This past Sunday I had just finished shutting down our sound system and had gone out for some coffee and fellowship in our common area after Sunday’s service. I had just poured my coffee (2 cream, no sugar), when I was approached by the lead of our facilities team who eagerly announced he had “found” some money for us to upgrade our sound system. But as he was just heading out to brunch with his family he suggested that we should touch base later that week, and then he headed off without much chance for me to ask any questions? But he did leave me with what I can only assume was a very quizzical look on my face.
To give you some background, within the last 5 years we had the opportunity to upgrade our sound, lighting and video system through the generosity of some very healthy donations specifically allocated to technology within our Sanctuary. In upgrading our systems, which included moving from an analogue to digital sound board, replacing our aging speakers with a new line array speaker system, installing an LED lighting system to augment existing 50 year old lighting fixtures, and putting in a camera system allowing us to record video of our services for use on our website. So while technology has certainly improved since we upgraded our system 5 years ago, it certainly still meets our needs at this point in time. Don’t get me wrong I can always find ways to spend money, there are always new products/toys that would be great to put in place. But at the same time I always want to be pragmatic in how we spend the resources that are so generously made available to our ministry for the technology we do need.
So back to the quizzical look on my face. Where did our facilities person locate this “found” money, and what is our facilities person really talking about when he says an “upgrade” of our sound system? Because as far as I know there is no need for an upgrade to our sound system (and being the lead sound person, I thought I would know if there were any issues). As for the “found” money, where/who did it come from, and how much money is available?
As it turns out, the sound upgrade issues in question were the result of a conversation I had had with the facilities team a year earlier in which I outlined some “nice-to-have” things, and the need to ensure we plan for potential hardware failures and upgrades throughout the life of the investment we had made 4 years earlier. But the “nice-to-have” things I had mentioned a year ago were still not really a high-priority within our worship space. For example it would be nice to rebuild our A/V desk, which had been built 20 years ago. But there are currently other A/V issue within our Church that could benefit more should additional funds for technology be made available. And as for any small technology issues/repairs that have been needed in our Sanctuary (that are not under warranty), I have been able to be accommodate these purchases/repairs though a relatively small annual operating budget that is allocated to our worship budget rather than to any specific large-ticket capital expenditure.
Now as for the “found” money? As it turns out both the lead of our facilities team, as well as the person who is the book-keeper for our Church are both fairly new to their roles (only about a year or so for both of them). And it was a discussion/investigation between these two individuals last week that money was “found”. However the “found” money was what was remaining of the original capital donations made 5-years previously for technology within our Sanctuary. But rather than this money being simply left over from the upgrade that was done 5 years ago,. The money remaining (approximately 10% of the original funds donated) was intentionally saved for future upgrades/repairs that were either planned or unexpected. The thought being that if we had a catastrophic failure of an expensive piece of equipment such as our digital mixer, our video mixer, our lighting system, that could not be easily absorbed by a small operating budget. That this saved money would be easily available to cover off this type of equipment failure. And if not needed over the next 5 or 10 years, it will still be available when it is determined that we need to upgrade our technology again.
Now it is clear that not all Churches may be in a position to allocate unused funds in this way. But at the very least I would suggest that as a responsible steward of your Church’s resources that your Church plan for future technology upgrades/repairs. Relatively small annual allocations of funds are much easier to absorb in the long-term, rather than relying on large capital resources to become available to you when perhaps you do not expect to need them to.
It is analogous to your Church needing to repair a failing roof, in that you could take out a loan to cover the cost of a new roof if you cannot raise sufficient funds, and pay the loan off over time (with interest). Or simply set aside small annual amounts over a 20 or 30 year interest earning period, to enable you to pay for a new roof outright when the old roof does start to leak.
Now if your roof is currently leaking, by all means it does need to be fixed you should call a roofer. And if you need assistance with audio and video within your Church, call someone who specializes in Church audio and video systems for Churches.