Stories

Technology Helps Transfer Large Church DNA into Portable Church Setting

Champion Forest Baptist Church has a beautiful, technologically advanced 600,000 square-foot facility in Houston, Texas where more than 6,000 people come each week.

But when the leadership team decided to launch a portable, multi-site church campus — in less than five months — they knew they had a big challenge on their hands, which is when they turned to Portable Church Industries.

Required: Technological Excellence

Reaching beyond the shadow of the steeple, Champion Forest chose to launch their North Campus in the spacious ballroom of the Klein ISD Multipurpose Center in Spring, Texas.

Right from the start, the top priority for the Champion Forest leadership team, including Stephen Trammel (Lead Pastor at the North Campus) and Chris Todd (Pastor of Media), was maintaining the cultural DNA.
[tweetthis] Portable Church environments take the Gospel to the people beyond the shadow of the steeple. [/tweetthis]

Even in a portable church setting, they wanted to replicate the experience, technology, and systems of the main campus environment as much as possible.

The primary campus uses a lot of environmental lighting, for example, employing moving lights, back lights, and scene changes, as well as live-steaming using video cameras, jib, and remote PTZ (pan-tilt-zoom) cameras.


As the Pastor of Media, Chris explains: “I’m really passionate about making sure we utilize whatever technology we have at an exceptionally high level.  I don’t want to have the latest, greatest, whiz-bang tech just to be able to say we have it; I want to be able to have a tool that we can utilize at a high level.

For example, when Chris wanted the ProPresenter playing back out of HD-SDI, PCI used the Black Magic card because it was already used for that purpose in all of their other venues.

“Our portable church environment uses a lot of technology, but it’s really focused on enhancing the worship experience, not becoming a focal point.”

Their goal was not to create a high-tech portable church environment, but to use the very best tools to enhance the message of the Gospel.

Watch Stephen Trammel and Chis Todd explain in the video below:

Wanted: Standardized Systems and Equipment

Since continuity was key, Chris and the Portable Church team wanted standardized systems wherever possible so no one would need to learn new systems when rotating between campuses.

They wanted standardized lighting consoles, sound consoles, microphones and the personal monitoring system for their band.

They seized every opportunity to apply their standardized systems to the portable church environment, even if the specs weren’t exactly the same.

For example, they use a Digico SD7 sound console at the main campus, but employ the smaller Digico SD9 at their portable campus because it was a better fit for the environment.

Quality: Only the Best Will Do

As the team began working with PCI, they wanted not just consistency, but quality.

At the start of the consultation process, Chris and their PCI consultant, Ameen, discussed the essentials to get the process started.

“We wanted Barco projectors because I have Barco projectors already installed and know the systems and the lamps.  We wanted Shure microphones because we have 160 channels of Shure wireless already. We wanted Shure in-ear monitors, again, because that’s what we already had.  Same thing with our Roland personal mixers, Digico sound consoles, and using ProPresenter for all of our playback. We were even specific about what kind of computer we wanted it on.”

PCI not only delivered what his team wanted, they improved and customized the system to meet their unique needs.

For example, when Chris wanted the ProPresenter playing back out of HD-SDI, PCI used the Black Magic card because it was already used for that purpose in all of their other venues.

Media: Getting It to Work Together

Champion Forest partnered with PCI to customize their video to the same high-specs as their audio.

The church wanted a pulpit location where a computer could connect and the ability to have two screens behind the speaker displaying content while a third served as a teleprompter of sorts for the speaker. Two additional display screens provide side fills for the rectangular room.

Portable Church deployed Sony remote PTZ cameras to minimize the need for camera operators because they knew volunteers would be needed most in the physical set-up and take-down process each week.

All of it, including a Mac teleprompter computer, either feeds into or is fed by a FOR-A switcher that serves all media.

They use Black Magic HyperDeck drives to record video directly onto an SSD using HD-SDI connections. Audio gets recorded simultaneously to both a flash drive and a CD.

Appreciated: Technology as a First Language

From the outset, Chris and Stephen found the PCI consultants not only understood their vision but had the technical expertise to outfit a large scale, high tech, portable worship space.

