All-in on A/V

The right system is essential to engagement. Here’s how to get it (in plain-English).

David McCauley
CSD Group, Inc.

Church Executive: How can a church leader know that the A/V system is falling short of its engagement potential?

 David McCauley: Reaching 60-percent-more-active engagement is something I talk about often. Yes, this is a hard metric to measure; but I feel that most leaders can get a pretty good sense of connection when looking around an audience. 

As a leader / teacher, when teaching classes or speaking at events, I track engagement in a couple of ways:

Eye contact: This simple but informative [observation] is a key to what people are really paying attention to. If they’re only looking at their phones, or at other things going on in the space, there’s a good chance they aren’t connected. 

Audience response: Some cultures are quiet; others are more responsive. Either way, response is always something that we look at, especially during worship. If people aren’t singing, they’re not connected. It’s a huge clue that some adjustments are needed in your space. 

I developed a process that starts with a questionnaire for church leadership based on this exact topic. I ask them to rate the importance of parts of a project, from architecture to technology. A matrix we’ve designed helps our design team effectively understand and guide leaders on the journey of engagement. The end result is connecting and communicating effectively with the congregation. If that’s through architecture, great. If it’s through technology, that’s great, too. 

CE: As we look at your website, driving maximum engagement is clearly at the heart of what you do. Can you expand a little on each of the statements listed there, below?

Audio: “We design audio systems that ensure your message is delivered with clarity and power.” 

McCauley: Spoken into existence: this is how the world was created, and it’s also the best way to communicate with most people. 

When our team thinks about engagement, we think about the whole package — from room acoustics to electronics — and the effect these elements have on people. We find a balance; a space in which souls are activated in worship but worshippers’ ears are also reachable in the softest moments when you’re sending a life-changing message. 

Then, if you need a system with bass so loud that it knocks the devil out of the church, we can help with that, too.    

Video: “We design the technology you need to visually communicate your stories.”

McCauley: Video is so important. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what are 24-plus pictures per second worth? It’s a huge part of next-level engagement. 

Lighting: “We design an immersive atmosphere that keeps your audience engaged with your message.”

McCauley: Eyes are the window to the soul; you can guide people with intensity, help change a mood with color, and intensify engagement. 

People were designed for light. A picture of our Creator is light. 

Acoustics: “We design a balanced environment that will ensure your message is delivered clearly.”

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McCauley: Acoustics are often overlooked but are one of the most powerful ways to connect and engage. Most people don’t understand the importance of acoustics or how it affects people and the dynamics of the room. 

With our dynamic acoustic systems, it can be a pretty direct and quiet space, or I can press a button and it sounds like a cathedral. It’s art and science; experience and engagement can intertwine. 

Done wrong, acoustics are distracting. Done well, they make all the difference in terms of connection.      

CE: Stewardship-focused church executives might assume that a truly engaging A/V system comes with a high price tag and requires “all the bells and whistles.” What’s the reality? 

McCauley: Everything has a cost; the goal is to put the budget where it does the most towards reaching church leaders’ goals, and then phase in other wants and needs later. We need to set the roadmap and expectations before we can hit any target.  

CE: What effects has COVID had on how engaging church A/V systems are created now?

 McCauley: There was a lot more attention on reaching outside the walls of the church. Now, it’s focused on how to get people engaged in person again. What creates that special moment of connection with other people, that shared experience? 

I believe the world will never think the same as before. COVID has impacted how we view the worship experience. I even find myself thinking ‘Hey, I can just watch it at the house while I’m cooking.’ 

But doing so means you miss the component of engagement and connection that comes with worshiping together, in person, and how that experience deeply impacts us. 

— Reporting by Emma Green


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