You’ve kind of done it to yourself, you know.
You’ve treated your congregation to quality sound, lighting and video. The impact of those technical achievements on the audience has not been lost on the leaders of other ministry areas in your church. So when the Women’s Ministry, or the Men’s Ministry, or the Youth Group, or the Children’s Ministry, or the Single’s Ministry, or the Prison Ministry, or whatever group decides to host some event of their own – be it their weekly on-site meeting or a special event off campus – they’re going to want technical support for their meetings as well. And indeed they should have that quality. But quality for everyone is something that needs to be planned for, and though some may resist, paid for.
Anytime a group moves beyond about 40 or 50 people in attendance, the need for a sound system to support the spoken word with intelligibility, and to play music with warmth and clarity, becomes important. If the presenter has a need to display visual graphics of some sort to an audience that size, the need for a large screen and projector comes into play. The 17-inch screen on his laptop isn’t going to cut it. Controlled lighting can also help make the projected image easier to see while not putting the presenter in the shadows.
Of course that level of technical support may not be practical to provide for all groups in all settings, but don’t be surprised if you see requests for it. The key is to make some equipment and cabling available to those groups in a way that is fair to all.
Supply Their Needs & Control the Supply
Identifying and developing a system that works for you takes some careful planning. You will need to sort out what those technical support needs might be over a period of time. One place to start is to talk with leaders from the various ministries that would use these systems, in particular to debrief with them about the successes and any shortcomings that they have experienced with technical support systems in their meetings over the past couple of years.
• How many people attend their typical events?
• What does the programming involve?
– Spoken word only?
– Music groups? (Find out details!)
• Did their presenters need video support?
• Did they want to record those events?
– Audio or Video?
• Where do they typically hold these events?
– On site or off campus?
• What are those rooms like acoustically?
• What technical equipment do those rooms have for their use?
• If those systems require a separate rental fee, how much do they cost?
• If possible, gather photos of those rooms or go evaluate them firsthand.
Make sure that you come up with a realistic summary that truly reflects the technical support needs of each group. Then for each individual group, put together a detailed equipment list that specifically addresses all of those needs. The list should address all of the practical needs first, and specifically what equipment currently in your inventory that you could assign to that system without diluting the strength of your in-house systems. For example, you don’t want to mark one of your floor monitors from the main sanctuary as being available for use in a portable system because you’ll find it gone from the stage on the very weekend you need it most.
Unless you have an unlimited budget, you’re not going to go buy each ministry group their own system. Rather, your goal is to come up with one package of equipment that serves the needs of all of those groups. Create a spreadsheet matrix that shows how you can use one system to satisfy the needs of all groups both small and large. Then it becomes a matter of scheduling.
The system should allow equal access on a first-come, first-served basis. In other words, if the Youth Group has an event off campus this Saturday, and they have filed the paperwork to reserve the system indicating that they will pick it up on Friday evening and return it late Saturday night, then the Women’s Ministry can’t expect to use the system for their event on Friday night.
If there are items needed for this portable system that are not currently in your inventory, then make a list of those items and schedule a time to bring it up with the church’s financial board so that they can be added to a capital equipment list for future purchase. It will help your case if you can show the committee a calendar of meetings over the next twelve to eighteen months to clarify how often a particular item would be used by these various ministries.
Frankly, putting together such a list might surprise even you. You may want to indicate to your financial board that there are certain items that only one or two of those ministries have requested, that those items would not be used very frequently, and therefore it is your recommendation that funds be set aside to rent those items when needed rather than purchasing them. Those rental fees might need to come out of that particular ministry’s operating budget.
Speaking of financial concerns, there should also be some system in place to identify and reimburse the church for needed repairs. Normal wear and tear is one thing, but misusing or flat out abusing the system should not be accepted.
When you return a rental car to the airport, the person checking you in discretely surveys the vehicle for any notable damage. My suggestion is that a similar type of check-in approach should be in place in your church. For example, if a loudspeaker is damaged during a meeting because the amplifier was driven into clipping for an extended period of time, and the loudspeakers are returned with the high frequency drivers blown, then the ministry that checked it out last should pay for the repairs.
To properly evaluate the technical condition of the system, it should be returned to a member of the tech team, someone who knows the condition of the system and will note any problems upon its return.
The goal is simply to clarify that the equipment is operating properly, that there are no blown speakers, burned out projector lamps, and so on. That will ensure that the ministry that is expecting to use a properly working system for their major event next weekend won’t give you a surprise phone call from their event site two hours away from the church, and find you having to deal with a replacement issue quickly and at some distance.
If done properly and with the support and authority of your pastoral staff, then all of this planning and preparation will ultimately stop the flow of equipment being borrowed from your main stage and from other systems by well-intentioned people. In 99% of the cases, those items are truly taken either out of sheer ignorance of the fact that taking them jeopardizes the technical excellence of the main service, or with the genuine intention of bringing them back in time so they are not missed.
A formal, organized system that holds the borrowers accountable for returning the system on time and in the same condition they found it in is simply good stewardship of the tools that God has given your church to minister with.