Portable church & the technology that makes it work


For multi-site churches and church plants, portable and church are synonymous. And portable technology tools make it possible for the portable church to have rich worship events each week despite lacking a building of their own.

Portable church can be a good option for churches of any size

Portable churches meet in all kinds of temporary locations—movie theaters, schools, storefronts, fire halls, and community centers. No matter how well-equipped the facility may be, the church will most likely have furnishings and equipment it will have to transport to the site each weekend (and store during the week).

The weekly challenge of setting up and tearing down is part of the life of the portable church. After all, part of the appeal of owning a church building is having everything permanently in place.

But consider a few of the portable church’s advantages:

  • While they can be costly, portable churches tend to be much less expensive to launch and sustain than the traditional approach of purchasing land and building new facilities.
  • When a church begins to outgrow its current facility, adding portable sites can be an effective way to provide more space and put more volunteers to work.
  • When done correctly, the portable church is scalable and sustainable.

What are the tech essentials?

The success of a portable church doesn’t rise or fall on its technology, but on its leadership—having the right people in the right positions.

Diving into portable church without wise planning is, well, unwise. It’s vital that a congregation and its leaders think through their expectations and assumptions. Church planting expert Steve Pike has said, “At least ninety percent of problems that occur in multiplication efforts can be traced back to unclarified expectations and assumptions.” That said, once the leaders and volunteers are in place the technology takes on special importance.

With any portable church, staff and volunteers will put a great deal of effort into setting up and tearing down each week. Having reliable and smoothly functioning technology takes some of the burden off of preparing for the weekly gathering.

Must-have vs. nice-to-have

Determine what is essential for your portable church versus what would merely be helpful. Make every dollar count.

These elements are essential:

  • Audio, video, projection, lighting
  • Signage or other information displays
  • Communication tools (and reliable support for those tools)
    • Safety—especially of children—is essential, and communication is a critical component of security. Ensure the safety of the parking area, entrances and exits, stairways, restrooms, stage, and seating area.
    • On-campus and especially during weekend services, all locations should be able to communicate with one another (e.g., nursery with auditorium or individual; portable church with the main campus; portable site to tech support, etc.).
    • Off-campus and during the week, the congregation needs a way to communicate. Leaders need a system to keep everyone informed.
  • A way to track information. Reliable support is needed here as well.
    • Portable church usually has growing the Kingdom as its mission. Therefore, a must-have is a reliable, easy-to-use, scalable system, such as Elexio’s Deluxe Suite ChMS, for keeping track of people’s data.

You may encounter technology hurdles

Assess whether Wi-Fi accessibility is going to be an issue, as it often is with schools, movie theaters, and multi-use facilities. Make sure that your hardware and software can function with limited or nonexistent Internet access. Touch, Elexio’s check-in system, can operate offline, so even without a reliable Internet connection your volunteers can quickly and easily check everyone in.

Determine whether you will invest in owning the equipment or will use what’s already in place at the location (e.g., a movie theater’s lighting and sound system). While it may be cheaper to use the house systems, the church will be stuck if it loses the contract with the facility.

Multi-site churches should consider using the same equipment models (e.g., sound boards, keyboards, lighting controls) at all their locations. That way the tech director is familiar with all the equipment, regardless of where it’s being used, making troubleshooting and substituting much easier.

“For communities that rent [facilities for church], the biggest issue is set-up and take-down…Trying to create as simple a system as possible, as efficient as possible for the people who do the weekly set-up and take-down is, obviously, the most important thing.” Sandra Nicholas, Site-Support Pastor of The Meeting House in Ontario, Canada

As a system grows, so does its complexity. So keeping things as simple as possible, even while growing, will be a continual effort. An overly complex system is frustrating and draining for those caught in it. Keep it as simple as possible at every phase.

The most important component of the portable church

Never lose sight of the mission—to help people know Jesus. Portable church is heavy on logistics and problem solving, and technology can play a major role in making it work. But don’t let that reality overshadow the bigger truth: the most important component of portable church is servant-hearted people who love Jesus and want to share him with others.

For more practical information on the portable church, check out these resources:

http://multisitesolutions.com/blog/14-commandments-of-video-preaching (article removed)