Quiz What Do the Arizona Immigration Law and Implantable Medical Devices Have in Common

ANSWER: Both are subjects of important federal court rulings that federal law preempts state law. Proponents of the Arizona immigration law should recognize that they’re just the latest victims of an anti-7th Amendment federal preemption movement that has already spread into many sectors of American life, thanks to Congress, the federal courts, and federal bureaucrats.

As noted by legal scholars (here and here), the decision last week by District Court Judge Bolton to block key sections of the Arizona immigration law was based in standard federal preemption theory, not the unconstitutionality of the law or each section in it. After ruling that a severability clause in the Arizona law was sufficient to block federal preemption of the law in its entirety, Judge Bolton proceeded to analyze each section of the Arizona law for what she termed “the constitutionality of the individual provisions,” but in reality she judged each provision against current federal law, and determined the likelihood that the United States would ultimately succeed in blocking each such section (see page 13 of the attached ruling). For instance, when blocking the section of the Arizona law which forbids illegal aliens from working, Judge Bolton wrote,

The provision limiting the use of attestation forms and the civil penalties outlined for document fraud in Title 8 and the robust sanctions for employers who hire, continue to employ, or refer unauthorized workers convince the Court that Congress has comprehensively regulated in the field of employment of unauthorized aliens. These ‘extant actions,’ in combination with an absence of regulation for the particular violation of working without authorization, lead to the conclusion that Congress intended not to penalize this action, other than the specific sanctions outlined above. See P.R. Dep’t of Consumer Affairs, 485 U.S. at 503-04. Thus, the Court finds that Plaintiff is likely to succeed on its claim that Arizona’s new crime for working without authorization, set forth in Section 5 C of S.B. 1070, conflicts with a comprehensive federal scheme and is preempted. (See page 27 of the ruling.)

Conservative commentators were upset/outraged at the ruling, see Michelle Malkin’s website and Rush Limbaugh’s and Glenn Beck’s.

Although I agree with most of their political views, none of them know widespread the “federal preemption disease” is in Washington. One of Rush Limbaugh’s first statements was, “This, to me, is big because normally federal courts do not side with the federal government against states like this. I could be wrong about this, but I don’t think that’s standard.” Advocates of 7th Amendment rights know that federal preemption of state law by federal courts, bureaucrats, and Congress certainly has been the “standard” in the past decade. Just as an example, thousands of victims of defective implantable medical devices (classified as “Class III” under FDA regulations) know all about federal preemption the hard way. They thought they had a case against the manufacturer of their device (e.g., a pacemaker or artifical limb) in state courts under the Medical Device Amendments of 1976 to the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. Users of a defective pacemaker sold by Medtronic suffered internal electrocution inside their body, as the wire from the battery loosened from the pacemaker and sent jolt after jolt through their chest. As I wrote on June 24, the Supreme Court ended their hopes of receovery in the Riegel v. Medtronic decision, when the Court changed 30 years of legal practice by ruling that the 1976 MDA preempted state common law suits. Thousands of potential cases have either been summarily dismissed or not filed. A bill to reverse the Riegel decision is hung up in Congress, the victim of pressure brought by the medical device companies and the business community.

Conservatives just haven’t been watching, as the federal preemption octopus has spread its tentacles from Washington into all parts of our lives. I wrote on June 24 that the 7th Amendment is being repeatedly challenged by federal preemption through aggressive regulatory decisions by unelected bureaucrats in Washington. “Federal preemption abrogates 7th Amendment rights by immunizing the affected industry from civil suits, with no accountability for negligence; it leaves injured consumers with no means of seeking recovery for injuries caused by the product or service. Federal bureaucrats love expanding their power and ensuring their permanency by preempting state law, and in recent years they’ve certainly exercised that power. Bureaucrats in the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Department of Homeland Security, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Transportation Safety Administration and Federal Railroad Administration have all joined in writing federal preemption into regulations.”

As I wrote on July 20, the federal preemption wave turns over the authority over our lives to the elites and away from the country. If conservatives are going to complain about the court ruling in the Arizona case, they’re going to have start being more attentive to the ever-increasing domination by Washington of our lives, as state statutory laws and our 7th Amendment right to civil justice are preempted by Congress, the bureaucracy, or the judiciary.

Dear Paul Ryan Our Churchs Teachings Dont Support Your Federal Tort Reform

I’m happy to see fellow Catholics wade into the public policy arena and inject our Church’s teachings on moral responsibility and social justice into the debate on legislation. I haven’t done so explicitly here, but my faith underlies much of what I write on the need to protect the right to a civil jury trial for religious liberty and pro-life lawsuits.

So when Rep. Paul Ryan said in an interview that the Catholic principle of subsidiarity underlies some of his proposals in the FY 2013 federal budget, I respected his attempt as a sincerely personal application of our common faith. Obviously, other Catholics, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, disagree with him on the application of that principle, but I’m glad we’re having the discussion on that plane.

But if Rep. Ryan seriously believes, as he said in the interview, that subsidiarity “is really federalism, meaning government closest to the people governs best,” then he must apply it consistently. And that requires that he remove any current reference to federal limits on medical malpractice lawsuits, including caps on noneconomic damages, from his budget proposals. Rep. Ryan’s favorite legal experts on federalism have been writing for over a year that federal limits on civil suits are as unconstitutional an infringement on states’ and individual rights as the individual mandate in Obamacare. If, as one conservative commentator says, “A humane government is one that leaves decisions closest to the people,” then surely the regulation of state courtrooms is not a matter for Congress to decide. The budget proposed by the conservative House Republican Study Committee doesn’t include any federal limits on civil jury trials – I guess that makes it “more Catholic.”

And please don’t interpret this piece as an implicit acceptance of state-imposed limits on the right to a civil jury trial. I don’t believe that the Founding Fathers meant for a right that they called “sacred” and “inviolable” to be limited to civil suits filed in federal courts, while enabling state legislatures to close courtroom doors anytime they see fit. But that’s a subject for a different post.

But if Rep. Ryan wants to reflect Catholic social teachings in his proposed budget, then he needs to do so without infringing on that “sacred” and “inviolable” right at the federal level.

New Study Debunks Five Myths of Medical Malpractice

Before he was a President and Founding Father, John Adams was a famous trial lawyer. In the case that made him famous, he represented the British soldiers who participated in the Boston Massacre, in which he actually persuaded a Boston jury to dismiss the murder claims. His closing statement began with the words, “Facts are hard things,” a now-famous proverb we hear thrown about often, on issues from the deficit to gun control.

Some of the “hard facts” about medical malpractice are addressed in a new study published in the January 2013 issue of “CHEST,” the official journal of the American College of Chest Physicians.” Titled, “Five Myths of Medical Malpractice,” the study lists five famous myths, then debunks them with real facts. The study is summarized on the CHEST website, but is copyrighted and thus available in full only to subscribers. Here is the authors’ summary open to all:

We identify five myths of medical malpractice that have wide currency in medical circles. The myths are as follows: (1) Malpractice crises are caused by spikes in medical malpractice litigation (ie, sudden rises in payouts and claim frequency), (2) the tort system delivers “jackpot justice,” (3) physicians are one malpractice verdict away from bankruptcy, (4) physicians move to states that adopt damages caps, and (5) tort reform will lower health-care spending dramatically. We test each assertion against the available empirical evidence on the subject and conclude by identifying various nonmythical problems with the medical malpractice system.”

The authors are David A. Hyman, MD, JD, and Charles Silver, JD, two expert researchers who have already punched holes in the major claims made about the benefits to Texans from state-imposed caps on damages in medical malpractice lawsuits. I’ve written extensively about their study of Texas medmal caps, which they cite in the new study.

For policy purposes, I’ll note here simply that the last paragraph of the new study reports that mandated caps on medmal damages “do little to improve the malpractice system… they do not make health-care safer, reduce health-care spending, compensate those who are negligently injured, or make the liability system work better.” Hyman and Silver say that the best reforms in medicine are “patient safety initiatives that reduce the frequency and severity of medical mistakes.”

That’s the type of fact-based conclusion that should be easy to swallow. If you want to limit medmal lawsuits, end the medmal!

A Constitutionally Conservative Agenda Wouldnt Target 7th Amendment Rights Through Tort Reform

So the new GOP agenda for the 2010 elections is about to be released, and press reports indicate that it might include some call for “tort reform” or “medmal reform.” Whenever I read those phrases, I substitute the words “Fairness Doctrine” or “gun purchase restrictions” and imagine the outrage that would ensue among Constitutional conservatives and average Americans. The prevalence of terms like “tort reform,” “medmal reform,” or “stop junk lawsuits” is proof that the users of such terms, and the people who follow them, haven’t taken a long hard look at the nature of Constitutional rights and the mechanisms needed to exercise them.

Here’s how I think of it: Each Constitutional right has an “agent,” an entity or entities that bring that right alive, make it a reality, and implement it among the people. The agents for the First Amendment freedom of the press are the media, in all its forms. The agents for the First Amendment freedom of religion are churches and associated religious entities. The agents for the Second Amendment right to bear arms are the sellers of firearms.

Whether you like it or not, the agents for the 7th Amendment right to jury trials for civil suits are the attorneys licensed in each state who file cases for plaintiffs – they’re the trial lawyers (unless, of course, the plaintiff acts as his/her own attorney). That’s the way it is, has been, and will be. Any legislative agenda that includes a catchy phrase like “tort reform” is inherently targeting our 7th Amendment rights for restriction or, in some specific cases such as federal preemption of state law, outright extinction.

No Constitutionally conservative election agenda should paint a bullseye on any of our Constitutional rights for any reason. We wouldn’t tolerate an agenda that targets MSNBC or the New York Times just because they’re biased outlets, and so on for all the other agents of the First and Second Amendments. Why target the agents of the 7th Amendment when the Founders believed so strongly in civil jury trials? I hope and plead that Tea Partiers and Constitutional conservatives will resist joining any call for “tort reform” and see it for what it is, an attempt to cut a huge hole out of the Bill of Rights.

