Many church leaders would agree with the Merriam-Webster definition of stewardship as “the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.” Generally speaking, churches manage their money fairly well, choosing where to direct those tithes and offerings so they will have the most impact.
When it comes to audio/visual systems, I have found that most churches view tech as an expense line item on the balance sheet and nothing more. However, church technology should be viewed as an investment because it has the capacity to further the reach of the message beyond the walls of your local church. It is evangelism, pure and simple; even for the local church congregation and the guests who attend, being able to clearly hear, see and experience the church service and the message is critically important.
We need a fundamental mindset shift in how we approach our audio/visual systems, especially when it comes to funding and upgrading those systems. Too often, churches focus on the bottom line cost rather than the value they are receiving for their out of pocket expense. You may pay less money up front in order to get equipment but if you replace that equipment 2-3 times in the next 5-10 years, you will likely be spending more money in the long-term than you would have by investing the money on quality equipment to begin with.
Additionally, many churches fail to think about, or worse, fail to have, a long-term vision for the mission of the church. This leads to ad-hoc A/V systems being put together over many years as leadership changes and various ministries needing A/V support come and go. Without a over-arching and unifying vision, churches are throwing money away and that is poor stewardship. One of the first conversations I have when talking to a church about an A/V upgrade is with leadership and the long-term mission of the church because I want to design and build systems that will serve the church for at least the next 5 years to ensure they are making a good investment.
TCO (total cost of ownership) is an extremely important factor to work out when evaluating equipment as it will inform your purchase decision and its impact, both now, and during the entire life cycle of your equipment and will tell you if you’re making a wise investment or not.
A current project I’m working on has me evaluating the TCO of laser projectors vs. lamp-based projectors. The laser projectors, while costing twice as much as a lamp-based equivalent, will actually pencil out as less expensive over the course of an estimated 15 year life span. The older a lamp-based projector gets, the harder it will be to find replacement lamps and their cost per lamp will only rise as supply becomes more rare. Maintenance will also become a factor over time as the laser units don’t require maintenance but there are filters to clean and replace on the lamp-based projectors. Ultimately, the savings will pencil out to be approximately over $2000 long-term.
Additional factors that could have monetary impact are warranties, customer support, electrical work needed, who will handle the installation and ensure local codes are being adhered to, and how will this equipment fit into your current system?
I hope you see how important shifting our mindset towards value will ultimately help us be good stewards of the financial resources God has entrusted to us because by not wasting money, we ultimately save money.