Today's electronic explosion is changing the way you and I live how we shop, pay bills, entertain, and communicate with others. Last December, Time bestowed its prestigious "man [in this case, machine] of the year" award on the personal computer and characterised 1982 as the year the computer came into the home. The same electronic technology that promises to affect our personal lives profoundly has other applications as well. Many of these applications can benefit your church in its outreach ministry. This article will make you aware of some of these new devices and how they can help you in your church. And the good news is that you don't have to have a congregation of two thousand members to put many of these items to use. The price is often well within the budget limitations of the average or smaller church.
The cassette machine has become such an integral part of the PA system for quality, reliable recording and playback that most of us can hardly remember the precassette era. But you should realize that most consumer-type recorders are no longer adequate. They simply will not stand up to the service required in a commercial or church situation. Heavy-duty machines are now available that provide much-needed features to help you make and play good recordings. What capabilities should you look for when shopping for a cassette recorder to use with your PA system?
First of all, the recorder must have sufficient output in playback to drive the PA system at a proper level. Now that many vocal artists are using prerecorded tapes of instrumental backgrounds for their performance, a machine with an output volume control and extended frequency response is necessary. Other features that help are switchable noise filters and speed adjustment.
You should also look for a machine that provides fast forward/rewind cueing so that the material recorded can be located rapidly. Get a machine with a third head (playback only) so that the recording on the tape may be monitoried while it is being made. Most consumer machines merely monitor the input, and the movement of a meter doesn't guarantee the material is on the tape! A playback head will tell you for sure. One recorder with all the features listed above is the Marantz PMD 220 mono cassette recorder priced around $190. (All products mentioned in this article are used merely as examples to help you in planning; reference should not be construed as specifically endorsing a particular machine over comparable items. You should be able to find all the equipment mentioned in this article at local sup pliers. Also, see page 31 for information regarding two distributors who operate nationwide mail-order businesses in electronic components at competitive prices.)
While we're on the subject of recordings, hardly a pastor exists anywhere who has not at one time or another gotten requests for a tape of his sermon for some purpose. To make duplicate tapes, a good master is a must. Of course, you will need a cassette duplicator. These now come in all sizes and shapes and in all price ranges. Analyze your potential duplicating needs and buy accordingly. Keep in mind, however, that the quality of your copied tapes (called dubs in the trade) will depend on the quality of tape you buy. In the long run, cheap tapes are not worth the slightly lower cost. They make poor fidelity copies, and in the process they tear up parts of your duplicator, especially the heads. What you save on tape will be more than offset by shortening duplicator life.
Typical tape duplicators range from the Telex copier that makes one copy of a C-60 cassette in about two minutes (price: about $325) to a Recordex machine that copies two tapes at a time (about $ 1,500). In between you can get a Telex copier that makes three copies at once for about $800 or a Wollensak 2770 machine that makes two copies at a time and has the capability for adding "slaves" in groups of three. Its price: about $1,400. The key factor in buying a tape duplicator is to be sure to buy one where you can get service. Duplicators have moving parts that simply wear out. In fact, you might want to consider buying two machines so you will have a spare.
Here are some suggestions that will help you make good copies:
1. Do not use off-brand or extra-long tapes for masters. Master tapes should be exact-length tapes, i.e., a C-60 should be exactly thirty minutes on a side. Allow ten seconds after pushing the record button before you start the material to be copied. This allows the blank leader and some of the tape to pass the recording head so that nothing is missed.
2. Don't let the master tape run out. Plan to turn it over while there is still some tape left. Stop at the end of a sentence or thought, flip the cassette over (do not rewind), wait for the speaker to pause, and then start re cording. You may miss a few words this way, but your tape will sound good.
3. Always make a copy of your master tape in case your duplicator should chew it up. Use master tapes that are in screw-type cases; these are much more easily repaired in an emergency.
4. Before inserting the master tape and the dub tape in the duplicator, be sure the tape is not loose in the case. It may be tightened by inserting a pencil into the supply reel spoke hole and turning until the slack is gone, as observed through the little window in the tape.
When it comes to the public-address system itself, equipment that is currently on the market can make your church's operation a dream. Cool-running high power amplifiers will give a quality sound to your services. Crown, Inc., for example, makes 75-, 150-, and 300-watt amplifiers that are just about destruction-proof. Prices start at around $395 and go up. The addition of an audio compressor/limiter makes blasting and feedback almost a thing of the past. Furman makes a mono version priced at $235.
Does your PA system mixer lack enough output to feed other areas of the church where you might want sound to go? The addition of a distribution amplifier will take the output of your system's mixer and provide six to twelve identical, isolated outputs all individually volume controlled and short-circuit proof to various areas of your church that need a signal feed from the sanctuary. For example: tape recorder jacks for members to use with their personal tape recorders; a signal feed to a radio station for broadcasting the service; a mothers' room or a youth room amplifier for over flow situations; a separate amplifier for the lobby speakers; even a video tape recorder. As you can see, distribution amplifiers can be very versatile and handy things to have. An added attraction is that they won't knock a huge hole in your budget. The Excalibur rack mount unit, for example, is available for $250 from David Green Associates, Leesburg, Virginia.
The explosion in home television equipment and cable technology offers your church some really innovative and relatively inexpensive possibilities. How about a TV monitor in the mothers' room receiving a signal from a camera in the sanctuary? No reason to build mothers' rooms with glass windows looking out into the sanctuary any longer! This system can provide a beautiful, in-focus picture (in color, if you wish) completely unattended, thanks to remote-control cameras. No special lighting is required, and the prices are well within the budget of the small church. Cameras start at about $400. Be sure yours has a zoom lens. Add a large-screen television, and that evangelistic overflow crowd in the youth room can have a better seat than those in the sanctuary! Prices here start at about $900 for a large-screen TV.
With the deregulation of the telephone industry, new devices are appearing on the market that your church can utilize. High-quality telephone ministry is a reality with such features as counters and instant answer. The installation is as simple as plugging it in. One example is the Panasonic KX-T1525 with a message length of up to forty-five minutes. Resemblance to the old telephone answering machines is slight. Cost for this machine is around $325. The use of special devices on telephone lines is increasing as well. These include frequency-shifting devices for better sounding voice quality that allows remote lecturing possibilities either to or from your church.
For the hearing-impaired in your congregation, a new accessory is the wireless transmitter. Connected to your PA system and plugged into an ordinary electrical outlet, it will transmit a low-power radio signal that can be picked up on an ordinary AM portable radio anywhere in the congregation. An individual needs only to plug in an earphone to the radio, set the volume level desired, and not miss a thing that is going on. LPB, in Frazer, Pennsylvania makes the Radio-Aide for $960.
These are just a few of the electronic capabilities that are presently available to make your ministry more effective. Developments in this field are advancing at such a pace that you can expect new products to keep appearing. Electronics is here to change our lives—and our churches. Make it work for you!