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Is It Time to Buy New A/V Equipment?
By: Chris Huff

In my early days of church audio, I would have asked for a piece of equipment and said, "We have to have this or the world will end!" As you know, the Book of Revelation doesn't indicate any pro audio gear deficit as a sign of the apocalypse, so my requests were denied. Years later, I'm taking a multi-step approach.

Every time I've wanted to buy new equipment or upgrade the existing equipment, I've felt there were two questions I had to ask myself:

* Can the church afford it?

* Do I want this so I can use it or because it benefits the church?

The answer to the first question is usually easy. It's that second question that is challenging. It's challenging because you're forced to call into question your motives. 

Would it be cool to have it? Would anyone else want it? Could it really improve the audio production? Would you still be using it in a year?

I'm looking at a significant upgrade request at my church. Before I take this request to the pastor/church board, I need to make sure that my motives are good and that the upgrade really would benefit everyone. So, I started thinking about a multi-step plan in which I could do this.

I wanted the plan:

* To show me if I should pursue the upgrade or not

* To incorporate prayer in the right way

* To provide a resulting document that I could use for presenting the request, if it was deemed a proper request

The plan turned out to have six steps. These are steps you can use for evaluating your own equipment desires.

Here are the six steps to evaluating equipment requests:

1. Identify the Purpose
Determine the exact purpose of a new piece of equipment. You should be as detailed as possible. The more details, the more obvious if your request is a good one.

For example:

The purpose of upgrading to a new ABC digital mixer is for replacing the existing mixing console, which has several bad channels. The existing church service uses all the channels and now problems with this limitation are arising on a regular basis. Additionally, the existing booth equipment does not include audio control capabilities that would be included in the new ABC digital mixing board. These addition control capabilities would improve the quality of the audio production.

2. Identify the Benefits
List the benefits of the equipment and who benefits. These should be quantifiable benefits where possible.

For example:

The new mixer would benefit the congregation through producing a more consistent production each week.  One way is the ability to add compression, which would be beneficial for finally resolving the ever increasing drum volume and vocal volume spikes.

The congregation would benefit because they would receive a more consistent volume for worship. The sound tech would benefit because they won't have to continually monitor volumes and the current discussions with the drummer have not resulted in volume improvements. 

The congregation, the band, and the sound techs would benefit through the mixer's virtual sound check, wherein the sound tech can work on the mix without the band. This would also help with further tech training and saving baseline mixes for each band. The congregation could see a superior mix within a few weeks of the new mixer being added.   

3. Identify the Impact
How would the new equipment negatively impact people?

Keeping up with the "new mixer" example:

The impact would be the requirement of training all sound techs in using the new mixer. An increased functionality means more to learn and a possible temporary decrease in the quality of audio production until everyone was up-to-speed on using the mixer. 

This could be minimized through mid-week training sessions with the virtual sound check functionality. The congregational impact would be minimized through a month of training and practicing during mid-week worship band practices. 

4. Identify the Cost
What is the obvious cost? What are the additional costs?

For example:

The cost of the new mixer is $$$. Additional costs of $$ would need to be allocated for replacing three cables and getting two additional cables for ABC. Training cost, from an outside source, would be $$ but could be removed if I first learned the mixer and then trained the techs. Online video training is also available for free from the manufacturer.

5. Give It the Screen Test
Imagine describing this need to the congregation and then displaying the cost on the big screen.  How would they react?

6. Pray About It
Pray for direction. Examine what you wrote for points 1-5. The descriptions you gave should all point to validating the need. 

However, you might not have considered something or even with everything seeming good-to-go, God might have a reason to say "not now." Spend ample time in prayer over this. I'm not talking about a 15-minute prayer session. I'm talking about praying consistently for two weeks.

Please note the above examples are brief for the sake of this article. You want to be as complete in your answers as possible.

The Last Step
Equipment needs to be purchased for the right reasons under the right conditions. Once you feel it's time to ask for your equipment upgrade, place all of the above information into a document and use that for your formal request. 

You might find, through prayer and/or analyzing your comments that it's not the right time.  Save the document. Revisit it in six months.

Chris Huff is the owner of Behind the Mixer, a resource for churches and their research into sound systems, www.BehindtheMixer.com.

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