Church budgets have very little wiggle room in them, so making the most of what you're given is critical.
Taking the time to address these things right away can save you time and money down the road.
Here are a few steps to take, to make budgeting and maintenance a more natural part of your end-of-year activities. Taking these steps will ensure that the gear you have will last and the equipment you choose to purchase is what you need.
Before you look at planning upgrades, it is worth reading the following articles: one on doing homework for upgrade planning and another on
and planning an upgrade in the coming year, as a means to help in having an inventory of what you have and when you acquired it, which is critical.
The expressions "time flies" and "they don't make things like they used to" should cause us to pause and carefully examine the gear we're using.
Having an inventory can be as simple as a spreadsheet with the equipment type, where it is used and when it was acquired. It can also be a robust system where everything is tagged, labeled and scanned in. Both systems will get the job done, but the critical part is to have something in place. This will allow you to quickly see what you have and what you need to think about replacing.
Physical parts wear down over time, and routine cleaning will extend the life of your gear. A can of compressed air may be all that is needed. Be sure that with every piece of equipment you own, that you have read the manufacturers recommendations and precautions first. What worked great on the same type of gear in the past may end up being harmful now.
Another benefit of keeping your equipment clean is that it looks better. Whether we like it or not, people will judge us on the appearance of things in our churches. An inch of dust on a line array may give the impression that you don't care too much about how things sound, even if it has no impact on the functionality of the equipment.
When you're using your gear week after week, you will notice when something doesn't feel right. Maybe it's a fader that has too much play or a connection that doesn't snap in the way it used to.
Taking the time to address these things right away can save you time and money down the road. You may also notice when something doesn't sound right.
Many components have intake and exhaust fans to aid in the cooling of components. These can easily fail, but are relatively inexpensive to replace. Failure to replace these could lead to permanent damage to your equipment and leave you paying hundreds or thousands of dollars more to replace the device.
Digital maintenance is an aspect of church tech that gets easily overlooked. Vendors often release new software and firmware for their devices. Keeping your software up to date will ensure as you add new devices things will continue to operate with each other as expected. Additional software and firmware updates will keep your devices secure. The last thing you need is someone controlling your mixer remotely during a Sunday morning worship service. This digital maintenance, though, does come with a few catches. Sometimes the software you have will not work with the latest version of the operating system of your computer. Carefully research the dependencies of your software and operating systems before making changes to either one.
When it comes to budgeting, be sure to leave about 10 to 20percent of your budget for maintenance or replacement of devices that may break. You may have to scramble in the last minute for one week, but having the reserves to get things fixed or replaced will save a lot of headaches in the long run.
Replacing working equipment is a delicate balance of sticking to a dollar amount while not having it explode with replacing other dependent pieces of equipment. This is where having an inventory is crucial.
You may want a 4k camera, but knowing your switcher can't handle the new higher definition signals may cause you to shift priorities. For computers that run streaming, video or projection, plan on a replacement every three to four years. Don't toss the old ones, but look to repurpose them for digital signage or maybe as an upgrade in alternative spaces. This can help the entire church stretch everyone's budget a little bit further. And if you don't have another use for it, sell it to another church. This can help them and again take your budget a little bit further.
Then again, though, you might the church that will be looking to buy used or refurbished equipment. Many reputable companies sell used equipment and even offer it with limited warranties. When buying used, be sure to know what the typical life of the equipment is. You don't want to buy something that is useful for five years, and it is already four years old at the point of resale.
The most important part of budgeting and maintenance is being a good steward of your resources. What we have isn't ours, its God's.
Church members have faithfully obeyed what God has called them to give; we need to respect those offerings.
While new equipment can save us headaches, save us time, and be fun, we need to remember that we're serving Him. God will always provide what is needed and will use exactly what you have to change hearts and lives for His glory.