No is a reality in many of our lives, especially when it comes to making pleas for upgrades to your audio, video and lighting systems. In this case, it's great that "no" isn't about you personally. In fact, often times a "no" isn't even about your proposal specifically. In over 15 years involved in church tech, I've found that a "no" often actually means:
A) This Isn't An Organizational Priority Right Now
Organizations have a lot going on at any given time and sometimes your proposal isn't near the top of the list. It's not personal, but sometimes a newly paved parking lot, replacing a dying air conditioner or even making payroll is a more pressing issue.
B) Your Proposal Doesn't Alleviate Your Leader's Pain Points
If you are pitching a new sound system and your leaders are fine with your sound, it's probably not going to be approved. If they're fine with your sound and feel your lighting isn't up to par, they may be frustrated that you're fixated on the wrong problem.
C) You're Overreaching Your Leaders' Value Bar
If you're proposing a top of the line sound system and your leaders would be happy with the quality of their home stereo in the auditorium, your "no" may have come because you overreached on your value proposition.
Keys to Yes
We all have projects on our list; upgrades that need to be made to help our ministry be more effective. I think there are some specific things we can do with our proposals to increase our chances of moving a project forward. Some of the keys I've found in getting a "yes" are:
1) Keep Your Proposal Impersonal
Other than a brief recommendation, "I" should rarely be seen or heard in your proposals. The more personal you make your pitch, the more questions generally get raised. Leaders are generally looking to increase the impact of what they're doing, not just get you the latest toys. Making it personal endangers your mission. It also makes it painful to hear a "not now".
2) Make It About The Benefits
Leaders tend to focus a lot on cost/benefit analysis: does this new thing benefit us more than what it costs. Most leaders don't care about what something does, but they care a lot about how it would impact their capabilities. Focus on how your proposal will enhance their ministry, and then throw in how it will enhance yours.
3) Know Your Leader's Pain Points
If you know there are some major expenses up for consideration (new parking lot, AC replacement, etc.), be wise enough to know your church sound system proposal might be seen as unimportant and hold off if you can. More importantly, listen to your leaders and know what their biggest priorities are concerning areas you oversee. If you constantly hear frustration expressed about your audio and you keep proposing new lighting, it's only a matter of time until your leaders stop listening to you too.
4) Set Your Bar Appropriately
I have a friend who has very high standards for what he's associated with, which in itself isn't a bad thing, except he's losing his voice with his leadership because he's always pushing them way beyond their quality (and in turn, their budget) bar. There are times to fight for higher quality options, but pick and choose those times based on the priorities of your leadership. If they'd be happy with a sound system that ranks a 6 out of 10 and you constantly push a 10, you'll lose your voice. Sometimes meeting, not exceeding, expectations is the best thing you can do for your credibility.
5) Doing Your Homework and Getting a Second Opinion Will Go A Long Way
Leaders generally want to know that you researched all reasonable options and did your homework. If you simply run with the first idea you have all the time, you're likely to let people down quite often with half-baked choices and lose your voice. Do your research, cover the options and when possible, get outside opinions to corroborate your plan. There is power in agreement.
As a leader in the arts, it's part of your job and likely in your nature to continue pushing your team towards improving your effectiveness. Using the keys above, I believe you'll see more success in moving your ministry forward with the right tools. Our team would love to help you understand your options, discuss the pros and cons of what you're looking at and discuss whether a solution is right for you. With our team of veteran worship and technical staff and volunteers, we put our nearly 40 years of experience to use helping you make the right choices to help your ministry be great.
Church Relations Director
Duke has over 14 years of experience as a technical artist, trainer and collaborator for ministries. Duke travels around the country for CCI Solutions and is available to help your ministry. Join Duke on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ccisolutions