A movie theater. A barn. A coffee shop. A former retail mall. What do these disparate locations have in common? They're all places that have hosted temporary churches.
Planting a church — the process of establishing a new church, or expanding an existing one to a new location — has been the way many religions have grown over the centuries. And today, due to the advent of new technologies like the portable sound system and remote video tools, new church plants are at an all-time high. These solutions help churches establish a temporary or "portable" church location to foster awareness, a congregation, and attendance in non-typical spaces until they finish creating a permanent space in the area.
There's something comforting about the idea of establishing a new church the way it's been done for over a millennium, in people's living rooms and wherever else they can gather safely and with ease. However, these days, there is more to creating a church than just fellowship. Fledgling churches may find themselves meeting in different locations week to week, depending on the availability of venues, thus becoming truly portable churches until they find their footing
Once attendance at a portable church location reaches a certain threshold — about 30 or 40 people, with 15 to 17 square feet per person — a sound system becomes necessary to allow pastors and others to speak without having to shout. If your church is going to offer worship music (live or prerecorded), a PA system will definitely be needed.
Since it's difficult to forecast how quickly a newly planted congregation might grow, you may need modular sound systems that allow the connection of additional speakers and power amplifiers, if necessary. Let's take a look at the advantages of the portable PA and the features you should consider for your portable church sound system.
How powerful a portable PA system needs to be depends on several factors. For example, how big is the space? A power rating of 100 watts is recommended for spaces up to 500 square feet, while 300 to 500 watts is needed for a space that has 1,000 to 2,000 square feet, assuming one person is speaking through the system.
If the space is outdoors, such as a park, more power may be needed. If you'll be running music through the sound system, that will also require a larger amount of power to cover the greater frequency range versus that of speech.
Inputs refers to the number of sources a portable PA system can handle. Live music would require multiple microphone inputs for pastors' speech and vocalists' singing, as well as for any acoustical instruments.
Direct inputs — known as line level — are used to accommodate sources such as electric guitars and keyboards.
This refers to ways to enhance the sound, such as equalization (EQ) and reverb. Most portable PA systems will have these features included in some fashion.
EQ is important to help make speech and music distinct in the speakers. For instance, a microphone used for speech will likely want its EQ boosted in the 1-kHz range, near the center of human speech range, while music sources may need to be boosted in the lower and upper ranges.
Reverb, used sparingly and lightly, is very useful for making small, acoustically "dry" rooms sound more lively.
Portable PA systems can range in cost from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. While you may not need every bell and whistle a portable PA may feature, it's prudent to spend toward the high end with the understanding that this system may be needed for a long time to come and in a variety of types and sizes of spaces.
A portable/temporary sound system may outlive its original purpose as the church plant's primary sound system once a permanent church is established. But remember that the same system could prove useful for other applications, such as youth groups, outdoor services, special events, or bible camps. Keep quality high in the hierarchy of needs for sound-system decisions.
There are a lot of possibilities these days when it comes to portable PA systems. At one end are solutions such as Bose's S1 Pro and L1 Pro. These products integrate speakers, amplifiers, and mixers in a single unit, and they can get a church plant started. But as a congregation grows, so must its sound.
Bose Professional's AMM multipurpose loudspeakers feature a coaxial two-way speaker design and purpose-built versatility that lets them transition from portable setups to permanent installations. That offers churches considerable flexibility during their establishment phase and tremendous value once a location becomes permanent. Both benefits can extend right through Bose's ArenaMatch line of loudspeakers, which can support a church as it fits itself into a new, dedicated space. And even portable and temporary sound systems can benefit from adding a subwoofer, such as Bose's SMS118, for music.
The church plant rise will only gain momentum as demographics and other forces change dynamically in coming years. It will give church planters plenty to think about, but almost certainly, every one of those newly planted churches will need a sound system that can move and grow with them.