Our church is considering going unplugged every week--maybe a microphone for the speaker but little or no powerpoint/LCD/sound system.  Has anyone had success with it?  We have an artistic and somewhat alternative crowd since we're near a university and there's a longing for things that are human and real.  Our auditorium holds only around 170 (and is a traditional church building from pre-microphone days) so it's doable.  Also since we're downsizing staff it would free us up to commit our time and finances to other, more pressing needs.  Any ideas?  Suggestions?

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Have you tried it in rehearsal? I think it's a grand idea. Does "unplugged" also mean no electric instruments? Also, how will your pastor be without an outline for his sermon?

We were like this when we first started our congregation and were meeting in a college lecture hall. It was very homey and warm.
We do it at nursing homes. The keyboard player has a small amp for sound, but even that wouldn't be needed if you had a piano. Singers, acoustic guitars, percussion (no--not a full drum kit), flute, and sax have blended nicely and could be heard throughout the room. Most of what we regularly do can be played this way. The instrumentalists just need to be aware that the singers aren't miked and play accordingly.
In the past, we've gone without the lyrics displayed...not by choice...our TV broke and it took a few weeks to get it fixed (fortunately it was under warranty). It was an eye-opening experience for us because it showed us (the congregation) how well we really knew the songs.

From an audio perspective, I wouldn't have any problem with it, especially if the congregation values a more raw sound. The only concern I would have if I were doing it is that if you have visitors, they may not know the songs and may get frustrated from not having the words to read. Just something to consider. We go without a sound system or lyrics displaying for our Men's Bible study, and that has been good, but that is mostly a core group that comes all the time.
I'm considering creating a "hymnal" of our favorite songs so we could still have lyrics to read. We'd have to adapt it as we add new songs, I guess. We just bought pew bibles and are enjoying using them instead of MediaShout for scripture passages.
This is an interesting question as it reminds me of music 20-30 years ago when churches did not have much of a sound system if any at all. Acoustics were fair and so we managed with guitars, piano and various instruments as well as overhead slides (man that makes me feel old - lol). So have we become too comfortable with the electronic gadgets that we are so familiar with? Some of the equipment is there for better control of the sound environment but there seems to be a circle or spiral that drives us to 'improvements' and then we become dependant on it all. There is also the trend away from traditional church environments that are terrible acoustic environments.

All that said, the point is that going unplugged partly depends on the 'house' - what are the acoustics like without the sound board/EQ/DSP/etc? You mention your church is 'doable' so you've considered that. Please consider if the people in the back can hear comfortably with the band you have or are considering.

The next issue to consider are the songs - not all songs work well 'unplugged'. Will the congregation appreciate the 'loss' of some of the music?

My experience with an `unplugged` service has been in smaller environments but I like the idea. One aspect of this sort of service was it was easier to be flexible and not be tied into the powerpoint or whatever that was set up.

Please keep us posted on where you go with this and how it works out.
20-30 years ago, we still had considerable sound systems with analogue mixers and plenty of analogue gadgets. So I'm wondering if you'd have to go back 50 years...
Ha ha - close but not quite.

I remember the first church where I got involved playing guitar when I was in my teens. It was a fair size building with a medium size traditional congregation. When it was decided to provide some amplification, it was a Radio Shack 4 or 6 channel powered mixer, or something like that, that was purchased. It had volume controls only - no eq or anything else I think. It was used mainly for the podium mic for the pastor and a vocal mic or 2. No need for anything more since most of the music was a choir. The guitar/piano stuff was 'special' music.

The volume would be setup before the service and no one touched it. If it was set wrong then someone had to go into the room which was off to the side of the front area. Everyone saw this happen. So retro - lol.

We had that equipment for several years before the church board was convinced that proper equipment was needed.
Yea, I've seen the gamut. Those old garbage mixers were common everywhere. Then there were the big churches and they had the big stuff. It's still somewhat that way today except that us medium sized congregations have Mackies and Yamahas instead of Radio Shacks. And then when I was 14, I went to this old restored village in the foothills of Tennessee with my parents and they and this old restored one-room church and it had a piano and a pump organ in it. I suspect that guitars and banjos were considered of the devil in that place.
Mandy, sometimes our church decides to do an "unplugged" worship service and there is a very different dynamic, more intimate (people sit closer to the front, LOL) and more free without worrying about words. It is amazing how well the people know many of the songs without a PPT! As a worship leader who also plays acoustic guitar it was a good example and good discipline for me to play without lyrics or chord sheets as well. We did not even use a mic at all, but we made more of a circle with the chairs so people were all facing each other, and that also minimized the distance between the congregation and the team...

If you still have some sound eqpt and electric instrumentalists, you might be able to alternate between the two approaches. Not necessarily 50-50, but maybe on occasion having a service with the fuller sound . . .

Keep us posted how it works.
Sometimes we are forced to rely on acoustic only when a bunch of band members are on vacation. It's a different feel for sure.
Having been recently downsized, I obtained an accompanist position with a local high school. Everything is acoustic - people actually hear each other sing -- they make harmony -- they both improvise and use notes, so there is tonal flexibility -- they listen closely with their ears and hearts, and know how to back off to let solos and inner parts come out. And the teacher is a Christian. In short, it is like being in heaven.
Sounds like heaven to me, Greg!


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