What would you do if you wanted to become a pilot? You would seek out someone to teach you, right? It’s a practical and well-reasoned approach and one that we all agree with and understand.
Why is it, then, that when it comes to upgrading our church audio/visual equipment and systems we try to do it on our own?
A vast network of AV consultants and systems integrators stand ready to talk with you about your project, evaluate your needs, mention areas or items you should think about and pass along what they know to help you out. In most cases, they are a quick online search away.
A word of caution: there are an ever-increasing number of “integrators/installers” contacting churches, claiming to be professionals and making lots of promises. Do your due diligence-research their company, ask for references and examples of their work. A true professional should have these readily available and will be able to exhibit quality work.
Those that are only interested in a quick sale will push equipment that they have with them or have quick access to, promising the solution to your situation. Remember the old adages, “You get what you pay for,” and “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Any integrator or consultant worth your time is more interested in developing a long-term relationship with you and/or your church rather than making a quick sale. That kind of relationship is only possible if you as the client are satisfied with their service; this means they have a vested interest in helping you out. This also means they are willing to work with you, sometimes for years, in order to ensure that your project is completed at the right time for you, not them.
Now that we know what to look for in a system integrator, how can they help you, the small church?
Know what to buy and when
Oftentimes, small churches don’t have quality equipment, either because they don’t know what to buy for their needs, or because their budget has not allowed the purchase of quality gear. An integrator can help guide small churches into making wise investments into the right pieces of equipment; they will know where corners can be cut right now to manage costs and where investments must be made in order to maximize equipment longevity, flexibility, growth and reliability. Remember, stewardship is about how much money you don’t waste, not how much you saved on the purchase price. It’s focusing on value instead of price.
Integrators keep up with advances in equipment and software because it’s their job; small churches using volunteers to run the AV equipment every weekend don’t expect those volunteers to read through trade magazines, blogs and invest in continuing education in order to stay current.
Being able to tap into a knowledge base of an integrator can yield incredible results, regardless if you are asking about processes, signal flow, troubleshooting, upgrades or training; integrators bring an amazing wealth of knowledge and experience to the table.
It doesn’t matter how long you have been involved in your tech department; there is always room for improvement in your processes and an integrator can help identify those areas.
This goes beyond making sure microphones are ready to use before someone starts talking but extends into how an entire worship service flows, how people get onto and off of the platform, establishing standards that everyone is trained on so important tasks are not only done every time, but done the same way every time. It’s not about creating some routine that becomes robotic, but about raising the bar of quality so that tech does not call attention to itself but rather fulfills its mission; to supplement and support worshiping and experiencing God.
Small church pastors can struggle with casting a vision, either because they do not understand how important it is or because they were never taught how. Many pastors simply don’t know what is possible or understand the impact various tech ministries can have on the church and the community around them. Integrators can educate pastors and tech leaders about live streaming (audio and/or video), IMAG, video on demand, the difference a projection system or lighting system can make, etc.
Again, this is not about selling equipment, but rather opening eyes and letting leaders know about options they may not be aware of that can extend their impact and reach. Even a small change in the lighting system can bring an impact that can last for years. Installing an assisted listening system can not only help the church stay legal with the American Disabilities Act but can let those who are hard-of-hearing re-connect with the church service once again, for example.
Staying within the law:
Live streaming has seen an explosive rise over the last few years, with more and more churches live streaming every month. There are hidden dangers, not least of which are copyright lawsuits and “hidden” costs. Churches that don’t research what exactly is involved with live streaming correctly can make some very dangerous assumptions and decisions. An integrator can help steer you through the minefield; from obtaining the correct live streaming licenses to educating you on why those licenses are required to begin with.
Do you like paying retail price? Do you think that if you buy online you are always going to get the best price? Integrators have relationships with suppliers and equipment manufacturers that allow them to extend pricing that is often lower than any pricing you will be able to find on your own. This isn’t a universal truth but more often than not you will know you are getting a good deal. And remember, it’s not all about how much the equipment costs.
Tangible value is easy to determine: what equipment capabilities, reliability and functionality do you get for the money that you paid? Perhaps you get free shipping, or the perk that the integrator will take care of system design, order placement, shipping, tracking and installation. This would fall into the category of intangible value, which is is harder to recognize.
An integrator represents a high value to you in areas mentioned previously: continuing education, experience, knowledge, industry connections that allow for lower pricing than you can find on your own, and knowing that you don’t have to know it all.
So what is the value of having a partner that you can turn to when you have questions, want to learn, or wish to understand what is involved in an upgrade process? I cannot answer that for you, but I can encourage you to ask yourself what the inherent value is for your church in having easy-to-use, reliable, long-lasting and highly flexible audio/visual equipment coupled with the knowledge that you have a professional resource you can call should anything go wrong, either now or in the future? What is your peace of mind worth? Because that is the value an integrator offers to you and your church.