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When to upgrade
Take note of what other ministries will be impacted by your planned upgrade. Part of understanding who will be impacted is knowing how your technical infrastructure is set up.

When to Upgrade: How to Budget, Avoid Stress

Church tech doesn’t run in a vacuum. Changing out individual parts of your technology infrastructure can on their own impact your visual, lighting, sound and more.

Church technology is in a constant state of flux. Finding the “perfect” time to upgrade can be a daunting task for a tech director.

The goal often features the “why” behind your upgrade.

New gear comes out weekly and finding the right combination that fits within your budget and your needs does not have to be stressful.

Let’s break down what is really needed, and when is the perfect time for your church to upgrade.

The first step for timing out your upgrade is having a goal. By having a goal, it will help narrow down your timeframe. Maybe you’re looking to replace equipment because its nearing end of life. Perhaps you’re looking to simplify your church’s worship services for your volunteers with the purchase of additional equipment. The goal often features the “why” behind your upgrade. Why are you upgrading, and what benefits will it bring to your congregation or tech team?

The next factor behind deciding on an upgrade is, what areas will it impact? You need to have a concept of what ministries will be impacted by the upgrade you’re doing.

Church tech doesn’t run in a vacuum. Changing out individual parts of your technology infrastructure can on their own impact your visual, lighting, sound and more.  

Imagine if any ministries that serve your congregation every week just suddenly disappeared. Every aspect of your service would be impacted. Your technical upgrades should be treated in much the same manner.

Take note of what other ministries will be impacted by your planned upgrade. Part of understanding who will be impacted is knowing how your technical infrastructure is set up. This means diagramming what you currently have, before introducing something new into the equation. Doing this may take a while, but it’s time worth spending. Future upgrades will become significantly easier, when this step has been taken.

Budgeting clearly has an impact when you are in the midst of performing an upgrade. Sometimes this means you have to put away your “wish” list, and instead look to alternatives.  

Luke 14:28 NIV gives us some clear guidance on how to approach an upgrade: “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?” This may also mean you may end up doing some of the labor related to a potential install yourself, if you or some of your church staff or volunteers have the skills to do so. If it’s just you doing the upgrade, is it something that can be done between particular weekend or midweek services?

Make sure to think about that if it’s not done, what will be the contingencies? This is where it is important to understand your own limitations from both a technical and time perspective.

Obviously, if you have something that isn’t working at all in your workflow, you need to address this immediately.  When this happens, look for alternatives and workarounds, as you may not immediately be able to get the gear you want your church to upgrade to, but you don’t want to limit your future growth either.

How you perform your upgrade will have a significant impact on when it can be done. Sometimes, adding new things by a couple pieces at a time is a more practical solution, from both a budget and labor perspective.

If you’re working with an integrator, lay this out with them when discussing the project. This phased approach will spread things out across a timeline, but  be a benefit in allowing you to stretch out your upgrade dollars. By taking this approach, it can also give you an opportunity to see potential flaws in your overall plans for an upgrade.

The downside to such an approach is that things are in a constant state of change. It may be that each week a small part of your system has changed. Keeping up with this and troubleshooting issues can be difficult.

On the contrary, doing your entire upgrade at once can be stressful in its own way. Will everything be in place and operating correctly before your next service? Do you have the funds to pay for everything up front? Will people have to be trained all at once on new equipment? These are questions to think through before you start the project you have planned.

Adding a new dimension of technology to your services gives you flexibility. If you don’t currently have a video or streaming ministry and are starting that up for example, doing either a phased or at-once approach may have no impact on other areas of your service, as you start to bring in new gear.

One of the best approaches to upgrading is to have timelines on replacing items. Doing things a little at a time every year can save your sanity. Every year, look to replace or upgrade something from a technology perspective. This approach will allow not only allow the church to better stretch the budget dollars, but will also allow for forward progress in your ministry.  Along with the technology itself, make sure that as a tech, you’re upgrading your knowledge of the latest trends and technologies so that you can help drive your future upgrades. Events like WFX REACH and the WFX Conference & Expo are great ways to collaborate and learn from others and grow yourself.

No matter what approach you take in upgrading, understand that tomorrow something better will become available. Don’t paralyze your ministry, always waiting for the next big thing.

Having the clear goal will help drive you to what you need and then set your plan in motion to make that happen. Understand the overall church calendar and avoid doing upgrades the week before major holidays and events.

Clearly communicate with your leaders and with your volunteers on what will be happening during the upgrade. Overcommunicating during and upgrade is almost impossible. Having a diagram of how things in your system interact, will allow you to clearly communicate potential impacts to other ministries and will allow for success.

Don’t do your upgrade alone. Prayerfully ask God for guidance. Our upgrades should bring Him the glory and should draw the congregation closer to him. Fancy new gear is great, but let’s not forget who and why we worship.

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