I saw some posts last week on the old inter-webs that made me think back to an experience I had in High School. I loved wood shop class; in fact, I took the required one, then went on to take all the other elective classes offered. I took to working with wood like a fish to water. I would even spend study halls in the shop working on my building projects. One day, a friend of mine was struggling with his project. He really didn’t like shop, and just wanted to get it done. He asked me for help.
I said yes because I almost always say yes, even when I don’t want to help. And I really didn’t want to help; I wanted to work on my project. So I rather half-heartedly stood near him and watched him work. When it came time for glue up, things started going…badly. I ignored it and kept saying, “Yeah, yeah, that’s fine.” But it wasn’t fine. About then, our teacher, Mr. Brown, happened by, saw what was happening and put the brakes on. After correcting my friends mistakes, he looked at me and said, “Mike, if you’re going to help, help. But don’t set him back.” In my case, I knew better. I just didn’t really care enough about his finished product to fix the problems.
I’ve also seen another kind of “help” throughout my career. It’s what I like to call, “well intentioned, but terribly uninformed” help. And that was what I saw in that post last week. Someone posted pictures of a new speaker “system” they installed and it took about 3 seconds to realize that it was not going to sound good and was likely dangerous. This person used speakers that weren’t rated for flying over head and flew them over head. They crossed the speakers in the middle and the subs fired in opposite directions. All I could think of was Mr. Brown saying, “If you’re going to help, help. But don’t set them back.”
Here we have $3,000-4,000 of the congregations tithes and offerings hanging the air, unsafely and in a manner that has no chance of working well. Now clearly, the person who installed this wants to help their church. Unfortunately, they don’t even know why this install is a bad idea. So ultimately, it’s not helpful at all. Not only will this not sound good, at some point the church will have to bring something else in and do it again, spending more of the congregation’s money.
I’ve Been There
I know you may think that because I worked at a larger church with larger budgets that I don’t understand the struggle small churches face. But that’s not true. Yes, I spent 5 years at a larger church with a large-ish budget. However, I also spent 20 years at small churches with small to no budgets. Most of my career has been taking out systems like the one previously described to put in something that actually does work. So I get it. But here’s the thing:
Churches that never seem to have the money to do things right the first time always find money to do it again. And again.
And I get it that you want to save your church money by doing things yourself. How hard could it be, anyway? But when you install something improperly, unsafely or that just doesn’t work, you’re not saving the church any money. It’s all going to have to come back down. Buying something twice is always more expensive that buying it once. That’s just how math works.
There is No Shame in Asking for Help
Most of the best technical directors I know—and I know a lot of them—don’t do system design by themselves. Very few are good at it; and these are guys with years of experience at large churches. When it comes time to install a new system, they hire a company that does that stuff well. Sure, they have ideas and input, but they trust the experts. This is even more critical at small churches. Yes, it may cost as much to design and install a small system as the components themselves. But, it will be safe and sound good from day one. That actually is help.
So let’s be champions for doing things right the first time. That doesn’t mean horrifically expensive; just do it right, once. If you’re going to help, make sure you’re actually helping.