Up and Running!

Only a few years ago, most of the churches enquiring about CD/DVD duplication had an existing cassette ministry and had either realized the potential for disc ministry – or simply realized the inevitability of it all.

Today, even church leaders without prior cassette tape duplication setups – and others who’ve never recorded worship services at all – are considering the benefits of a CD- or DVD-duplication ministry.

Not long ago, the main obstacles to starting a CD or DVD duplication ministry were a lack of capital funds and the fear of new technology. True, churches and computers have never gotten along well; learning from experience with photocopiers and fax machines, however, you knew these tools were essential to your success, despite the potential frustrations.

Today, media ministry is a given. Most churches at least have websites, and whether you realize it or not, these sites – along with CDs and cassettes – all serve the same function as the paper bulletins you photocopy and pass out at the door on Sunday: to promote and to remind.

Today’s duplication technology is easy to use, reliable and becoming common in American households. At this point, your churches are facing the facts and realizing that starting a media ministry is just a question of making an investment of time and money.

The Financial Part is Easy
You can start a CD ministry for as little as the cost of the master. The CD recorder in your home PC will do the job if necessary. If you want to do it right, however, the most basic hardware for copying and printing CDs starts at $1500. A good, robust setup capable of meeting a church’s demand usually costs about $5,000. And, if you really want to do it right, you could spend $10,000 and get some advanced capabilities.

With those numbers as a guideline, ask the following questions:

Of course, as you actually begin to work with someone to make a plan for buying equipment and supplies, you’ll need to be able to describe the system’s purpose. As such, you should also be able to answer this question: What do you want to accomplish? Maybe you want to use it as an outreach? Reach shut-ins? Promote, record and duplicate events?

If that last use sounds up your alley, you’re not alone – it’s the mot common reason churches get into CD/DVD duplication. They prepare a recording during the event and then duplicate it onto pre-printed discs as fast as they can to hand out or sell as people leave. Others – system not suited to on-demand duplication – take orders on-site and deliver the discs later. And, while the latter method doesn’t usually get as positive of a response, the principle is the same.

Outreach ministry and event pre-promotion require even greater volumes of discs. However, your church has plenty of lead-time to prepare the discs and DVDs, so the system doesn’t necessarily have to exceed the quantity-per-hour capabilities of event-duplication systems.

Shut-in ministry is generally both lower-volume and requires longer turnaround time. This will place the least amount of strain on your system’s capacity.

Some churches start with a system designed for a shut-in ministry and try to begin growing a demand for other services. For example, using a small combination printer/recorder, a church can duplicate and print limited quantities of discs to send out to residents in nursing homes, or people who ordered a recording of the previous week’s service.

As your church moves into the higher demand services – duplicating at an event, for instance – a split-system often comes into play. A manual tower duplicator, combined with an industrial CD printer, is a typical system for churches doing media ministry.

Additionally, the preprinted discs can be used in a tower system to record as many as 16 discs at a time within minutes of the end of a service. Because these towers are simple to operate, volunteers can load and unload the discs to keep the copy service going with practically no training.

A Familiar Formula
Using a paper bulletin as a guideline for your endeavors will help you to be successful. Like the program handout, your media ministry should meet the following criteria:

Volunteers can prepare it. How hard is it to operate this equipment, and who will be doing so? Many products, such as the tower duplicators I mentioned, have a one-button capability, meaning a volunteer simply loads the master and the blanks and presses “Start.” Others require no computer at all; at most, they have a simple two-button interface with an LCD readout where the user answers simple questions such as “Copy Start,” “Quantity” and “Speed.”

It’s available in appropriate formats. What does your congregation want? Are they ready for DVDs? Do they still use cassettes? Are they sending these to friends that have the appropriate players?

Make it look professional. What do you plan to put on the surfaces of the discs? Before you decide, it helps to know there are two printing technologies available: thermal and inkjet. Most thermal printers create a durable, crisp impression that is waterproof and fairly scratchproof. These printers are not capable of the high-resolution, photo-quality printing of inkjet printers, but they can create a long-lasting finish that will reflect well on your church. They usually cost more, but the cost per print is fairly low.

Inkjet printers give you complete printing freedom from your design – a picture of the church or sanctuary will look good using these. They are generally a little less expensive than thermal printers, but they require a disc that has an inkjet-absorbent coating, which can cost a dime or so more than an ordinary CD.

You can ask for samples of prints from each printer you’re considering and most vendors will send them to you free of charge. This will help you get a feel for the durability and resolution of each print method.

Have a backup plan. Is the product expandable to meet your growth needs? Some suppliers provide overflow services if you get more demand than you can handle, or if a machine goes down. Some also provide a special warranty (at additional cost) that allows you to get a machine fixed within a day or two. That said, as with all products, you should consider the company’s longevity and reputation. A one-year warranty does very little good if the company is going out of business next month. On the other hand, if a company has been in business for a few years, has a stable reputation and offers a good warranty, it will be worth it to spend a few extra dollars to get the right equipment.

With a little effort, your CD or DVD ministry can be up and running in no time at all!

This article originally appeared in the August 2004 issue of Church Business Magazine.