Organize Big Projects Beyond Your Expertise: A Guide to Project Management Basics

Organized Big Projects Beyond Your Expertise: A Guide to Project Management Basics

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A Guide to Project Management Basics

What do you do when faced with a significant project outside your expertise? Whether considering a home renovation, planning a large event or vacation, or starting a nonprofit initiative like a community garden, managing ambitious projects beyond one’s expertise can be daunting. Yet, with a strategic approach rooted in basic project management principles, even the most formidable tasks become manageable. 

In this post, I’ll share a story about how a small group of people came together to successfully tackle the challenge of outfitting our church’s new-to-us sanctuary with sound, video, and lighting equipment, using project management basics that helped us define our needs, implement a plan, and have our first worship service in the new space in less than four weeks start to finish. Then we iterated on that process again to make incremental improvements to our lighting and monitor setup. 

Using some variation of the project management triangle (scope, budget, timeline) and the software development process (discovery, design, develop, deploy, and iterate), you can break big scary projects into manageable chunks with actionable steps along the way.

The Challenge: Starting from Scratch

Previously, our church had the luxury of operating in a space equipped with all necessary sound and media tools. However, relocating to a new venue necessitated a fresh start. The new location was a sanctuary that had been used as storage for several years which offered a blank slate to dream up our audio/visual setup. With virtually no equipment at our disposal, we faced the daunting task of setting up an entire audio/visual system from scratch.

Before move in day: the sanctuary was full of random stuff as it had been used for storage for several years.

Our objective was clear: to recreate the worship experience our congregation had grown accustomed to while integrating essential upgrades, such as a permanent live-streaming setup and enhanced audiovisual capabilities.

Defining the Project Parameters: Scope, Budget, Timeline

Drawing from my extensive experience in project management, I approached the challenge with a structured mindset. I adhered to the fundamental principles of project management by defining our scope, budget, and timeline.


We outlined our requirements, including a comprehensive sound system, projection capabilities for displaying worship content, and a robust live-streaming setup. Crucially, we ensured flexibility to accommodate potential future relocations.


With the scope delineated, we sought approval from the board of directors for the necessary financial investment. Through meticulous research and vendor negotiations, we optimized our purchasing power while maintaining quality. Rather than requesting a specific dollar amount from the board to be allocated for these purchases, we asked for a budget range not to exceed a certain amount. This gave us flexibility to make on-the-fly changes to purchase decisions, as long as we stayed within the approved budget.


The kickoff email was sent on September 19. With our first service in the new sanctuary scheduled for October 16, 2023, we had just under four weeks to plan, order, and install the new tech equipment. We strategically planned our implementation schedule to align with the clearing and cleaning of the space, culminating in a single-day installation blitz on October 14. This was going to be a tight turnaround, but now that we had these guidelines in place we could begin diving into the specifics of the project. Time to start the discovery phase.

Manageable Chunks: Discovery, Design, Develop, Deploy, and Iterate

Discovery: Dreaming and Defining

To kick things off, I emailed our tech team on September 19 to start defining our immediate and long-term sound and media equipment needs. During this phase of the project, we discovered our precise needs to the best of our understanding. The kickoff email included a link to Google Doc that broke out our needs by sound, media, live streaming, and lighting. 

Since we needed a complete sound system (board, speakers, mics, cables, etc), I invited Jeremy, our most knowledgeable sound tech, to share the wishlist he had previously created. While he contributed his expertise to the document around sound equipment, another volunteer Patrick, who has more experience with media and lighting, started contributing his thoughts and ideas on how we could present media to the congregation and if we should move from using Google Slides to ProPresenter. I began spec’ing out the computer needs that would support the management of the livestream and slide presentations.

On October 1, we checked out the sanctuary layout, available electrical outlets, existing sound equipment, and soundboard enclosure which gave us a clearer picture of our needs. Most of the sound needs remain unchanged from the previous location since they were based on our team members (number of vocalists, musical instruments, etc.) rather than the space. Some new needs arose due to space such as the need for grounded outlets and a larger tech table. We also determined that none of the existing sound equipment that was in the sanctuary would be useful to us.

