Doing Less With Less

In my last post, I talked about how we are often called upon as TDs to do more with less; less time, less money and less equipment. In this post, I’m going to talk about the flip side of that. Sometimes, we reach the point where we have to start doing less with less. See, the thing is, worship technology is expensive, and to do it well is resource intensive. When our budgets—both time and money—get cut we have to start making decisions as to what we can and can’t do. This tends to raise a few problems, however.

Their Problems

The first problems we tend to think of are those created for our leadership when we tell them we can’t do something. This is an issue to be sure. I’ve had to have those conversations with pastors and bosses; it’s not fun. I was once in a situation of moving into a new building with an AV install that had a budget equal to 25% of the amount I told them it would take to do it well. On opening night, they asked for the wireless mics; I handed them two. My boss wanted to know where the other ones were, and I had to explain that we only bought two. Oddly, I was blamed for that, even though every one of my proposals had four channels of wireless because that’s what I knew we needed. However, the integrator, to save money, only included two. 

“Understanding Technology” is not a course taught in seminaries, though it should be. For some reason, church leaders become “experts” in how much technology should cost when budget time comes around. When you find your self in that situation, there’s not much you can do except smile and say, “I’m not sure what to tell you; this is how much it costs.”

I believe it is incumbent on us as the actual experts in technology to be leading up, continuing to be as clear as possible as to how much time and money things take. We need to always be respectful and defer to leadership; but the reality is they often don’t really know how this stuff works. We need to help them understand, and that takes time, energy and trust. 

Our Problems

Perhaps more insidious are the problems we create for ourselves. We tend to place unrealistic expectations on ourselves, and those expectations drive us to work longer and harder than is healthy. TDs and technical leaders tend to be high-capacity, driven people. We like to solve problems, and we like to get things done. But the reality is we can only do so much; and if we expect to do this for any length of time, we need to pace ourselves. 

One thing I’ve been learning is that because I’m such a perfectionists, my “acceptable” tends to be “crazy awesome!” for everyone else. As I wrote in The 90% Principle, going beyond that level is rarely noticeable for anyone else. 

As an example, my current budget is 35% of what it was two years ago. Now I’ve made some significant strides in systematic efficiency, but the reality is I am not able to do 100% of what we were could to back then. We probably get to about 50% due to the efficiency gains, but I will kill myself trying to maintain a level higher than that. 

If you were to walk into a Mercedes dealership wanting to buy a $100,000 S-class, but you only had $35,000, you would be politely told you should look elsewhere. Why would we think we can do $100,000 worth of technical ministry with $35,000? I could maybe find a good deal on a 7-year old used S-class, but it’s not going to be the same. It can still be great, but not the same.

I’m also without an ATD right now, so I’ve lost 45-50 hours of productivity in my department. In fact, I’ve probably lost more than that, because Isaiah and I worked so well together, we actually got more done together than we each would have alone. However, I’ve made a conscious decision to not try to make up that time personally. 

I make sure we have everything ready for our mid-week and weekend services, and once that’s done, get as much done as my schedule allows. But a lot of things are going undone, or taking a lot longer. When something breaks on the weekend, it stays broken until the next week when I can look at it. I simply can’t fix a projector while I’m mixing FOH. 

The thing is, this is OK. It occurred to me the other day that God doesn’t need A/V/L technology to change lives. He’s been doing it for a long time without it, and will continue to do so whether or not all our lights are working or the cameras are aligned. Jesus said that He will build His church; He didn’t tell us to do it and ask if we need help. 

Don’t put pressure to make it all work squarely on your shoulders. You are responsible for what you can do, not what you can’t do. When your hands are tied by time and budget, simply do what you can do. Then go home and enjoy your family. Don’t beat yourself up. God has, is and will continue to work. 

What have you had to say no to? Or, how has your budget affected what you can and can’t do?

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