Serving Your Congregation Through Lighting Maintenance and Essential Skills

by | Lighting, Lighting Connections, Production

Like anything of value, production lighting requires some TLC if you want it to perform at its best––and for a long time. Much of what’s involved in the maintenance of the fixtures themselves could be classified as good housekeeping (want them to work? Keep them dust-free), but sometimes how well, or poorly, lighting performs depends on how you’re powering your systems. Here are some best practices for church techs to keep in mind.


Schedule Maintenance

If you don’t put lighting maintenance on the calendar, chances are you’re not going to get around to it. If we’re going to invest in these lights, we need to plan for regular, routine maintenance. It’s similar to a car: you want to make sure you change the oil, you want to check under the hood every once in a while, maybe replace the spark plugs, and that thing will treat you right for years to come. Most production lighting manufacturers provide maintenance schedules for new fixtures on request. If you’re purchasing used fixtures,  it’s a good idea to ask the seller about the unit’s maintenance history.

Your Congregation Needs Direction Too

Humans like to be directed. Show us where to look, where to focus, and make it obvious. Ego? That’s a nagging quality which can be both a driving force of achievement yet a dominating blinder on reality. A healthy ego does serve a purpose, propelling one with a sense of confidence and command. Too much though and we succumb to a trap of narcissism and stubbornness.


There’s no denying the level of ego commonly found in the production world. We tend to hover over our respective stations like a mother protecting the nest, we often claim territorial dominance; refusing to listen to those around us while treating our knowledge as the supreme mandate of the church.

While gaining feedback from our audience might seem counterproductive, it’s the exact dose of information and vantage point that will bring your lighting design and experience to a new level. Your audience does not care how you light your stage. They do care how it makes them feel.

Fading With Purpose

When thinking about how light interacts with an audience, the most basic element is not color or position, but rather the intensity and fade time; the speed at which light comes on and goes off. Ever notice the time it takes for lights to dim in a movie theatre or the time it takes for the interior lights in a luxury vehicle to dim? It takes roughly six seconds. Research shows this is the length of time that most humans feel a natural rise and fall of light. It’s the length of time we feel comfortable with when our eyes to adjust to the environment.

Aside from the opening of a concert or special effect in a theatrical production, few, if any moments call for any kind of sudden blackout or resurgence of light levels. Eyes need time to adjust and taking an audience by surprise is typically not warranted. Think of these changes like a new paragraph in a story; a deep breath in and exhale out. Paying close attention to the natural flow of your fade time not only cleans up the overall presentation but organically plays into how eyes and emotions respond to change.

Show Us Where

As noted above, humans like to be directed. Show us where to look, where to focus, and make it obvious. It’s why we get frustrated when there is no clear sign for the restrooms or the reason we grow anxious about a car not signaling a turn. One of lighting’s most enduring qualities lies in its ability to direct focus; to frame a particular setting or object, acutely pulling our eyes from place to place.

Certainly the idea of directing an audience’s eyes must be taken in proper context. The size and shape of your environment, type of event, and atmosphere will play into the decision making process. A simple rule of thumb though: as the space grows larger, the need for directed focus becomes more critical. Yet even in smaller environments, subtle shifts in key-lighting and intensity levels can dramatically alter how an audience separates and perceives elements more effectively.

The Color Game

Entering a discussion regarding color and mood is akin to debating the best family sedan vehicle. No shortage of opinions here. Background, experience, personal preference, and perspective play key roles in what kind of response is given. While hardline rules are difficult to draft when it comes to lighting and color, understanding how color affects mood and atmosphere are mandatory for any lighting designer.

Enter ego

As lighting designers, we often want to pull out the toys, put on the flash and bang, and run the gamut of our own fleeting ideas every week. But do we take the time to think about why we are making these choices, why this color pallet is being used for this song. And have we stopped to consider if any of it is cohesive and accomplishing the real goal: drawing people into an atmosphere of worship and connection. The beautiful part of color is that we get to be creative, but creativity without principle and guided direction can be misleading. With a small bit of research and awareness, we can better use color as a powerful force towards a meaningful and effective worship experience.

The Takeaway

Your audience does not care how you light your stage. They do care how it makes them feel. Any type of creative work requires not only the technical side, but an exhaustive amount of trial, research, and yes, collaboration. Putting yourself in the shoes of your audience, or better yet asking them what they think, will provide valuable insight and be a catalyst for more effective lighting designs.

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