AJ Sweeney, President and Mike Mrozinski, Project Development Manager, spoke recently at WFX's inaugural Reach Conference, hosted at one of our client's facilities, Community Christian Church Yellow Box, Naperville, IL. Their talk encompassed the article below, which was published just prior in Worship Facilities Magazine.

Embracing the ownership of a responsible budget for technology and its support staff will help foster a healthy culture, open a channel of clear expectations and relieve unnecessary stress. To be successful, your first action should be to ensure your pastoral leadership has defined the vision for your church. Consideration for the content of the message, its frequency, who the audience is and your personnel’s competency with technology are the most crucial factors in preparation.

Begin with the end in mind. Your church’s vision establishes your long-term goals; it’s the beacon that guides every decision. Whether it may be for traditional (or modern) worship, youth groups, or special events such as performances, weddings and the like, the purpose of the room will quickly navigate technology decisions. Also a contributing factor is whether your space’s persona is exclusive to a single format or ever-transforming for mixed use. When planned for with appropriate foresight, technology can be one adaptable constant on which you can rely.

It’s not science, but new construction versus renovating an existing building will almost always yield different financial investments in technology. As a very general practice, allocating approximately 20% of a new building campaign (or roughly $400 per seat) will design and build a system of audio, video and lighting that will function to the highest level of its desired purpose.

For enhancements to existing spaces, prepare for 30-40% of the renovation budget. Common experiences show that there will be primarily more time dedicated to labor. Expect to undo the current environment in order to prepare it as a blank slate to build upon the same as you would benefit from in a new construction scenario.

Who is going to be responsible for approving your budget? Do they comprehend the importance of reliable technology, and the costs associated with taking shortcuts? You can do your part by guiding them to understand the consequences that will surely follow without an adequate budget are quantifiable. If you don’t have a voice in the decision or if you inherit inferior equipment and uneducated human resources, your only option may be destined to a cycle of reactiveness, constantly just trying to maintain.

Beyond a system’s initial investment, remember to also budget for annual operating costs and planned obsolescence. An additional 5-10% of what you invest originally in your system should be allocated here for hard costs (i.e. hardware upgrades, software updates, replacement components and general preventative maintenance).

Don’t forget to additionally plan for an integration firm’s service calls and a technician’s fees. A word to the wise: Do not attempt any major overhauls, system updates, etc. an hour before service on Sunday morning.

Factor the cost of your personnel, whether they’re paid staff or rewarded volunteers. No matter the level of equipment you have installed, it cannot operate without the valuable asset that is your support team. Regardless of their compensation, don’t underestimate their liability if they’re uneducated, not supported with training or if behaviors counterproductive to your church’s culture and vision are tolerated. Avoid the territorial struggles that can be common between the FOH booth and the stage, or worse the division that can occur between the tech and worship teams. Simply, aim to recruit those who will positively complement your church’s dynamic.

The return on investment of owning a tech-savvy solution are priceless, and the intangibles from fostering a healthy worship environment even more so. It sets the expectation for your team to care for the system as if it was there own. It radiates a level of pride in a congregation’s ability to deliver their message with confidence. And, your end goal will be achieved. You can certainly invest less and still provide a quality service with a meaningful message. Just be mindful that if you don’t pay for it now, you could end up paying more for it later.