they can gain an understanding of what Highlands is all about, and the goals its striving to accomplish. A not-so-good partner will concentrate on the short term. “Technology and systems are going to change and come and go, but the lasting impact of a project is the people I did it with. Those are the people that I need to be able to call for help down the road, and hopefully those are the people that I can call when I need to do a new project when my tech needs do change.”

3.) Design for the future

Budgetary restrictions often push churches to make compromises; many times, they’re not able to build everything they’d conceived of straight away because they simply don’t have the financing. The common solution to this is phasing construction, and Haulk notes that the initial phase should focus on infrastructure. “Phase One is the first step in getting them there,” he says. “We design for what they want to do ultimately, and we make sure that the building will ultimately do what they want to do, and that they have conduit, they have power, and they have [the structure in place].”  continued >>