Mann v Ford Documentary Shows Why We Need Class Action Lawsuits

Tonight at 9 pm ET, HBO will broadcast a documentary titled, “Mann v. Ford,” about a class action lawsuit brought by the Ramapough Mountain Indians, who have lived for hundreds of years in northern New Jersey, 40 miles from midtown Manhattan. In the 1960s, the Ford Motor Company bought land from the Indians and began dumping toxic waste in woods and abandoned mines near their homes.

In the 1980s, the Ramapoughʼs land was added to the EPAʼs list of federally monitored Superfund sites, and then removed from the list after Ford and the EPA supposedly cleaned it up. But 80 percent of the toxic waste had been left behind, and the Indians suffered from the deadly impacts of the sludge, including cancers, skin rashes and other symptoms of toxic poisoning. The Indians eventually hired attorney Vicki Gilliam, who with another attorney filed the class action lawsuit, seeking millions of dollars from Ford as compensation. Ford denied all responsibility for the illnesses devastating the community and claimed its cleanup complied with all EPA rules.

You can read all of the details of the years of illnesses on the special website created by the Bergen Record newspaper in New Jersey, which first reported the story.

I arranged for Vicki Gilliam to be interviewed by Terry Lowry, host of the syndicated What’s Up radio program, which is broadcast on 12 Christian radio stations in 10 states and co-sponsored by the American Association for Justice (my client). You can download today’s podcast of the interview in two parts – Part 1 here and Part 2 here. In the interview, Vicki discussed how Ford Motor Company knew of the deadly nature of the sludge dumped onto the Indians’ land; the horrible medical impacts of the sludge; how the EPA didn’t force Ford to dispose of all of the waste.

Eventually the Indians settled the case with Ford, and the terms of the settlement are not public. The lawsuit resulted in the EPA’s returning the site to the Superfund list, the first time a cleared site was returned to the list – a warning to the 70+ million Americans living near a Superfund-listed site.

One of the lessons emerging from this story is that Americans need to have the option of filing a class action or “mass tort” lawsuit when numerous people are harmed by the same dangerous and grossly negligent action. Too often, tortious action affecting thousands of people goes unchallenged by federal regulators, and the victims need to have the option of filing their lawsuits together. The “tort reform” movement is seeking to sharply limit the right of Americans to combine their claims in a class action; the Mann v. Ford case shows us why we can’t let that happen.

Another Reagan Conservative Who Loves Civil Juries

It’s always great to find another Reagan Conservative who cherishes the Founders’ ideal of civil jury trials, as protected by the 7th Amendment to the Constitution, and to see that support in a mainstream conservative publication. Like me, Prof. David Wagner of Regent University Law School was a political appointee in the Reagan Administration who later served as a counsel for House Republicans on a congressional committee. And Prof. Wagner, who teaches constitutional law and other subjects, knows the rich history of the 7th Amendment. He wrote about the importance of civil juries in the January 20 issue of The Weekly Standardin an article titled, “Who Loves a Jury? The Framers of the Constitution, that’s who.” It might be the first pro-civil jury piece in a mainstream conservative publication in many years. An excerpt:

It seems the civil jury can’t get no respect.

Although it’s conservatives who most often make the case against civil justice excesses, the downgrading of juries in popular respect marks a huge, though almost unnoticed, divide between this generation and the Framers.

Ask most people today what is the most direct way they participate in government. They will probably say voting. And yes, the right to vote is in the constitutional text, although something of a latecomer, in various forms in the 14th, 15th, 19th, 23rd, and 26th Amendments.

But 81 years before the right to vote made its first appearance in the Constitution, the jury right in criminal cases was already included in the unamended Constitution (Article III, Section 2, paragraph 3), as it came from the Philadelphia Convention. But the convention declined to extend this right to civil cases. This alone lost the Constitution the votes of George Mason and Elbridge Gerry, and got the ball rolling on the movement for a Bill of Rights, either as a condition of ratification (constitutional opponents lost on that), or as a top item of business when the new government convened (they won on that; politicians kept promises in those days). And so a guarantee of jury trial in civil cases became the 7th Amendment.

In fact, 3 of the first 10 amendments mention juries: We have grand juries in the 5th, criminal petit juries in the 6th, and civil juries in the 7th. For comparison, the right to vote is nowhere mentioned in the Bill of Rights. A latecomer, as I said

At first the Bill of Rights was binding only on the federal government, and to this day the 7th Amendment remains one of the provisions in the Bill of Rights that the Supreme Court has not fully applied to the states. The reason? No apparent need: The states themselves guarantee the civil jury right, and have done so since the Founding. Northwestern’s Steven Calabresi and his fellow legal scholars have recently found that 12 of the original 13 states, representing about three-fourths of the population of the new United States of America, had civil jury provisions in their state constitutions at the time of the Founding, second only to provisions for the free exercise of religion.”

Prof. Wagner has some concerns about flaws that he sees in the civil litigation process, but he warns against limiting the civil jury trial. “The civil litigation system is flawed along several fissures; juries are not the only ones, or the worst. Above all, they have countervailing, decisive civic, and constitutional benefits. At least our Framers, after debating the issue, came to that conclusion, and we are unwise to ignore their counsel.” And he’s criticized bills proposed in Congress to nationally limit medical malpractice damages.

Here’s hoping more of my fellow conservatives realize the wisdom of the Founders and protect civil jury trials.

Obamacare Victory Could Boost Federal Medmal Limits Efforts

“If this law is upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court, then there’s virtually nothing that’s beyond Congress’s reach, and I think that would be a horrible, horrible precedent for the country.”

So said Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, discussing the potential impact of a Supreme Court ruling affirming the constitutionality of the Obamacare individual mandate. Sen. Lee confirms what I’ve been trying to tell pro-Obamacare civil justice liberals for almost two years – that if Obamacare wins, federal medmal limits will be considered as more permissible under the Commerce Clause and therefore far more likely to be enacted.

Go look at my Archives, back to my post in January 2011 about Justice Thomas’ warning on the unlimited danger of an unlimited Commerce Clause. Look at what anti-Obamacare legal experts such as Randy Barnett, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and John Baker wrote about H.R. 5, the bill to impose federal limits on awards in medical malpractice lawsuits. Read what I wrote in my post titled, Obamacare and Federal Tort Reform, Perfect Together. The theme is the same:

Obamacare and federal medmal limits, and indeed most federal tort reform bills, are based on the same abusive interpretation of the Commerce Clause, to the detriment of states’ and individual rights. The Obama Justice Department and the tort reform advocates cite the same landmark Supreme Court ruling, Wickard v. Filburn, for their bills.

So if Obamacare wins, the cause of federal tort reform will advance. If Obamacare wins, courtroom doors around America could close. If Obamacare wins, victims of medical malpractice, defective drugs and devices, nursing home abuse, and deadly hospital errors could eventually see their lawsuits dismissed. Nationwide.

A few groups get this. Constitutional conservatives like Sen. Lee, the legal experts I cited, Tea Party leaders such as Judson Phillips, all get it. They want nothing to do with Obamacare OR federal tort reform.

The medical providers and associations get it too. They pushed Obamacare in Congress under secret deals with the Obama White House and backed it in court. They want millions of new patients, paid for by the rest of us. They push H.R. 5 and other federal tort reform bills because it gives them effective immunity from civil suits.

Pro-Obamacare civil justice liberals don’t get it. I’ve seen post after post, article after article, from those who pledge to protect “justice for all” or whose entire business model depends on open courtrooms, nodding their heads at Obamacare in full bobblehead mode. I shake my head in wonder.

But soon, very soon, the Supreme Court will redefine the meaning of the Commerce Clause in the Obamacare decision. Then one side will win and another will lose, and we’ll know more about the limits of federal power.

Evangelical College Requests Jury Trial in Obamacare Lawsuit

On July 18, Wheaton College, one of most famous evangelical colleges in the U.S., joined The Catholic University of America in protesting the Obamacare HHS mandate by filing its own suit, with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty as the attorney of record. In a press release, the Becket Fund noted, ‘This alliance marks the first-ever partnership between Catholic and evangelical institutions to oppose the same regulation in the same court.’

And on Page 30 of the complaint, you’ll see the sentence, “Wheaton requests a trial by jury on all issues so triable.” Like many of the institutions filing suit against the mandate, Wheaton College is exercising its right to a civil jury trial as protected by the Seventh Amendment to the Constitution.

Faith-based groups and their allies across America are protesting the Obamacare HHS mandate to force the provision of abortion-inducing drugs and devices through health insurance policies. For the first time in American history, a President is trying to impose a narrow definition of “religious institution,” in order to implement a political agenda. The definition could force the closure of faith-based services organizations, such as AIDS clinics, schools, and hospitals. If successful, the mandate would serve as the template for Uncle Sam to define any religious organization as it sees fit, and dictate hiring, financial, and all organizational decisions.

The Wheaton College lawsuit is the latest salvo in the ongoing protest. On June 14, the Catholic Heath Association, the largest groups of Catholic-based hospitals in the U.S., issued a letter opposing the HHS mandate. On June 11, over 150 faith-based organizations joined in a letter to HHS Secretary Sebelius, expressing “grave concern” over the impact that the Obamacare mandate will have on religious freedom. And on May 21, lawsuits were filed against the mandate by 43 Catholic dioceses, organizations and universities, specifically invoking their Seventh Amendment rights and demanding that local juries hear the suits, not judges. Other suits against the mandate were filed at various times by Christian colleges and state Attorneys General.