The previous location had projectors and large screens. Would we replicate that in the new sanctuary? Or use large TVs as monitors? This decision required a bit of sketching out options to visualize what we could accomplish within the space we had to work. This led us to the design phase.

Design: Visualizing the Dream

Operating in a new space, we had to build some infrastructure that didn’t exist: 

  • Large TV monitors instead of projectors with screens 
  • A new tech table to accommodate more sound and media equipment than the sanctuary had previously housed
  • New stage lighting solutions since the room got pretty dark after sunset (which we deferred until after we had used the space for a while – aka a “post-launch improvement”)

Building off our discovery information, we collaborated on sketching out possibilities for how we’d present song lyrics, sermon illustrations/scripture, and announcements to the congregation as well as how we would accommodate all the new sound and media equipment in the rear of the sanctuary.

Due to the high vaulted ceilings, an early plan included purchasing two used 70” TVs that would be connected to the computer in the rear of the sanctuary. These two TVs would serve as our presentation monitors instead of an overhead projector and screens.

Diagram of Mac Mini and monitor connections for tech booth

After some extensive YouTube research, I found a low-budget way to build a tech booth using a solid-core door from Home Depot and desk legs from Amazon. I sketched out part of the layout in a Google Drawing to visualize where each piece of tech would sit on the custom desk. This tech table would supplement the small sound booth permanently installed in the rear of the sanctuary.

Google Drawing showing a DIY table and where computer equipment would fit on it

The design phase took on many formats beyond literally drawing sketches. As all of the above was happening, the tech team and pastoral staff continued to dialog via group email threads and Google Doc comments about additional questions around lighting needs, removing some pews, replacing ungrounded electrical outlets, whether to buy an advanced or basic keyboard or tuning the existing piano, all with the intention of us making the best use of our new space while also making conscientious budget decisions.

Develop: Bringing the Designs to Life

We planned. We envisioned what could be. We created a spreadsheet of the specific purchases to be made, from where, and for how much. We had an approved budget. Now was the time to execute what came from our extensive discovery and design phases.

For this project, the develop phase equated to acting on decisions made during discovery. I started this phase by connecting to a sales rep at Sweetwater and ordering most of the sound equipment from them. Sweetwater is known for its relational sales approach, and they gladly offered us a discount on many items as well as waiving the large shipping expense. Some specialty items were ordered directly from other vendors, and a lot of odds and ends and last-minute items were purchased from Amazon. At this point, we had our plans and all the purchases in hand stored in my garage. 

The next part of the develop phase was to install the equipment. We broke this up into a few days.

Earlier in the week we removed a few pews in the rear to make space for the new tech table as well as building the new tech table. On Friday evening we moved all of the equipment from my garage to the church and assembled the new tech table so that we could all hit the ground running on Saturday morning.  

Saturday, October 14 was the big day. We had to assemble mic and music stands, set up and test all of the sound equipment, set up the computer in the back and TV monitors in the front, and set up a new live streaming camera and ATEM mini control system. IN. ONE. DAY.

Thankfully, just like during our discovery and design phases, each person leaned into his strengths. Jeremy and a couple of worship leaders worked on the sound system. Patrick and a few others worked on the monitors and associated cabling for that. Elias and others troubleshooted how to mount the monitors to stands that didn’t come with the proper mounting hardware. I set up the computer and the live streaming. Others assembled music and mic stands. It was an amazing flurry of activity.

We hit a snag. 

The used TV monitors we bought were damaged during delivery, but we didn’t have time to test them until installation day. We convened a small committee to consider our options. The original plan was to place a 70” TV on each side of the stage to display our Google Slides during worship. This was from the get-go a temporary arrangement since we all agreed that 70” was likely too small for people in the rear of the sanctuary. When we discovered neither TV worked, we pivoted to buying just one new 86” TV from Costco and placed it on the left side of the stage behind a large lectern structure. Two guys ran to Costco and returned a while later with the giant TV in hand. We were back in business!

