Why does church attendance dwindle? Sometimes it’s the atrocious music. Occasionally it’s boring preaching—or preaching that has no life application. In some cases, divisive factions turn people off. Among these and dozens of other reasons, there is a surprising, often subconscious, culprit: the sound system!

The most common sound system challenge is echo. Why? It is unconscious to the listener. It makes listening to the preacher a laborious task. People find it “work” to listen, but they don’t realize why. After a while, those who are less committed hear the Sunday alarm go off, turn over, and go back to sleep.

We see the echo issue quite often, especially in older church buildings. Architects used to build sanctuaries around the pipe organ (or an electronic organ that sounds like one). The environment for good organ sound often includes hard surfaces in the worship space. For speaking, through a sound system, that type of building is horrible. Remember, the old cathedral pattern was built with hard surfaces for two reasons: (1) the organ and other music could reverberate (and it is beautiful!); and (2) so the preacher’s voice, by echo, would travel. There were no other methods of amplification. Fast forward to the 21st century with sound amplification and you have a mess that debilitates against worship.

Focus on these issues:

  1. Most Americans have surround sound in their cars. Some have it connected to their televisions. When it comes to sound, we are spoiled!

  2. Great head-sets, with digital sound, make us even more demanding. We’re sound spoiled!

  3. Baby Boomers—America’s largest group—are getting older and losing their hearing from all those rock concerts they attended as kids.

  4. The Boomers’ parents are really irritated by the echo that comes through their high-tech hearing aids.

  5. Young adults who have been raised in this world of technology will subconsciously think the church is old, out of date, and out of touch. This is because sound is the medium and the medium is the message.

  6. Get good advice from a company that has expertise in this audio area.

  7. When you build new worship space, don’t skimp on the expensive work good audio requires. Use a local company so you can get ongoing service.

It’s a sound idea: good audio makes it happen. Faith comes by hearing!

What has your church experienced with sounds issues? We welcome your comments below.

Kent Hunter, founder of Church Doctor Ministries, is known as the Church Doctor. His most recent e-books are The Future Is Now and The J-Dog Journey, available at no cost. Contact him at (800) 626-8515, by emailTwitter, Facebook, or visit www.churchdoctor.org.

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