[tweetthis] It pays to work with portable church experts who speak technology as a first language. [/tweetthis]

As someone who knows a lot about technology, Chris had high expectations: “Once we knew what we were trying to accomplish, we sat down with the folks from PCI, and honestly they did a really great job!”

“PCI did a really great job of connecting all of the dots.”

One example of how collaboration improved the process is the unique lighting solution used throughout the portable campus.

As Stephen notes, lighting is truly an expression of the Champion Forest DNA:

[“Lighting is] an expression of what we value — sound, light, and video — to create the environment, the ambiance, and the mood for the particular song or the message. Creating that experience is something we value, and so that’s the vision … to have that dynamic worship experience and to complement the preaching of the word and to leverage technology. Chris and PCI built a system to accommodate that vision.”

Electrical power at the MultiPurpose Center was going to be an issue right from the start. The solution took some creative thinking and sourcing:

All of our fixtures are LED based — our stage wash, our par lights that we use for up-lighting. We have MAC auras that we use, we have MAC 301s, everything we use from either hard-edged fixtures or wash-fixtures are all LED.

PCI did a really good job of working through that with us and helping us not just with which fixtures we were going to choose, but also creating the lighting plot so that we could indeed create the environment we wanted.

Connected: Overcoming the Challenge of No Internet

To top off all the challenges Champion Forest faced, the room had no Internet connectivity.

The solution? PCI connected all the equipment on a separate private network through network switches and a wireless access point.

The Shure wireless microphones, the Barco projectors, the BSS system processor, the Roland monitor system — all are on the new, private network.

With this design, they can adjust the settings on projectors, tweak the gain on wireless microphones, or finesse the sound system with just a few clicks on a laptop from anywhere in the room.

Volunteers: What about Burnout?

Bottom line: high-quality, high-tech is great.

But people are what matter most in ministry. And if volunteers burn out, there won’t be much ministry taking place.

[tweetthis] People are what matter most in ministry. [/tweetthis]

Surprisingly, Pastor Stephen has discovered the new systems have served as a catalyst for church growth:

Part of the miracle of the North Campus is the mobilization of volunteers. For me, the miracle of the North Campus, the miracle of going portable is mobilizing people in ministry.

For example, several men who serve with me on the blue crew on my team would never teach a life group class, but they are willing to show up at 5:30 am to pull our trailers from our Creek campus to our North campus, back them in, and then participate in this setup experience and then come back and tear down and take the trailers back to the main campus.

“Going portable has mobilized an army of volunteers to serve who otherwise may not have a place of service.”

A big part of getting volunteer support comes from making the process easy for all.

The design for Champion Forest keeps the process simple and effective over the long-haul by using mass-connects, and cables with connectors that can only install one way, or a truss that has  pre-hung bars on it so that the lights are up and out of the way with clean connectors.

Simplified: High Tech, but Low Maintenance

Chris appreciates how the low-maintenance system functions.

“They are very technical systems, but the great part is that they are broken down so any one person only needs to know about one specific piece.”

All they have to know is when I’m working on this truss I make sure these cables are disconnected, and none of them are connected before I pull this bar up.  That’s all they have to know.  And everything kind of goes together.

We have one technical person that serves at the campus, but beyond that it’s all lay people, and most of the folks that are serving really have no technical expertise at all.

They just know how to do their part and how  to do it with excellence.”

The end result is a sustainable, high-tech system.

Rotating volunteer teams take turns at making it happen every Sunday. Total set-up time? 100 minutes.

Take-down? Less than half that time.

Moving Forward with PCI

Now the North Campus of Champion Forest Baptist Church is thriving and a true reflection of their cultural DNA — four languages, three campuses, one church.

Applying custom creative technology solutions from Portable Church Industries made it possible in this high-tech, portable church setting.[tweetthis] The miracle of going portable as a church is mobilizing people in ministry. [/tweetthis]

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Portable Church has partnered with churches of all sizes over the last 23 years. Whatever facility challenges you may be facing, rest assured that the PCI team has probably already encountered it — and found solutions.

Connect with PCI today to schedule a free 20-minute consultation and find out what Stephen Trammel, Chris Todd, the Champion Forest Church team, and more than 2,000 other churches have already discovered.

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