This resulted in a couple of wins for us: the single 86” monitor was large enough to be seen from anywhere in the sanctuary, and this meant fewer cables to run! This snag turned out to be a blessing, a better setup than our initial plan.

Deploy: First Service Using New Gear

Deploying software refers to the process of making a software application or system available for use. So for this case study, the first service using the new equipment represented our deployment of the equipment. Our work was ready for public consumption: a worship service using all new sound equipment, media displays, and live streaming setup. 

To make life easier for ourselves, we planned a stripped-down worship team for this first service in the new space with new equipment. Four vocalists sang acapella leading the congregation in songs printed on bulletins. Simple. This gave us the breathing room to ease into all the newness and reduced the opportunities for technical glitches. 

Our first service in the new space with completely new sound and tech equipment in place

You can watch that first service here.

Iterate: Make Things Better Over Time

With our MVP (minimum viable product) setup successfully launched, we made a few minor adjustments here and there over the next couple of weeks and months. The sound tech moved the wireless receivers from the back to the front of the sanctuary for clearer reception. He added stereo microphones to capture the live sound of the room and mixed it with the vocal mics so that the live stream audio sounded more like the in-person sound.  

After a few months passed and the team was rested from an intense many weeks of making miracles happen, a smaller subset of us started a post-launch iteration cycle. Our sound was dialed in and adding a proper video camera had greatly improved the live streaming over using my iPhone from the front row, but we still needed more lighting to improve the live stream quality.

A mini version of the project management cycle repeated. We identified the scope, budget, and timeline for implementing an improved lighting system since the old sanctuary gets quite dim after the sun goes down, and our services are held at 4:00 PM on Sundays. The lighting changes drastically during our service as the sun sets resulting in poorly lit video for our online viewers.

I researched budget-friendly lighting options, purchased two Boulder 19x15W Zoom Beam Wash Moving Head Lights, wireless adapters, and a controller, and then scheduled a day for installation. In addition to new lights, we mounted a 70” confidence monitor above the tech booth replacing a small monitor we had set up on the front pew.

Left: newly installed front lighting Right: 70" confidence monitor wall-mounted above the sound booth

Our first service with the new lighting and confidence monitor installed was on Easter Sunday. It was a beautiful service, and I was so happy with the lighting quality.

Our first service with the new lighting and confidence monitor installed was on Easter Sunday.

You can watch the Easter service here.

Key Takeaways For Any Big Project

Our church’s big scary project of moving into a new space and updating every ounce of audio-visual technology exemplifies the transformative power of project management principles in navigating unfamiliar terrain. None of us were singularly experienced to take on such a large endeavor. But by adhering to a structured approach, fostering collaboration, and embracing iterative improvement, we overcame challenges and laid the foundation for future growth and innovation.

Project Management Pyramid

For your next big project, remember to define the following at the outset:

  • Scope
  • Budget
  • Timeline

Project Phases

After you have summarized the scope, budget, and timeline, consider the following phases of your project so that you do not get overwhelmed by everything all at once.

  • Discovery
  • Design
  • Develop
  • Deploy
  • Iterate

Applicability Across Various Fields

Project management principles are not confined to any specific industry or domain. Consider these examples of how they can be applied in diverse contexts:

  • Launching a startup: Defining the scope, budget, and timeline is crucial for entrepreneurs embarking on a new venture. Each phase of development—from ideation to product launch—requires careful planning and execution.
  • Planning a wedding: From selecting vendors to coordinating logistics, managing a wedding involves numerous moving parts. Applying project management techniques helps couples stay organized and ensure a seamless event.
  • Completing a home renovation: Whether remodeling a kitchen or renovating a bathroom, homeowners can benefit from project management principles to streamline the process, stay within budget, and meet deadlines.

As we reflect on this journey, we’re reminded that no challenge is impossible with the right mindset and methodology. Stay tuned as we continue to navigate the intersection of faith and technology, assisted by these enduring project management principles.

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