Asking for New Equipment – Know When It’s Right

Asking for New Equipment

Don’t get caught focusing on only the financial aspect. Photo provided by Leonardini

In my early days of church audio, I would have asked for a piece of equipment and said, “We have to have this or the world will end!”  As you know, the Book of Revelation doesn’t indicate any pro audio gear deficit as a sign of the apocalypse so my requests were denied.  Years later, I’m taking a multi-step approach.

Every time I’ve wanted to buy new equipment or upgrade the existing equipment, I’ve felt there were two questions I had to ask myself;

  1. Can the church afford it?
  2. Do I want this so I can use it or because it benefits the church?

The answer to the first question is usually easy.  It’s that second question which is challenging.  It’s challenging because you’re forced to call into questions your motives.  Would it be cool to have it?  Would anyone else want it?  Could it really improve the audio production?  Would you still be using it in a year?

I’m looking at a significant upgrade request at my church.  Before I take this request to the pastor / church board, I need to make sure my motives are good and the upgrade really would benefit everyone.  So I started thinking about a multi-step plan in which I could do this.

I wanted the plan;

  • to show me if I should pursue the upgrade or not
  • to incorporate prayer in the right way
  • to provide a resulting document that I could use for presenting the request, if it was deemed a proper request.

The plan turned out to have six steps.  These are steps you can use for evaluating your own equipment desires.

The six steps to evaluating equipment requests;

1. Identify the purpose.  

Determine the exact purpose of a new piece of equipment.  You should be as detailed as possible.  The more details, the more obvious if your request is a good one.

For example;

“The purpose of upgrading to a new ABC digital mixer is for replacing the existing mixing console, which has several bad channels.  The existing church service uses all the channels and now problems with this limitation are arising on a regular basis.  Additionally, the existing booth equipment does not include audio control capabilities that would be included in the new ABC digital mixing board.  These addition control capabilities would improve the quality of the audio production.”

2. Identify the benefits.  

List the benefits of the equipment and who benefits.  These should be quantifiable benefits where possible.

For example;

“The new mixer would benefit the congregation through producing a more consistent production each week.  One way is the ability to add compression which would be beneficial for finally resolving the ever increasing drum volume and vocal volume spikes.  The congregation would benefit because they would receive a more consistent volume for worship.  The sound tech would benefit because they won’t have to continually monitor volumes and the current discussions with the drummer have not resulted in volume improvements.  (Nothing against drummers, I’m just picking a random example.)

The congregation, the band, and the sound techs would benefit through the mixer’s Virtual Sound Check wherein the sound tech can work on the mix without the band.  This would also help with further tech training and saving baseline mixes for each band.  The congregation could see a superior mix within a few weeks of the new mixer being added. ”

3. Identify the impact.  

How would the new equipment negatively impact people?

Keeping up with the “new mixer” example;

“The impact would be the requirement of training all sound techs in using the new mixer.  An increased functionality means more to learn and a possible temporary decrease in the quality of audio production until everyone was up-to-speed on using the mixer.  This could be minimized through mid-week training sessions with the Virtual Sound Check functionality.  The congregational impact would be minimized through a month of training and practicing during mid-week worship band practices.”

4. Identify the cost.  

What is the obvious cost?  What are the additional costs?

For example;

“The cost of the new mixer is $$$.  Additional costs of $$ would need to be allocated for replacing three cables and getting two additional cables for abc.  Training cost, from an outside source, would be $$ but could be removed if I first learned the mixer and then trained the techs.  Online video training is also available for free from the manufacturer.”

5. Give it the screen test.  

Imagine describing this need to the congregation and then displaying the cost on the big screen.  How would they react?

6. Pray about it.  

Pray for direction.  Examine what you wrote for points 1-5.  The descriptions you gave should all point to validating the need.  However, you might not have considered something or even with everything seeming good-to-go, God might have a reason to say “not now.”  Spend ample time in prayer over this.  I’m not talking about a 15-minute prayer session.  I’m talking about praying consistently for two weeks.

* Please note the above examples are brief for the sake of this article.  You want to be as complete in your answers as possible.

The last step

Equipment needs to be purchased for the right reasons under the right conditions.  Once you feel it’s time to ask for your equipment upgrade, place all of the above information into a document and use that for your formal request.  You might find, through prayer and/or analyzing your comments,  it’s not the right time.  Save the document and revisit the idea in six months.

*Note: this information was first outlined in the March newsletter but I’ve really felt prompted to publish this on the site was well.

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  1. Cajundaddy says

    Great post Chris. We always wrestle with these questions. I would add even a few more:

    1. What problem are we trying to overcome and is this the best long term solution?
    List the problem, all possible solutions and related costs.
    Real life example:
    Our snare drum has been measured and reports at 150db. It is bleeding all over the drum kit mics and even onto the stage through plexiglass barriers.
    Possible solutions:
    * Get another snare. $500
    * Get another drummer who doesn’t hit it so hard.
    * Send our drummer to a workshop to learn how to reign it in. $200
    * Mute the snare in a musical way. $50
    * Add compression to all drum channels. $1200

    In this case, the snare was so overpowering that adding compression by the truckload would make the entire drum kit sound awful. The best solution for us was a drum workshop by pro Christian players who understood the problems well and offered great solutions for the players. Our drummers were also energized by including them in the solution. Result: A much more balanced drum kit before mics are even turned up. Much easier for our sound techs to mix now, and control of the stage volume is restored.

    2. If we defer our gear purchase, how many homeless can we feed with those funds? This one always tends to keep our motives pure. We all love shiny new gear but we have to get real about our purpose in the church. It’s not about us. Bringing people closer to God through worship and taking care of people in need always have to come first. What would Jesus do?

  2. Tom Dunn says

    I’m in the process of putting together a proposal for a few new items at the moment and I’ve found this very useful. Especially the challenge of the second question! Thanks :-)