At some point in the media department of any church, certain questions have been asked when the subject of lighting comes to the table.
First, how much is too much, versus how much is not enough?
The use of lighting should never be a distraction; however, you cannot be content with simply turning the lights to full.
Another question is, what will the culture of my church allow me to get away with, before we have a problem?
Each of these are critical questions, as you think through lighting design and your church.
As with any art form, there are foundational principles to be followed. However, I argue and firmly believe lighting, especially in the church world, leans toward one’s opinion.
Once we hear these thoughts, we can then argue which opinion(s) drive the ship.
This topic could go a lot of different directions, but I would like to shave it way back, and deal more with the fundamental aspects of lighting in your church.
It’s no mystery all churches are different.
Churches are full of different people, different walks of life, different ages, and on any given Sunday, the moods and attitudes will vary about the desire to even be in that room.
The first group of people in the room that you approach, would argue that the use of special lighting is too production-oriented or distracting.
Another group might lean toward simply having the lights on and leaving it at that.
Then another, typically a younger audience, is attracted to low lights in the house, possibly haze and lighting, which helps to develop a certain atmosphere. This group would argue their worship is enhanced by the lights, sound, video, etc.
In response, that first group will likely say that they don’t need all this to encounter God.
So, who’s right and who’s wrong?
This is just scratching the surface of the issues one might face when trying to improve on the lighting within a church.
All of this has been said to make the point, as it is absolutely paramount that you know who your church is, and what they can handle.
As the media director, creative director or in a position your church puts in charge of the lighting, you must know the answer to this question and know it well!
The use of lighting should never be a distraction; however, you cannot be content with simply turning the lights to full, with the hope that it communicates to all!
When you think of lighting for your church, find the middle ground of being relevant without forfeiting influence.
Keep in mind when trying to find the sweet spot of lighting design for your church, don’t make all your desired changes at once. Many times, we lose the battle of influencing change when we seek to fix each of the perceived problems all at once. I have been taught this over the years and I hold fast to the fact that I can go faster on my own, but I can go farther when I have the people onboard with me.
If the changes you make to the lighting design of your church are too much and too quickly, you could alienate a very important group of people who will make that known, and your ability to influence will dwindle, before you ever get started.
Along the same lines, you need to make sure the senior pastor and the worship pastor are on board with the direction you want to take the church’s lighting.
At Cross Church in Springdale, Arkansas, my pastor allows a lot of room to decide where I want the design of lighting.
Even with that flexibility, he has his set of rules, and they will not be broken.
For example, when he is up to preach, all house lights will be, on and they will be full, with no exception and no discussion.
The pastor should and does have his finger on the pulse and DNA of the church, so lean into this, and work together, to improve where you are with your lighting design.
Never forget, subtle changes can vastly improve the quality, look, and feel of your room.
You don’t have your lighting needing to go from zero to concert-feel, to make an impact.
Here is a practical exercise I would practice. Go in your worship room when it’s empty and quiet. Sit in the back and look at the big picture. Look at the stage, the walls, the floor, the ceiling. Take note of the colors that exist and the ones that don’t, before the lights are even added.
Don’t make this a quick exercise.
Really drink in your room, and ask yourself the question, where are we, where could we be, and how are we going to get there?
Recognize that your purpose in this exercise is not to entertain. The purpose of creative lighting design is another tool to help magnify and enhance the delivery of the worship experience, from the first note to the last amen.
Finally, the best part is, we don’t need massive budgets to make impactful changes in the lighting of our worship facilities.
For every expensive brand, another company is making a similar product for a fraction of the cost.
Also understand that most of your lighting rig is used once or twice a week. You don’t need a touring quality product that will end up being used once or twice a week. Remember that subtle color splashes where light was just white or non-existent, can bring attention and satisfaction that oftentimes people may not notice, but somehow appreciate.
Lighting in churches can often be as impossible as picking the songs that appeal to all. In such an arduous task, don’t forget everyone is important, so you must always try to accomplish the impossible.
In moving ahead with any desired changes, realize that some people need to be brought along to understand why. Then there are some who want change, but need to understand the reason that change doesn’t happen overnight.
We cannot turn a blind eye to the need to be relevant in a culture that screams for atmospheric appeal. We can’t fall into the trap that an all-powerful God can’t move in people’s hearts, without the right atmosphere. If we get off balance on either one of those, we cross the line into danger.
Before you start worrying about the lighting design of your church, make sure God has you where He wants you, and then start running hard and fast to enhance the worship experience with the gifts you have been given!