LAS VEGAS – For those churches which were experiencing strongly growing congregations prior to March, moving forward is still on schedule.
At Hope Church, growth has been so significant, that in 2019, the church moved to add a fourth weekly service. With that additional service, average weekly congregation numbers grew by about 600. Overall, its weekly average attendance rose to around 4,000 across the four services, according to Creative Producer Micah Ogle.
Those numbers, though, shed light to a growing issue – the church was hosting each service in a 900-seat auditorium. “People were coming to our church, and there was not enough space,” added Ogle.
To alleviate the crunch, Hope began work on a new worship center with Stark Raving Solutions, based in Lenexa, Kansas. The new facility seats up to 1,700.
“They wanted to construct a building that would seat the people they wanted to seat for one service. They worked on the design and planning over the last three years,” noted Marcus Hammond, church resource director for Stark Raving Solutions.
The project isn’t the first in the partnership, with the church having worked with SRS for five years. From an initial meetup at LDI one year, it has grown to where “they have become a great family and a great resource,” added Ogle.
From its beginnings, Hope has grown considerably from its days as a portable church, from 2001 to 2012.
Worship Space Opens Days Before Christmas
The multimillion building project successfully finished eight days before Christmas, on Dec. 17. That night, the church held its first service for staff and volunteers in the new space.
“Every church that I have ever been to, the team gathers and prays to offer thanks. The first time we did that, it was a powerful moment,” said Ogle. “If you served from March through the pandemic, every person in the room (that night), was an owner of Hope Church.”
That initial service would be the first of seven Christmas Eve services (over seven days) in the new space. Among the first goals by staff – to better understand its new worship space.
“We opened the room, and did the same service seven times,” said Ogle. “We were able to learn and grow without making any changes.”
The church, slated to celebrate its 20th anniversary in September, hopes full services will soon be in its future. During its first services in the new space, though, that had to wait. The church instead opened up with a congregation “masked and socially distanced, with 400 people,” noted Ogle. “The church was able to gather, along with those who could join us online.”
For those congregation members who have thus far entered the new space for a service, they’ve gotten an up-close look on an array of audio, video and lighting upgrades.
Moving Forward With Audio Updates
The new worship center stands tall with a system featuring five line arrays from Alcons – comprised of LR18s and LR14s. Paired with the Alcons are 10 Martin SX218 subwoofers (two arrays of three units on each side, and one array of four units in the center).
With the new line arrays, Hope moved away from its prior left-right PA system, which served as a mobile rig. “They wanted something a little more clear, that was more accurate and offered more nuance,” explained Hammond.
Running the audio system from front of house is an Allen & Heath dLive C3500, a control surface with 24 faders over six layers. Paired with it is an Allen & Heath MixRack DM0, with its audio routing and processing capabilities. Networked into the system are four Allen & Heath DT168 96kHz Dante Expanders, featuring 16 XLR inputs and eight XLR outputs.
Video and Lighting Upgrades At Hope
In addition to Hope’s audio improvements, are noteworthy video updates. Upon stepping into the worship space, a Gloshine LS4.81 series LED wall – comprised of 4.81mm pixel pitch panels – stands out. The configuration includes a layer strip in the center, and a 16:9 aspect screen on the far left and right, with each screen 19.68 feet wide-by-9.8 feet tall.
Controlling video in the new space is a Ross Video Carbonite Ultra production switcher, with 24 inputs and 14 outputs. Routing for the system is handled by an AJA Video KUMO 3232, a compact 32×32 3G-SDI router.
The move to LED at Hope actually started last year. The church began purchasing Gloshine LED panels last January, noted Ogle, “as the projectors were starting to die. The move from projectors to an LED wall is pretty much unmatched.”
On the lighting side, the house lighting is superbly handled by 86 Chroma-Q Inspire houselights. As part of the networking throughout the facility, the system supports the sACN protocol, which allows many universes of DMX to run across the network. “With 86 in the room, they are individually addressed, so one can change the color and intensity of any fixture in the house,” explained Hammond.
Among the key benefits that come with having the space so intricately networked, noted Hammond, is that technical issues often can be fixed without needing to be on-site. “We can log in and control everything in the entire building. It’s incredibly powerful, as there are 15 networking switches working together.”
