By Marty Gregor
When St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Mahtomedi, MN decided to upgrade its audiovisual system, it included extensive research into new video screens.
Having rented projectors for special services in the past — and because the sanctuary has an abundance of natural ambient light — church leaders knew projectors weren’t the best fit.
“We didn’t really want to take this beautiful space and darken it order to see something,” explains Dale Bakken, Director of Buildings and Grounds.
Getting familiar with LED technology
With limited knowledge of LED video technology, Bakken and Dennie Boice, the church’s video production and IT manager, set out to research this option, hoping to find a viable solution for the space. Through searches and by talking with congregants, they broke down their options to nine different vendors. After visiting with all of them, the decision was made to go with Daktronics.
“We went and visited [the company] first,” Bakken notes. “We didn’t realize it at the time, but we had made a benchmark. We went to different companies and eliminated them fairly easy because of product noise and accessibility.”
Bakken and Boice toured the Daktronics headquarters in Brookings, SD, to see the manufacturing process firsthand, visit the reliability lab, and ask questions.
“We were impressed to see a complete manufacturer and not just piecing parts together,” Boice recalls. “We were able to see everything from LEDs being inserted into circuit boards to extensive testing in their reliability lab. And, everyone we met along the way was friendly and enjoying their job — you could see it on their faces. It was a great atmosphere.”
All their questions were answered, and the team showed Bakken and Boice their best product options. “We got a good feel about what we’d be receiving,” Bakken says.
The church selected video displays that allowed them to control the brightness of each display independently to adjust for all kinds of conditions — from cloudy, overcast days to bright, sunny ones. Brightness can be adjusted accordingly so the displays are visible and have the desired impact for early services, when the sun is only hitting one display, and for later services when the sun is hitting the other display — all without sacrificing quality in the worship space featuring lots of natural lighting.
“A big factor when looking at our manufacturing options was that everything seemed good online; but, once we visited and saw things firsthand, we could tell that certain options were too loud and noisy for our setting as a worship facility,” Bakken explains. “That helped us rule out a few possibilities and nail down our options. And, once we saw the 4-millimeter option from Daktronics, the question became, How soon can we get this? Everyone was blown away by the clarity of the display.”
Installation without interruption
The installation of the new displays at St. Andrew’s took four days and didn’t interrupt the worship schedule or church planned activities.
Bakken says he was amazed at how quickly everything was installed. “From the time the displays showed up in crate, to the time they were operational with content on them, was really fast. It worked into our schedule, and that was very beneficial.”
In this very traditional church setting, there was some skepticism at first about how the video displays would affect worship services. St. Andrew’s has a separate space for contemporary services and needed to be sure people didn’t see this equipment as an intrusion.
All it took to dispel those concerns was the first use of the displays at a baptism.
“The congregation was in awe of the clarity of the displays,” recalls Lead Pastor Michael Carlson. “People were able to see the water drip off the child’s head. In our large church, seeing such a thing wouldn’t have been possible before, except for those sitting in the front few rows.”
One of the next uses of the displays was for summertime Vacation Bible School. This served as a significant opportunity to enlighten those in the congregation that the displays would enhance the traditional church program, not take away from it.
“We had 700 people here singing, and it’s the loudest it’s ever been because people were actually able to look up from their hymnals and see the lyrics on the screens, sing and project their voices,” Carlson noted.
Additionally, the large 100- to 150-person choir that sits behind the pastor is now able to see everything the congregation sees by looking up at the new, 6-millimeter video display in the back of the chapel.
According to Carlson, these displays were originally intended to appeal to the younger church members. However, there were additional, unforeseen benefits for other groups as well. For one church member — who has a medical condition which makes it difficult to hold the printed materials and follow along with the service — this installation helps that individual to feel truly involved in worship again.
And, congregants with vision loss — who hadn’t been able to follow along with the service for years, despite the availability of large-print bulletins — are also benefitting. “An elderly lady in our congregation came up to me after one of the first services with these new displays,” Carlson shares. “With a tear in her eye she said, ‘Pastor, that’s the first time in over 10 years I’ve been able to follow along in a service.’
“I knew right there that these displays were worth it.”
Marty Gregor is a video products sales expert for Brookings, SD-based Daktronics, a leading digital display manufacturer established in 1968.