A few years back our church had launched a new campaign to open a couple new campuses. In that campaign we had allotted some money to upgrade our tech infrastructure at our main campus to handle additional campuses. But soon a small upgrade turned a lot bigger and became a full overhaul with tons of new gear with big upgrades. Justification came on the fact that all old gear would be sent to a new campus since it all still worked great! The time came for the install of all the new gear and at the time I was so excited. It was Christmas for the nerds!
The weekend before the install I was talking to our facilities manager, that weekend he had counted a good handful of cars pull into the parking lot and the pull right out because there was no where to park. Every inch of the parking lot was used, sure if they were to try hard enough they could have found somewhere to park, we have parking people that will help with that. But the fact of the matter was we had a dirt parking lot that had turned into a mud lot from melting snow and was impossible to park in, but we didn’t have the funds required to pave it for additional parking.
So here we were about to install brand new gear hoping to reach more people for Christ but we couldn’t even get people in the building because they had no place to park. Now I hold a very high respect for the leadership of our church, honestly I think the tech team did a really good job selling the need for upgrades, not to mention it all came out of the campaign budget. But I felt very convicted. Would more people come to Christ because of our upgrades? The new projectors were necessary as the old ones needed replacing, so that was good, and our production level went up, but we were producing a great product before. We just made our wish list a priority and In turn we got what we wanted not what we needed. It was at this point that I started to reevaluate how we spent money. I realized that there is a balance between cost vs. reward. Some things are worth spending money on, and some things aren’t or should be scaled back. At the end of the day quality matters but where on the quality scale do we need to be in order to reach people effectively. If on a scale of 1-10 you need to achieve a 7, then shoot for a 7, the amount of people that will know the difference and care will be so small, and just think what the left over money could do for your church.
I have recently been working on a project with a church to upgrade their video system. I worked with the client to design a pretty modest systems upgrade, not the smallest we could have done but the right system for what they are trying to accomplish. This facility has been doing video for a long time but it is time for them to upgrade. Once the quote came back we went line by line describing why they need this or that and basically nickel and dime the bid. What it came down to was the guy in charge of the upgrade wanted to make sure the churches money was being utilized as wisely as possible. That no extra fluff was added to the bid. We talked about pros, cons, and alternatives on each line item because even though he was concerned with quality, it was all about cost vs.reward. We only cut one item, which I knew would probably happen but wanted to give him pricing on any way. The thing I appreciate most about the company I was working with is that they strive to be practical, choosing the best piece of gear for the job while being conservative with the budget, and not trying to make quotas or let their agendas play into it.
I guess I challenge you to have a cost vs reward mindset when choosing gear. I have been on the side of spending tons of money and I have seen other places turn just as good of a product with much, much less. Plenty of churches are exploding using systems that aren’t top end, but solid, accomplishing the same goal at half the budget. So when having the discussions of used vs new, HD vs SD, 6 cameras vs 4, switcher A or B, keep in mind your end goal and the cost vs reward that goes along with those decisions.
There is nothing wrong with spending a little more to make for a better product, but ask yourself the question will the audience notice, or will the benefits only be seen by a few. Will more people come to Christ if you spend more? It is important to always keep the big goal in mind in all your gear purchases. Evaluate line by line, find alternatives. Narrow in on the key principals to pulling off quality production, spend where you have to, not where you want to.