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Spending Less And Expecting More

I got a lot of noteworthy responses from my Facebook Group when I posted this statement:

“From what I understand most buying decisions in the church come down to this… How can I spend the least amount of money and still meet or exceed my expectations?”

Highlights from the discussion

I’ve found that most churches either
A) Just don’t value certain elements and thus choose not to put money in their budget for them

B) Severely underestimate costs that they have to back track.

Work out what we need, pitch for budget. If you get it spend it, BUT first try and get it cheaper so you get more for your money.

Vision drives Need, Need drives Budget. We like to spend the least amount of money that yields the highest ROI over the next 5-7 years. This often is not the “least amount of money to get the job done,” but often a mid-range package/system that will serve us for the lifecycle of the equipment rather than replace working equipment after two years due to archaic firmware (no longer supported by the manufacturer)/feature sets/transport protocols.

I think the original question need not be construed pejoratively, since I think that any wise purchasing decision attempts to get the best value possible. The difficulty is that for many items- especially equipment which has a very high threshold of expertise to understand, use and intelligently purchase- there is a very wide disconnect between what is desired and what is the going market rate for the item that will competently and consistently perform that task. I think that because of this there is the tendency to equate “least amount of money possible” with “cheap alternative,” the result often being that the efforts to save money in the short term equate to a relative longer term cost due to having to replace substandard equipment, etc. I think that in many churches we actually try to do way too much and thus end up doing a lot of things really poorly, when there probably needs to be a more concerted prioritization of resources, which means some things have to necessarily fall by the wayside. If that means technology-related things, either as a priority or not, then by all means embrace what one can do well (i.e., having the resources, talent, vision, etc.) and run with it.

I wonder how many of these issues come from us as tech directors or creatives not setting proper expectations or having hard conversations with leadership? I’m not throwing blame, I’m in the same boat. I’ve royally messed some stuff up before because I did as told without setting expectations. It’s pretty common for pastors, elders or leadership to come and say “do this” for “this much” and we lower our heads and try to make it work. The problem is they don’t know what it takes, and they shouldn’t. That’s not their jobs, it’s ours. I had to reign in our leadership a few times because their expectations were too high for the budget or timeframe, and they were very technically savvy. I think we should be constantly educating and teaching. This is a two way road. For example, if you know you’ll need a new audio board in the next 3 years, tell your pastor or leadership now. That way when the current board fails in 2 or 3 years they’re ready. Keep reminding them, too. They have a day to day unlike ours and they forget. A big part is also attitude and the way issues like these are discussed. Don’t be reactive, be proactive. Don’t be judgmental, be an educator and context maker. Speak in love, not frustration. That will get you further than you think.

But remember. Spending less money isn’t always the cheapest. Sometimes it’s cheaper to spend more on something that’s going to last. Being a good Stewart is more about spending money wisely than it is spending less money.

Do you agree?