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Church upgrades
The number one thing to ask about your equipment, before thinking about upgrades, is, “does the gear we have now help us accomplish the goals of the experience we want to create at our church?”

The Right Time to Upgrade: Avoid Cutting Corners

Sometimes determining the “who says” that upgrades are necessary, often falls to pastoral leadership, and tech leaders often have a real opportunity to influence for the “what” that needs to be upgraded first.

Accomplishing Goals of the Experience

Often contrary to expectations, audio, video and lighting equipment in your church is not going to last forever.

The right solution is rarely the least or most expensive. It’s somewhere in the middle.

If your church is hoping your gear lasts until Jesus returns, you might be in for a rude awakening, at a very inconvenient time.

The number one thing to ask about your equipment, before thinking about upgrades, is, “does the gear we have now help us accomplish the goals of the experience we want to create at our church?” If the answer is no, you have some realistic planning to do.

And FYI … good gear costs real money.

Expectation vs. Reality

The best “deal” is rarely the right solution. Tech/production leaders love to get a deal. They like to find that solution that is the needle in the haystack, one that also proves they can do a lot with a little.

I think it’s important to really ask, “Is this really the wisest thing to do for the overall health and vision for the systems at our church?”

Sometimes the right solution can be found at very little expense, and other times the right singular tool consumes the majority of the funds for the project. The other side of the equation is often true - tech leaders are asked to do miracles with a budget that will not suffice, aiming to accomplish the goals at hand.

The right solution is rarely the least or most expensive. It’s somewhere in the middle.

Once we understand that good gear is not free, we can move on to understanding the need to budget for scheduled upgrades that continually meet the needs of the church, to produce experiences that transform lives.

Priorities When Deciding on Upgrading

How do we know what your church will need to upgrade first? Sometimes it’s as easy as “people can’t hear … our sound system is 30 years old!” Other times, it’s a discussion about the return on investment, or ROI, of transitioning to LED lighting. These are very different discussions, but some decisions to upgrade are easier than others.

Asking the question, “What is the biggest tech hindrance to communication with the congregation?” is a good place to begin.

From that starting point, one should investigate the following questions as well:

Can they hear and see effectively? Does the spoken word sound good, even though the dynamics of the music are lacking? Can people easily read the on-screen lyrics or scripture content? Is the house lighting so dim, that the people can’t read their Bibles?

Sometimes determining the “who says” that upgrades are necessary, often falls to pastoral leadership, and tech leaders often have a real opportunity to influence for the “what” that needs to be upgraded first.

A note to TDs: Don’t be a complainer, or be the team member saying that nothing is ever good enough. Your church has significant resources, and you are one of them. Realizing your role in the formula, and leading “up,” will have its reward for the right systems that truly meet your church’s needs.

The Right Time

So how do we know the right time to upgrade?

First, if it fails, it’s the right time! Unfortunately, though, that’s often the “wrong” time for your church budget. The projector never fails at the “right time.” Your audio console will not power up at the perfectly inconvenient time, before a conference, for instance.

It’s going to happen.

So how do we plan for these moments, and develop a schedule for upgrades, one that exercises wise stewardship?

Most system components have an expected lifespan, typically around 10 years. Audio consoles and DSP, lighting controllers, cameras, video switchers and a lot of other things fall into this time window. Unfortunately, traditionally-lamped projectors have a shorter expected lifespan, one often around seven years, while laser projectors and LED walls could work fine for a number of years longer, depending on frequency of use. Speaker systems and theatrical lighting fixtures can easily be expected to work without major issues for 15-20 years, if they are designed properly, and well maintained. LED house and theatrical lighting is currently untested, but the expectation of a lifespan is typically  well over 20,000 hours of use.

Knowing these numbers, and the age of your current systems, provides a road map for what you need to budget for first.

For instance, is your audio console fairly new, but your lyrics projector(s) nearing its end of life or older than seven years? It just might be time to think about investing in a new projector, and possibly upgrading to a laser projector, if you are currently using a lamp projector. Is your lighting console nearing 10 years of use, but it’s seen as “old school,” in that it doesn’t easily work with multichannel LED lighting fixtures? It just might be time to address lighting control and infrastructure.

The Main Thing

Stewardship is obviously a huge part of upgrades. Realizing that investing in the right tool will help you accomplish your goals for creating engaging experiences is key.

I’ve been in so many churches that make the mistake by choosing to cut corners, opting to “save money” only for the experience to end up being not what they hoped for. As a result, they unfortunately find themselves left to live with it for far too long after that.

Doing the right thing, the right way, the first time, is often achieved when a church has a long-time integration partner that knows their needs and priorities, and strives to help them achieve their goals.

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