This legal battle is yet another reminder that the Founding Fathers designed a civil justice system rooted in the right to a jury trial for civil suits for all cases and causes. Religious liberty, property rights, free speech rights, medical malpractice claims, and products liability claims are treated equally under the Founders’ grand design. The Founders wrote of the need to protect the right to a civil jury trial from before the Revolutionary War through the debates by the states on the ratification of the Constitution, and then to the adoption of the Seventh Amendment as part of the Bill of Rights. The Seventh Amendment was unanimously approved by the states. At no time did the Founders discuss abridging that right by splitting cases or causes of action into economic and non-economic, with different rights for different types.

Did Foreclosuregate Banks Lobby For Immunity From State Court Suits to Keep Us in Dark

The “Foreclosuregate” scandal is widening and threatens the superstructure of the housing finance industry. Attorneys General from all 50 states are opening a joint investigation into the fraudulent use of false documents and signatures to justify hundreds of thousands of foreclosures. There can be no doubt that very senior executives will be facing subpoenas, depositions, and potential criminal investigations.

And maybe that’s why Bank of America, JPMorganChase, GMC Mortgage, and their trade association, the American Bankers Association, spent so much money and time in the past year to enact federal legislation which would prevent any such lawsuits and compromise our rights enumerated in the 7th Amendment. They lobbied Congress hard every day, spending millions of dollars in lobbying expenses and political contributions, to enact provisions in the financial regulatory reform bill to preempt state law and immunize themselves from state court suits by the state Attorneys General and consumers. It’s not hard to imagine – If top bank officials knew that thousands of my bank’s foreclosures were phony and rushed through the process, they would want to jump into the Dodd-Frank bill process to kill those lawsuits before anybody could find out the truth in court. Fortunately they didn’t get the total immunity from Congress that they sought.

The state Attorneys General should pursue that angle in their “Foreclosuregate” investigations and determine whether top officials – the CEOs included – pursued changes in federal law because they knew or had some suspicion that the tsunami of phony foreclosures would soon become publicly known.

BP releases internal investigation report cites no single action or inaction

BP has released its internal investigation report on the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Predictably, the report spreads the responsibility for various failures among the companies in the rig venture, without citing any particular reason which might leave BP, or any other company involved, open to civil liability. Note this paragraph in the Executive Summary:

The team did not identify any single action or inaction that caused this accident. Rather, a complex and interlinked series of mechanical failures, human judgments, engineering design, operational implementation and team interfaces came together to allow the initiation and escalation of the accident. Multiple companies, work teams and circumstances were involved over time.”

In other words, it just happened – “stuff happens.” But this is why the British peasants at Runnymede forced King John to sign the Magna Carta in 1215 and empower their right to bring their civil wrongs before a jury of their peers. This is why our Founding Fathers created the American justice system in Article III of the Constitution, and why they empowered Americans with the 7th Amendment, based on the Magna Carta and centuries of British experience, to bring their civil wrongs before a jury of their peers. Juries are the triers of facts and can assign the legal liability for the accident and the proper compensation for the injured. The Founding Fathers trusted juries, and almost 800 years of experience shows that it’s still the best system for the exercise of civil justice.

Unfortunately, because of special federal laws enacted decades ago to help shipping interests (the Death on the High Seas Act, Jones Act and the Limitation of Liability Act), victims of the Deepwater Horizon disaster have seen their 7th Amendment rights unfairly abridged. The U.S. House passed a great bill by voice vote of Republicans and Democrats on July 1 (basically a unanimous vote), only to see the Senate version bogged down by opposition from commercial fishing interests and irrelevant battling over energy policy.

Sen. Rockefeller has introduced S. 3755, a new version of the House-passed bill, in which he tries to compromise with the commercial fishing interests to simply enable the Deepwater Horizon victims to have their day in court, unhindered by outdated and unfair limits. It would end the unfair discrimination against sea-based oil rig accident victims; land-based victims suffer from no such federally imposed limit on their 7th Amendment rights. This version deserves debate and a final vote by the Senate, after which it could be quickly adopted by the House to assist the families.

Civil Litigation Isnt Just Constitutional It Also Saves Lives

On this website, I discuss the basis in Constitutional law for the civil litigation process and the right to a jury trial for civil suits. That right has practical and beneficial impacts, as described in an op-ed over the weekend in the Washington Post.

Gibson Vance, President of the American Association for Justice (AAJ), the largest trial lawyers’ association in the world, wrote, How Our Cars Got Safer, summarizing how litigation against auto manufacturers is one reason for the drop in trafic deaths to the lowest level in over 60 years. “(W)ithout the civil justice system, gas tanks would still explode in rear-end collisions, seat belts and airbags would not be standard, and cars would roll over onto roofs that would be easily crushed.” Mr. Vance cited as examples the famous Ford Pinto gas tank explosion case and a gruesome case in which a power window strangled a child.

Mr. Vance wrote his op-ed based on a detailed study conducted by AAJ of changes in auto safety as a result of civil litigation and the exercise of the 7th Amendment right to a civil jury trial. On a special page on the AAJ website, you can download AAJ’s report, “Driven to Safety: How Litigation Spurred Auto Safety Innovations,” and an interactive graphic showing you which car parts, now standard in every car, were forced upon the industry thanks to lawsuits (it’s a pretty neat graphic). From door latches to the tires to electronic stability control, many of the most important safety features of your car were installed after civil suits won by Americans with the help of their trial lawyers.

AND – that’s not the only consumer product positively impacted by civil suits. AAJ also has conducted studies of the impact of civil litigation on toys used by our children and on the treatment of our elderly relatives and friends by nursing homes (each with neat and educational interactive graphics). As Mr. Vance wrote in his op-ed, “History shows that litigation and the civil justice system have served as the most consistent and powerful forces in heightening safety standards, revealing previously concealed defects and regulatory weaknesses and deterring manufacturers from cutting corners on safety for the goal of greater profits.”

Let your relatives and friends know about these studies and tell your Congressmen. Civil litigation is not only Constitutional, it saves lives too.

Big site news you guys

Notice anything different? Why yes, I did shave my taint, but that’s not what I mean. Take a look up there at the URL, err, the address box? What is that thing called? Anyway, notice that change? After a year and a half of writing fart jokes for my five friends I’ve finally decided to take this shit show high class and buy the actual URL for putthatshitonthelist. Remember like three posts ago where I was all “Why did I choose a URL that’s NSFW?” Turns out I didn’t learn my lesson on that one and went right ahead and did it again. What’s that they say about the definition of insanity again?

I’ve been doing a lot of stuff for other turd and boner humor sites lately, and probably  about to start doing some stuff for this other one as well. Go read them frequently. They’re both websites with a sort of similar perverted dickhead worldview as this one, so I figured I might as well spruce the place up a bit before having company over.  But all it really means is that I finally managed to scrape together the ten dollars it takes to buy a website domain. Nothing is going to change. Same shitty layout, same shitty design, same shitty jokes. Speaking of which, if any of you fancy web-machine artists want to help me make this backwater internet incest palace look presentable, please go right ahead and speak that knowledge into my face. Because if there’s one thing this site was founded on it was the free work of all my friends.  Before those deadbeats ran out of material real quick. 

Anyway: penis joke. The end. LindsayLohan nude. Lindsay Lohan nudeK im Kardashian sex tape. .

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Going Down the Cape or Anywhere Really

Going “Down the Cape” or Anywhere Really

Tomorrow marks an important date in the official part of my summer, for I am going “down the Cape.” For those not in the know, the Cape is a beach-type stretch of land, somewhere near Florida and Jamaica Plain. Like Jamaica Plain, it is only easily accessible by rocket ship or helicopter. However, in today’s economic climate, I’ve access to neither. So I hope my ’97 Toyota will be up for the challenge. Luckily, that will give the lady and I a few solid hours to argue about the temperature in the car as well as discuss which of our friends we are better than. But all is not lost, after the 12-13 hour drive, we will find ourselves in a magical, amazing place. Sure, the poor townies who stick it out on the cape all fucking year will treat us like shit, but come on, these are people that ride the bus and hit up Joe Kennedy for help with the heating bill. Not likely to run into any of them in our little bubble, are we? Anyway, enjoy the last week of summer dickheads.

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Caring About Sports Too Much

Caring About Sports Too Much

You ever have something twist your melon up real good like a death in the family or a bad breakup or you lost your job or you realized you’re an anonymous, boring dickhead with absolutely nothing to show for decades of hard work? Then one day a few weeks or months later you wake up from a really restful night’s sleep and it takes a minute or two before that gradual realization seeps back in? It’s nice in that space isn’t it? Quiet. Peaceful.

Inevitably though the memory sneaks up through your brain bushes like a creeping ninja of pain and you realize all over again that that bullshit went down. Now you’re swimming face first through the failure soup that is your normal life.In a related story, some terrorist freedom hater on the radio just brought up this incident below and it triggered some down deep Manchurian Candidate shit in me that I can’t shake loose. I’m not saying that this event taught me what it’s like to live through a war or a natural disaster, but… OK, I am saying that. Get me, I’m on the List.

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Speaking Russian in the Sauna

I’m not talking about some sort of overly-specific sexual euphemism here, my meaning is quite literal in fact. Although come to think of it, I wouldn’t mind speaking a little Russian in the old sauna right now if you know what I mean (penis-wise.)

And please don’t mistake this as some sort of anti-Russian bias either. In a lot of ways I suppose I’m what you might call a Russophile. They’re an often brilliant people with poetic souls and heroically rotted livers. I never miss a chance to let someone know about all the Russian novels I’ve read so they’ll think that I’m smart; I could look at this website all day; and I’m a big fan of some of the contributions they’ve made in the world of sports and, uh, other arts. In other words, scary Russian dudes, please don’t kill me and/or smash my stupid face in. Thanks in advance.

But after exerting myself at the gym just about the last sound I want to hear is two steaming man-bears jabbering in that violently guttural language. (No offense to, uh, violence and guttural people.) I’d rather hear the hiss of my own flesh on the sauna rocks or the soundtrack to my family getting eaten by a dinosaur on the radio.

