When I was in college, there was a professor who was known for shooting straight. When a student tried to excuse his unfinished assignment by claiming there were so many other things he was trying to work on, the professor simply waved his hand and said, “Priorities, son. Priorities.” That phrase has been rattling around in my head a lot the last few weeks.

By know, most of you know I’ve recently started as TD of Coast Hills Community Church. It’s a great church with a great history. Originally formed by a husband and wife with a huge heart for the arts, we have perhaps one of the best performing arts facilities in Orange County. We also have a facility that needs every major system upgraded, repaired or replaced. Sound, lights, video; they all need love. We need a new PA, new wireless, there’s a ton of cable to be replaced and removed and we’re contemplating the switch to in-ear monitors. Our entire dimming system needs replaced–complete with every inch of wiring. Even the battens are the wrong size and need to be taken down and replaced. We have two unmatched cameras–one good, one 20+ years old. They feed the side screens (Christie 8K projectors) via a composite video cable fed from a Panasonic MX-50. Even the tripods, while not bad in and of themselves, are the wrong ones (way too big) and need to be replaced.

Even though we’re in Orange County, one of the more affluent regions in the country, we still have a finite budget. I wish I could tell you that I’ve been given carte blanche to replace any and every system. That is not the case. I told my boss before I came in that we needed to come up with a 5-year plan for upgrading, replacing and repairing our infrastructure. It’s that big of a project.

I’m sure many of you are in the same boat. You inherited systems that you know need to be replaced or upgraded. You may even feel overwhelmed by it all. So I wanted to let you in on my process. This is not the definitive way of doing things, just my way. It’s worked pretty well in the past, so I’m sticking with it.

First off, I’m not changing much of anything for my first few months. That seems counter-intuitive, I know. However, it always struck me as very presumptuous for a new person to walk in a start making big changes before he (or she) gets to know the people and the systems. In fact, I’m spending a lot more time getting to know people than planning system upgrades. I want to find out where they are, what is working and what is not. I need to learn the processes and procedures and see how efficient they are. This process seems slow and unproductive at first, but it yields huge dividends down the road. Once people realize that I A) know what I’m talking about and B) care about what they say, change comes much easier.

So rather than writing proposals and getting estimates (though I’m doing a little of that), I’m going out to lunch with staff and volunteers; meeting with contractors; and spending time with my boss. Now that our Sr. Pastor is back from his summer break, I’ll be meeting with him to find out what his goals and desires are and we’ll start working up a plan to make them reality.

That’s the initial approach. Once we get a few months down the road, I’ll start prioritizing new equipment. Tomorrow I’ll take you behind the curtain on that process.