That’s Not Right, Tear It All Out

I was watching one of my favorite home-improvement shows the other night; Holmes on Homes. If you’ve not seen it, check it out. Mike Holmes is a contractor who gets called in by homeowners in trouble. Typically, they have hired a contractor to do a job and it’s either botched or abandoned. The homeowners are out of money and often their house is uninhabitable. Mike’s job--Make it Right. And he does. He often goes above and beyond the call of duty to put the house back in shape. In the end, the homeowner gets another chance. And their house is put together the right way.

Mike is one of my heroes; partially because I too have seen so much shoddy work in houses, but mainly because I often find myself in similar situations. So often, I find myself in churches where things are done so wrong and I hear one of Mike’s favorite refrains, “That’s not how we do things, tear it all out."

Disclaimer: Now let me stop here and point out that I’m not necessarily blaming previous tech guys or volunteers at the churches I’ve been to. Often times, things are done poorly because money is tight. We all know the A/V budget is one of the first things to get cut. Other times, the problems are due to volunteers just doing the best they know how. Sometimes they get in over their heads and just try to make it work. Some churches are ripped off by lousy install contractors. I get that. So please don’t take offense if I point out something you did on the cheap because budget was tight. I know you didn’t mean it. Unless of course you did know better, had the resources and did it wrong anyway--then you’re on my list. End Disclaimer.

 If you don’t do it right the first time, you’ll do it over and over.

 A lot of churches run out of money at the end of a build. When they do, it’s the A/V budget that is cut. That means the right wire doesn’t get pulled where it’s supposed to. Conduits are left out. Acoustic treatment or building details are omitted. I know it’s tempting to skimp on the PA when you have to buy children’s furniture. But think about this; it’s a whole lot easier to buy chairs and desks in six months than it is to put in another PA once the building’s done.

It’s a running joke (and a bad one in my opinion) that most churches are on their third PA. That means they paid for the wrong one twice, which means the right one cost them nearly 3 times what it should have. Thought you were saving money? Think again. How much of that money spent on the wrong PA could have been use productively for ministry?

At the very least, make sure you properly install wire and conduits where you need them. A lot of churches seem to think the guy with a cool home theater is qualified to install your PA.

He’s not.


He’s not.

Hire the right people and do it right.

Or you will do it again.

I promise.

Whatever you do, do it right.

I’ve seen so many bubble gum and duct tape solutions in my career that it really makes me sick. Cables tie-wrapped to the outside of an empty conduit. Wires run through un-bushed knockouts. Electrical panels overloaded and unbalanced. Cat-5 cables that were too short so they were joined by a coupler instead of re-pulled.This stuff is wrong. We can’t say, “Oh, it’s just church, don’t worry about it.” Instead we should say, “It’s church--we have an obligation to do this the right way.”

A perfect example is the lighting system at Coast Hills. Our current (and highly qualified) electrician looked at it and said, “There’s no point trying to fix the old system. It would take 2 guys a week just to figure it out. And in the end, we’d still say it all has to go. We’ll just start fresh and tear the old stuff out.” I have to tell you, I like this guy. He’s going to do it right. The sad thing is, we’re going to tear out thousands of feet of cable because it wasn’t done right. And we’re not talking preference here. We’re talking code violations a mile long and simple bad practices. And why? Because money was tight and it got skimped. Do I blame those responsible? In some ways, how can I--they didn’t know any better (except the electricians...). But we can learn from their mistakes.

Educate Yourself

When you hire contractors to do an install, first check them out. How many churches have they done? Go see their work. Make sure they get permits and be there for the inspections. I hate to say it, but don’t trust them. Check their work. Ask questions. Read up on codes and best practices and make sure they are followed. If you see sub-standard work being done, insist it’s taken out and done correctly. Don’t pay people that deliver sub-standard work. A good contractor will appreciate this level of attention to their trade. A bad one will want to leave before you fire them.

This is not a game. We are spending dollars--often a lot of them--that were given sacrificially by families to advance the work of the Kingdom. Every time we have to pay for something twice because it was done wrong the first time, we erode the trust people place in the Church. It is incumbent on you, the tech director to make sure the work is done right, and done once. Otherwise, someone like me will following in your footsteps and taking it all down and doing it again.