Jesus fucking christ dudes, can you slow it down with that competitive talking for five seconds. I’m trying to work up a solid thigh sweat in peace. You guys just shooting the shit over there or making a drop off for the top secret launch codes? You sound like a couple Tsarist wizards summoning a Slavic goat demon. WHY ARE YOU YELLING? This is a 6×8 foot wooden box. Wait a second… I think I heard you drop the word pizza in there somewhere. Why are you so angry about pizza? What did pizza ever do to you? I mean besides give you that glistening paunch you’re pointing at my face right now.

Ok, so maybe the problem here isn’t the Russian so much, just the mere presence of any sound in the sauna whatsoever. It’s really a very tense time after all. Here I am, tired, worn out, sweating onto a wooden plank with my eyes closed so I don’t have to survey the particular horrors of sweaty gray pubes situation going on. It’s all I can do to relax for a few moments and tune out the world. I know that in your country the steam room or whatever is like a big social tradition, but we’ve got a little tradition of our own here in America called shutting the fuck up. I’ll go first so you can see how it works.

Write Your Own Fucking Jokes Deadbeat

I’ve had this picture saved on my desktop for like two weeks now and I keep waiting for g0d to bless me with the strength to make words happen, but freedom aint free pal, and neither is lunch, g0d once told me. Unless you’re a fucking bear in Russia eating the shit out of some salmon at a fish bukkake. 

Haha. Slow down little fellow! You can’t eat all of the fish! 

Interestingly enough, or maybe the exact opposite of that, my spell check is suggesting the words Bukharin and Bukhara as potential corrections for bukkake. BukkakeBukkake Bukkake (I need the page views.) The first refers to Nikolai Ivanovich Bukharin. Nikolai Ivanovich Bukharin. (I’ll take those page views too, I’m not a bigot). He was a famed Bolshevik revolutionary who was later fucked in the ass by his boy Stalin, and executed in a ridiculous show trial during the purges on the 1930s.

So…that kind of blows. His life did inspire a book I just read though, which I only mention so that you know that I’m a serious thinker.

Bukhara is the name of a city in Uzbekistan, which, I don’t know dude, you’re on your own with that one.

bear pictures via

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Automated Lighting Enhances the Worship Experience

by George Masek

Automated Lighting Enhances the Worship Experience

By George Masek

The ability to automatically change colors of the lighting or to focus it on
specific scenic elements or in certain areas during the presentation can greatly
enhance the production value of the service and trigger a variety of emotional
tones. Automated luminaires can also add the dynamics of movement to create an
exciting worship experience.

For an Easter celebration, dark colors or a reddish hue during the
crucifixion on Calvary set a somber tone as the congregation reflects on Jesus’
death on the cross. Strobe effects can be used to give the appearance of
lightning or a threatening storm. A fixture can be focused on the actor
portraying Jesus to give a halo effect. Movement from the fixtures may
accentuate action and motion onstage.

As the red slowly changes into a golden hue, the emotions of the audience
swing from mournful to rejoicing as the stage is suddenly bathed in bright light
and the celebration begins for the resurrection and promise of life everlasting.
Color changes can be made quickly with snap changes, or slowly by means of a
color cross-fade. Shadow effects can create the appearance of a cave or dark
entryway through which the resurrected Jesus may emerge.

In addition to the moving beams, rotating gobos can give the impression of
moving clouds, ripping water, twinkling stars and other effects. Or the gobos
can simply provide a variety of background textures. A gobo is a thin metal
plate or glass that is etched to produce a design, which can then be inserted
within the automated fixture and projected as an image. A single gobo can
produce a colorful image, such as a stained glass window. Custom gobos can be
created for specific images, such as trees or a cross.

Using the fixtures’ automated zoom, designers can emphasize particular
aspects of the production by manipulating the size and focus of the projected
images. Automated shutters provide similar emphasis by cropping objects and
providing high contrast between the illuminated objects, such as Jesus on the
cross and the background.

A popular Easter Sunday format for many churches is the illustrated sermon, a
service that combines reading passages and scripture along with congregation
members acting out passages and accompanying hymns from the choir. With an
automated ellipsoidal reflector spotlight, a single fixture can accommodate all
three segments of the presentation.

The fixture can operate as a spotlight while the pastor is reading the
scripture. It can then quickly change colors, diffuse to a soft-edge light and
pan to another area of the sanctuary to illuminate action on stage. It can
change colors again and bathe the choir in color as hymns are sung for an
emotional and uplifting worship experience.

Automated lighting also allows lighting designers or event coordinators to
make last-minute changes to the production if needed. If for some reason the
crucifixion scene needed to be moved six feet in either direction just before
the presentation begins, the lighting director can refocus the lights to new
positions in just minutes with the push of a few buttons. The same change would
not have been possible with a conventional lighting rig.

The ideal toolkit

One of the most popular recent introductions into the lighting industry is
the automated ellipsoidal reflector spotlight. For years, the basic ellipsoidal
has been the standard theatrical lighting tool. Automation has taken all of the
desired elements of the original ellipsoidal lights and put them into an
affordable package.

Because the automated lights are multifunctional, they have the ability to be
used in standard applications as well as in theatrical applications and
productions. In addition to the standard functions of conventional lights, the
fixtures’ flexibility also provide movement, fixed or rotating images and a
variety of beam sizes. And the movements can be subtle and tasteful so as not to
distract from the service.

“The biggest challenge I face is convincing them that we’re not going to
turn the church into a rock-and-roll show by using intelligent lighting,”
says Tony Hansen, an Orlando, Fla.-based freelance lighting designer who has
worked with numerous churches over the past two decades.

Overuse of the features might require some restraint on the part of the
church’s lighting director, particularly a novice who might be infatuated with
the amazing effects the lights can create. When developing a lighting program,
the lighting director should respect the traditions or practices that define the
church’s worship style.

“The main thing to remember with automated lighting is that it’s there
to enhance, not distract,” Hansen says. “You don’t have to use all the
features just because they’re available.”

On the other hand, you do not want the lights themselves to stand out, making
the auditorium look like a concert hall. If needed, request that the exterior
finish of the lights be painted a particular color so that they blend with the
sanctuary’s ambiance.

Just as the flash and movement of the lights should not be a distraction,
neither should fixture noise. Generally, Easter productions heavily rely on the
spoken word, and in some instances complete silence, for effect. As such, the
congregation should not hear a constant buzzing from the lights’ cooling fans or
motors. The optimum light should be convection-cooled so that the cooling fans
are not activated until the units reach about 50 degrees. When running, the fan
should be virtually silent.

Give them something to remember everyday

In the past, cost has kept many churches from considering an automated
lighting system. In the past 18 months, as technology has improved and
manufacturing capabilities have grown more sophisticated, automated lighting
equipment has become more affordable. Many congregations are discovering that
automated lighting can enhance not only special productions but regular worship
services as well.

“I’m finding that more and more churches are looking at permanent
installations of automated lighting fixtures,” Hansen says. “They’re
discovering that the addition of intelligent lighting gives them the opportunity
to create many different environments and emotional settings without setting up
different scenery each time.

“Churches can have a different brand or a different look for their
traditional Sunday services, their contemporary Saturday services or their
Wednesday evening services.”

Regardless of whether it is a regular Sunday service or a special Easter
presentation, the religious experience should be emotionally rewarding. An
automated lighting system has the ability to enhance this emotional experience.

George Masek is the Technical Marketing Director for Vari-Lite. He has 20
years of experience in lighting live events and productions ranging from
concerts to theatrical performances.



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Theatrical Lighting Systems
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The Magnum 950 fog effect
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5 Proven Tenets for Growing Generosity at Your Church

by John Weinstein

By John Weinstein

“But it’s a dry heat!”

My wife and I heard that statement a lot when we moved to
Fresno, Calif. So is a blast furnace! I

The 100-degree summers of our new home required lots of water
to keep plants alive, so we hired an irrigation specialist to put in a sprinkler
system and prepare our backyard for sod. My wife told him how we wanted it
arranged. In a few hours, he and his crew had the yard ready.

Now that the sod is in, we’ve found that our trust in him
wasn’t misplaced. His good job of laying the pipes, positioning the sprinklers
and setting the timers simplified growing grass, shrubs and trees. When you give
plants water, they’ll grow.

Likewise, when you give Christians five kinds of motivation,
the fruits of your labor will be generous giving.

A Reason to Give

People want to do more than support the church staff, cover
the electric bill or meet the mortgage payment — they want to make a
difference in people’s lives. A survey of major donors shows the primary
reason people support a group is because they believe in its mission. In other
words, they’ll give to a church that has changed lives and saved souls.

What’s your church’s mission? What about its vision? Why
does your church exist? Answer these questions in short, simple sentences
everyone can remember and you’re on the path to giving people reasons to give.

Through scripture, build in your church a love for Christ and
for the world. By your passion, move people to join the greatest mission of the
ages: reaching the world with news of God’s love. Every day in every way, call
your people upward and outward.

Remind your members through newsletters, testimonies, video
presentations, interviews, posters and sermons what their giving is really
accomplishing. Don’t ask for money to pay the bills — challenge your members
to join the giving team that’s accomplishing the will of God through your
church. This gives every woman, man, girl and boy a reason to give.

Examples to Follow

I’ve conducted informal surveys in 35 churches asking a very
important question: Why are you a tither? Ninety-percent
of the respondents answered the same: “The example of someone else.” Your
people need regular, authentic testimonies from Biblical stewards. In
evangelical churches, members share their salvation testimonies. In charismatic
churches, they impart their healing testimonies. But who’s sharing their stewardship testimonies?

