Making decisions to upgrade and replace wisely - Word&Way

Making decisions to upgrade and replace wisely

For many churches, fall signals finalizing next year’s church budget. In the middle of decisions about salaries and supplies are often questions about facilities and audiovisual equipment.

Does equipment need to be upgraded or replaced? Is it time to launch a website or to stream the services? Here are some questions to ask — and answer — before making a budget request:

Ken Satterfield

Where are we now? It is hard to get to a destination if you don’t know your starting point.

Take time to review the media ministry. Worship needs include sound, lighting and projection systems, church website, duplication equipment, computers, cameras and tripods, software and behind-the-scenes production equipment.

Though not directly addressed here, also remember equipment used in classrooms and offices, Wi-Fi systems or equipment that may be taken out of the church to other locations.

Where are we going? It is hard to reach your destination if you aren’t sure where it is.

Gather input from worship leaders, ministers and support staff, and those who actually use the equipment, including volunteers. Discover dreams, current problems and ideas.

Shure ( lists questions to ask in deciding when to upgrade a sound system from sound engineer/consultant Josh Isenhart. These can be adapted to other uses.

In a 2005 series for Church Central (, Andrew Coppedge discussed how long sound, video and lighting equipment should be expected to last. More recently, he addressed assumptions of upgrading projection systems for Experiencing Worship (

Who is giving directions? It is hard to find the best route to your destination if you are using the wrong map.

Use care and discernment as you look for advice and suggestions. Area ministers and online forums can yield guidance from the front lines of ministry. Advice and recommendations from friends, a salesperson on commission, or local stores promoting certain brands or the latest equipment option can also be useful — or may lead to ill-advised purchases not in your best interest, depending on experience and underlying motivation.

Just as problematic are recommendations by those whose strengths are in finances rather than audiovisuals. Off-brand and discount equipment today could lead to tomorrow’s reminder that “you get what you pay for,” and the reason for the phrase, “too good to be true.”

Erik Matlock, a professional who has sold, purchased and operated equipment, comments in Church Production Magazine ( his surprise that a church may buy unneeded equipment but balk at paying for a professional to evaluate its needs.

What route are you choosing? It is hard to make good time when you run into road construction.

Should you buy locally or off the Internet? Many times a local retailer may not be able to compete with online prices, though other considerations — proper installation, local help, training and immediate sales support — may offset the difference.

How are we planning for the next trip? It is hard to take trips without money or transportation.

Just as the church may set aside money for building projects, deferred maintenance and emergency repairs, consider ways to fund equipment purchases. Do you buy or lease equipment? This could mean a fund for future needs, a schedule of replacements or a little of both.

Another necessity is regular maintenance by staff or volunteers, who may require training, or by an area professional, who must be paid. Without regular cleaning and checking for software and firmware updates, you leave yourself open to aggravation, additional repairs and more frequent purchases.

Likewise, just as a piano needs periodic tuning, it may be necessary for someone to adjust your sound, lighting and projection systems for best performance.

Gary Zandstra emphasizes the importance of planning for maintenance and consideration of technological advancements for Church Hub (

Embarking on a journey that leads to the best equipment available for your budget is a trip that never really ends. Yet, it is necessary to provide well-functioning, usable equipment to enhance worship and your church’s ministries.

Ken Satterfield is advertising/marketing coordinator for Word & Way.