The Joy of Doing Business with the Church

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I wanted to sort this one out, just in case I haven’t properly presented myself as the truly obnoxious person I am. There’s this word called “integrity” that seems to trip people up. Including me.

I know. Nobody is perfect. We make mistakes. Me miss opportunities. All of us. Not pointing fingers at anyone. We all know that I openly admit to being the uncrowned king of the knuckleheads. So. All that being said…

The bulk of this blog is aimed at church techs. It’s read by a lot of different people, but church techs are the dominant audience. As the tech, there’s a lot that you will never have complete control of. Budget, final decisions, the particular talent that you have to mix, etc. You will always have some control, but never all of it while working for the church.

When I went freelance, I worked for everyone. Independent ministries, churches of all sizes, pageants, competitions, sporting events, weddings, dances, parties, concerts, businesses and, yes, clubs. I installed and repaired systems in night clubs and bars. Including a strip club, once.

I got a call from a local strip club, who got my number from a music store. Their system went down and nobody could fix it. I agreed, but only if the club was empty and I had the room to myself. No problem. Early in the day, just me and the club owner. Got it fixed pretty quick. Made up an invoice and walked to the office. Thank you, here’s a check, I appreciate you taking care if it, I will hold your card for any future issues, done, gone. No problem.

As a side note. A pastor friend of mine called while I was in there. He thought it was funny, told me to touch the pole. Told him I wasn’t touching anything except the system, and leaving ASAP.

There’s was another club owner that had me come in every few months to adjust his system, set up new wireless mics, repair speakers and cables and just keep it working right. Every time I finished…. Done, check, thank you, no problem. Are you following me? Ok.

Then there’s one church after another. Called out for a repair or estimate. Spend however long it takes, write up an invoice, argue about the bill, maybe collect it, maybe have to wait for it to be mailed in. Then waste another hour explaining what upgrades they desperately need and how I would do them. They ask for a written proposal to get board approval. Get called called back six months later for another service call and find all the gear I recommended in the room, set up completely wrong. They ask me to make it work. And so on.

Here’s the point.

99% of the clubs I worked for were thankful I fixed their stuff and were glad to pay me. Once I took care of them, I was their guy. When they wanted to buy more stuff, they called me. They trusted me and we had some mutual respect. Club owners. Night club, strip club, dance club and bar owners never gave me any problems. Predominantly non-Christians gladly paid their bill and had enough respect to honor agreements. Almost every single time.

Churches and ministries tended to be different. There are ministers out there who still owe me money from years ago. I will never see it. Almost half of the churches I worked for would take my quote for an upgrade, pass it around and order it online, then expect me to “adjust” their mess that they installed themselves. These quotes and designs that often took hours or days, were treated like they were nothing. For the sake of trying to save a few dollars, they would flush their integrity.

Try this. Go to the local discount meat shop and buy a few steaks. Take them to your favorite steak house and ask them to cook them for you. Surely that sounds reasonable. Why wouldn’t they? Or this. Go haggle with a car dealer, get a great price, then go buy it across the street. Take it to the first dealer and ask for the same kind of discount on service work because the guy you bought it from wants too much.

Hey. Take your own Christmas presents to the mall for free gift wrapping. Run a your own cable from the neighbor’s house. Steal electricity from the neighbor, too, while you are at it. Still with me?

I watched one of the best system designers create an amazing plan for a large church. He spent days designing it. He produced the most elaborate set of plans I ever saw. He had a complete layout of the building. He could show the exact sound quality and levels in any part of the building. He had broken it down to the best labor rate and total cost possible. He made the most professional presentation in the history of the universe. Then, guess what happened.

They took his design, order similar speakers online, had their techs install them, he got nothing. Not even credit for the design. Then they tried to hire him to mix a show in that room later. It was heartbreaking to see how it affected him. These were guys he trusted. He was told they wanted to use him. Yep. They used him alright.

Yes, I understand business. I was on both ends of this scenario for years. I wrote up hundreds of quotes and never got a dime for most of them. I was on church staff and had to get purchases and upgrades approved. I know how this works.

What I don’t like about it is how we are treated. That guy committed to them because they asked. They treated him like dirt. They wasted his time after calling him in like it was a favor to them. They talked a big game about glorious plans and pursuing excellence. It’s just wrong.

Every person we encounter is a child of God. They all deserve respect. They all deserve to be treated fairly. They are also potential church members. You never know where they are, spiritually or emotionally. Maybe they are looking for a good church to bring their family into. Maybe they are on the fence about even becoming a Christian. Maybe they are on the fence about giving up on life altogether and just want to see if there are any “good” people left. You never know who has just walked in.

I rarely took all this personally. I understand business. But, when we make an agreement I expect it to be honored. Don’t tell me that it’s a “done deal” and never cut the check. Don’t ask me for favors and forget to hold up your end of the deal. Don’t talk to me about being a godly person and then do unethical stuff to save a nickel. Don’t ask me to drive fifty miles and not be there. Don’t shake my hand and agree to anything you don’t plan to do.

I was robbed once, because someone I trusted refused to pay me. I had a door slammed in my face by someone who ripped me off and wouldn’t pay, because I didn’t make them sign a contract. We have had to track ministers down at their day jobs to collect. We have been through it all. Even right now. I have a situation where someone promised to pay me for a project and still hasn’t.

It’s enough to make the best guys quit and leave it for the hacks. Yeah. Did I mention I am retired?

None of that stuff EVER happened with a nightclub. It happened every week with the churches. Don’t be like that. Please. Don’t drive the good guys out of business. When you find a tech with integrity and a good reputation, honor them. Be upfront and honest about your needs and your budget. Don’t lie. It’s not just business. It’s more when there are Christians involved. Don’t forget that.

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