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On the Circuit

Jan 22, 2014 4:18 PM, By Cynthia Wisehart


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When I talk to many people who design, install, and operate AV for worship, it often strikes me that it is not just a job. Of course there are many volunteers in church AV, but that’s not what I mean. In most of the successful projects I’ve seen or researched, the systems designers have a sense of mission. I’ve had people tell me in a very down to earth way that they were—to some degree—called to this work. They may have come from quite secular backgrounds in music or other disciplines, but somewhere along the way it became important to them to help churches communicate.

Of course all AV is communication. So this month I wanted to do something a little different and introduce you to a design company that’s helping to create some of the most unusual churches you will ever see. PlainJoe Studios and brother company Visioneering Studios are like the visual equivalent of modern praise bands. Mel, Peter, and Edward McGowan, and their collaborators, work together and separately to take congregations where they didn’t think they could go—away from the iconic traditions of the past and towards a modern, accessible, even whimsical style of outreach and invitation. They’re designing churches to attract people—not to awe them. They’re helping churches be irresistible magnets of community.

As with most things, design, aesthetics, and enthusiasm can make something more appealing and powerful. So creative design—and the AV to support it—seems important.

Peter McGowan said something that stuck with me long after I had driven home. He said a church has to decide what to do with every dollar—make an immediate difference in someone’s life through an act of practical, realtime ministry. Or buy design and AV. There’s a case to be made for both, and some churches don’t have to choose. But small and even midsize churches do, especially those who work with people on the margins.

PlainJoe has many examples of how even a small church can take a bold creative risk. It just occurred to me that some of you might find some inspiration in this company—maybe even a potential partnership. It might be an example to some of your clients who may want to try something radically different.

I hope you and your family have a happy and abundant new year.



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