Worship Leaders – Should Sound Teams Recycle Batteries?

Jonathan sent this question in:

Several members of my church’s A/V team proposed that we begin using NiCd 9 Volt batteries for all of our wireless equipment, following the thought that our church should be good stewards of God’s gifts and not use alkaline batteries, which can be seen as expensive, wasteful, and harmful to the environment. Unfortunately, because of the energy-leaking nature of NiCd batteries, we are quickly becoming frustrated with their lack of dependability, compared to their alkaline brethren. My question is this: as stewards of not only the audio/visual quality of each service, but also finance and the environment, what are your thoughts on the battery issue? I would also be interested to hear what does Covenant Life Church does, considering its resources and needs.

We have two priorities in tension here. The first is to be wise stewards of the resources God has given us. The second is to faithfully serve congregational worship and the preaching of God’s Word. Ultimately, the second concern is the greater priority. We’ve told our technical personnel for years that their role, whether it’s front of house mixing, running monitors, projecting lyrics, projection, or duplicating messages, is a significant part of the proclamation of the Gospel and the church’s ability to praise the Savior in an undistracted way.

Dave Wilcox serves as the technical director for Covenant Life, my home church. Dave is without a doubt one of the most humble, faithful, skilled, diligent media technicians I’ve ever known. (Check out his blog, God-Media.). I sent this question to Dave, and here’s what he said:

While rechargeable batteries can seem like a good investment, they are not yet reliable enough to handle the high-current requirements of wireless microphones. I would always advise against using rechargeable batteries. One-use alkalines are still the only reliable option.

With that said, I think a good deal can be done to be good stewards of money and the earth. The main thing is to re-use partially charged batteries for rehearsals. This requires a little extra effort and work, but it can make difference in the long run.

It’s interesting that you asked this question, since we just made some changes in this very are here at Covenant Life. Here are my instructions to the team that I sent out Tuesday:

Battery Recycling

Have you heard the recent hubbub about Global Warming? There is much discussion both inside and outside the church about the environment. Whatever your take on the specific environmental issues, God does call us to be good stewards of our world. Speaking of stewardship, did you know that our annual budget for batteries is on the order of $4000?

As of today, the production teams will begin recycling batteries in order to improve stewardship of our world and money. You will now find battery recycling containers In the storage areas of each of the three main rooms (Auditorium, Edwards Room, and Events Center). In these storage areas, the new batteries will be on the left, hopefully in their original packaging. Please continue to use brand new batteries for each event.

In the middle is a container for “Used Batteries.” All batteries that still have charge but are not brand new should go in this container. These used batteries should be used only for rehearsals. However, for Sunday sound folks, please use these partially charged batteries throughout Saturday night and Sunday morning rehearsals. Replace them all with new batteries just before the service begins. On the right is a container for “Battery Recycling.” All dead batteries should go in this container. Please don’t throw away any more batteries.

Thanks for making the extra effort to be good stewards!

And thanks, Dave, for being sensitive to stewardship issues, but even more sensitive to unhindered, undistracted times of congregational worship.

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18 Responses to Worship Leaders – Should Sound Teams Recycle Batteries?

  1. Fish February 9, 2007 at 12:58 PM #

    Bob,
    Thank you for answering these type of questions. Whether it’s questions regarding the mysteries of the gospel, or something as simple as 9-volt batteries, if it’s related to the worship of our Savior, I know I will find it on you blog!

    I also wanted to say that I’ve had the privilege of meeting Dave Wilcox and like you I praise God for his faithfulness and service. I have often emailed him for advice regarding sound at our church-plant, and he has been an incredible resource. Not only is he extremely knowledgeable, but also prompt, polite, and patient. Dave thanks for all of your help, and more importantly for your example of humility.

  2. matthewsmith February 9, 2007 at 12:59 PM #

    I’ll take a wired SM58 any day, no batteries needed. :-)

  3. gracevet February 9, 2007 at 3:41 PM #

    Wow. You have so many people to a service that you need that much sound equipment?? Do they all drive up in gas guzzling cars?? Seems USA is such a wasteful society.

