The Way We Treat Things
First Church* is as proud of its multimedia system as it is their grand piano. But one of these days the projector will go, the piano will stay, and no one will think twice about it.
It’s the way they look at things at First Church.
(Catch that? “things” — not people.)
The elegant eighty-five year old concert grand was hand-picked by a picky committee ten years ago. The instrument’s sound matches the acoustic properties of the sanctuary perfectly. It’s previous owner took meticulous care of the instrument, played it often, and played it well. It was perfect for their purposes when they featured the instrument in its dedication concert – and it still is.
- It sings clearly when it accompanies First Church choir and ensembles.
- Its whispers are warm and inviting when its melodies accompany your thoughts or silent prayer.
- And it holds its own quite nicely when the praise band leads First Church to enthusiastic praise.
High overhead flies an expensive video projector, chosen two years ago for its brightness, versatility and reputation for trouble-free service. First Church is proud of it and the system that feeds it, serving the church faithfully week after week. It’s never given them a lick of trouble. If it someday encounters a problem, it’s under warranty for three more years so there’s no worrying going on in the office (at least not about the church’s main video projector).
But one day a letter will arrive in the mail about said projector that will trigger discussion and planning. If I know First Church, they will exercize their option to replace it with newer technology that will serve them as faithfully for the next several years as this one has thus far.
The concert grand will stay. The projector will be retired and replaced. And the church’s leaders will feel confident about their stewardship decisions because they understand the rationale behind their decisions about things.
“That piano is exactly what we need and want,” the music pastor would tell you. “The piano fund was started as a memorial to one of our life-long accompanists, I think she played here for twenty some-odd years. The congregation raised the rest by giving to the project fund, and the piano committee found the best piano available for the money we had. They compared several instruments, and this one out-ran its competition. Some were newer and larger than what we chose, but this one sounded the best and has a wonderful touch. I expect it will grace our platform and music ministry for years to come. ”
“But technology equipment like projectors and computers changes rapidly.” He would pause to be sure you grasp the difference. “It depreciates in a hurry and the prices are always changing. We paid more for our first printer here at First Church than we did for our last ministry PC. New technology elbows out the old without thinking twice about it. We believe excellent, up-to-date tools are important to effective ministry so we frequently divide the cost of an expendable tool (like that projector up there) over its life expectancy, think of it as an expense, and when it’s done, we start fresh with something new.”
“It’s the way we treat things. Some we borrow, some we rent, some we buy, some we lease. And every now and then someone just gives us something. We always smile and say ‘THANK you’ when that happens.”
First Church leaders know which things they’re keeping around a while and which things are here only as long as they’re useful. (Things – not people) More importantly, they know why they view things the way they do. They’ve taken the time to talk through the questions and come to consensus.
So when the new projector arrives and the old one comes down, First Church’s video captain will be as happy they’ve a new projector as the accompanist is that the grand is staying. It won’t be an issue – they’ve already talked it through.
How about Your Church?
First Church – is short for First Church of What’s Happening Now. In the 80’s a friend of mine and I used the term tongue-in-cheek when we discussed the challenges of introducing new methods and technologies at church. Through the years I’ve observed most of us are able to imagine quite a bit more than we can actually bring to reality. It’s part of the dynamic of ministry, where new and old seem at first to be juxstaposed. Or is that just opposed? Sometimes it is.