Matt Christian, the director of praise & worship at the Grace Bible Church in Sebring, Florida, knew the rule of thumb: when building a new church facility, allocate about 20 percent of your overall construction budget for the AV systems. But reality doesn’t always play by the rules. For various reasons, the budgets for sound, video and lights worked out closer to half that for the $1 million project in this quintessentially central Florida city, almost exactly halfway on the east-west axis between Sarasota and Ft. Pierce, and Jacksonville and Key West north and south.
“We knew we had to make some very basic choices early on when it came to technology,” says Christian.
And they did. Reasoning that music would be fundamental to establishing their highly contemporary style of worship, Christian and the church leaders opted to put the largest share of the $100,000 they could safely spend on technology into a JBL VRX-928 line array sound system powered by a total of 22,000 watts from Crown amplifiers and mixed through a Yamaha LS9-32 32-mic/line input 64-channel digital console for the 800-seat church that they moved into in January 2011. The system also includes a pair of dual-18-inch subwoofers.
“The old church building was really designed for organ and choir music, and we wanted this new church to be the exact opposite of that, able to handle almost any kind of music, from rock to hip-hop to gospel,” says Christian.
That argued for a line array system, which would offer better dispersion characteristics for the 44-foot-high-ceilinged structure while still providing a high degree of intelligibility. They sought to strike the balance that every HOW has needed since amplified music and sound systems entered this arena: how to let the music breathe without impinging on the ability to let the message be clearly understood. That latter part was particularly important in Sebring’s instance, where some of the 1,500-member congregation is made up of older members.
While the choice of sound system made a significant difference in addressing that dichotomy, so did other decisions. The church holds three services each weekend, one on Saturday night and two on Sunday mornings, and each is tailored to a different demographic, with the Saturday service paired with a band whose drummer requires some baffling to control the volume, versus a percussionist with a lighter touch for the next day’s services.
“The kind and the intensity of the music really reflects the kind of people who attend each service, and the sound system had to be able to accommodate that,” says Christian.
The other helpful additive was acoustical treatment. Absorptive panels line the upper