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access and use policy for church audio equipment

At the church where I work, we are going through some "turf wars" over access to audio equipment that is used primarily for a contemporary worship service. It has even come to the point that a parishoner came to the church last week a sawed off pad locks, replacing them with his own. He was thoughtful enough to give a key to the secretary. Following that event, the former audio coordinator (volunteer) felt compelled to put a lock of his own on a cabinet, explaining to me that, "no one needs access to that equipment..." My question is, if no one needs the equipment, why lock it up? Or, why do we have it?
I am the worship arts director, and I supervise the worship leader in this service. She would prefer we leave all cabinets unlocked. I hesitate to do that. I would like to know if anyone has a policy to cover use and access to this type of equpment by church members and visiting churches or others who may use our facilities.
Please make suggestions, even if you don't have a standard policy.
Amalie W. Hinson
on April 7, 2014 8:55am
This is not a music problem; it's a failure of community which needs to be addressed by the church council. All the property you describe belongs to the church corporation, so it's up to the governing body of the congregation to decide who can use it when. Under no circumstances should any parishioner (or staff member) be making such decisions unilaterally (sawing off locks is generally considered a crime). And where is the pastor in all this? It's his/her job to put a stop to such childish behavior.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on April 7, 2014 10:12am
I used to be a church administrator.
Just like any nonprofit using volunteers, this is a governance issue, and facility access is a role most properly assigned to staff. If you have parishoners making up policies and re-keying cabinets on the fly, you have volunteers overstepping their authority. Even if the volunteers are VIPs or board members, they should have no authority in this area (in nonprofit law a board member is only in charge when the board is in session. At all other times, the staff is always in charge per a regular organization chart). With any volunteers assuming roles of leadership, a clear job description should be drafted. It's hard to put in place with churches where passions run high and fervent, but developing a clear discipline will enforce a healthy culture of responsibility and stewardship.
Key/cabinet access should be controlled through a common key system with the rest of the facility usually administered through a director of operations. One problem in key control in churches is a mulitplication of keys to keep track of. I knew of one where the caretaker had a ring of nearly 100 keys. I was blessed to have a facility where, as part of a renovation, a master key system was put in place - in that case schlage Primus. This takes quite a bit of introspection regarding zones of access when the system is designed. You can get padlocks that are keyed to the master system. If you have one in place, I would insist on this. Even if you don't have a master system, padlock keys should be numbered by stamping a number on to the key itself, and the keys should be checked out/assigned as part of a key log.
As a music director, it seems to me that access to all facilities relevant to worship practice would be appropriate. One particular problem with bifurcated contemporary/traditional music departments is you end up with a two-headed monster of leadership. I recommend clearly placing one above the other in your governance model. If you're a larger church, there might be a director of liturgy that both report to, but I wouldn't recommend this in a smaller church.
You should establish that the church has clear title to the audio equipment, and that a volunteer didn't just drop it off one day and might reclaim it when he/she leaves the church in a huff and puff.
Staff access is necessary to enforce a use policy of church equipment for outside renters. If the audio equipment is particularly complex, you could build a use-add-on fee as part of the facility rental rate schedule and demand hire of a qualified audio engineer, who might be the volunteer audio coordinator. I recommend cross training with staff, so that someone familiar with the operation and use of equipment is always on-site. For regular or sophisticated renters, this could be a one-time training, and determination can be done in consultation with an audio expert volunteer or the cross-trained staff person. Amplification is a basic part of facilities, even if it is just basic spoken word, so having one volunteer completely control access at all times is foolish. 
One other issue to contemplate is how truly dangerous is access to an audio cabinet. Although you can run away with microphones, the cabinet equipment really isn't that vulnerable to problems other than changing settings. Multimedia is an expanding career field, so if a few teenagers play around with the equipment, the impact is harmless, and they're gaining job experience.
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