Posted in education on December 1, 2016 9:45 am EST

Connecting the Dots: Multisite AVL Integration

Church Designer reports on the varying integration options and trends that design professionals are seeing -- and utilizing -- in multisite houses of worship across the country. A must-read from our 2016 story archives.











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TAGS: avl, business, design, integration, multisite, outreach, streaming, sustainability,


By Dan Daley

Call them satellite churches or the multisite model, houses of worship have turned in large numbers to what many regard as the antithesis of the mega-church approach to hosting expanding congregations.

Not surprisingly, the multisite model has created its own set of AV technology challenges and solutions....

Meeting on Sundays and in some cases other days of the week at locations as close together as the same neighborhood or as distant as the next county, one website that follows the phenomenon estimates that more than 8,000 churches have embraced growth via adding multiple new locations.

Outreach Magazine declared in 2007 that the multisite model is no longer a trend, but the “new normal.” Multisite church pioneer Jim Tomberlin of MultiSite Solutions in Scottsdale, Ariz., predicted that by 2014, an estimated 5 million people—15% of Protestant churchgoers—will attend a multisite church on any given weekend across North America.

Not surprisingly, the multisite model has created its own set of AV technology challenges and solutions. For instance, the desire to make the worship experience feel as unified and seamless as possible has led churches to experiment with a number of ways to transport the core event of each service, the sermon by the lead pastor, from the main church to the satellite locations.

Southlake, Texas’s Gateway Church has a sizable control room that readily handles the 16 channels of audio that can be embedded in SDI video. Image by Parkway Electric.

These range from “sneakernet”—transporting physical media such as a DVD by foot or by car to other locations—to real-time or minimally buffered HD streaming. Should churches buy the exact same AVL brands and products as those used in the main church for each location or should technology choices be specific to the needs of each site? These and other questions are ones that AV systems integrators grapple with for their house of worship clients.

Solutions Across the Board

“Solutions really vary with each individual church,” says Gary Zandstra, HOW specialist at Parkway Electric in Holland, Mich. “The biggest question is video—how do you get [the content] from the main church to the other locations? That depends on a number of factors, including the budget, the level of technical expertise and the culture of each congregation.”

Zandstra says moving physical media around is a simple and effective solution for many churches that have Saturday evening services. At the other end of the spectrum, Ben Cating, senior consultant at Dallas-area AV integrator Idibri, says real-time or near-live HD streaming is becoming more popular as costs come down and services such as Ustream offer more comprehensive streaming packages. Using an encoding device—he usually recommends the Imagine Communications Selenio X50 encoder—the satellite location can synchronize its service with the main church’s sermon, with delays of as little as five seconds. “The encoder [at the satellite location] is recording the streamed sermon as it comes in, but by putting it in a buffer it can also play the sermon at the same time, from anywhere from five seconds to 30 minutes later,” he explains. “That lets the worship bands at each location synch up, as well. What you’re really trying to do is give everyone everywhere the sense [that] they are part of the same event.”  continued >>