    I’m in a small house church in australia and where pushed to get more than 20-30 people ……

  4. Bob Kauflin February 9, 2007 at 5:38 PM #

    Gracevet,

    We hold two services with about 1500 adults in each meeting. Many of our mics and headphones are wireless, requiring batteries. I’m not sure whether or not everyone drives up in a car that guzzles gas, but I’m fairly certain that all of them actually use fuel…

    I trust you know that this same principle can be applied whether a congregation is 30 or 3,000. We always have to make choices about how we spend our time, money, and energy. In those decisions, we want to be careful not to let environmental or social issues eclipse faithfully communicating the Gospel and the Word of God.

    Thanks for reading the blog, by the way. I have a number of readers from down under and am always delighted to hear from them.

  5. DavidR February 10, 2007 at 7:41 AM #

    If Matthew Smith, who prefers “a wired SM58 any day“, would plug in a Sennheiser e845, he would have even more joy in his life, and still avoid battery use. :)

    David Reimer (who has been much blessed by Matthew Smith’s music)

  6. matthewsmith February 10, 2007 at 3:33 PM #

    No joke, guys– the day that I posted my comment, I played a concert that night where my wireless mic ran out of juice during a song. You can’t make this stuff up.

    I’m going to change my rider to ban all wireless mics from my concerts. Join me in the wired revolution!

  7. Jonathan February 11, 2007 at 4:50 AM #

    Bob and Dave,

    Thank you both for your insight on the whole battery issue and more importantly, for the reminder to focus on the Gospel when deliberating over decisions such as these.

    ~Jonathan

  8. Dustin Benton February 11, 2007 at 10:48 PM #

    I might give a little insight to it all being in the cellular phone business. I would recommend a Lithium Ion Battery pack, if you can’t buy them in the correct voltage, shape, etc.. I know several companies that custom make them just like their Ncd counterparts. the LIon batteries are great on life, rechargable, and don’t have a “memory” which lessens battery life. That might be a good solution for all your “juicing” needs!

  9. gracevet February 12, 2007 at 6:05 AM #

    sorry guys I re-read what I wrote and it was most most ungracious – please forgive me.

    Oh – by the way I see you have Noel Due’s book on your reading list. If you have time – I’d invite you to take a listen to his teaching at http://www.sermonaudio.com – he has been blessed with a tremendous gift of teaching and I often listen to his messages.(just put noel due in search at sermonaudio.com)

  10. Bob Kauflin February 12, 2007 at 10:10 AM #

    Gracevet,

    Thanks for your comment. In light of the countless sins we’ve been forgiven of through the cross, it is no problem to forgive you!

    Thanks for the Noel Due mention as well. He has many good things to say.

  11. Aaron Campbell February 13, 2007 at 4:23 PM #

    I was very very skeptical of making the switch to rechargable batteries. I’m aware of the difficulties with them, but we’ve been using 9V NiMh 250mah rechargable batteries in our church for nearly 2 years. We put one in each of our wireless devices at the beginning of the morning, it lasts throughout our two services, and then I have the media guys put them back into the recharger. We’ve experienced no problems with batteries dying mid-service, always have batteries on hand, and have saved a chunk of change in the process. The batteries we use can be found at http://www.horizonbattery.com. The cost upfront is significantly more than alkaline batteries, but well worth it in the long run. If nothing else, purchase a few and try them out in your rehearsals and see what you think.

  12. Gur Yur February 14, 2007 at 1:25 AM #

    Greetings, this is Gary Yue (am Gur Yur online) from Singapore.

    Must first say that I have been blessed through the ministry of Bob’s worship music starting from the Chosen Treasure CD album during my college days, and have been convinced of the continual focus on the accuracy of the theology and passion for authentic worship as exhibited through his blog.

    I am part of my church’s AV crew and am heartened to see such a topic discussed here, with application towards the holistic approach of ‘why we do it’. So that in everything, to God be given the glory.

