We have a venue we started over a year ago. It’s about 17 miles west of the main campus. It was one of those moments of opportunity. The high school where it meets had been leased by a different church. That church stopped meeting there, and sold off most of the equipment they used. We, in turn, bought most of the equipment they we were selling. We leased the high school auditorium, cafeteria, and several rooms.
We launched First orlando @ Ocoee Easter of 2008. It was huge thing. The pastor was able to arrange a helicopter flight from the main campus to Ocoee in between our services, just to greet the new venue crowd in person. We held services in the main auditorium, which seats 900. Kids met in the cafeteria. Preschool used the rooms we leased. Everything fit onto trailers, and was loaded in and out every week. It was a pretty good system.
But the model was not financially sustainable. The cost to rent the facility was just too high. After about 6 months we had around 100-150 people coming. Great numbers for a church start. But 100 people in a 900 seat auditorium feels empty. Plus, the auditorium cost 60% of the total lease. When the economy tanked, and we planned our 2009 budget, the church made a tough call.
We let go of the auditorium. The main service now meets in the cafeteria. Kids meet in a smaller room off the cafeteria. Since the room changed, the tech set up was scaled way back. Two of the three projectors were taken out (we now use them on the architectural projection on the main campus). Audio was dropped down from a line array to a basic powered system. A lot of things felt very different. The message which had always been video from the Saturday service is now about 50% live preaching from the campus pastor. The band was scaled down to save cost.
I finally got to attend a service after this change. Still about the same number of people. But, using pipe and drape, they close down the size of the cafeteria until the available chairs feel very full. The worship is just guitar or keyboard with two singers. One projector on one screen. Smaller sound system. Less control of light.
But you know what? Worship happened there. I was reminded once again that, while it is nice to have, we don’t have to use multi-million dollar technology to facilitate worship. That church service was like thousands across America. No moving lights. No video walls. Little wireless audio. The basics of tech were present to allow us to see, hear and participate. That’s it.
I like to use media and technology to enhance worship, to help bring people to a place where we meet God. They are tools we use.
We don’t have to have them to experience real worship.