Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future. – President John F. Kennedy
Change is a funny thing. When asked if they are in favor of change, I think most people will say, and maybe even believe they are in favor of change. But if you look at their actions, the fear and uncertainty that generally accompanies change too often holds people back from moving forward. And if that doesn’t hold them back, often the cost of change, whether time, money or some other precious resource, is the thing that keeps the change from taking place.
I have the honor of traveling the country and meeting with leaders from great churches on a regular basis, and of course we’re quite often discussing their technology. One of the more common questions I get from senior church leaders is, “how do I know when it’s time to upgrade our systems?” Usually when I get asked this question, the inquirer is looking for a range of years in the answer, such as, “you should replace your audio system every 10 years.” Master planning for your budget is great, and industry wide it’s pretty well accepted that you can plan on 7-10 years for most audio, video and lighting systems with the exceptions of projectors and moving lights, which may only last 5-7 years. But that answer is very short sighted, as it really only answers when your existing systems may cease to function at all.
Knowing when it’s time to upgrade your systems is a deeper question, one that requires some knowledge of product longevity sure, but more so requires some introspection on what you’re trying to accomplish with those systems. In fact, I believe that the answer I’ve developed to this question could be applied to just about any aspect of your life, though for this article we’ll stick to it’s application to your AVL systems. So, how do you know when it’s time to upgrade your systems? When your systems no longer equip you to do what you’re trying to do, or when they can’t equip you for where you want to go, it’s time.
“When it becomes more difficult to suffer than to change… you will change.” Dr. Robert Anthony
Many leaders in our churches today prove Dr. Anthony’s theory correct. Instead of changing their systems (or staffing, policies or programs) to accommodate where they want to go, they hang onto what is easier, what has less resistance, what costs less. I understand the natural gravitation towards the easier path, but if we are truly growing and trying to make an impact, what we do will change. And it’s critical that your systems change with you in order to equip you for this new work.
Waiting until something is broken before bringing change is certainly one approach. Ultimately though, it’s the harder route and may not even matter by the time what you’re doing breaks. Legendary basketball coach John Wooden said it like this, “Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.” Your church should be saving for, and planning on systems replacements within a 5-10 year period of time. For some, your systems may serve you well for 10, 12, maybe even 15 years if your needs don’t change. For many churches though, your growing or changing need should dictate change much sooner than that. The success and health of your organization may depend on you being “all in” with your growth, meaning EVERY resource you have (programs, people and the tools they use) must be reconsidered as change is implemented. Because when it no longer gets you to where you want to go, it’s time for a change.