There are few things that are quite as exciting as breaking open a new box and installing that new piece of gear.
The possibilities seem new … endless.
But when is the right time to upgrade or replace gear?
All of us are subject to some limitations in terms of money and time, and we need to work within those limitations.
I work for a large church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where we are always preparing for our next repair or upgrade. As a result, I find that I need to ask myself the following six questions when it comes to equipment replacement:
Upgrade Question 1: Why?
There are many reasons we need to, or want to, upgrade equipment.
The first and most obvious is that aging equipment often breaks down and just stops working. We desire to remove this equipment before the failure happens.
Technology is always advancing and improving.
New equipment functions better and allows us to do new things and create in new ways, producing a better final product or making operation easier.
We also need to extract the full lifespan out of each piece of equipment, making sure we get the best value out of our investment, being the best steward out of the funds that are used for each piece of equipment.
Upgrade Question 2: When?
Every year, at Asbury United Methodist Church, we make plans for regular maintenance and repair of that equipment. We also look at where the greatest need exists for replacement of equipment. To do this, a “replacement project sheet” is used, where we write these six questions out and answer each question, pertaining to each piece of equipment that is up for consideration of replacement. However, we don’t just look at this year…we look to next year and the years beyond.
What will we need to update or repair next year? Where is the church moving in terms of technology over the next five years? I’ll share one example. Over the last five years, we have embraced environmental projection using five large projectors in our main sanctuary. In addition, there are two projectors for IMAG, adding up to a total of seven projectors that are needed by the church.
As we look to the future, we need to anticipate the large cost of replacing each of the bulbs regularly in those projectors. We need to consider that cost, and contrast it with the falling cost of LED panels.
In a few years, should Asbury plan on building around LED or stay with projection? This is not an immediate call at the church, but something we need to look at over the next several years, as we plan for the future.
Upgrade Question 3: Where?
We are constantly working on all rooms and the associated technology in the church building. If it is being regularly used, it will need to be replaced at some point.
Technology is improving quickly, and new equipment seems to be calling from your email inbox every day.
Those improvements are going to be needed sooner or later, so you should always be prepared to answer the question, “When do you think we need to replace this piece of equipment at the church?”
Upgrade Question 4: What?
All equipment is going to need replacement over time. We desire to replace the most used and most mission critical gear first, so to allow each piece of equipment to have a useful life for the longest effective term.
The high cost of gear means that we need to get the best value from each purchase.
It is wise to have some budget dollars set aside and planned for the replacement of small items, such as cables, light bulbs, batteries, headphones and the like. Larger purchases are what we are talking about here and require more planning and advance preparation.
Be aware that everything has a lifespan.
Upgrade Question 5: Who?
You and your team will need to work with local and national vendors to find the best deal.
There are so many options in the marketplace now, that you need to spend some time looking at the pros and cons of each vendor before making a final decision relating to which ones will be most helpful.
Local and national audio-video companies understand how much churches are spending on equipment and will be more than willing to come and answer all your questions, while showing you the most recent gear currently in the market.
Be aware of the companies in your area that can be of help and put them on speed dial. Meet with them frequently and use their experience to learn about what can be applied for your church.
Talk with these companies about whether to purchase or rent is the right path to take, based on your budget and your needs. Expect to pay for their time and resources, but if you listen and pay attention to their wisdom, it will be a good investment.
Online sites like Worship Tech Director are always sharing new information about gear and you should plan to spend time on such sites each week, to learn about new gear and how it may benefit you.
Annual events like conferences and trade shows, including WFX, are also a great opportunity to spend time talking with manufacturers and national A/V companies to understand what trends are happening in the industry. These events are a great place to go and dream a little, returning home to prepare and plan for how applicable those dreams can be to the future of your church.
Upgrade Question 6: How?
Your team should suggest a plan for the replacement of gear, based on a well thought through set of guidelines.
The replacement of gear, worth thousands of dollars, should not be made on the fly, but instead planned and reviewed over time, to determine what is the best plan in getting a full lifespan out of each piece of gear. When making decisions on new purchases, don’t forget that technology debuts with a high price tag and drops in cost over time, as the technology picks up new users.
Your team should provide the reasoning for all gear replacement to leadership, so that they can make an informed decision.
This isn’t work that you can do in a week. It’s work that requires a small amount of investment every week, for years, to fully understand the right plan for your church.