The concept of Media budgets is relatively new (aside from broadcast oriented churches), and the amounts jump dramatically from church to church. So how much should you set aside for your annual church Media budget? The best way to answer that is to look at what drives the budget.
Budgets for churches are driven by three main components:
1. Vision from church leadership (Value: how important is Media?)
2. Content and frequency (Application: what is required of Media?)
3. Personnel – the ability & quantity of Media personnel (Expertise: who can provide Media?)
These three factors have more importance on the budget total than do attendance, membership, denomination, operating budgets, or location.
There must be at least five budget line items for Media:
1. Hardware upgrades/new hardware
2. Software upgrades/new software
3. Preventative and ongoing maintenance
4. Personnel training (conferences and trade shows) and education
5. Peopleware – outsourcing of contract labor for projects and special events
New Construction Budget
Another useful bit of data that can help give context to the question of ‘how much’ are the budgets for A/V/L (Audio, Video, Lighting) technical systems in new construction projects. It’s not uncommon to see 8% of the total budget allotted to provide a rudimentary A/V/L system. Twelve to fifteen percent of the total new construction budget will provide a solid intermediate system, and 20-22% of the total budget will build a technically-savvy venue. So for a $1 million new building campaign, anywhere from $80,000 (rudimentary) to $220,000 (technically savvy) can be budgeted for the technical systems alone.
Annual Operating Budget
Even though Media budgets vary greatly from church to church, it’s safe to apply 5-10% of the A/V/L system cost (if budgeted correctly using the above three averages) as a yearly operations and maintenance amount. So if you spent $150,000 on your A/V/L system, then anywhere from $7,500-15,000 a year can easily be spent making sure your systems remain in perfect operational order and that you’re getting the software and hardware updates, as well as replacement parts, that are necessary to keep your technology from becoming obsolete or failing due to inadequate preventive maintenance.
Once a church hires part or full-time personnel, the costs change yet again, not only for the salary, but also for the increased content and education expenses associated with any employee. This is especially true when dealing with high-technology personnel, where the technology changes so rapidly that a learning curve is always in effect.
A “rule of thumb?” Even though there’s not hard scientific data on the “average church Media budget,” I will point out one bit of scientific data from a report that I co-authored. This first report points to an initial budget for projection systems. Three more reports are underway (audio, lighting, and systems integration), though none will ask about yearly Media operating budgets.
The main bit of data shows that of the churches that participated in the survey (n=650), 45% of them spent more than $11K on their projection system. This data is striking when the average size of the church in the survey was revealed: under 300 in attendance. While it points to a decent initial projection budget, it doesn’t give us any hard data about operating budgets. Again, though, I have tertiary data that can help define the question. The size or age of the church also isn’t always a good indicator.
An example of this is a church upstart that uses my consulting services and has a very aggressive Media Ministry. Since their first church meeting in a family’s home three years ago, they’ve used Media as a support tool. They’re still in temporary facilities, but have invested in a full time Media minister, creative director, and a complete non-linear editing system, video switcher, and projection system! So what’s the budget number?
Here we are at the end of this article, and I’ve still not given you an absolute answer for ‘how much Media budget’ is necessary. That’s because the Vision of the church leadership will drive this amount based on the perceived and felt needs of creating and implementing dynamic content and quality technical performance. My best advice is to get with your Pastor and learn how Media fits into the overall vision of the church, and then develop a budget that helps to accomplish that vision through the application of technology.