Let’s face it, many churches use the equipment they have until the day it literally stops working. After all, we’re always trying to be good stewards, right? This also means that we’re always looking to get the best deal on new equipment. But does that always mean the best deal always the least expensive? Sometimes cutting costs means cutting lifespan and spending more year after year.
In the late nineties, my church installed VGA cables with distribution amps in order to send video signal to the projectors at the front and back of auditorium, and we are still using them today. Yes, new technology has come along, and it provides better quality picture, but the old VGA cables are still producing the quality and resolution we need for our worship services. It just doesn’t make sense to us to pay for new cabling at these two locations. Would it be nice to have a crisper, high def signal? Sure, but then we also would need to upgrade projectors to take advantage of the new technology, and what about that 4:3 projector screen? Everything is 16:9 or 16:10 now. Since the screen is only thirty feet away from the front row, we really don’t need more definition. Videos and lyrics are easily seen as it is. With these factors in mind, my church decided it’s not worth the cost to have the latest tech at this time.
So, if you want to save money, the first rule-of-thumb is to try using what you have. In respect to a computer for using presentation software like EasyWorship, always try it out on your existing hardware first. Look for speed issues and video lag. If you see lag, check task manager and see if the CPU, RAM, hard drive or video are running at or near maximum capacity. If it becomes apparent that a purchase is needed, collect the information before you begin buying.
Run through a whole service to catch anything you may be missing. You may just find your existing hardware is enough. For example, if you are only displaying lyrics with a solid color or still background, the computer doesn’t have to be the most powerful computer, but if you regularly show HD video content and HD video backgrounds under your text, along with taking advantage of foldback (stage display) you may need to make sure your system meets the recommended requirements for the software you are using. However, if you decide it’s time to upgrade, you’ll want to know what the cost is so you can present the church with a budget for approval.
The Big Picture
Whether installing a completely new system or upgrading an existing system, you’ll need to account for equipment cost and any additional software costs along with labor. It’s important to think through all the systems, hardware and software that are affected by purchasing new equipment so we can get a clear understanding of a reasonable budget for the project.
Let’s work through the process of buying a new multimedia computer for running EasyWorship. Here’s a case study to show us how to use five questions to build a budget for equipment replacement.
Church Case Study: Our 10 year old Windows Vista computer is struggling with the demands of today’s multimedia and Vista is no longer supported by Microsoft. The hardware cannot run Windows 10 properly. It’s time to upgrade. We are currently using EasyWorship 2009. Our front of house projector and foldback projector are connected to the computer with VGA cables. Our monitor, keyboard and mouse are working fine, so they do not need to be replaced at this time.
Let’s walk through the five questions and we’ll collect our costs along the way. At the end, we’ll have a budget to work with.
Does this church need it?
Yes, the old computer is a ten year old Windows Vista computer that cannot support today’s Operating system and multimedia needs.
Will this affect any other equipment?
Yes, they are connecting a new computer to old VGA cables and they don’t have time or money to replace them. Does the new computer have VGA or can they get adapters to convert to VGA? They can purchase adapters for approximately $10 – $15 each. The old computer monitor is also VGA and they aren’t replacing it as it is still working. They’ll most likely need three adapters. When they decide on the computer they are buying they’ll know what types of adapters to buy. They’ll plan for three adapters at $15.
What does the software cost?
They currently have EasyWorship 2009 and the new computer has Windows 10. EasyWorship 2009 is no longer being updated and isn’t compatible with Windows 10. They can purchase a one-time purchase license for $399 for one computer or $499 for campus. But there is also a subscription option for $180 a year or $18 a month for our small church. They’ll go for the $180 yearly subscription. They’ll still need to use PowerPoint on this computer, so they’ll need Microsoft Office. They’ll purchase Microsoft Office for a discounted price at techsoup.org for $29. (Techsoup requires nonprofit verification. )
What is the installation cost?
They have a church member who is a computer know-it-all and would love to install the new computer. Normally, this would cost anywhere between $50 – $100 an hour.
What is the new hardware cost?
One of the easiest ways to establish a hardware cost is to check out equipment that meets the minimum and maximum hardware requirements for the software. Newegg.com is a great place to do this. It’s easy to filter based on the hardware requirements we have. In seconds, we can have a list of computers that meet our specs from multiple manufacturers.
A typical computer that meets minimum specs for Easyworship will cost about $500 – $700 and a computer that meets recommended specs can run from $700 – $1,200. This church case study wants a computer that will last as long as the last one so we will budget for high end specs.
Now, let’s put it all together…
- Computer – $1,200
- VGA Adapters – 3 x $15 = $45
- EasyWorship – $180 yearly subscription
- Office – $29
- Installation – $0 (Thank you, Jesus!)
BUDGET TOTAL = $1,454
Now they have a realistic budget to work with. I’m confident the church can purchase a computer and everything else needed well within this budget. Heck, they may even have a little money to pay the volunteer setting it up.
You may not have this type of money to spend right now, but now you know how to think ahead to determine what is needed and whether you can upgrade now, wait or ask for a special offering to pay for the upgrade. When you have a defined budget breakdown, it’s much easier to get approval for what you need.