Church Tech and the Second Law of Thermodynamics

featured-how-trendsThe church bought all of your gear and are fully equipped to leverage the best of your technology. While this sounds like a sales dream, the natural progression will now turn downhill unless you continue to provide the church with what they really need most: your expertise.

Interestingly, the Second Law of Thermodynamics provides us with an excellent metaphor to describe what happens in many, many church technology integrations. Here’s a summation of that Second Law:

All natural and technological processes proceed in such a way that the availability of the remaining energy decreases. In all energy exchanges, if no energy enters or leaves an isolated system the entropy of that system increases. Energy continuously flows from being concentrated to becoming dispersed, spread out, wasted and useless. New energy cannot be created and high-grade energy is being destroyed.

The concept is that if something is energized and moving or heated or active in some way, left alone it will decay. This is called entropy. Without any new energy from an outside force, the existing activity will naturally decrease until it stops.

New technology is akin to activated energy; it now needs external stimuli (operators) to make the most of it. So, what’s next?

The Best Technology Is Insufficient

State-of-the-art is far less important than the state of their art. Whereas the technological equivalent of a Ferrari is often desired, the ability to drive as well as the tech performs is the key to both maximizing the investment and sustaining the effort necessary to make the investment worthwhile.

The church tech magazines often highlight the coolest installations with higher-end gear, which makes for pretty pictures and great publicity, but the focus largely misses the investment required for tech staff and the small army of volunteers standing and sitting behind the gadgetry. It pains me to recall the hundreds of church installations I’ve consulted with or visited over the decades that have more technology than either the trained operators or the time to invest into the prep work necessary to really make the technology perform.

Entropy is present everywhere, and not just metaphorically. I visited one newly-minted megachurch 2,000 seat venue that had been operational for just under a year. The entire ceiling seemed to be an endless grid of moving lights; over 80, if I recall correctly. When I walked in for training that Saturday morning, the system was dark and I asked the LD (lighting director) to fire up the system; when he did, only a handful of the moving fixtures sprang to life. “Why aren’t the rest (movers) on?” I queried. “Because no one told us to budget for two lamp replacements per year when they went in. We now have to wait for our new budget year in January to get those re-lamped,” said the sullen tech director. The system could not be sustained without additional spend on consumables. New energy (and capital) was necessary. And there it is: the Second Law of Thermodynamics metaphorically shows up again.

What Makes A System, Anyway?

If a manufacturer looked at their technology as a complete system (as some components are marketed), would there never be anything else — an input, a processor, an output — that must be added to increase (or enable) maximum functionality?

Energy continuously flows from being concentrated to becoming dispersed, spread out, wasted, and useless. New energy cannot be created and high-grade energy is being destroyed.

Sunday comes every seven days, as the saying goes in the church world, so even the isolated ‘system’ of weekend services has some level of change each week. No system is fully isolated in our A/V/L world, and change is constant; the result, therefore, is the realization that no system — no matter how well-designed and equipped — is ever complete or fully maximized. The concept of modular components has been around for a long time, yet the marketing and sales collateral seem to focus on the totality of each product as the next-greatest thing since sliced bread. But, what if it’s not?

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Look, manufacturers, you’re making more stunning technology than ever before and the opportunities are nearly limitless. But what you’re missing is the opportunity to tell the whole truth that a system is designed to be changed as the user’s context and application requirements change.

And for the systems integrators, the ability to design sophisticated system is truly dizzying, but without the reality of the constant of change, your designs cannot last long.

This reality should be freeing because it sells both the truth of change and the opportunity to design for flexibility and expandability. This is a value add, not a sales addition. And, it’s a consistent opportunity for recurring revenue for you and continuous improvement for churches.

Sell Your Expertise

As a consultant, I’m the guy brought in either before the project or after the project is finished. In the latter case, I’m often paid to help churches learn how to make the most of their technological investments. Prior to consulting, I was in sales for design/build firms and sold service and training contracts along with the equipment; it was natural to put it all together when the value proposition wasn’t the gear, but the desired outcome. I don’t care how good your technology is, the church technical operators need your expertise. So sell it!

Perhaps it’s because of the box-sales mentality that has permeated the audio/video/lighting industry, but the idea of selling expertise seems to have been largely forgotten or ignored. Not only are you leaving money on the table, you’re also only putting the opportunity in front of churches; to fully realize the benefits, you must re-introduce expertise and training again and again, to all your clients.

The bottom line is this: Sell what you know and the church will reap far greater benefit from their technology investment. Otherwise, entropy.

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