When Churches Should and Shouldn't go to Guitar Center, Amazon or Other Retailers

One thing that is pretty consistent among many churches that I work with are the many stories of high hopes and resulting disappointments when doing audio, video or lighting purchases at Guitar Center, Amazon, Musician's Friend, and many other big, corporate suppliers. We all love a good deal, so their sales get all of us. And there is nothing wrong with using those retailer; I often do. But you need to know when you should and when you shouldn't rely on big-box suppliers. 

When Retailers Rule

For many things we need in church life, there is no beating one of these bargain focused retailers. I love buying all of my audio cables from Guitar Center. There are cheaper options, but GC will offer a full replacement on most of their cables, so I let the broken ones pile up and go cash them in for new ones every 6 months or so. No sweat! And if you are a musician, it's nice to have an easy place to grab the essentials you need when you need them. 

I also love Amazon for similar items. Try pricing a clip-on guitar tuner at a retail store compared to online, usually, online will beat the price, and if you don't mind wasting time in the store, many retailers will match or beat the price you find on Amazon. 

Here are some specific items that are perfect to find at music retailers:

  • You know exactly what you want, and they have it
  • supplies that are nearly disposable, such as strings, sticks, tape, cables, etc (See above)
  • Your own music gear
  • Some church-owned musical gear

When Retailers Drool

But as a church in the modern era, even the most simple churches usually need to provide a reasonably acceptable production value that requires professional products that are right for your application. This is the sad part I see so many times, is that when a pastor ends of taking technical advice for a church that reaches dozens or hundreds of people from a guy who plays a guitar in his bedroom, which is about all it takes to work there. 

Spend it right the first time!

In full disclosure, I worked at Guitar Center quite a while ago, and I was appalled at what passed for a knowledgeable sales rep in the technical departments. For guitars, they have really good dudes, and I think if you find the right one, he will steer you to the right instrument. But for your church, you need professional gear that will last, and professional application. I will tell you now, that you are not likely to find gear on the shelf at a local music retailer that is appropriate for your ministry, outside of a small mobile rig. 

Here are the times when you should consult with a professional: 

  • You need a full system to purchase or install. (Begin with the end in mind, you need someone who knows system integration backwards and forwards to make the best recommendations)
  • You need to know the best kind of mixer, speakers, microphones, etc. (Retailers want you to buy what they have in stock, and almost never even set foot in your venue)
  • You need unbiased advice (yes, your staff and team are biased)
  • You have problems with feedback, bad sound, blown speakers, etc. (Sometimes the solution is new gear, other times, it's tuning, adjustment, training or layout that needs changed. Stop throwing money at it and solve the actual problem)
  • You notice your church's revolving door is revolving too much. (Yes, people leave for bad production quality)
  • Your projector is hard to see, or the TV's are too small to read
  • The front of the room is too loud and the back is too quiet
  • You want to break into video IMAG, broadcast or Live-Streaming, etc
  • You want to simulcast audio or video throughout your venue, to foyers, nurseries etc.

As you can see, hiring a professional should pay for itself in quality, performance and saved time and money from the headaches of buying wrong. 

At my own church, we have a financial policy that we revisit constantly, and I encourage you to employ this for your church also: "Spend it right the first time!" If you make this commitment, it might mean you take more time and consideration initially, but it will yield fruit over the long term that will translate into more lives being impacted for the Great Commission we are called to! 

If you are considering any changes or improvements at your ministry, please don't hesitate to contact us. It would be an honor to help! Stop making excuses about the size, budget or potential of your ministry, and just call us!

Judson Bartels

Husband to Kristina, Daddy to Elliott, Ethan, Madison, Hezekiah, and Jedidiah, Founding Consultant at Quincy Owen Solutions, LLC, Founding Pastor of www.Sound.Church,