By using testimonies and interviews, hosting panel discussions
and writing brief articles in the church newsletter — or by presenting videos
during worship or an inserting notes in your regular financial statements —
you can share the stories of those people who have adopted stewardship as a way
of life. Christians will be challenged by their faith, struggles,
faithfulness and joy as stewards. One real-life example is worth a thousand

Enlist, coach and schedule members to share their stewardship
testimonies. Since 1996, for example, a church in Lubbock, Texas, has asked
laypeople to share their giving testimonies every time an offering is taken. He
or she shares how God has led them to give and offers a blessing for the
offering. Authentic stewardship testimonies are effective.

Freedom from Debt

Does anyone need to be reminded of their debt? Credit card
debt in excess of $9,200 per family is one of the many sources of financial
strain on Christians. When large sums of money are needed to pay off debt, there
are fewer discretionary funds to give to the Church. Help your members get out
of debt any way you can. Preach sermon series and provide personal financial

Don’t neglect the cause of such debt: misplaced priorities.
Even Christians are apt to believe the advertising hype and think the path to
happiness is paved with gold, lined with BMWs and walked on in Manolo Blahniks.
Preach and teach to counter the wisdom of this age that screams the lie that
fulfillment is in what you have. Preach and teach the changeless truth that what
this world offers is fleeting, but what we do for Christ will stand the test of
time and eternity. Replace the values the world advocates; transform hearts and
minds to God’s perspective. Many members of your church need freedom from debt
and from the misplaced values that often lead to it.

Give Them Options

Today, Americans have more options for every decision,
including how to make their gifts to a church or charity. Online giving,
automated withdrawal, or transfers of stocks and bonds are just a few of the
newer options.

How many options does your church offer? Do you provide
guidance regarding how to make a “final gift” to your church through a
bequest or trust? Do you send envelopes to your church members? Doing so
increases giving.

I’m not advocating the use of credit cards for online
donations, but some churches do so and receive gifts from credit-responsible

Does your church have a brokerage account to make possible the
gifts of securities? In one California church I know of, a family makes their
tithe through a once-a-year transfer of stock.

Responsible, Open Stewardship

In the aforementioned survey of major donors, the second
highest motivating factor is an organization’s good stewardship of the funds
collected. We need only refer to the example of the American Red Cross
and its 9/11 funds to know this is true.

Regular reporting of church giving in the bulletin and
newsletter and on the website reminds members their gifts are being accurately
accounted for, and in the account(s) they intended. Good financial practices
concerning expenditures (purchase orders, specific budget accounts, committee
reviews of major expenditures, and competitive bidding of contracts) gives
donors the assurance that the Lord’s money is spent wisely for the Lord’s

Mailing regular, written statements to donors — accompanied
by a note of thanks, a report of what God is doing, or another insert — serves
to remind givers that their money is doing something good for God and His

We ask church members to give to our ministries. Put these
five motivators in place and see if they don’t offer more.

John Weinstein is a graduate of Southwestern Baptist
Theological Seminary, an instructor for the National Association of Church
Business Administration, and a Certified Fund Raising Professional (CFRP). Reach
him for comments or questions at [email protected]

Anyone who has embarked on a signi

by Don Hughes

Church Construction Projects Take Planning, Planning, Planning!
Anyone who has embarked on a significant project knows that planning is critical. It’s also biblical

by Don Hughes

King David advocated planning when he said, Listen to me, my brothers and my people. I had it in my heart to build a house as a place of rest for the ark of the covenant of the LORD, for the footstool of our God, and I made plans to build it. (1 Chronicles 28:2, NIV) Often, though — especially with building projects — churches get caught up in the excitement of design, and sometimes they neglect proper planning. The more time church leaders spend planning up front, the more pain and frustration they‘ll avoid, and the more likely they’ll achieve their desired results.

Here are some key steps in the planning phase of your building project.

Build the Right Team

It can’t be stressed enough that a building project requires a solid team, made up of qualified individuals who share the vision for the project. The ideal team should include the project leader, the building committee, the capital campaign team, the builder, the architect, and the lender. Each of these members has a unique role to play, but they all need to work together to successfully complete the project. The most effective projects have this team up and running before designs are drawn or budgets are created.

The project leader is responsible for overall execution of the project and should be the single point of contact for all other members of the team. Contrary to popular opinion, the project leader doesn’t have to be someone from the congregation who happens to have construction experience; in fact, construction experience doesn’t even have to be on the job description.

The critical attribute of project leaders is just that — they must be excellent leaders, able to influence and communicate effectively with members of the building team, the church staff and the congregation. It’s helpful if a project manager has project management skills from any industry, and organizational skills are key. Most importantly, this person has to be given the authority to make decisions. In fact, the project manager should be the final decision-maker to ensure on-time and on-budget results.

Two more key roles are the architect and the builder. Selection of these team members should focus on their competency, character and chemistry.

Competency speaks to their ability to get the job done. Interview other church leaders with whom they’ve worked to determine their skill. Did they achieve desired results? Did they meet expectations regarding timelines and budgets?

Character asks if they work with integrity. You should choose an architect and a contractor just as you’d choose someone for your pastoral staff. Are they people with whom you can live on your team for two years? Further, will they make decisions that you can live with for 10 or 20 years, or for the life of the building?

Chemistry addresses how they work relationally. How will they interact with the other people on your team? This is another question to ask as you interview churches with which they’ve worked: How did these potential members of your team interact with people on their teams?

Finally, you’ll want to bring in your lender early in the planning process. One of the most painful situations is having a design on the table which everyone has enthusiastically embraced, and then having to significantly modify it because adequate funding is unavailable.

Including the right financial institution on your team will mitigate some of these issues. You should select your lender using the same “three C’s” focus. The right lender can tell you how much your church will be able to receive in funding, which will help you determine what you can realistically afford to build, as well as what you’ll need to raise through your capital campaign efforts.

Once you’ve selected the right players for your team, you can move on to the next part of planning.

Weighing the Costs

When planning for a church building project, it’s vitally important to have a thorough understanding of all the costs. Churches often focus on the hard construction costs without taking into consideration other expenses. There are three areas to consider: construction, design and owner.

Construction costs include all hard construction costs — the board-and-nail, brickand- mortar costs — of the actual building.

Design costs include architectural fees and reimbursable expenses; engineering of critical systems such as structural, HVAC and lighting; and consultants for soils, traffic, environmental and audiovisual and acoustics.

Owner costs include anything that’s not physically built into the building, such as furniture, fixtures and equipment (FF&E), financing costs, owner’s insurance, sound systems, video equipment, stage lighting, fund-raising consultant fees, and inspection and permit fees.

In addition to the actual costs you experience, you also need to include an additional five to 10 percent to address contingencies in any of these three categories.

If these calculations aren’t accounted for in the planning phase of your project, you risk being unable to complete your project as designed. Fortunately, if you have the right team on board when planning, you’ll be able to more realistically design your building based on real-cost estimates.

Planning is a huge part of a building project. Trying to plan after the project begins will cause pain — pain that’s preventable. As Jesus preached, we need to sit down and estimate the cost (Luke 14:28), and cost goes beyond mere dollars. It includes time, resources and people.

As you contemplate your own building project, make sure you have the right team, estimate the cost, and plan well.

Don Hughes, director of sales for the Church and Ministry Lending division of Evangelical Christian Credits Union (ECCU), has been a building contractor since 1978 and has been developing construction lending solutions for more than 15 years. Visit www.eccu.org or call 800.634.3228 for more information.

10 MODERN Mic Mistakes

10 MODERN Mic Mistakes

10 MODERN Mic Mistakes

by Floyd Paulsen

MICROPHONES ARE A STAPLE of a sound system. You know that.

But do you also know how to avoid making the most common mic mistakes?


Here at the Indiana Convention Center (ICC), where I work fulltime, we recently hosted an event for which the rental company brought in 14 wireless mics. Six lavalieres were for speakers on the stage, and the remaining eight handheld mics were to be used during Q&A from the audience of 800.

The eight “roaming” mics were patched into our sound system, for which I was the operator. Keeping track of eight roaming mics is hard, but not impossible; however, you can only ask one question at a time. So, two mics would have worked fine in this case. (In the end, the keynote speaker talked too long, and there was no time for Q&A anyway!)

This event also needed 15 more wireless mics for breakout sessions in the meeting rooms, which brought the total up to 29 wireless mics for one event. It got complicated, considering our building usually has simultaneous events happening. On this day, one of them was using the same brand of wireless mics we had in our ballroom. As a result, they were picking up sound from our mics in their own rooms. Not good.

Also, the more mics you have turned on, the less gain-before-feedback. Each mic reduces the overall volume in the room, so use as few as you can to cover a service.


From time to time, it’s a good idea to compare the sound quality of two mics of the same model to determine if they’re working correctly. This is called an “A/B test.” To begin, set your console flat and identical for two input channels. Plug in the mics, and have someone talk into the two. Using the mute switch, quickly switch between the two console inputs. The two mics should sound very similar.

Another sore spot is unused equipment. When I first started working here, we had a shelf of 20 old lavaliere microphones. This was back when lavs were large, bulky items that were only “hands-free” if you tied a rope around your neck to hold them.

When we switched to small lavalieres with tie-tack clips, I asked if we could send the old lavs to auction, but was denied.

They were, I was told, very good-sounding mics. It was only two years ago that we finally got rid of those “good sounding” — albeit perpetually shelved — mics.

You probably have a few mic skeletons of your own in your sound closets. Throw them out, or repair them.


At the aforementioned ICC event with too many mics, a lavaliere mic started taking RF hits. We switched it to one of the eight handheld mics I mentioned, and it worked fine — but the moderator for this session didn’t work out quite so well.

As he sat in a chair asking his panel about topics, he spoke mostly with his hands. The useable mic proximity went from his knees to his mouth, requiring the kind of mixing that wears out an operator.

Do yourself a favor and train people on the speaking end of the mics how to use them.


