As the calendar year is coming to a close, now is a great time to start looking at and planning upgrade projects for 2018.
Once you have identified the goal of your project, you need to determine if other ministry areas need to be brought in.
The thought of going through an entire or even partial system overhaul can be both an exciting and daunting adventure. Planning an upgrade should start well before you purchase any equipment and having a clear goal will help ensure that the process is a smooth one.
The first critical step in doing a technical upgrade is making sure you have a clear goal.
If you don't have a clear goal, then there probably isn't a good reason for upgrading. The goal may simply be to replace equipment that is nearing its end of life and pro-actively replacing it before it dies on a Sunday morning five minutes before service starts.
Along with, and part of, the goal is the "why". Some questions to ask around this are:
What is the benefit to the congregation?
What is the benefit to the tech team?
What is the benefit to the overall body of Christ?
Is there a benefit to the pastoral staff?
Technical upgrades should not detract or distract people from the message.
As technicians, it's easy to get wrapped up in lights, big screens, and high definition cameras. The thing you need to look to is, are you leading people to Christ, or are people growing deeper in their relationship with God? If not, why do it? This is not to say that these things are excessive, but if people focus on your technology, and not the message, your changes have gone too far.
One good reason for an upgrade is maybe just to save yourself from burning out!
Technology can make things easier, and can mean you require less volunteers or less stress on yourself.
Once you have identified the goal of your project, you need to determine if other ministry areas need to be brought in. This is where you need the buy in of your church's senior leadership.
When you're doing a sound upgrade, it won't just be the sound technician, but the worship leader, the video director, presentation director and possibly your lighting director. The communication between these areas will determine the success or failure of a project. These may all be a singular position, depending on the size of your church, which can make things simpler, but it also means connections that exist between disciplines can be easily overlooked.
Each technical area in a church often spans multiple disciplines so knowing what interacts with what is critical during an upgrade. Take the time to list out every piece of equipment that will be added or replaced during your upgrade. If you're having a contractor do your upgrades, get a list from them.
It may sound mundane, but when you know what's changing, you will begin to get a clearer picture of the impact of your upgrade. Create a diagram of the different pieces of equipment of your church. How do they interact with each other? What are the types of connections between devices? When you have this, you'll be able to more clearly articulate what is needed so that the new equipment will go in seamlessly.
Knowing how your upgrade will progress is the next step in your process. Who will be doing the work? Where will the funds for the upgrade come from? What if there are unforeseen expenses? These are all things to work out before getting started.
Overlooking prayer is a critical mistake during the process. Gather your leaders together and pray about your upgrade. How will God be glorified in the upgrade? If God isn't behind your technical upgrade, then moving forward isn't the best idea. Seeking Him and having plans is scriptural, so don't skip it! "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost, to see if you have enough money to complete it?" - Luke 14:28 NIV
Make sure your plans have some very clear timelines. Take a look the sermon calendar and make sure the timing is right. You probably don't want a guest speaker in for the first time your system gets used. One good thing to plan on is that your upgrade may take 25 to 50 percent longer than what you think. If that happens, do you have to use an alternate worship space during the upgrade? Having a plan for what to do if things take longer will save you the stress for when things do take longer and cost more money. This is another conversation that needs to happen before the upgrade starts. Don't put your head pastor in a position where they are scrambling to find a new space to preach in the interim.
That leads into how to approach your upgrade. Will you tackle it all at once or do parts and pieces over an extended period? Doing it all at once means it can all be completed with no interruptions. It also means you need to come up with the all of the funds for the project at once. With this "big bang" approach, coordination is critical. Delays can quickly compound upon each other, but on the contrary, when you're done, it is finished.
Stretching it out over time in a phased approach means that things are always changing and your project can start to expand as you see additional opportunities to make things better. There are some advantages to a phased approach. It allows for spreading out the cost and problems can be more easily dealt with as they arise.
No matter what approach you choose, communication throughout the project is critical. Make sure that everyone involved knows what is going on and when. Expect that your head pastor or elder board is going to ask you some tough questions. Is there a cheaper way? Will any of the technology we use limit us in future upgrades? The cheaper way may limit future growth so look carefully at the technologies you chose.
One of the most important things you can upgrade as a technical director isn't a piece of equipment, it's yourself. Seek out new opportunities to connect with other churches in the area to find out what has and hasn't worked for them. Attend technical conferences such as WFX or WFX Reach to get new insights and ideas. Most importantly, take time to fully engage in worship. If you're turning dials or clicking buttons every week, you can't experience worship and the message in a meaningful way.