Traditional Church Lighting

by | Lighting, Lighting Connections, Production

Church has always been the place where people come to find peace and discover their spirituality. Whether you lead a Christian worship band or volunteer in a traditional church, the goal is the same – engage the congregation and drive them toward the word of God. Lighting plays a significant role in creating the atmosphere which lets the audience fully embrace the church experience.  Here are the key elements and lighting requirements for a church stage lighting design that will light up the church architecture and engage those in attendance.

We have two types of churches operating in recent times, traditional and contemporary, and the lighting considerations for both are different. First, we’ll explore the lighting design for established churches and cathedrals. 

church pendant lights fixture

1. Lighting Requirements

The recommended light level in a church depends on various factors such as church type, size, and location.

Recommended: 20 to 30 footcandles (215 to 320 lux) of illumination for traditional churches.

Both footcandles and lux describe the brightness levels of a light source.  

Moreover, distribute light evenly without sharp shadows in the sitting area. This will help the audience read and participate in the whole church experience.

2. Mounting Height 

Traditional churches have insanely tall ceilings, which gives them a signature serene atmosphere.

Recommended: The light fixtures should be 10 to 12 feet above the floor. Use suspended light or pendant lights to reduce the distance for tall ceilings. 

Another rule of thumb is that the distance between the fixtures should be 1.2 times the distance between the light source and the floor. This is also true for small chapels.  Moreover, years of candle soot and dust accumulate on the ceilings, turning them black, which absorbs the lights leading to loss of illumination. A clean ceiling will let the light beam bounce back and enhance brightness. 

Church lighting

3. Lighting Control 

You may need different light intensities for other areas. Sometimes you must focus on clergy near the altar or the choir singing hymns in the chancel. Maybe you need to light up the available room for the congregation for easy reading of the scriptures. Installing dimmable lights for strategic light distribution inside the church is best.  You can invest in dimmable light switches, which give more intelligent control. 

4. Create Focus 

Creating focus is similar to the lighting controls we talked about earlier. Focusing on specific aspects of the church has a dramatic effect. Use light fixtures to illuminate crosses, statues, paintings, or areas of the altar. I recommend a 2:1 ratio brightness intensity for creating focus. 

5. Natural Lighting 

Traditional churches usually have large windows, letting sunlight enter the place. Consider the element of daylight in your church lighting design. The color temperature of daylight is around 4000 K, so you need luminaires with a cooler color temperature to complement natural sunlight. 

The church combines natural light with led lights

6. Aesthetics

Proper church lighting must be practical and aesthetically pleasing, because the goal is to create a serene environment. It should be bright enough so that the congregation can read and move about freely.

Carefully use accent lighting to create visual interest. Highlight the vintage architecture, sculptures, paintings, and altar.  Hide the unnecessary cable run for better aesthetics and safety.

Churches with wooden and stone structures look the best in warmer lights, about 2700 K to 3500 K. 

Churches also hold special events like weddings, baptisms, Christmas, Easter, and memorial services, which you must remember during the initial lighting design phase. Use high CRI-rated bulbs for better color rendering, as no one wants dull-looking flowers, décor, and a pale bridal dress on the wedding day. 

LED church stage lighting

7. Lighting Layers 

Every successful lighting design combines lighting layers that complement each other. Here are some strategies you can use. 

Indirect and Direct Lighting 

Direct lighting means directing the light source to illuminate the targetted space, and indirect lighting is done when fixtures are directed towards a wall or ceiling. The light bounces off it, creating a more aesthetic vibe. It also distributes the light more evenly. However, this style only works in light-colored and concrete ceilings.

Accent Lighting 

Accent lighting highlights architectural features, sculptures, church stages, or furniture. 

Task Lighting 

The church experience can be broken down into tasks like clergy giving sermons or volunteers holding meetings to plan the next holy event. Lighting these areas results in better performance. 

8. Energy Efficient 

Using energy-efficient lighting systems is crucial to running a sustainable church. LED bulbs are the most efficient solution currently available. LEDs have 70% more life span than incandescent and fluorescent lights, and come with various fixture designs, colors, temperatures, and color rendering options. 

Using retrofit bulbs is also a good alternative, as it will save you the cost of a complete lighting system renovation. 

church pendant light fixtures

Lighting Fixtures for Traditional Church

Floodlights and Spotlights

Vintage churches have many unique architectural features to highlight, and spotlights are best for this. You can also use them to light the stage and create a dramatic focus on the choir. 

If there are sculptures and paintings present in your church, place spotlights above or below them to highlight their unique features. 


Scones are lighting fixtures in exquisite designs usually inspired by a theme, which light up the space and give it a unique ambiance.

Pendants, Chandeliers, and Suspended Lights

Many churches have tall ceilings, so using pendants and suspended lights helps cover the distance and provide adequate illumination. Chandeliers are more for decor and basic general illumination. 

Wall washers

Wall washers are your best bet to light up a stone wall to bring out its unique texture. 

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