Mics often get blamed for not working when it’s really the board operator’s fault. Any time a mic is used, you should go through a checklist in your head:

Is my finger placed on the right input channel?
Is the mic turned on?
Is the gain set correctly?
Is it assigned to the outputs it needs to go to?
Am I paying attention to what’s going on? Do I even

know what’s going on?
What’s my backup plan, just in case?


Always have a backup plan in the event of mic failure. It’s for the operator’s benefit, as well as for use by the people on the platform.

Earlier in my career while touring with Sandi Patty, we had a plan like this in place. Sandi could tell from her monitor speakers on stage if her mic was having a problem, at which point she’d switch to her backup mic. As a board operator, it was my job to pay close enough attention that when she made the switch it was as seamless as possible.

Equipment will have glitches and break. But if you have a plan in place for when it does, you’ll always look professional.


If you’re trying to avoid mic disasters, remember: you really do get what you pay for. An inexpensive microphone that doesn’t work costs more than an expensive mic that does.


It’s amazing how many times operators blame a mic for poor-quality sound when it’s not the equipment’s fault. On wireless microphones, you must make sure the antennae connections are tight.

Also make sure your mic cords are in good working order. Extensive use by a praise team can wear out a cord quickly, usually at a point 12 inches or less from the female connector which plugs into the mic.

Forklifts — like the ones we use here at the ICC — can also drastically reduce the useful life of a cable.

Additionally, limit the amount of adaptors inline. If you use too many, sound won’t pass through. I’ve seen up to six adaptors used before. It’s a much better idea to use the right piece of cable or equipment for the job.


It’s pretty simple advice: take care of your gear. Carefully handle the fragile mic cords on wireless lavaliere body packs. If you can’t immediately fix things, mark them as “bad” so they don’t get mixed up with your usable inventory.

Microphones are sensitive instruments and must be carefully handled. Remind the users — especially singers — to treat their mics as if their voices depended on them. They do!


Once, while miking a marching band, I arranged area mics to hang over a 20’ x 20’ area of the stage. Unfortunately, the band was nowhere near playing in sections. When a section leader came over to request that I turn up the euphonium, and I had to draw him a picture of how a mic works. Before that, he didn’t understand why I couldn’t turn up just one instrument out of 10 in this area.

Use mics to isolate and enhance the program as they were designed, given the physics of audio.


Feedback is the most common mic problem. While faithfully doing their job, mics can’t help but recapture sound coming from the speakers, or reflections off walls or objects. They add this recaptured sound to what the sound source is emanating, creating an oscillation.

Feedback is simply the sustained or amplified oscillation from this viscious cycle. The faster it occurs, the higher the audio frequency of the feedback.

If you turn down the mic volume at the input channel, you can reduce feedback by breaking the oscillation.

Also, by turning down the feedback frequency with an equalizer, you can reduce the effects of feedback.

Finally, make sure your gain is set correctly. This way, at least you have a chance to hear the feedback before it happens. Having the gain correctly set is the key to forecasting feedback. Just like Doppler Radar can notify you when conditions are ripe for a twister, the correct gain will give you warning signs.

Because microphones capture acoustic energy and convert it into electrical energy, they’ll always play a key role for your sound technicians. Combating these 10 mic mistakes will lead them to the promise land.

Floyd Paulsen is a full-time sound technician at the Indiana Convention Center, has toured with numerous Christian artists, and produced three mixing console training resources. E-mail him at [email protected]

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An Alternative Plan for Celebration

Wondering how to get the Halloween conversation going with your members? Take your cues from this article, which is modified from a handout by the Rev. Tim Frear of Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Dear Members,

Let’s face it: Halloween is a mixed bag.

I’d like to share a few thoughts with you about Halloween and how you might think about it, whether you come to our celebration or not.

First of all, I’d like to affirm that at this time of year we can celebrate the Christians who have lived through Christ alone, grace alone, and faith alone.

I personally have mixed feelings about Halloween. Word has it that October 31st was the new year’s ever for ancient Celts and Druids in the British Isles who believed this was the most active night in the spirit world.

And, apparently, many of the symbols — jack-o-lanterns, skulls, death imagery, spirits, wearing of costumes (to trick the roaming spirits and avoid death) — are rooted in this fear-based response to a world in which people are subject to capricious powers of the gods and other beings.

On the other hand, the name Halloween comes from the Christian holiday All Saints Day, falling on Nov. 1. This was a day set aside to remember and celebrate the lives and faith of those who have died a martyr’s death because of their devotion to Christ.

All Saints Day used to be called “All Hallowed Day” (because a “saint” is a “hallowed” — a set-apart, made holy consecrated person). The day before All Hallows Day would be All Hallows Eve or Halloween. But, like Mardi Gras before Ash Wednesday, Halloween took on a non-Christian image and activities — partly as a reaction, partly as residue of the surrounding non-Christian culture.

Somewhere along the way, Protestant Christians, in protest against the perceived glorification of martyred believers decided to refocus All Saints Day, highlighting the core of the Christian faith which is Christ alone, grace alone, faith alone. That is, Christ is the sole mediator between God and people, we are saved only by God’s free gift of grace, and salvation comes by faith, not by our own efforts or merits. We all have the same free access to Christ, not only those who are labeled “saints.”

O.K., so, what to do?

I ran around in costumes and collected gobs of candy on Oct. 31 throughout my childhood, oblivious to both the occult images and symbols, as well as to the Christian celebration the next day. I turned out somewhat healthy — didn’t I?

Having said that, there’s a fascination with, and an embracing of, the occult in our time and in our culture that was only beginning 30 years ago when I was ringing doorbells. It’s different today.

We need to educate our kids about Halloween activities and imagery. We need to tell them about the day after, about Christ who died and rose again –more powerful than any spirit or evil challenger. And we need to tell them about Christians who have given their lives in the face of persecution — people who lived by Christ alone, grace alone and faith alone.

If you choose to let your kids dress up and ring doorbells, monitor their activities and costumes. Bible characters are good choices for costumes as opposed to, say, a vampire.

We have another alternative our WestPres Harvest Festival: We’ll be using it as an occasion to teach, while letting kids be kids. Lots more information is in the bulletin about it, but I wanted to give you a little bit of background as to why we’re doing what we’re doing.

Finally, for our kids, we want to establish boundaries, guide their participation with others, and, above all, communicate that Jesus is Lord and that our church is neither afraid, nor incapable, of having fun with the neighbors. Reclaim the day with a smile!

For free articles on how to best share various holidays with your members, visit the Ministry Communications Resources website.

Reprinted with permission from Communications & Marketing Writer and Speaker Yvon Prehn and www.ministrycom.com.

American Family Safety Offers Hurricane Preparedness Advice

As the Gulf Coast assesses the tremendous damage from Hurricane Katrina, many people are asking “How can we be more prepared next time?” With hurricane season at its peak and more storms predicted, now is the time to make sure you and your family are prepared for an emergency.

According to American Family Safety’s Barbara Feiner, a national expert in disaster preparedness and emergency medicine, preparation is the key to surviving any disaster — from hurricanes and tornadoes to earthquakes and other emergencies.

“During a disaster, your safety depends on having a well-coordinated emergency plan and a preparedness kit,” says Feiner. “It requires a small amount of time and money, but if a disaster strikes, you’ll be glad you made the investment.”

American Family Safety was created in January 2005 to ensure that every family in the United States is prepared for an emergency. The company provides education tools and quality emergency-preparedness products to help families create an emergency plan and to custom build or buy a 72-hour Ready™ emergency-preparedness kit.

In addition, Feiner and American Family Safety offer the following advice:

Hurricane Preparation Tips

Create a Kit — Create a kit containing essential supplies such as a flashlight, batteries, radio and first aid kit to sustain a family for 72 hours in the event of a disaster. Visit www.americanfamilysafety.com for a complete list of items to include in the kit or to request immediate delivery of a pre-assembled 72-hour Ready Kit™.

Develop a Plan — Families should develop a plan so that every household member who is away from home knows what to do and where to meet in an emergency. Also, plan an evacuation route. Most local emergency management offices and American Red Cross chapters can provide information on shelters and evacuation routes. Personalized communication plans can also be created, stored, and assembled for quick printing at www.americanfamilysafety.com.

Make Arrangements for Pets – Pets might not be allowed into emergency shelters for health and space reasons. Contact your local humane society for information on local animal shelters.

Keep Cash On-Hand – Always have enough cash available to cover your essential needs for a five-day period. If a hurricane or tornado occurs, banks and ATMs might be shut down and you might not be able to use credit cards in stores affected by the storm.

List Important Numbers – Create a list of important numbers to have after a storm, such as phone numbers and policy or account numbers for your homeowner insurance company, car insurance company, power company, gas company and phone company.

Refill Medications – Make sure you have at least a week’s supply of medications needed by family members.

Freeze Water – Freeze containers of water to create blocks of ice to help keep food cold in the freezer, refrigerator or a cooler if you lose power during an emergency.

Freeze Refrigerator Items – Freezing refrigerated items that you might not need immediately will help keep them at a safe temperature for a longer period if you lose power. Also, make a list of stores where you can purchase dry ice and block ice.

Stock a Disaster Pantry – Every family should have a disaster pantry: a three-day supply of water and nonperishable food to sustain your family in case of emergency. During a disaster, you might be on your own for 72 hours or more as rescuers attend to people who have been stranded or injured.

Teach Children to Respond – Make sure all family members know how to respond after a disaster. Teach family members how and when to turn off gas, electricity and water. Children should also know how and when to call 9-1-1, police or fire department and which radio station to tune to for emergency information.

About American Family Safety

American Family Safety is an international corporation that distributes Emergency Preparedness education materials and supplies. The company markets a family emergency preparedness product called The Ready Kit™. American Family Safety was created to help the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) equip Americans with the tools and knowledge needed in case of a disaster or emergency. For more information, or to order a kit, visit American Family Safety at www.americanfamilysafety.com.

