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Lighting Design for Worship: Dream Big, Be Creative

Being a designer, I look to be someone who can collaborate with others around me. I think is a great trait to have.

The basics of lighting are pretty simple, beginning with making sure your subjects are lit!

As a first thing, I always check or make sure that all my worship team has some sort of key light on them.

Remember, palettes and presets are your friends as a programmer!

At least one source point will work, though two is always preferable. It's important to make sure not only that the congregation can see the person on stage, but also that those viewing your service online or on television, can as well.

Cameras require a lot of light to see, compared to that of a normal human eye, so make sure that everyone has proper key light, as that is always the first step toward a great looking service, both on camera and off.

I also like to build my message/speaking message lighting look (if there are any) first, so it’s out of the way. Sometimes, I will place that on a separate cue stack, to program it into my main cue list later. After I have made sure everyone has good key lighting, I then begin to move into building my song looks.

If you’re using a lighting console that features lighting palettes or presets, I suggest building as many palettes and presets that you can think of (band positions, aerial looks, color combos, etc.). This helps in building looks quicker.

Remember, palettes and presets are your friends as a programmer!

From a design aspect, it’s always good to look over the song list for the weekend, and just listen to the songs, if you’re able to. Listen to how the song flows, and what kind of emotions or pictures do you imagine seeing? Take that out of your mind now and put it into your stage.

I love to keep slow songs intimate with darker colors, such as purple and blue with a few hints of white gobos to add dimension. It’s all about feeling out the song. You don’t have to program a ton of flashing effects, or big sweeping movements with your moving lights, if you have any or a ton of color chases.

If you have LED fixtures, a lot of the time less really is more, as I don’t typically shine lighting into the congregation on a Sunday morning. I also don’t program a lot of effects … maybe a few intensity effects, but what I love to do is create nice impactful, powerful looks. I typically will start with a dim mellow intro look, that will slowly build into a brighter look that’s more predominant.

If the song has a huge chorus build, I will take the rig to the brightest that I can get without blinding anyone in the congregation, to just something that really matches the powerful moment of the song. A lot of the time, that’s no gobos, just open white, nice beamy looks, or just bringing up the intensity of my eye candy fixtures.

In the occasion of a night of worship, I will create epic crowd immersive looks, aiming to really bring the audience’s focus to the stage. That’s where I will program a lot of looks that do go into the audience, making sure that it also doesn’t blind them, but draws them in and makes the stage feel less far away.

In using lighting to do this is part of our jobs, I encourage you to get creative on how you think you could best do it, based on your situation. 

It also doesn’t hurt to message your worship leader and see if he or she has any requests for how they imagine the song will look visually. As a designer, I love collaborating with my worship team. As I am always asking what they are thinking, or envision for a song, or even for an entire service.

One time, our worship leaders decided they wanted to pull things back a bit, so we decided to not use any graphics on our video walls, but just a black background with lyrics over the top. This was a great palette cleanser, to get ready for the Christmas season, which typically features one of our most visual heavy stage designs.

These conversations don’t happen by themselves, though, it takes a designer who’s willing to collaborate and help enhance the worship experience, while working as a team. Sometimes, I may not always like what I’m being asked to do in terms of lighting design, but I have to remember I’m here to support them.

I’m here to enhance what is happening already, and that’s worshipping Jesus.

Being a designer, I look to be someone who can collaborate with others around me. I think is a great trait to have. It will help you to form a great relationship with your worship team, where they eventually will come to trust you completely, with the look of their songs.

It’s very rare that I get asked to light something a certain way, but when that does happen, I want to make sure I can accommodate that request as best as possible, since they often trust me to light as how I see fit.

Once I’m done programming my songs, and collaborating with the worship team if needed, I like to run through the designed looks a few times, just to make sure everything is flowing nicely. This is hard to do sometimes on early Sunday mornings. I need to admit that I miss things occasionally, but understand that you can’t succeed, unless you fail a few times.

Lastly, I just want to encourage you to dream big, be creative, and don’t stop trying new things.

There really isn’t a wrong way to lighting, so have fun with it.

Try your own thing, but also don’t be afraid to ask some others for help!

As always, you’re welcome to contact me if you need anything at all! Don’t forget why we do what we do! That begins with helping to tell the incredible life changing message of Jesus.

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