A lighting director and their series of responsibilities have become a new addition to many worship teams over the past decade. Churches across the country have expanded the art form of lighting into a much larger role in how we create atmospheres. This growth has also resulted in some confusion as to the role, function, and direction a lighting director should have.
Lighting directors at a church don't typically have any other staff, which necessitates the need for us as directors to be good leaders.
Let's explore how we can serve the church best through lighting!
The definition of a lighting director in the church world is very broad. It typically includes:
Constructing a visual design that enhances and does not distract from worship
Devising the concept for the lighting design (placement of fixtures, use, and type of fixture)
Creating unique designs for each song (vision for the feel, color, intensity, emotion of a song)
Programming the lighting console
Operating the lighting console
Maintaining lighting gear
Managing and engaging volunteers
Setting up new plots (lighting layouts)
Managing department needs including budgeting, purchasing, and scheduling
Designing stage sets
Building and setting up stage sets
In the professional lighting industry, there is a much more concise role for a lighting director. Their responsibilities are typically more limited to playback, updating, and overseeing a lighting setup. Others involved include lighting designers, lighting programmers, lighting techs, repair techs, and entire scenic departments.
In the church world, we do not typically have the luxury of such a large, highly skilled team. A lot of the responsibilities fall on the lighting director. This, however, can be one of the greatest things about being a lighting director in the church. The involvement you get to have from start to finish is not typical in the production world. This situation affords a great deal of creative flow and the ability to follow creative ideas to their best end.
Lighting directors at a church don't typically have any other staff, which necessitates the need for us as directors to be good leaders. Many times there is a very large workload for the lighting director at a church. The only way we can be truly successful is to include others into our realm to help.
Involving others will help you grow relationships that will make what you accomplish even more special. Even for those of us who are introverts, the addition of a few people can give you an incredibly tight knit community that makes life even better than it already is!
If you are having a hard time finding people, please know there are people in your church that want to serve, but just haven't been engaged yet. Having you personally invite them to join you can change their life!
If you don't know where to start, I suggest starting in your youth group. What teenager wouldn't want to play with crazy, cool technology that can change the entire feel of the room with a few buttons?
As a lighting director in the church, our primary goal should be to create and support an atmosphere for worship. It is hugely important for us to keep our eyes on that goal. Many times as an LD, it is easy to fall into the desire to create something cool without an eye to how it may affect the atmosphere of worship. I try to always ask myself, could this be distracting? If so, I use some creativity to find a different way to go about that part of the design.
Another major consideration a lighting director should have is how they work together and alongside other departments. Scenic, video, and occasionally audio can all be affected by lighting.
As in any area of ministry, we need to value working together over our individual desires. A great LD will make sure to provide adequate lighting for any video cameras, consider light placement and how it might create buzzes or hums with audio. They will also consider how the lighting can drastically change the scenic, and use that to convey the overall message.
A few keys to being a great lighting director
Understand the vision of your leadership and strive to support it through your craft
Design your lighting in a way that supports worship in your congregation
Err on the side of caution, if you think a design element may be distracting
Include others in your planning, setup, and execution (we are better together)
Seek to hone your craft by constantly learning (community with other LDs, trade articles, and blogs, like ChurchStageDesignIdeas.com are great places to learn)
Be humble and open to suggestions and change (some of your best creativity will come from an unsought change)
Build your leadership skills (find a mentor, be in community with other artistic leaders, practice 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8)
Understand that your design is bigger than you making a pretty look. You are a part of impacting lives and helping people connect with their Creator during worship!
What to not do as a lighting director:
Don't assume you are the only one who should have any say. Ultimately your senior leadership is in charge of what fits best with the characteristics of the church. Use your great creativity to find solutions that allow you to create beautiful light art, while following their direction.
Do not electrocute yourself, it's not fun.
Do not compromise safety for a design idea.
Don't value your art over the people that is destined for
As a lighting director, you have the opportunity to lead and love others well. All the while, expressing yourself artistically through the creation of lighting.
Let us focus on learning, engaging, and leading in order to better ourselves for service to the Lord!