By James Wasem
Church leadership and tech teams have a perennial problem: maintaining technology systems crucial for ministry, both in the sanctuary and online.
While much of the decision-making process is focused on budget, it is even more important to develop a plan for upgrading, using, and supporting technology solutions. Having a process for tech purchases not only saves money in the long run, but promotes good stewardship and mission focus.
Here are seven cost-saving tips churches can follow to successfully plan technology upgrades and purchases.
1. Identify church technology mission & purpose
Any major technology investment should be clearly linked to serving the broader mission and ministry of the church. Start with reading the mission statement, then simply ask, “Why?” Why do we need to replace the projector? Why do we want to upgrade our lighting system? Why do we need a new mixing console? Each of these questions should have an answer that clearly helps the church better fulfill its stated mission and purpose.
2. Assess the real costs, benefits & risks
A cost-benefit analysis (CBA) and an assessment of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) can lead to laser-focused precision in the planning process.
Some technology upgrades are really cool, but the ministry benefits may not justify the expense. On the flip side, lost efficiency with cumbersome technical workflows can cost more than dollars, leading to volunteer burnout, congregation frustration, or maintenance challenges.
3. Plan for future needs
It sounds like a simple concept, but it’s surprising how often churches fail to properly consider the future needs of the congregation and facilities.
Church growth and attendance is only one component to consider. Flexible facility usage, adapting worship styles, special-event needs, and ongoing maintenance costs are all key variables to assess when planning for future technical system requirements and performance.
4. Work as a team
Responsibility for tech planning can often be relegated to the resident geek (a.k.a. tech director), while some churches use a design-by-committee approach. Both approaches suffer from serious limitations that can fail to provide a quality outcome.
The planning and leadership team should practice clear goal setting and communication. Technical members of the team can often talk in complex terms, while non-technical members can fail to understand the purpose or value of certain components. Bringing in an outside consultant, contractor, or technical director from another church can often provide the clarity and confidence to make an informed decision.
5. Consider the end user & system operators
Perhaps the most important part of any church tech planning process is identifying the end user of the proposed equipment or system. Even simple tech solutions require some level of training and user proficiency.
An investment in church technology should always be paired with a realistic budget of time and money for proper training. That new mixing console won’t automatically improve sound quality; it needs a competent operator, and that operator needs to be empowered with the training to successfully meet expectations.
6. Dig into the details
Once each of the points above is adequately addressed, it’s time to dig into the technical details. Establishing clear goals for tech hardware or software provides clarity to choose the right solution.
Be as specific as possible when it comes to describing exactly what is required of a new system or component. Then be very critical when deciding how well a solution will meet the specific needs.
Finally, it is time to decide on the tech solution and make a purchase. Each solution considered should clearly address each of the goals and requirements detailed in the planning process. Continue to evaluate the successes and failures of the planning process to increase technical quality and responsible stewardship.
This article is adapted from the February 2021 issues of Ministry Team magazine.
James Wasem is the author of Great Church Sound: A Guide for the Volunteer and has been professionally designing, installing, and operating sound systems for over 20 years. He has a passion for simplifying technical concepts and helping church tech volunteers deliver great sound every week. Connect with James at GreatChurchSound.com.