A panel of experts compares notes Listen in

by RaeAnn Slaybaugh

Capital Campaigning
A panel of experts compares notes. Listen in.

A roundtable discussion conducted by RaeAnn Slaybaugh

What’s the difference between “fundraising” and a capital stewardship campaign?

Turner: Most fundraising is focused on garnering funds to be used for the daily operations or the annual budget of the organization. Capital campaigns are efforts to raise funds that are above and beyond the everyday needs of an organization. Usually, it’s for a specific purpose, such as a new building, relocation or initiative. A capital campaign can also focus on raising endowment dollars.

Brooks: The major difference is that in fundraising, individuals are attempting to figure out what they can afford to give. In a capital campaign run by a church, it revolves around a God-given vision. People are asked to take a spiritual journey to find out what God would have them do.

Sheppard: In the church, it’s more about the need of the giver to give than it is about the need of the church to receive. The measure of the gift is more about quality than quantity. The proportion of the gift — that is, how much it costs the donor to make it — is more important than its mathematical amount. From this perspective, the donor with meager means can make the same gift as the donor with extensive means.

Leathem: A capital stewardship campaign supports a very large need, such as a major building remodel, land acquisition or a new building. Also, a capital stewardship campaign involves a three- to four-month process that positions church families to make a commitment to give over an extended period of time — usually three years.

What are the signs a church should consider a capital campaign?

Turner: If the church experiences an uneven, peak-and-valley worship attendance pattern because the facility can’t support a breakthrough. If it has foregone large events or fellowship opportunities because there’s no large multipurpose space in which to gather. If ideas for ministry are frequently postponed because facilities aren’t adequate or funds for ministry expansion aren’t available. If parking is a known problem. If the long-range plan is outdated and doesn’t represent a vision for spiritual growth that stretches the members. If the facility — including worship, restroom and fellowship space — isn’t accessible to persons with disabilities. If adult education classes are hindered because space is designated to children’s ministries, which are also running out of room. If staff work spaces become a hindrance to producing work because they’re small and overcrowded.

Graham: Most churches do a very poor job of teaching Biblical stewardship.

As we conduct financial analysis for churches around the country, we are no longer surprised to see 25% to 60% of the giving membership giving less than $1,000 a year. This is a spiritual issue that needs to be addressed.

What are church leaders’ biggest fears?

Sheppard: The biggest fear tends to be failure. Our response is to help the church understand what a reasonable financial expectation is for the capital stewardship effort, based on the experiences of similar churches. Then, they can factor in any bank financing and decide on a reasonable course of action.

Leathem: Whether or not the campaign will work to raise the funds, and whether or not using an outside consultant will actually help. Capital stewardship campaigns are effective when the church’s vision is clear; the need is evident; the project is explained as to its support of the vision; the project cost is accurately estimated; church leadership is trusted; and a designed campaign process includes the inspiration of church families. Using an outside consultant will help, but it’s important to select the right consultant. (See Question 5)

Turner: In my experience, there are 10 major ones. (See “Online Literature Library” sidebar — Top 10 Fears Regarding Capital Campaigns)

Graham: The biggest fear we hear is, “Can we afford this project?”

Brooks: Money is the last idol of the Christian. Leaders fear that they’ll be seen as pressuring the congregants, and it’ll drive them away — or, at minimum, leave a bad taste in their mouths.

What are the most common mistakes churches make?

Leathem: Not selecting the right consultant; stating (verbally or in print) a giving amount per family; and following a prepackaged process that’s not specifically designed for the church’s uniqueness.

Graham: Conducting dream sessions with an architect before any consideration of the financial realities; not casting a clear vision about why the project is needed; and in most situations, having ‘non-givers’ determine the size and cost of the project.

(For additional resources on this topic, see the “Online Literature Library” sidebar for Million-Dollar Mistakes and What Churches Don’t Want to Hear in Raising Capital Funds.)

What questions would you encourage churches to ask before selecting a consultant?

Graham: Why are we doing this? Will our people support this project? How much can we afford to build? What will our debt service look like after the three-year giving period? If the consulting firm can’t help answer these questions, don’t hire them.

Brooks: Is [the consultant] called by God to do this, or is this a business? Do they have the experience to handle what you’re trying to raise dollars for? Do they have the time to give you? Will they be there for you the entire course of the campaign? Do they exhibit the ability to think creatively, or are their answers stock programmatic?

Leathem: What experience do they have? (Ask for a resume, and check references.) What are the common pledge results? Can they provide a flexible campaign process tailored specifically for the church vs. prepackaged? Do they understand the church culture, personality and methodology? How many campaign process visits will they make? Will they make follow-up visits during the giving period at no additional cost to the church?

Turner: How long have they been providing stewardship counsel? Who are their clients? Do they focus on biblical stewardship and teaching stewardship as a way of life, not just as a campaign gimmick? Does the firm transfer knowledge, leaving the church more able and equipped to foster a culture of stewardship? What do they provide in the way of follow-up services?

What’s your best advice for churches embarking on a capital campaign?

Turner: Have a clear and compelling vision. Make sure you have strong, respected leaders who will step forward and provide campaign leadership. Implement an effective communication strategy.

Graham: Test, test, test!

Brooks: Start sooner. Get quality help from someone who understands your culture and has a proven track record of raising funds. Don’t bypass your leaders.

Leathem: Make sure the church is ready to begin the campaign. Speak with the consultant, and check his references before you sign a contract for his services. Prayerfully select the right consultant. Find a way to cancel the contract quickly if it can be determined that the consultant isn’t a good fit.

Awakening the Giant Innovation in Ministry

By Jeffrey Steed

Innovation. Without it, organizations become stagnant and begin a hibernation process from which they may never wake up. Without it, organizations lose ambition and momentum disappears. Without it, organizational morale dwindles and can eventually cause an organization to die a slow, painful death. Innovation helps awaken an organization’s senses and refocus on its underlying reason for existence. Innovation gives a breath of fresh, cool air to a stagnant, humid environment.

But innovation may create many questions for leaders. Will it cause more problems (because of critics) than help? What if I fail, and how will others perceive those failures? How will I find the time to implement innovative ideas? Is it really worth it to make innovative changes at this point in my ministry? The questions (potentially from Satan) are unlimited, but there is really only one valid question: “What will happen if my ministry fails to be innovative now for the sake of the future?” Many ministries that fail to be creatively adaptable and flexible in practice (not theology) will likely cease to exist at some point.

Innovation is an absolute necessity for effective leadership in ministry. That has always been the case and will always be the case. Innovation allows for ministries to repackage in a culturally relevant way what they are offering without compromising their underlying theology. Without innovative repackaging, the “package” appears useless and irrelevant to the world around us.

Effective leadership in ministry helps create innovative organizations. It is not a matter of just developing an innovative idea, but developing an organization that has innovation in its DNA or culture. In other words, innovation should become a part of the character and personality of the organization.

If innovation is so important, how do our ministries become truly innovative? Let us look at some practical ideas to increase the probability of developing innovative ideas and, more importantly, developing a culture of innovation:

1. Involve Staff: Involving staff members, whether paid or volunteer, in innovation can be an integral step. Present a specific ministry situation to your staff and ask for input on:

  • whether that ministry is worth future resources (time, money, physical space), and, if worthy of future resources,
  • how the ministry can be repackaged to be more culturally relevant and meet the needs of the target audience.

It’s possible that these two questions need to be asked of every ministry an organization offers. Some may no longer be effective ministries, in which case important resources can be redirected to new or existing ministries that can better use the resources. Involving the staff with these types of questions is key to developing an innovative culture.

2. Take a Personal Retreat: The senior leader of a ministry occasionally needs to simply retreat for a day or two – get away from the normal routine of the office for prayer and reflection. Part of the time can be spent seeking God’s wisdom and direction, and part of the time can be spent in literal brainstorming sessions about the ministry. Without retreating periodically, leaders may not gain Spirit-led, innovative solutions. Instead, they will be consumed by all the immediate, day-to-day needs of the organization that can actually be delegated to other leaders.

3. Read Routinely: Reading books on leadership can help stimulate your intellect. Some may be hesitant to read secular books, but secular books such as “Mavericks at Work” by William C. Taylor and Polly LaBarre can often relate to the context of ministry. Realistically, we may not remember much of the contents from any of these books. However, as you absorb and process the text, your own ideas will begin to flow more easily. If they don’t come naturally, summarize at the end of each chapter the three main elements of that chapter and how they might be helpful to your organization. Regularly reading organization- and leadership-related books can help you develop an innovative, critically thinking mind.

4. Develop a Strategic Ministry Plan: Develop a strategic plan with your key leadership members who can help with brainstorming and prioritizing. Click here for some ideas on developing a strategic ministry plan.

5. Attend Conferences: Church conferences can help inspire your creative juices as you hear good speakers and as you converse with other attendees about their ministries. It can help you to adopt the successful, innovative ideas of others in your own ministry setting.

6. Talk to Innovative Leaders: Consider meeting in person or over the phone with the three most innovative and effective leaders that you know. You may not want to limit your choices to only ministry leaders, but also consider secular leaders as well. Consider asking them questions such as:

  • What practices do you use that help you to be innovative?
  • How have you been able to create an innovative culture within your own organization?
  • What other advice can you give me that might help me and the organization that I lead to be more innovative?

For some who are not accustomed to listening to the advice of others, this may be an exercise in humility – especially if your invitation is rejected. However, if you’re persistent enough, the leader will agree to lunch. Much can be gained from the wisdom of truly effective and innovative leaders.

