Chapelwood United Methodist Church: Making the Most of Technology

Chapelwood United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas, has grown from just 19 committed members in 1948 to a congregation of over 5000 today, yet they still consider themselves a ”neighborhood friendly church”. The facilities are state-of-the-art and include extensive education areas, a large sanctuary, fellowship hall, chapel, and library. When Chapelwood decided to implement church digital signage, they approached Front & Center Technologies, Inc. “We had an issue with some screens installed by another provider and Front & Center took great care of us. When we decided to expand our system we wanted to give them our business,” comments Toby Dagenhart, Director of Communications for the church.

Chapelwood had clearly defined objectives for the new system and knew it had to (1) deliver dynamic and timely information throughout the facility; (2) serve a busy environment and reach out to a varied audience; (3) handle a variety of production-grade content; (4) be accessible, flexible, expandable and easy to use; and (5) fit the available budget.

Each of these requirements was satisfied with a solution built around Visix’s AxisTV digital signage software. “We chose AxisTV because it met all of our communication needs. Our IT Manager saw a demo of the product at a conference and brought me some literature. When I researched our options, I knew we wanted to go with AxisTV. We actually insisted that each integrator include the AxisTV product in their solution,” furthers Dagenhart, who manages the AxisTV system.

Dagenhart runs a group of seven people, four of whom create and manage AxisTV content. The talented communications team produces AxisTV messages, videos in MPEG format, animations and sophisticated graphic designs – all of which are broadcast over 20 large-screen displays. The screens are placed in common areas throughout the facility, as well as the nursery and some meeting rooms.

Front & Center supplied a unique design that includes an AxisTV Professional content manager, CAT-5 distribution, and three Visix media players routed through a matrix switcher that allows any content item to be delivered to any of the displays in the church. Todd Green with Front & Center elaborates, “We’re known for being network-centric and for being creative in our integration designs. What goes on behind the scenes is much more important than just hanging a screen on a wall. Our knowledge of networks, production gear, distribution and audiovisual support combined to offer Chapelwood more than the typical AV supplier.”

Chapelwood was also attracted to Front & Center because of their focus on client relationships. Toby Dagenhart notes, “Other integrators that we approached seemed to be focused on much larger projects. We didn’t want to be the ‘little fish’ on their roster. Front & Center took a sincere interest in our business. We’ve worked with larger integrators in the past, but they would send out a different person each time and there didn’t seem to be any project management or oversight. Front & Center sends the same team to our facility each instance and they have always been on top of our needs.”

AxisTV was the logical choice for the project for many reasons. The combined hardware and software solution and the extensive features of the application appealed to both Front & Center and Chapelwood. Green explains, “The client wanted quality as close to hi-def as possible. AxisTV’s delivery quality for both video and audio is very good. Also, AxisTV’s integration of EMS scheduling software is unmatched. This was a key selling point. The fact that we had their EMS Professional schedules updating automatically in just a few minutes was really impressive.”

The simple, flexible AxisTV software appealed to everyone on the integration team. “The product is designed to be user-friendly. The fact that it’s web-based means it can be accessed from anywhere within the facility. The flexibility to manage communications so effortlessly was extremely attractive to Chapelwood,” comments Green. Also, their graphic designers are able to import complex designs while other users can easily create attractive messages within the system. “The range of features the software provides combined with its competitive price allowed us to come up with a tailored integration solution that made everyone happy.”

The church is taking full advantage of their AxisTV system. In addition to videos and graphics, they also use their digital signage to provide overflow coverage (IMAG) of worship sessions and special events. Informative tickers reinforce announcements and keep viewers up to date. “This is a unique situation where a church is really thinking outside the box in order to reach every person who comes through their doors. They’re using every available feature of AxisTV for the greatest impact. As a systems integrator, I’m happy to see a client maximizing the technology they’ve purchased,” furthered Green.

Flexibility is the key to Chapelwood’s communications. The system may be broadcasting information for school classes in the morning, running announcements for meetings and groups in the afternoon, and providing coverage of worship, concerts and community programs in the evening. With so much going on, timely delivery of information is critical.

“Prior to this system, we used to take our graphics and print posters to be hung throughout the facility,” Dagenhart explains. “AxisTV saves us time and printing costs. We’re able to post information well in advance of when we had to print notices and we don’t have to worry about when to take the posters down. AxisTV takes care of all of that.”

“The fact that we have dynamic content verses static images is important. We often see people standing in front of the screens just taking in all of the information. You certainly never saw someone standing and staring at a poster for very long.”

Chapelwood plans to create a library of backgrounds for each ministry and allow other contributors to create and submit content for publishing using AxisTV’s built in approval hierarchy. “The various ministries are enthusiastic and always excited to get their content published on the system,” notes Dagenhart. As the church continues to grow their facilities, they hope to expand the digital signage system as need dictates and budget allows. Dagenhart predicts, “AxisTV is very effective. We’ll turn to Front & Center Technologies and AxisTV for our future needs.”