CREATING CHURCH LIGHTING – IN THE BEGINNING

by | Lighting, Lighting Connections, Production

Creating lighting for a church involves a blend of practicality, aesthetics, and symbolism to enhance the worship experience and create a spiritually uplifting atmosphere. Here are some steps and considerations for creating effective church lighting.

  • Understand the specific requirements of the church space, including its size, layout, architectural features, and the types of services or events held.
  • Determine the goals of the lighting design, such as highlighting focal points, creating ambiance, or supporting various activities like worship, performances, or ceremonies.
  • Collaborate with church leaders, architects, designers, and lighting specialists to develop a comprehensive lighting plan.
  • Consider factors such as energy efficiency, maintenance requirements, and budget constraints.

If you were to ask yourself what a church looked like 100+ years ago compared to present time, I’m sure most of you would picture a “Little House On The Prairie” type of building that could fit a congregation of no more than 40 people. Church has changed quite radically in the last century; from choirs, pipe organs and stained-glass windows, to filling up concert stadiums with flashing lights and loud music with major production costs. Today we’re going to talk about some basic lighting that can be tailored to fit any budget or stage design.

HOW TO LIGHT A PASTOR

Front lights first – Front lights refer to the lights that are out over your congregation and are responsible for the main lighting of your subject matter, or the front of your stage. Depending on the scale of your church’s production, your front lights might be the most important lights in your rig for a few different reasons:

  1.  The first, not much is more distracting than having a poorly lit speaker. Having proper front lighting visually demands your congregation’s attention.
  2. The second reason primarily focuses on the clarity of your video feed. Whether you are projecting your speaker onto screens, or live streaming to one of the many social platforms, having a properly lit subject is extremely important. Broadcasting church services has never been more prevalent than it is today, post-COVID.

Back Lights or Hair Lights secondMost commonly known as back lights, this means having a second set of similar lights behind your speaker, lighting up the backside of their head, shoulders, and stage.

  1. This light may be unnecessary in some applications, but where it’s going to make the biggest difference is when capturing video content. The main purpose of a back light is to create separation between your speaker and the background behind them. It helps keep focus on what’s lit, and creates separation of the subject from the background.
  2. If you’re attending a service in person, fortunately for you, your eyes are so advanced that depth perception is something you hardly ever notice. A camera lens on the other hand can’t distinguish between the two as easily, and that’s why we are purposefully trying to create separation. This will result in a sharper video feed that points your attention to the speaker or whatever you’re trying to highlight.
  3. Although camera technology has significantly advanced in the past years (just as the rest of the production world) it does not matter how much money you spend on your camera, if your subject is not properly lit, you will not have a clear image.

HOW TO LIGHT A WORSHIP LEADER

 Lighting a worship leader is very similar to lighting a pastor in that many of the same techniques will remain the same. The biggest difference is you will have a greater creative allowance in what you’re able to do.

  1. One of the most prominent differences is angled front lighting. Instead of having the front light directly in front of the worship leader, it will be off to the left and/or right. Ideally, the angled lighting is paired with running half of the front light dimmer than the other. This will create visual depth, by way of some light shadowing, which is a bit more visually interesting than a flat front light.
  2. Another effective change you can make is changing the color temperature of your worship leader’s back(and sometimes front) light. Using a warmer color will further the dynamic change between scenes, and add yet another layer of depth to your service. Using a variance of colors lets you set moods and visually state when a new worship portion begins.

CREATING SCENES

Although there are literally hundreds of different types of lights you can get to do basically the same things, the two fixtures I believe are going to be the most impactful to your ministry for creating dynamic scenes are Wash’s and Spot/Profiles.

Color Washes first – A color wash is a relatively inexpensive way to radically transform a space. 

  1. An LED Color Wash light might be the single most versatile fixture you’ll have in your lighting rig. Its uses are pretty much endless. Back lights, up lighting, side fills, etc. 
  2. Using a Color Wash for back lighting will add depth to your stage and help create specific “looks”.
  3. Using a Wash to project light downward out into your audience will help with the disconnect between stage and congregation. Often in church settings, it can feel like there’s a gap between the two. This will encourage one room worshiping together. This is genuinely a great feeling for both the band and congregation. Be careful of glare though!

Spot/Profiles fixtures second A Spot or Profile are going to be your moving head fixtures. These fixtures are going to be responsible for creating the vast majority of energy in the space.

  1. These fixtures are usually more expensive but are extremely helpful when trying to create dynamics and depth in each scene. When this is done well, beautiful colors can really move people to a place to sit with God. 
  2. Blending colors on these fixtures to compliment the other fixtures we already have programmed is what’s going to fill the space and create depth to your show.
  3. Moving head fixtures will also commonly have GOBO’s or filters in them already. GOBOs are a filter that your beam passes through to create images on different surfaces (stage or walls). Pair GOBOS with movement, prisms, mirrors, and more, to create something special. This will add yet another layer of dynamic texture to your show, and the options are only capped by your creative ability.

HAZE

Haze is used to help create a certain atmosphere in your room that can’t really be replicated by any other fixture on the market. 

  1. So why use Haze? To pretty much sum up everything I have already said in one sentence, the main purpose of worship production is to create a beautiful environment where people feel comfortable worshiping God in an intimate and impactful way. 
  2. Haze is going to be a very helpful tool for creating that very thing. Haze fills up the empty space in your room and dramatically affects the overall atmosphere and lighting looks. 
  3. How does it work? Haze is responsible for most of the visual change that takes place in your space during a service. More specifically, it will create beams.
  4. Without Haze, your lights are only going to project light onto a surface. Filling your space with Haze helps your light occupy all the space in between the light and the surface it’s landing on, creating a beam of light. This is probably one of the most visually stimulating parts of your entire service.
  5. Is it bad for you? As long as you purchase high-quality fluids, no. All high-quality fluids are food-grade and have been shown to be safe. If you get complaints, you can always run the haze lighter. Even a small amount of haze will capture the light and create beams, it doesn’t take much as long as you’ve evenly blown it around the room.

IN SUMMARY

Worship production exists to further deepen the connection and engagement with your congregation. Just like you would dim the lighting and turn up the volume to watch a movie, worship production only helps you in getting lost in worship, just like you would with getting lost in a good movie or book after you’ve set the mood. By carefully considering these factors and principles, church lighting can contribute to a meaningful and transformative worship experience, fostering a sense of connection, reverence, and spiritual growth within the congregation.

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