The Free Expectation

free-hugs.jpgHave you noticed how many people want and expect something for free. To some extent I can understand this in the church. If you can get one thing for free you can use that few extra dollars you saved to do something else great for the kingdom. But, is anything really free? If so, where should we have that expectation?

Recently I've run into the free or as cheap as you can get expectation when it comes to technology. Let me try to illustrate what I mean with a couple examples. Recently I was talking to someone about buying a new laptop. His expectation was that you should be able to get the power of a MacBook Pro at a $500 price. That anything more expensive than that is ridiculous because there are $500 laptops on the market. Is this a realistic expectation?

Another example is someone in ministry marketing. It's the idea that we can market a ministry via free stuff on the Internet effectively to it's target audience.

In both of these cases is the expectation realistic? In the case of the laptop, the $500 laptop in no way compares to the more expensive models like the MacBook Pro or it's comparable PCs in performance and capability. It's a matter of you get what you pay for and for $500 you get a machine that can't do many things my friend wants to do. In the case of the ministry marketing, the target audience isn't the same group that uses and looks for all those free things on the Internet.

Where Does This Expectation Come From?

This expectation with technology is all around us. Classically, we have had TV over the air waves that was free, right? Not exactly. While it feels free, having our time taken up with commercials takes time and it sells. It is costing us just not money out of our pockets right at that moment.

Then there is the Internet. Look at all the free services. But, are they really free. Millions of people use Yahoo and Google for their email. It's a "free" service, right? Both of these companies make a lot of money on the advertising in their email. Is that really free? Or, just a way to generate revenue from us that isn't directly paying them for the email?

What about open sourced software? Isn't that free? Most of the time I'd say it isn't. Take for example drupal, the popular content management platform. There are a number of developers working for the major music labels who develop on drupal. If you buy music from those labels you are indirectly paying for drupal development. Is it really free? Or, just a revenue model that you don't see you money going to it?

Why Does This Matter?

I think it's good to occasionally remember that there is no such thing as a free lunch, except from your mom. Or, maybe the occasional free hug.

Matt I think this stems from

I think this stems from 2 places. The open source community and loose morality. Some of us have gotten use to free technology because the open source community has promoted itself as a repository of free stuff. And I love free. In regards to morality, I have been in a tech environment where no one paid for software. I mused aloud one day that I would like to get a piece of video editing software and the next day I had a disk on my desk with 4 different editors on it. Because tech is more rapidly adaptable to youth, the concept that "if I can figure out a way to get it for free, then its ok with me," is prevalent and becomes ingrained.

I think also that the cost curve for technology was so fluid for so long. I bought my 486 8mb ram, 540mb hd for $2200. My last Dell was $500. Its like people got used to things dropping in price so they just figured that if their last laptop cost them $1000, their next one should cost $500 and have twice the power.


I think this has some major consequences. One example is that people think the church can operate on less money. I've seen this in action and had conversations with people who have said this.

I'm curious what we can do about it as a people, a church, and as tech ministries.

well, in the church...

I know that early on in our church plant, our Pastor gave a sermon on the 10 commandments. When he got to stealing he quite literally called out everyone in the congregation regarding software piracy. I think that stops a lot of it right there, at least as far as whats used for church business.

I actually want to move my church over to Open Office because the money saved in MS Office costs can pay for a non-profit copy of the Adobe CS3 production suite. I always enjoy learning of new resources of media that can benefit our church, like always has good resources on its vodcast.

I think we can make wise choices about how to spend our resources to maximize our impact. For example, through I found a site that will print our invitation cards for half the cost and in smaller batches so we can create more relevant advertising, but we still realize that there is a cost to print media.

We can challenge our church and those in our church to be above reproach and to not engage in practices that violate God's commandments. Its still His Church after all.