Small Church, Big Sound

How technology bridges the sonic gap for churches of all sizes

If your church’s worship team is on the small side, you’ve likely encountered this situation before: During the week you hear the latest worship song from Lincoln Brewster or Israel Houghton, and you’re excited to find out that the worship team will be incorporating the song into Sunday’s worship. Yet when you hear it played during the service with a single guitarist, bass player and drummer, everything sounds drastically different.

Talent level (and lots of studio time) obviously go a long way to making a band sound good. But how do bands such as Coldplay or U2 perform live with a single guitarist, bass player and drummer and still have such a huge sound? Is there an arsenal of guitarists with amps behind the stage doubling parts?

The truth is, these bands use tracks in sync with their live performances. Small churches with only a handful of volunteer musicians often merely dream of achieving the sounds heard in concerts or on CDs, while most pastors would jump at any opportunity to create an atmosphere of musical excellence. But it’s now possible for musicians and pastors alike to enjoy good sound with the following developments in worship technology.

Multitrack masters. By downloading these for specific songs, your worship team can both complement parts and supplement any lacking sounds. Tracks have long been used in churches for performances and “special music” times, but have caused problems during live worship because, with them, you are unable to veer from prerecorded elements into impromptu worship. Such problems are now history with various products (see “Ministry Resource” for one example) that give you complete control over the tracks—from muting to looping.

Onstage control. Imagine if you could put the entire recording session from any song on a laptop and use it. If your electric guitarist can’t make it this Sunday, for instance, you can simply unmute Brewster’s guitar part from these multitrack masters and not miss a beat. Add in drums loops, horns, strings, backing vocals and the smallest church can achieve any sound it wants, even on a limited budget. (But yes, you do have to provide a worship leader.)

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Monitor systems. Not only can a 100-piece worship orchestra now fit in your laptop, but also the bulky floor monitors are being replaced with increasingly affordable in-ear monitor systems. Personal monitor systems allow you to all but eliminate your sound onstage, giving control to the sound engineer and allowing each musician his own custom mix.

If you have sound issues because your drummer runs through a floor monitor, for instance, you can invest in a click track for your drummer, get rid of the monitor, purchase good headphones and then see a huge difference in the overall sound of your band. Add in a few of Brewster’s guitar parts and your congregation may wonder what church they’re in.

Pursuing excellent worship will not produce excellent worship; only pursuing God will produce authentic worship. But using the right technologies in your worship could help you to leverage your time, enhance your sound and enable you to focus on what’s most important.

The quality and polish that now are the listening standard at concerts is no longer a far cry for a church of any size. If we keep our hearts’ focus on Him and allow technologies to enhance our worship but not become the focus, then we can benefit from the best of what’s being developed by letting it take our worship sounds to the next level.

Phillip Edwards is the worship pastor at Christ Community Church in Austin, Texas, and the co-founder of

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