Structured Growth

In Uncategorizedby tfwm

You’ve just bought that great new 5000-lumen projector that is going to shine on your brand new screen. You have the software to project the songs. You might even have a DV camera and an iMac with iMovie to splice in some video for your services.

You’ve got your ministry set… that is, for the time being. Every ministry goes through growth spurts. You start off with that initial struggle to actually start a media ministry and then once you get it, you start to think of what comes next. All of a sudden, the children’s ministry wants a recruitment video, the pastor wants 200 copies of his last sermon to mail out, and your congregation is spilling out into the streets because your sanctuary is too small to hold everyone. What started off as wonderful new media equipment is now being stretched beyond its means and you’re thinking, “If I could only get that new G5 with Final Cut Pro, I would get all this editing done.”

Of course, by the time you are faced with these problems, you are already way behind the game and just scrambling to catch up. I bet every media department in every church can give you at least one story of this happening to them. The caveat to this is, let’s say you buy those 32″ Sony TVs for the lobby and quickly rig them in. It becomes much easier to do again, and before you know it, you’ve got a hodge podge of equipment that you are not using to its fullest capacity. I’ve learned this lesson myself. I am living this lesson myself.

At one point I was face to face with a new building budget that was going to be way too small, and a design consultant asking me over and over again to seriously consider why I needed every little piece of equipment. I had to come up with a plan of how the technology was going to look in the future. To do that, I had to look at where we are, and where we had been. What were the problems we faced in the past? How did we solve them? Were they even solved, or were they just left hanging?

Then I had to think about where we wanted to be technologically in 5 years. This meant determining what technologies are presently available, where they are heading and how they can benefit us as a ministry. Finally and most importantly, I had to decide how we as a church and a ministry were going to get there.

So where are you right now? Take a hard look at your ministry’s technology. Are you using this equipment to the fullest capability? I once had a college professor tell me that when it comes to technology “We all have Ferrari’s, but we never get out of second gear.” So the best place to start with your growth chart is to look at what you are currently using. What is it that this piece of equipment can really do?

I have always been a fan of reading the most boring books in the world: owner’s manuals. They give me ideas and a chance to really understand my equipment and make sure I’m using it to its fullest capacity. If you buy a $3000 miniDV camera you don’t want to only get $1000 dollars worth of use out of it, do you? Of course not. You want to get what you pay for, and in those manuals are keys to using the equipment to it’s fullest capacity.

Our media ministry currently has a huge problem. We have over 4000 hours of video and absolutely no catalog system. When we want to find an interview we shot two years ago, we have to rely on the memory of our department director to remember when it was shot. Then there is the matter of finding the tape in amongst the shelves and shelves of tape that we have. Once we find the tape, we have to review it to make sure it’s what we needed for that specific piece. If not, we start the whole process over.

This very inefficient model of ‘hunt and peck’ was started in motion 4 years ago when the ministry started. It worked fine for the first year of operation, but with no long range plan there was no structure for a cataloging system to grow with. When I was hired a year ago as Technical Director, part of my initial goal was to fix that system. Not an easy task in the least, but I had at least identified the issue and was ready to move ahead.

After a year, I am happy to say that I’m about 50% of the way through this project. No, I don’t have 2000 hours of tape logged, I don’t even have one hour logged. I have a plan as to how it’s going to get done. Research and planning comprise half your battle when you are trying to implement a new system. I’ve spent many hours on the phone with design consultants. I’ve sent hundreds of emails to manufacturers, and mostly sifted through 1000’s of websites and email lists. Research is paramount when you are buying new equipment.

Before you decide on a single product though, there are a couple things you need to look at. One, will it integrate into your current system?

Let’s say you have a great new PowerMac G5 with all the bells and whistles that is running iMovie or even Final Cut Pro. Up to this point, your firewire camera has been doing great, but you really want to move up the ladder so you buy a used Beta SP camera off Ebay at a good price. So now you have a great camera to go with your great editing system. There’s only one problem. That Beta camera doesn’t have firewire out like your miniDV camera does. How do you get the great footage you shot into the great editing system you have? A little research and planning before hand would have solved this problem.

The next thing you need to look at is, will that piece of equipment carry you into the next few years or the next phase of your ministry.

Again, let’s look at that Beta camera you bought. It’s from Ebay so it’s used, but you got it at a great price and you needed something at the time that was better than your miniDV. If it is used, what is the likelihood that it will last you 3 years? How are the heads on it? Has the camera seen a lot of field work? If so, what are the odds of it lasting you until your ministry is ready to reinvest in equipment? How much are you going to spend in maintenance and repair a year? If that cost is high, then maybe it would be a better value to wait and use the miniDV camera until you can afford the new camera system.

This gives a better investment that might create a lower yearly cost. One thing that many people forget is Total Cost of Ownership. How much is this going to cost you two years from now? Look at a projector. What is the lamp life and how many lamps might you go through in a year? What is the cost per lamp? These costs can sometimes dictate where your ministry is going to head technologically.

So what is your next step? Assess your current technology, then make a plan for where you want to be in two and then five years. What are the areas where your technology can be better utilized? Read your manuals. I promise you will learn something from them that you haven’t before. It could even give you some ideas that you didn’t know were possible.

Check out websites. I have a list of about 20-30 websites I check on a daily basis. There are thousands of great bulletin boards and email lists out there that can provide you with the resources you need. To find these, just do a google search or ask around to others who might be in your situation.

I also host a forum on Yahoo Groups called Church Video. If you are interested in joining this email list just send an email to or visit the site There is something out there for every church and every situation. The point is not always to have the newest and greatest, but to have a plan to move your ministry along effectively. Remember to research, plan, and of course, pray.