One thing I’ve learned regarding coordinating planning for upgrades well at our church, is that it has less to do about the gear, and more about the planning.
My experience has been that most of those that are a part of church leadership, support such upgrades, if they align with the church vision, and can be achieved financially. At the same time, nobody likes to be surprised with large, unexpected expenses, such as those associated with major upgrades.
Often, churches invest a ton of money in what is seen then as a one-time capital expense for a large install (maybe a for new building or a complete renovation). Then years later, they come to realize that the once new equipment has since worn out, that technology has changed, and for whatever reason, that equipment needs to be once again replaced or upgraded. At that point, though, it’s determined that there really isn’t any available budget for such a large expense.
Faced with a sense of urgency to upgrade equipment can prove to be a real struggle for the church’s technical director, while also conveying and justifying the expenses. Often, this is where I’ve seen leadership feel like the technical director just wants new stuff. And this is when the TD often also feels like leadership doesn’t understand or care about the struggle they face to keep the older gear functional.
Regardless if you recently stepped into a church with an aging system or find your system will need upgrading in the near future, what I’ve found to be successful is to take the time to build some sort of a lifecycle forecast and logical plan for equipment upgrades. And the forecast and plan doesn’t need to be overly complex; just provide a basic roadmap.
In considering lifecycle timelines, they could include:
• In the next 6 months…
• In the next 12 months…
• In the next 2-3 years ….
• In the next 6 years…
Providing such a forecast to the leadership with an estimate of what those costs could be, will give the church’s leadership a big picture overview of upcoming anticipated technology expenses.
At my church, we are fortunate enough that we are able to put a little money aside each year into a capital expense fund, in anticipation of these large expenses that are expected three, six or 10 years down the road. Part of this is about being a good steward with what we have and saving now for those projected expenses. It is also about bringing the leadership on board, helping them see and prepare for future expenses.
When I take my car to the garage, and the mechanic tells me that I need to spend hundreds of dollars, I always feel like… “Seriously, now? I don’t have the money for that now. How important is this?” And I gotta believe, that is kind of how the church leadership feels when the TD says we need to upgrade some particular equipment immediately.
So in much the same way, if the car mechanic says that in six months, you really need to be prepared to make some needed repairs, I have some time to process the need for that expense and plan accordingly. That’s how I try to approach this at our church, as I want to provide the leaders a heads up that we have these expenses coming. We may be able to delay them for a while, but eventually, we will need to do these upgrades.
Communicating the need can be a sensitive thing as well. I have found that before I present a need to leadership, I carefully consider how these changes will impact the vision of the church, and how these changes embrace that vision and enhance the mission in some way.
I like to demonstrate how these upgrades add value to the vision, not just how it will make video look better or sound clearer or whatever, but how it can enhance our ministry. As tempting as it might be to get some new gear, there is a lot of awesome technology that may not exactly align with our vision. In other words, adding this new gear may be very cool, and enable us to do things we can’t do now. But, if those things are outside the vision of the church, maybe it’s not the right upgrade at this time.
Taking such an approach provides several benefits, including that it generates excitement by the leadership for the upgrade, because they can see how it will help grow the church, it builds confidence from leadership in you, rather than a sense that the TD is always on the lookout for new stuff, as it demonstrates your passion to grow the church and enhance the church’s vision.
I’ll admit, this is difficult to do; as a TD, I want the newest, greatest and best equipment. It is so easy to look at other churches and envy what they have, and convince myself these upgrades are absolutely necessary for us to be relevant.
I must be careful, though, to not bend our vision to do what others are doing. Sometimes, I need to humble myself and recognize what is really important to this ministry, and not just getting the latest and the greatest.