In the past month or so, I have had three conversations with technical laypeople - those who observe and enjoy the use of technology in the worship setting, but have no idea what it costs. All three attend churches with seating capacities of over 1250 people and all offer multiple worship opportunities, but I think that there's something here for all of us.

Having heard about the technical systems of a large midwestern church, I was excited to stop by while I was visiting a friend. To be truthful, I was rendered silent as I approached the platform area from the back of the worship center. I'm a gear guy, but this place had it together. In short, they had the best of everything - audio, video, lighting, projection, and it was integrated with obvious thought and engineering. The installation was a masterpiece.

We spent just a few minutes inside the building and as we were leaving, I commented on the two large LED screens and how well the displayed image looked. I asked my friend if she could venture a guess at how much they cost. Her estimate told me that I had opened a can of worms.

Her guess was maybe 10% of the actual cost and led to more questions. After hearing that the display screens cost as much as a very nice house - each - she didn't offer the standard response of "Do you know how many poor people we could feed with that?" But she was still floored and asked whether it was necessary. A day later, she asked her friend (a staff member at the church) if she had any idea of the cost. The other friend did and confirmed my numbers.

Two weeks ago, a local church opened its new worship facility to its members for a pre-tour and another of my friends was excited to share about the space in the lobby, the style of the facility, and the feel of the facility overall. Since the church is near to Columbus, she asked if I was familiar with the project.

She said, "I'll bet that they spent $50,000 on the sound system. It's pretty awesome. I'll bet that you would have liked that sale." Little did she know that the system cost 10-times that much.

A week or so later, a third friend and I were driving when he said, "Can I ask you something? I just found out that our church spent $250,000 on that 'thing' that controls the monitors. What do you think about what? And they have one at the back that's just as big, and another to record the service. I assume that they all cost about the same amount of money."

He went on to say, "I know that you make your living selling this stuff, but does it really need to cost that much?"

Knowing the technology business and the size of that church (about 2500 members), I'd be very surprised if they have $750,000 tied up in three mixing consoles, but the issue here is perception.

In any organization, decisions are often left to those "in charge" and those who have the expertise to do it the right way. In at least two of the settings, the amount of money spent was perfectly appropriate in order to serve the facility and the congregation.

I'm somewhat at a loss to address questions like these, but as technicians, worship leaders, pastors, and church administrators - those who make the decisions about what's necessary to communicate the gospel in a technical sense - as we spend money, we need to ask ourselves "But does it really need to cost that much?"


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