5 Tips for Making the Most of Your Church Tech Budget
I’m convinced that nobody – absolutely nobody – would be capable of spending a six or seven-figure budget as fast as a church tech director. While I joke, the truth is that everything in that world is expensive, and there is always a better version of whatever it is you’re buying. Cameras, computers, light boards, lights, sound boards, stage designs, audio systems, music gear, software…
Unfortunately, I don’t think most church tech directors have the luxury of working with a seven-figure budget. In fact, for most tech directors, purchasing a single high-end camera could consume the entire year’s tech budget.
So, when working with a limited budget as a church tech director, how do you make the most of it? Here are a few general principles you can apply:
1) Know What to Go Cheap On
I’ve heard of church tech directors spending a pretty penny on brand new, expensive Mogami Gold XLR cables for all their stage mics, and then going and buying a cheap camera on Craigslist.
Priorities are huge. The first question you should be asking yourself is “what will impact the production quality of the service the most?” Obviously, things like cables may have a slight bearing on that, but the type of music gear, the soundboard you’re using, your light board, the types of lights – those things are of much greater concern when it comes to increasing production quality.
Know what to go cheap on. On anything smaller like cables and mics, don’t be afraid of buying used and looking for deals. Use the cost savings to invest in the gear that’s going to make a greater impact, and don’t be distracted by “shiny objects” of gear that’s not absolutely crucial.
2) Sell Unused Gear
If you’re upgrading a piece of gear, make sure to sell the old one if it’s not absolutely crucial to keep around. Same applies for old gear that’s just sitting and collecting dust.
Many of us use the excuse that it’s “backup gear just in case,” but unless that’s really the case, get rid of it. If it’s not absolutely essential to have around, the money will be more usefully allocated elsewhere.
3) Keep a Priority and Pricing List
This is a helpful trick I’ve seen a few people do. You may be able to rattle off your top gear wish-list items to me right now, but as time goes on, you watch videos and stalk sales on Marketplace/Craigslist, and your list begins to change. You forget what was on your list and why, and you start making bad purchases. It happens.
Here’s the solution: make a list of all your gear wish-list items. Then rank them first on priority (n/10). Then go back through and add the pricing for the items – what you’d expect to pay new and used. Keep that list, and if there’s anything you want to purchase, you put it on the list first. If it doesn’t outrank the top item in its priority out of 10, you don’t buy it yet.
It’s a simple, linear, organized way of tracking what it is that you actually need, and keeps you focused with your purchases.
4) Be Smart About When to Buy
We all know that prices fluctuate greatly throughout the year as different sales come up. Find all your wish-list gear online and start watching it on a variety of sites, both used and new markets. You’ll obviously be expecting the pricing to drop significantly around Black Friday and Thanksgiving, so if it’s feasible for you to wait till then, it can be an excellent way to make the most of your church tech budget.
5) Talk to Other Church Tech Directors
Whether it means reaching out to other churches to ask their tech director for opinions, or posting on forums and Facebook groups, make sure you are constantly communicating with other tech directors!
Sometimes we all get so caught up in “our ideal setup,” and we fail to realize that there are others who have tried the exact thing you’re aiming to do. They’ll have actual feedback on how it works and whether there are alternatives you should consider.
Engaging with other tech directors is so important. They may have ideas you never thought of, and gear recommendations for items that were never even on your radar.
About the Author
Chris Fleming is a professional musician from Minneapolis, MN who has played with artists such as Big Daddy Weave and Jason Gray. He is actively involved with the CCM worship scene and has contributed as a drummer, music director, song writer, and producer for various worship artists and churches locally and nationally. Chris serves as the Creative Director at Motion Worship, helping to write various blog posts and tutorials on production, stage, Ableton, music, design, and tons of other topics.