On the worship stage for lighting, Chroma-Q’s Vista 3 lighting and media control software does the work, running through a Vista EX hardware wing (with 4,096 channels of lighting control), working with ETC Source 4WRD fixtures.
Upgrade Gear Decisions
While decisions on particular equipment can sometimes be challenging, Ogle did not have to experience that hurdle. “We’d been living off the old gear for a while. There were no questions (on deciding to go) with the dLive, and same with the Ross.”
For the Alcons, he explained that he had an opportunity to listen to Alcons at an NAB conference, and when needing to make the decision, he said, “For the price and for the sound, every time I heard the Alcons, it was an easy pick. I really thought there was clarity to them.”
For the Gloshine LED wall, beyond the quality of the panel, proximity played a role. “Gloshine’s American headquarters are in Las Vegas. If a panel breaks, I can drive it over and hand it to them to get it replaced,” explained Ogle.
Making Progress On Doing Church
Working through such a complicated project, the church was successful in avoiding any delays or cancellations. It did so by hosting its last service in its old space on Dec. 10, then shifting wholesale to its new space a week later.
For what the new space has achieved, Hammond noted, “They can now do church in a way that they have wanted to for years.”
Not that the church moved forward with every desired upgrade as part of this project.
Even with the long list of upgrades that were implemented, tough decisions were still part of the equation when the budget process was finalized.
“We started drawing lines through everything (on the budget), and our lighting budget was smashed,” explained Ogle.
Hammond concurred, adding, “Budget restrictions (were challenging), as we had to cut the budget down at the end, and lighting took the biggest chunk of it.”
Despite those budgetary challenges, Ogle focused on the overall improvements with its new space, including the configuration.
Decisions Behind Crafting New Space
“The stage is super thrust out into the room, at 60 feet deep,” said Ogle. Even with the space able to house a significantly larger congregation, he added, “From where our pastor teaches, the furthest person now is about two feet from where the furthest was in the old space.”
Inspiration for the stage layout, noted Hammond, was derived from a location inside the city, and another from out of state.
“From the proscenium of the stage, the room is modeled after two rooms, which were very influential,” said Hammond. One was Northwood Church, in Keller, Texas, and the other Mystere Theater for Cirque du Soleil, with 230 degrees in the round. “That’s the core design of the room. It’s almost happening in the round, with the pastor right in front of you.”
Among the beneficial design elements of the space, Hammond credited the work of project architects, including Moser Architecture Studio out of Las Vegas.
Valuable design decisions included “access to the front of house sound booth,” so staff need not walk through the congregation to get to the booth.
With such a complex project, adjustments can be expected. Among the more noticeable ones was a tweak made rather late in the process, described Ogle.
“Following a last-minute call with Marcus and Jeff (Jones, the lead designer), we made our screens a little smaller,” said Ogle. In addition, “we added the lyric strip that runs almost the length of the stage, that puts up fat lyrics.”
The strip is positioned about 20 feet above the stage, running about five feet high and approximately 32 feet wide. “With the motion background, you can see the lyrics everywhere … it’s a statement piece,” noted Ogle. “It pushes home everything that we are doing.”
The Jump to Networking
For all the changes that have come with the new worship space, among the continuing challenges for the tech team staff relates to how their roles have changed, tied to networking.
“I have no network (experience), and becoming a network guru wasn’t on my radar,” explained Ogle. “Now I don’t have a choice. We went from the kiddie pool to the lake … but we are just learning and growing.”
The learning aspect for staff was particularly demanding in the project’s final weeks. “There were a number of long nights and early mornings,” noted Ogle. “Learning a massive system was quite arduous, but so was running around, setting up cameras, and laying cables.”
As detailed by Hammond about the shift to networked gear in the space, “We are helping them figure that out over the course of the next few months, to think differently with things being networked-based.”
Having seen the success upon opening the new space, Ogle took a step back for a valuable perspective about the church’s overall goals.
Referring to a quote by Rick Warren, founder and senior pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, he said, “A church should be measured ‘by its sending capacity, rather than its seating capacity.’ For us, Kingdom expansion is not optional. It’s not about a space, but people need to gather.”