The word “budget” itself can have a negative connotation, and just the mention of the word can cause some to twitch.
To some church technical leaders, conforming to a budget can feel controlling, limiting, and tedious.
If you are interested in learning more about budgeting, specific to audio, for houses of worship, check out the following session, "Big Church Sound on a Small Church Budget," slated for the WFX Conference & Expo on November 15 in Orlando.
In my experience, however, a budget can be one of the most freeing exercises, and the time spent in crafting one has always proven to be worthwhile.
Well-planned budgets help to increase communication with leadership, highlight priorities, and provide accountability for the use of funds.
Each year, I am faced with the technology budget, for the Legacy Christian Church campuses in Kansas. I will admit, when I began doing this years ago, I didn’t like the idea then of being tied to a budget. I felt like I wouldn’t be able to get the equipment or achieve the level of quality that I desired.
It was a challenge for me to balance requests from leadership, wanting the best for our facilities, learning to be patient, wait for the right timing, and then to budget accordingly.
For me, one of the most important parts of setting up a budget is to communicate with leadership throughout that process. That includes listening to their dreams and goals, along with their vision for the ministry. Knowing their vision for the production environments will help set the foundation for what equipment to research to potentially purchase, put down some numbers on paper, and then communicate to them what it’s going to take, to get there. Talking this out with the church leadership helps them understand the “why” behind the costs associated with the equipment and upgrades you want to budget for. Best of all, when it comes time to submit and review the budget requests, the conversation can be more positive to how your budget does align with their vision.
Another challenge I faced when having to manage my budget, is overcoming my desire to have the “biggest, best, newest” technology.
I remind myself, what exactly our needs are, and research the best solution for our situation and our facilities. Also, your budgets must have priorities.
Learning which areas and equipment are more important, to the church vision, will help you be able to prioritize and set goals accordingly.
When your goals for the budget exceed reality, don’t get discouraged, create a vision for the future, and a path to get there. Plan incremental steps that can align with the end goal.
Managing a budget effectively also provides accountability. As leaders, we must be good stewards of the funds, equipment, and production resources that a church invests in.
We are responsible for and accountable for how these funds are spent. We must do everything we can to research and investigate how to spend those funds wisely and efficiently. We should always have detailed information to back up our decisions. Materials, like product information, alternative options, quotes or bids from several resources, and of course, how it fits with the overall vision of the church.
I cannot express enough how freeing it is knowing that my budget is approved and accounted for by leadership.
Budgets, what are they good for? A lot more than one would initially suspect. When used properly, budgets increase communication with leadership, give clear priorities, create a roadmap for the future, and provide accountability for the spending.
Take the time to have some conversations, do a little research, and prioritize. That will make your budgeting a much easier and enjoyable experience.
Building Your Tech Budget
Budgets for churches can be driven by three main components:
1. Vision from church leadership
2. Application and frequency
3. Personnel – the ability and quantity of media personnel
These are some line items key in a church’s budget:
1. Hardware upgrades/new hardware
2. Software upgrades/new software
3. Preventative and ongoing maintenance
New Construction Budget
A useful bit of data that can help give context to the question of 'how much' are the budgets for new construction projects.
- It's not uncommon to see 8percent of the total budget allotted to provide a rudimentary AVL system.
- 12 -15 percent of the total new construction budget will provide a solid intermediate system
- 20-22 percent of the total budget will build a technically-savvy venue.
- For a $1 million new building campaign, anywhere from $80,000 (rudimentary) to $220,000 (technically savvy) can be budgeted for the technical systems alone.
Annual Operating Budget
Even though budgets vary greatly from church to church, it's safe to apply 5-10 percent of the AVL system cost for yearly operations and maintenance amount. If you spent $150,000 on your AVL system, then anywhere from $7,500-$15,000 a year can easily be spent to making sure your systems remain in good operational order, and that you're getting the software and hardware updates, as well as replacement parts, that are necessary to keep your technology from becoming obsolete or failing, due to inadequate preventive maintenance.
Ultimately, the vision of the church leadership will drive this amount, based on the perceived and felt needs of creating and implementing dynamic content and quality technical performance.
My best advice is to get with your pastor and learn how tech fits into the overall vision of the church, and then develop a budget that helps to accomplish that vision, through the application of technology.
It is easy for church leaders to look at AVL equipment as a one-time capital expense. Purchase new equipment during a building project, then not think about it again, until it breaks. At which point there is a sense of panic and urgency to get it fixed or replaced.
As part of my master plan for AVL equipment, I also run end-of-life projections. The rationale is simple; all equipment will eventually need to be replaced or upgraded, and an end-of-life chart helps keep a realistic look at what expenses may be looming in the near future, which is a huge help for keeping church leadership aware of future expenses.
It’s not an exact science. We may be able to stretch some of the equipment’s lifespan, and of course, some equipment will fail sooner than originally anticipated. But having a roadmap is a huge help, when planning a budget. For us, it is the tool we use to set aside significant cash each year to build up a maintenance fund, so we can be better prepared for those big expenses, when they arrive.
I look at it like Joseph and the seven years of abundance. If we know big expenses are coming, it is just good stewardship to set money aside now, so we can be in a much better position to handle those expenses when they do come up.