7. Dream Big: When was the last time that you spent some quiet, uninterrupted time dreaming about what “could be” – dreaming about the future of the organization you lead, and dreaming about its effectiveness in reaching its audience with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this to realistically occur, some changes need to be made. You may have to arrive at the office early, before the daily routine begins. Or you may need to get up early on a Saturday morning, before your family wakes up, and sit down at the computer with your cup of java, prayerfully recording what comes to mind for the future of your organization. Retreating, as previously mentioned, may also provide an effective environment for dreaming. No matter where you do it, dream big initially and then filter out the ideas that are simply not realistic. Allow the big ideas to grow and develop to the point that you become ready to discuss them with others.

Whether or not innovation comes naturally to you, if you sincerely feel that your ministry will be critically needed by the world in the future, then your organization deserves to be innovative. The effort put forth for this purpose will increase the probability of your church’s future existence, and thus further impact the lives of people with the Gospel. If the organization is not worth saving, let it die. Otherwise, awaken the giant. Develop innovative methods for ministering, and, more importantly, lead an organization to have innovation as part of its culture. Our message and underlying reason for existence is worth the effort for the lives that will be eternally changed.

Jeffrey Steed is vice president of the Arkansas Baptist Foundation and Christian Ministry Services. He has a Doctor of Ministry from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Mass., and a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Steed also has a master’s in business administration. He is a preacher and business instructor on the adjunct faculty of a college in Little Rock, Ark.. He has authored several books and articles related to ministry. You can reach him at [email protected]

Adaptive Reuse Part I Found Space for Churches

by Steven P. Fridsma, AIA, LEEDAP

For more than three centuries, the Church of Jesus didn’t possess its own physical place of worship. Our spiritual ancestors often met at the Jewish temple, in larger homes of fellow Jesus-followers, and in underground catacombs to escape persecution. Despite not having buildings, the early Church of Jesus grew exponentially and changed many aspects of human history.

By the fourth century, in order for a town to be under the protection of a Roman militia, it had to erect a basilica. This public building was a symbol of Rome’s imperial power, order and civilization. It had prescribed proportions and design features: an entry at one end; a hall with columns to either side, along which commerce took place; and a raised semicircular dais in an apse at the far end, upon which a local magistrate presided. The center hall was higher than the sides in order to allow natural light to illuminate the central space. If you were selling or buying togas, or if you had a property dispute with your neighbor, you came here. The basilica was both your shopping mall and your courthouse.

In A.D. 333, when Constantine legitimized Christianity for the Roman Empire, something very interesting happened. As Christianity spread, unchecked by persecution and even encouraged by Imperial Rome, it became natural for Christians to gather in larger groups. Constantine, wanting to further institutionalize his newfound faith for Rome, sought to establish a standardized Christian church building. He rejected the prevailing form of religious gatherings of the time, the pagan temple, whose form too closely followed the function of specific pagan worship practices. Instead, he selected the common basilica already present in every Roman town to represent this official new Church of Rome. Early iterations merely swapped out the magistrate’s chair with an altar, and there was no seating. Through the ages, the footprint of the basilica is still reflected in many cathedrals. In fact, some Catholic churches are today called “basilicas,” still bearing the name of this ancient secular marketplace and courthouse building.

Fast forward to today. This year, American churches are expected to spend about $8 billion on new construction. However, in our Midwestern church design studio, we’ve recently completed a number of projects for churches that wished to transform various types of existing buildings into houses of worship. In a way, these churches are searching for the 21st-century version of the fourth-century basilica, this time in a grassroots way and through many types of built forms. Just last week, a realtor representing a church called for information about adaptive reuse and potential future design services.

What factors appear to be leading churches to seek out existing facilities to renovate?

Lower First Cost

Most of the churches we’ve worked with who choose this method of creating ministry space are younger, meaning they have both smaller financial resources and a higher tolerance – or even preference for – nontraditional ministry space. Since an existing building is typically already functioning for some previously intended purpose, the cost of the building plus code upgrades plus renovations for ministry is often, but not always, less expensive than an equivalently sized new building project. Much of this depends on local real estate conditions, building code requirements, and the level of finish expectations of the church. If the local economy or real estate conditions favor purchasing an existing building, churches may actually have quite a range of building types from which to choose. As cultural and spiritual norms of what constitutes a “church building” soften, churches appear more willing to put up with a wider range of building types – and what might, at first, appear to be glaring inconveniences. Not all existing buildings are appropriate for use as a church. A very common challenge is the existing structural bay size and working with columns in the main assembly space. While costs can be kept down, do not underestimate the cost of code compliance in converting non-assembly occupancy to assembly occupancy. There are much more stringent requirements in assembly occupancy for items such as exiting, toilet count, accessibility and fresh air intake, just to name a few project factors.

Faster Occupancy

Since at least the superstructure of a purchased building already exists, the site is already somewhat improved, and at least rudimentary engineering systems are already in place, the duration of construction can be greatly reduced. In cold climates, the project can commence at any time of year without concern for winter conditions and their associated premiums. Additionally, churches may even be able to get a partial occupancy permit for areas of the building that will be unaffected by the renovation, such as offices or storage, and then gradually transition to the new site until full occupancy is granted.

Increased Proportion of Volunteer-Ready Work

From a total project budget standpoint, an adaptive reuse project has a greater proportion of work that is appropriate for the skill sets of volunteer crews. For a church that is trying to save costs or is blessed with a few construction tradesmen among its membership, an adaptive-reuse project is an especially great opportunity for a church to leverage sweat equity and in-kind donations of material and labor. As opposed to a new construction project requiring specialized trades such as steel erection, masonry and elevated concrete slabs, many of the construction trades required on an adaptive reuse project are within reach of a wider range of construction skills. Additionally, construction managers are more likely to tolerate qualified volunteers in the construction zone because the risk of injury is reduced.

Location, Location, Location

Renovating an existing building often allows churches to locate in a denser area of development – where people already are – instead of locating on undeveloped land on the outskirts of town. This also allows churches to be closer to utility and transportation infrastructure, and not contributing to urban sprawl. Being closer to greater population density and multiuse development increases the opportunity for the facility to be used as community space, hosting recreation opportunities, after-school programs and coffee shop ministries. Churches that pursue adaptive reuse should be prepared for a possible push-back from certain government entities, who may not want to see prime real estate disappear from property tax rolls.

Environmental Sustainability

We’ve all heard, “reduce, reuse, recycle.” When churches purchase and adapt existing buildings, they model holistic stewardship for their communities. Depending on the degree of renovation and finish expectation, an adaptive reuse building project is by its very nature a more environmentally conscious project than would be new construction. What is the most environmental building product? Bamboo? Cork? Photovoltaic panels? The most environmental building product is the one you never use. Adaptive reuse spares a tremendous amount of raw material from ever needing to be manufactured in the first place. A nice by-product of approaching a church building project through adaptive reuse or from a sustainability standpoint is that the practice is still novel enough that the local media loves the story. Churches can get a lot of free publicity from being green or from buying an empty department store. Building green is also a growing expectation of the public, especially among young people, and is beginning to be mandated through building codes and zoning ordinances in some communities.

Cultural Familiarity and Mission

A few of our clients have specifically wanted an “everyday” sort of place, approachable and familiar to people who are far from God, regardless of cost benefit. While hard to quantify, there has been a feeling that whether new or reused, building types with which people interact on a daily basis might be more universally accessible to unchurched people, especially those who may have had negative church experiences. A lot here depends on each particular community of faith’s mission, vision and values, and the story they will tell with their facility use. In one controversial and highly publicized local example, a very historic, downtown church in Grand Rapids, Mich., sold its beautiful stone and stained-glass building to a condominium developer in order to renovate a former maintenance shop in which to do street-level ministry. The church leaders had prayerfully determined that their mission could be better carried out in a less intimidating building that was also more sustainable and easier to maintain.

Experimental Freedom

We have witnessed a lot of creative experimentation coming from churches who have adapted an existing building. Some strategies of these sanctuaries include sculptures being hung from exposed steel inside the space, a van driven inside to be part of a skit, murals painted and repainted on walls or floors, and a concrete cross poured right on the worship platform. These multi-sensory forms of worship may be more readily accepted because the building, by its very nature, is intrinsically raw and not perceived to be “precious.” Some of us may remember dealing with parental pressure to carefully preserve our brilliantly white back-to-school sneakers beyond September. Adaptive reuse worship facilities appear to enjoy freedom from that kind of “preservation tyranny” from day one.

Convergence and Meaning

In rare cases, an existing building may have a particular physical characteristic that especially lends itself the application of spiritual meaning. One example is Grand Rapids’ Monroe Community Church, which adapted a warehouse in a downtown area of turn-of-the-century brick and heavy timber structures which are being converted to art galleries, urban lofts, restaurants and microbreweries. One interior wall of this warehouse church is actually the exterior brick wall of an adjacent century-old warehouse that long ago had the windows enclosed with concrete masonry. The church had one of its artists paint contemporary stained-glass window murals within these blank window frames, allowing an architectural feature that had not seen the light of day for perhaps 50 years to once again provide a form of illumination. We have also seen a church highlight existing cross-shaped structural plates to create symbolism, and another integrate its factory’s heavy timber structural language into its logo as a cross. In these ways, adapting and reusing the quirks of a particular modern-day “basilica” can be made into an especially meaningful metaphor for God’s grace which accepts us, failures and all, and makes us each into a new creation.

Please stay tuned for Part 2 of this discussion, which will look at several recent case studies of adaptive reuse projects, the challenges each existing building created, and the lessons learned from each design solution.

Architect Steven P. Fridsma, AIA, LEEDAP is the worship environments leader at Progressive AE in Grand Rapids, Mich. Passionate about examining cultural and spiritual forces as they relate to existing forms and new models for church architecture, he is a frequent national speaker. He’s planted churches and served as a worship leader, digital artist and the worship design team leader at CentrePointe Church. He’s also a guest instructor in architectural design and theory at Calvin College and recipient of the AIA Grand Valley chapter’s “Young Architect Award.”