Outfitting a New Building

Do you ever have the experience of attending a conference, or reading a book, or hearing a sermon and thinking, "Yes! That's exactly what I've been saying." That was WFX for me last week. For years I've been thinking on the right way to outfit a new church building with A/V equipment. And WFX was one of the crystalizing moments where all the thoughts that have been swirling around in my head came together like sugar crystals when you're making fudge (with apologies for the foodie analogy).

When it comes to making decisions about what kind of equipment we install into our church buildings, I've noticed a few disturbing trends. Some churches think about it roughly 3 weeks before the grand opening. They scramble around, make a few phone calls end eventually ask the electrician to hang the speakers a volunteer picked up on sale at Guitar Center. I wish I was making this up, but if you've been around the church for any length of time, you know this happens.

Another strategy is to call in a consultant early on with the direction of wanting the biggest, baddest and best sound, lighting and video systems in the city. $1.5 million later, the church does indeed have an amazing system. But get a look at that price tag. And sadly, many churches that take that route don't end up with systems that their volunteers can run, so they never get the bang for the buck they hoped they would.

A third strategy is for the church to start off with the good intentions of wanting a quality A/V system. But as the project progresses, and the budget begins to escalate, money is borrowed from the A/V budget. Eventually, the system is "value engineered" and significant compromises made. The thinking goes, "Well, we know we're cutting here, but people won't really notice, and if they do, we can upgrade it later." We all know how that turns out. People do notice--they can't hear the pastor, the music is too loud or soft, they can't see the screens because they're too dim--and they end up upgrading sooner rather than later. Which means they pay for the system twice. As the saying goes, "Most churches are on their third sound system."

What if there was a better way? What if we could find an appropriate balance between going crazy and ending up with a crappy system? What if, and this may sound just radical, we designed our A/V systems to fulfill the specific mission that particular church is called to? What if, instead of having to fight other departments for dollars, the A/V system was thought of as an integral part of the church's calling and mission (just like the café or the kid's wing)? Might that be a more effective way to put a system together? Check back tomorrow and we'll talk more about that.