After looking around the WTR site a bit, I haven't seen much talk about a very important part of the worship experience:  Stage Design.   I have found helpful websites like Church Stage Design Ideas, but they don't necessarily provide a full how-to when it comes to the process of changing church from a minimalistic look to a sermon-themed, elaborate look.  I know the design options seen in the above site and similar churches aren't the cookie-cutter method for all to follow, however, it's a great way to change things up and create a great atmosphere for worship.  But sometimes, finding information, funds, time, man (and woman) power, etc. can be hard to come by.  So for those of you out there that deal with this on a regular basis, is there a place to go, resource to obtain or way to start learning many great ideas from the ground up while saving on the church's wallet?  What tips do you have?  Any other websites you know of that can assist with these things?  Thank you in advance for your responses!

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Hi there! This is Jonathan from CSDI. What sort of information are you looking for? I want to make the site as useful as possible and I'd love to see exactly what you're looking for. I'm sure you aren't the only one. :)
Ah, Jonathan!  I feel I know you so well already!  I read through the majority of your blog and have found some excellent things.  Please keep it up.  Great stuff, man.  Basically, I don't know much about stage and set design.  A little background from my days in high school but not much.  Overall, my church knows even less than I do about stage design.  I think this could be an amazing ministry we could get going but we have very little budget to work with and in order for me to propose it to my church, I'd have to get some ideas flowing and present them along with numbers and visuals.  However, I can't come up with ideas for a stage when I don't have practical knowledge of what I can actually do with it and materials available to me.  Presently, we have a sort of boxed-in stage with about eight hamburger lights above (not literally but it surely looks and feels like it on stage)!  The worship is going well but I feel that the atmosphere is lacking.  You know, the ability to calm down and drown out the world to focus on God when you need to.  Currently we have one lighting environment:  bright.  So I'm looking for a cost-effective way to fix this so we can accurately depict the range of feelings one can feel on stage.  I'm also looking for ways to perform ideas I (and others at my church) may have to design the stage to correlate with sermon series.  My pastor loves these ideas but his creative skills in this department are, shall we say, limited.  So that's what I'm looking for.  I'm not sure about anyone else, but I have a lot to learn, a lot to do, but there is a lot God can do through me.  So I'm looking to see if God even wants me to start down that road, ya know?  Thanks for your response!
So you're looking for possible materials, lighting options, and prices for all that? Did I miss anything?
Well I might have missed it but possibly basic instruction from the ground up.  Church stage design for dummies.  Church stage lighting for dummies.  A crash course in the atmosphere of worship (that goes along with the songs and sermon)  Stuff like that.

hmmm...I'm not sure there's one way to do it...some people go literal with their themes... (making a jungle for instance)...and some people go a bit more abstract (I do that). We're in a series that is treasure hunt themed...and instead of making the stage look like a desert island I opted for elements that made the church look like it had sails...sometimes we go more literal too...but it depends on what you're going for.


as far as church stage lighting...this book was a really good read and might be perfect for you: 

Awesome!  Thanks for the help!

In the area of lighting:

If you start to get into changing the lights themselves, you can get into huge bucks, as well as unpleasant surprises with fire codes, wiring, building capabilities, etc (when the Commies shut us down, they'll use fire regulations).  If lighting is too direct, clever people may be able to construct baffles (either reflecting or translucent, using cloth) to soften the effect.  At one local church, for a special drama they made four tall stonehenge-looking fabric-covered wood boxes, with ordinary light bulbs inside.  They just plugged straight into a wall socket, so there was no code to worry about.  They could put different-colored bulbs inside, or different colors of cloth to make varying effects, and a routing box made it possible to light up different sections at different times.

Reflective surfaces, such as foil or mirrors, can multiply and beautify your lighting as well.

With minimal carpentry skill, frames for panels can be made up to 4' x 8' that can support wood, masonite or cloth -- the former paintable, the latter cuttable in any design that seems to augment the sermon idea (for instance, if he's preaching through John, who is trying to get us to figure out who Jesus is, you might create a panel for each week that carries a symbol relating to that chapter (jar for chapter 2, womb-feeling for chapter 3, a well or spring (blue cloth, draped like a river) for ch 4, blinding, clashing, even ugly colors for ch 9, a gate for ch 10, and so on), which one would just barely notice among the various other panels.  Things that are cloth or carpet can be better than wood if wood makes acoustical weirdness happen.

You can also build upwards.  I had made carpeted modules from scrap carpet and wood for actors to stand on in plays.  We had a cross on the platform for Easter week; it looked so nice I thought we'd keep it up another week, but the pastor asked if I could move some of the modules to the base of the cross, so he could stand in front of it  (we put plastic vines all around to disguise the straight lines and construction elements).  Pastor uses himself and/or a guy in a Jesus robe standing in front of the cross for illustrations (works marvelously for explaining substitutionary atonement).  This old rugged cross temporarily put up is still there, and had the unexpected blessing of replacing the main sanctuary cross, which was hidden by the overhead screen, and was a source of grumbles. 

Well, there's a few thoughts.

the process of changing church from a minimalistic look to a sermon-themed, elaborate look


Interesting, isn't the general direction these days the opposite one?  Trying to make the church look less like an old-fashioned "church?"  I guess it depends on the goals of your particular church.  When we built our building, I was the WL, and I pushed (successfully) to NOT have a raised platform at the front; there are probably some people who wish we did have one, but as soon as you do put in a raised platform, you're less flexible in terms of how that space at the front can be used.  The choir now has some stepped risers (but they'd probably have those even if we had a raised platform).  Also, in the building where we met before we built our own, the stage there had a resonant frequency right on a "D" note, and so certain notes would go from the monitors to the stage back into the microphones and around and around.  So if you do add on a platform, make sure to build it so that it doesn't ring... and design in some sort of ramp for people in wheelchairs and musical equipment that has to go on and off the stage.


Charles (KA)

good thoughts :) really depends a lot on your church culture...different things have worked wonderfully for different churches...

not to be too thine own self be true :)
For control of your video projector, there is a free software called Screenmonkey.  And if you need to add digital lighting control, there is the Pro version of Screenmonkey for a reasonable charge.

In my opinion, stage design is one of those silly things that we work too hard at and end up looking silly for.  


The best stages are simple, flat, and follow basic sizing rules for the size of the auditorium.  They aren't odd shapes, they aren't ornately decorated.  Simple and solid.  That is how you build a good stage.  Anything else (in the case of the Church) is religious froofroo.  


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