My husband and I are consultants for churches that are asking typical questions about lighting, sound and media. And I wanted to get your thoughts. We attend a church that is about 2000, and there is some question as to why do we need or do not need theatrical lighting during the services? They are picking our brains about the lighting. I know what I think, but I want to know what you think as worship leaders?

Questions like: Do you think that we need lighting transitions and going to dark during a service prior to media announcements and lighting transitions during the service? What they are doing is running the color motion spots every time there is a lighting transition during the service, and going to black, and not keeping the sanctuary lit during the service.

What are your suggestions or opinions for lighting transitions during a service.

My personal feeling is if we have to create atmosphere for people to worship then we are just covering up things that really need to be the focus of our attention.

Now, we know that in some situations that lighting is a huge issue with media because it has to be somewhat dimmed to be visible, but when that is not the case, why do we do it? Are we doing these things for the right reasons.

We had a pastor once tell us that that he believed that when someone walks into their church, he wants them to have the experience of knowing that their church was a place of light, like when you are walking from the darkness into the light.

So, my question to you all is when is...when does lighting in your opinion cross the line from becoming a necessity to theatrical? Where do you draw the line..?

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I haven't thought a lot on this issue, but I know that at times that darkening the audience and brightening up the stage helps bring focus to what is being said or done on stage at that moment. It helps remove distractions. Other times, bringing up the house lights will bring the rest of the congregation into the situation (like a corporate prayer or sharing time, etc) and promote a family feeling.

I think lighting something to use, just like using a microphone to amplify the speaker's words. As humans, we respond to visual stimulation, and like anything in this world, it can be used appropriately or inappropriately.

This comment "if we have to create atmosphere for people to worship then we are just covering up things that really need to be the focus of our attention." is not necessarily true, in my humble opinion. Does it mean that covering up the clear focus of the people around me is distracting me from focusing on God? Actually, it does the opposite for me. I sometimes appreciate a darkened room so that the folks around me don't distract when I'm doing business with God, even in a corporate setting.

Hope I haven't offended here...just some thoughts off the top of my bald head! :)
No you have not offended me at all, I am looking for a response. These are questions and things that have been brought to our attention, and we are trying to utilize everything they have, but in the process there are a lot of people who view lighting as a distraction instead of a creative way to help enhance our services. So there is a lot to be said that you can not say in a discussion. So we are just trying to get some responses so we can go in our next meeting and tell them about our research. Rick, I always value your opinions you have awesome ideas.

What I meant about the covering up part was, I have seen lighting used in a service where it was like you were going to an actual production and everyone is not concentrating on why the lights go down, they are trying to see what is going on, on the stage that they can not see instead of paying attention to why the lights went down in the first place. I just think that sometimes lighting is over used. That was the only thing that I meant by that. LOL
Yes, lighting can be overused, So can the music we produce. There are times when an instrument soloing is very focusing and soothing, and other times when it comes across as distracting. The key is in knowing when and how to use our available resources.

Then, of course, there is the problem of many people seeing the same thing, but having opinions that vary drastically. In the end, it's really hard to please even most of the people most of the time, but a good, creative and SENSITIVE lighting tech/sound tech/singer/musician goes a long way towards making a service time the most meaningful time it can be for most of the people present.

On the odd Sunday when it wasn't the way we would have liked it, that's a good time to practice grace. But if it's a constant thing and bothering a lot of folks, it's time to do something about it...which is what you're doing. Good on you for asking the questions. I hope some good and helpful solutions come from it.
Thanks Rick, yes that is why they came to us. So we wanted to get more than just our own opinions to answer there questions. We know what we would do, but to have many people to back it up is really the best way to go, because people can just say that "That is just your opinion." And my husband and I know very well that you can not please everyone all of the time.

Thank you all for your answers and we will see what else shows up in this blog.... LOL

Thanks Rick and Camron for your thoughts already!
I love this topic!

Lighting CAN be used to simply illuminate objects that are already there, but it can also create moods and enhance emotions that maybe can't be seen; but it's in the believer worshiping.

I think the mantra of having as much bright, white light in the sanctuary comes from wanting the room to be a place of light, like you said. That's totally cool, not wrong at all! But, to me, there seems to be a huge focus on the worship BAND on stage - simply because that's usually where all that front light is pointed.

If you turn off the front white light, and (for example) turn on red backlight on the band and stage for "Jesus Paid it All", and highlight a real cross in the room; to me that helps take the focus off the people on stage singing...and hopefully allows the believer to think of Christ on the cross - and what He did for us. Lighting can help create moods that fit the worship element.

It also can be very easily distracting! Lots of moving lights; and flash and trash...I don't like unintentional use of lighting and color in worship.
More on worship lighting colors here: http://visualworshiper.com/blog/2009/11/worship-lighting-colors/
Yes, this is what I am talking about! I am talking about all of the flash and trash during the service, we are not really talking about so much of the brightness, but I know that somethings have been mentioned about keeping some of the house lights a little more brighter than taking them down too low. Our sanctuary has no window lighting, so we are not talking about minimizing lighting because it is not dark enough for media, what we are talking about is that the house lights are too low almost dark, and the stage lights are really bright, and there is so much of the flash of color lights during transitions that it is like we are doing a live show, we are doing live streaming, but you do not see that anyway.

Now I do like it for fun events and special event services, but in every service I do not think that it is necessary that lights go flashing, but a more stationary type of lighting that is soft and maybe with a little motion, like on a motion scape. Right now it seems much like when you are recording a live broadcast and the music comes on when you are running out of time, or switching from live to a media role in. To me I think I tend to want it to look more graceful than looking like we are in a concert every service, you know what I mean?

Yes, we want to be creative but I think at times it just becomes about the creativity and we want to show everything that we have to use in a couple of hours. LOL
Hi Brenda,
I am a geeky, techno guy. I love robotic lighting, full visuals etc.
In a concert venue, these are very much a part of "the show".
IMHO, many congregations are a mixed bag of which,some would be impaired
by excessive visuals.
I would run my console very conservative. Any changes should be subtle, and slight.
If a house is predominantly college kids, the inverse applies.

If your church utilizes the arts (drama skits, dance) in services, theatrical instruments are a must. Proper lighting techniques are a science to be mastered. This position is mission critical and not for the casual volunteer.
That is where I would draw the line.
You are exactly right! We have a huge church and a very qualified staff, but they go a little crazy sometimes with the light transitions. We have had to really just cast vision, that if it draws attention to itself rather than to the global goal, it can be miss used very easily. These are things that we will be presenting tonight in our meeting. We are very excited to see what will happen. Even though we are a large church, they have had some issues with getting people that fit the description for what is needed. Almost everyone in our church serves at some capacity, and many people doing multiple things but audio/visual/media are a little harder to fill because you need people that are really even somewhat experienced at it.

Thank you, for your response.

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