    However, in the cultural, political and philosophical context regarding the somewhat unspoken but predominant driving element of the ‘green’ movement (as well as global warming issues) being associated with the new-age movement, I personally do not subscribe to the view of attaching the virtue of stewardship as responsible Christian AV technicians with regards to recycling of batteries. This is one among many other considerations I always take upon myself – to discern the potential for any form or essence of ‘impurity’ that will ‘corrupt’ (for lack of two better words) the motives behind any good intention.

    Hopefully I have articulated or expressed my views well enough for everyone to be understood and I invite any comments on these.

    Blessings to all in Christ
    Gary

  13. Scott Hill February 14, 2007 at 4:27 PM #

    Does everyone think it is necessary to use new batteries before every service? We use 5 wireless devices at our church and I know that I can get through 4 services and 2 rehearsals with my Beta87 wireless before the battery goes bad. Plus it has a light that tells me the battery is weak. Our technicians keep up with the batteries in each device and keep a running tab on how much battery has been used in each device. They have it down to a science now as to how much battery each device uses. So far it has not caused a problem for us. I know that may be impossible to do for a church the size of Covenant Life, but it might work for some smaller worship teams.

    I also order Duracell Procells by the case from the internet. A case of 72 is $80 plus $5 shipping. This alone saves me %50 of the cost of purchasing retail at somewhere like Walmart. batterywarehousedirect.com

    This is off topic, but Bob have you heard the CD of Amy Carmichael’s poems but to music? I ran across it yesterday while looking for a song. It is worth a listen. You can find it at jimspencermusic.com.

  14. aaron Slaten February 14, 2007 at 11:10 PM #

    I prefer wired mics. I would rather spend $500 on a great wired mic instead of spending $700+ on a wireless mic that I have to buy batteries for. The ability to move my mic isn’t that important enough to me to want to go wireless.
    FYI, I prefer the Audix VX10.

  15. Seth Shoemaker March 19, 2009 at 1:11 PM #

    We have switched all of our battery usage over to rechargeables. The reason we did this was to save on our yearly budget which was almost as much as yours for batteries.

    I have done away with all wireless mics which use 9V batteries as most of them were older mics and were “guzzling” batteries for breakfast. So I can’t speak for 9V rechargeables as I have never used them.

    However, I can speak for our AA batteries (2800Mah). We can run straight through from rehearsal time through 2 services on Sunday morning with only a slight drop in power on the mics (we use Sennheiser 500 series currently and they have 3 “bars” and after 2 services still usually have 2 “bars” — and on the tester are 50-65% charged) — approximately 6 hours.

    I purchased our last batch through Horizon Battery (about 4 months ago) just as another reader here did and I am thoroughly pleased with both the chargers and batteries. (I went with the rackmount chargers and their 2800Mah batteries — the chargers are more expensive but when you figure in their price to the overall picture it is still miles cheaper than alkalines) They are Nihms so they don’t have the “memory” effect. This is only our second round of batteries in 3 years and the first set were a really cheap brand so we have spent around $500 per year on batteries now on average (assuming these new ones last as long as the others) as opposed to several thousand per year.

    We have only had issues 1 time with batteries during a service and it was because the tech put in partially charged batteries into a mic (not realizing that red on the charger meant charging) and it went dead — however there was a wired mic right next to the person, so we easily fixed the issue. So as long as you make sure that they are charged, you should not experience any issues and save quite a bit of money as well.

    I hope this is helpful to someone.

    • Bob Kauflin March 19, 2009 at 2:12 PM #

      Seth, thanks for the specific and helpful thoughts.

  16. Finlay Richardson May 10, 2010 at 6:37 AM #

    When buying Cellphone Batteries make sure that you are not getting those chinese fakes and knockoffs.`’~

  17. Daniel Jakson November 18, 2012 at 6:28 PM #

    I’ve switched to NiMH AA batteries in our Shure Wireless Handhelds and Audio Technica beltpacks, and they’re perfect. The only trouble I’ve ever had is when a few cells gave out after ~19 months of use (so I’m replacing them every year now, still far cheaper than alkaline) and that they sometimes dissapear (so they live in the locked sound room instead of backstage now.)

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