When a church technician asks a question about video, are they also thinking about lighting? As the saying goes, ‘without light, it’s just radio.’ In online forums or at conferences, I’ve heard the same type of questions focused around a specific technology, narrowly focused on one aspect when the bigger picture needs to be considered. A consultant or systems integrator obviously can help frame the conversation towards the long-term desired outcomes. But can a manufacturer?
As the equipment originator, is re-framing the church tech conversation any less important? Short answer: no. Longer answer: It’s in your best interest to not focus on selling another model, but to help solve immediate issues with a technology path for long-term stability and consistency of operations.
Week in and week out, in churches and rented high school gymnasiums and movie theaters, the church tech shows up before everyone else and stays long after the last attendee has left. They rely on your technology solutions, so it’s important you understand that while the house of worship market is one that you can serve and profit from, each local church is unique and benefits the most when your solutions fit their local context.
Every Church is Unique
Google the term “church tech” and you’ll find a half dozen blogs/websites made up of current and former church technicians, each sharing their hearts and experiences to try and help those who are trying to make their way every seven days, distraction-free, though a church service.
A recurring theme on these websites is the number of questions asking ‘how-to’ and ‘what-to-buy’ — the lowest common denominator of tactical problem-solving; necessary, but incomplete. The answer isn’t ever going to be one technology or your latest hardware or software. Ever. That can’t be the answer because a solution is never dependent upon one item, no matter how advanced it is.
There’s a current ad by Adidas that captures the essence of this truth: Create your own field.
The narration in the ad is sublime, and ends with this statement: “You might want to follow me. Don’t. Create your own field.”
While the focus is on selling their clothing for football (‘soccer’ here in the States), the heart of the ad speaks directly to the point I’m making for each of you who wants to increase your sales into the house of worship market: Create your own field, too.
Maximize Church Volunteers
The answer must always be that you — manufacturer, systems integrator or consultant — help them leverage technology as part of a larger plan that maximizes volunteer empowerment in their own context. When you empower with technology, you’re providing tools that empower volunteers. That, my friends, is your most important sales point and service solution: Enable the volunteers and allow them to create their own field, too.
In the majority of small to medium-sized churches, volunteers will be the ones doing the research and at the least are influencers or, in many cases, are the decision-makers for purchasing. As the churches get larger, volunteers are no less important, though the decisions around tech purchases are now with the part- or full-time tech staff. In both scenarios, the volunteers will be key operators, committed to learning your technology and improving their craft. To underestimate the influence and power of a volunteer is to miss the very point of the house of worship market.
From training to support, volunteers are at the heart of every church and represent the congregation — the very people funding technology investments in churches.
Solve The Problem After The Problem
The quick fix fallacy is that any technology — yours or otherwise — can truly solve a problem. In and of itself, a piece of equipment can, indeed, fix an issue, but your job is to identify why the problem exists and what it represents to the church technical infrastructure. You must not only solve the problem they want, you must solve the next problem they don’t even know they have yet to solve.
Solutioneering is a term I mentioned previously in a rAVe article about helping churches define their AVL budgets, but it applies to the holistic view of serving this market, too. As the technology consultant or vendor, your first duty to the church market buyers is to reinforce the truth that the technology is just the tool, not the point. It’s a lever. As the famous Greek mathematician Archimedes stated, “Give me a place to stand and with a lever I will move the whole world.”
Leverage. That’s what it means to rightly understand technology as a tool. Unfortunately, the quick fix scenario often plays out with a different kind of leverage: pain. When the pain is high, a quick solution is tempting. But this is the church market, and this is a space where community is a big part of their DNA; they’ll just as quickly tell their friends about how they’ve been taken advantage of as they will sing the praises of those who help solve their problems.
As I stated in the article “Your Technology Is Not The Problem,” there is a massive need — and a hunger for — consultants and vendors who will help them beyond the urgent pain points towards a future of consistent operation. And that has everything to do with long-term solutions and a mutually beneficial, long-term relationship.
The biggest desired outcomes for churches is week-in, week-out operation where no one notices the technology. And that, my friends, has far less to do with a piece of gear and far more to do with how you provide clear, lasting solutions.
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