Stage/Sanctuary Lighting: How Best to Serve Your Ministry’s Needs

Stage/Sanctuary Lighting: How Best to Serve Your Ministry’s Needs

Lighting is one of the most powerful tools available to tell a story, and it gives us the ability to focus the attention of the audience in a very specific way.

The role of lighting in a worship environment has become more important than ever.

Giving the audience an emotional experience is key to creating a great worship environment.

In a former life, lighting took a back seat to its audio and video cousins. However, with the rapid increase of video broadcasting, web-based church services, and multi-campus environments, it is lighting that has proved to be an equally important facet, and has fought its way into a rightful prominence in AVL budgets for houses of worship.

Ministries are finally starting to realize that if you spend $500,000 on a video system and $25,000 on the lighting to go with it, the video is probably going to stink. Big time! But I digress.

The ultimate question is what is the point of lighting in a worship space? How do we use it to serve the ministry needs? How can it help in creating the perfect environment for both live and video-based worship experiences?

These are great questions to be considered, especially when selling a lighting system to ministry leadership.

It's important to have the tools in your box that will assist in combating the age-old question of "why should we invest money on this?" Because after all, we want to look as smart as we actually are to leadership, and not as if we are some tech kids spending money like our hands were caught in the money pot.

Therefore, allow us to answer some of these important questions. What is the point of lighting and why is it important to my stage/sanctuary?

The short answer is to tell a story.

Lighting is one of the most powerful tools available, and it gives us the ability to focus the attention of the audience in a very specific way. With lighting, we can control where they look, what they experience and how they respond. We can create emotional connections to the activity on stage and with others in the room. We can use colors, textures and shapes that energize or relax.

No matter how we approach the design, the lighting has significant power over the total experience.

An effective blend of wash and profile fixtures on the stage can really open up a nice palette of design opportunities, giving way to great color and texture options with the design.

Creative lighting elements do not have to be, and frankly should not be, restricted to the stage area alone.

There is no better way to break the fourth wall and engage the audience in an immersive experience, than to bring the look into the audience space. This can be done in several ways.

One of my favorites is the RGBW LED house light.

Having access to this level of control for your room can completely change how people experience your service. From the minute they walk in the door, the colors you have chosen can immediately tell them how to feel.

During worship, you can take the color palette from your stage and bring it overhead and envelop the crowd. Another is texture. Utilizing a spot/profile fixture with gobo patterns can add incredible depth and dimension to your room. Splashing texture on your side walls, ceiling, and even across your audience can create a tremendous sense of space. Especially during worship.

One of my other favorites is to use an LED strip fixture to wash side walls and ceilings. This technique can be used in conjunction with LED house lights or in place of them. Again, giving the audience an emotional experience is key to creating a great worship environment.

Another important element when using lighting for the stage and audience space is that if you are shooting video for any reason, having the right visual lighting, especially in the audience, will help to create stunning visuals for the camera to capture.

When utilizing video for broadcast, streaming, web services, etc., it is extremely important to get camera shots of your room to set and establish a sense of space for those who do not know anything about the room you are capturing.

You have to remember those on the other end of your camera may be experiencing your service for the first time, and it may be through an iPad screen. Don't assume they know what your space is like. Get some establishing shots of the space, and utilize great lighting to help tell the story. Not only will it help set the mood and tone for the space, but it will also allow you to creatively light the audience, so you can capture their experience as well.

Whether it be facial expressions and responses during the talk, or a really powerful hands-raised moment during the worship, creative lighting elements again will support the best telling of the story.

Overall, when considering how lighting will support your ministry, you always want to start with covering the basic fundamental principles of good key lighting, and then begin to work your way across the lighting spectrum from there.

Your audience shouldn't be lit better than your lead pastor. We always start with the teaching look and work our way out. But make sure you have the right tools to do the job that is needed.

The worst mistakes I see ministries making are that they regularly don't have a good plan to follow, so they end up with mismatched and seemingly haphazardly assembled lighting systems.

If you need help coming up with a plan, let me know. It's super important to have a clear path, vision and direction with how you are going to use lighting to enhance the worship experience, and in return give you the most bang for your buck when putting a lighting system together.

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