The Ultimate Guide to Church Stage Lighting

The church stage lighting setup makes a statement about the overall ambiance and worship service experience. 

How does your church stage lighting fare in enhancing the worship service and experience? Does it feel like you have too little or too much light? Is the lighting okay, or do you sense you could do more with it? Why don’t we learn more about church stage lighting and find out how you could bump up your church’s lighting rig. 

What is Church Stage Lighting?

Church stage lighting is the lighting technology that aims to enhance the church congregation’s worship experience. It serves two primary functions: “atmosphere” and “visibility.” Some lighting gears directed to the stage help the audience stay attentive to what’s going on onstage. Other atmospheric or background lighting enhances the beauty of the stage, promotes reverence, and brings comfort. Whether it’s visuals or the ambiance you’re aiming for, picking the proper setup for lighting can promote an engaging and compelling environment for worship. 

Why Is There a Need for Church Stage Lighting?

Your church stage lighting is essential because it says a lot about your worship service even before your worship team steps on the stage. Whether contemporary or traditional, your stage and house lights are the lenses through which both regular attendees and new faces will view your worship service. Here is why it’s critical to be mindful of how good lighting impacts the overall worship experience. 

Benefits of Church Stage Lighting

Church stage lighting doesn’t necessarily mean over-the-top concert production or laser light shows. If you’re still on the fence about whether to invest in stage lighting, here are some benefits that might help you make an informed decision:

Timeless

Furnishings and music styles come and go, but good lighting is timeless. Investing in a functional and flexible LED lighting system gives your church security against fleeting lighting trends. 

Affordable

Yup, you read it right. Good stage lighting is affordable. A modern setup of cool-running LED lights is cost-efficient compared to traditional equipment. It can help you save as much as 85% on decreased electricity costs.

Available for All Size and Budgets

Good lighting is not just for megachurches, but it’s available for all church sizes and budgets. You can set up a decent system with even under $1000 worth of equipment. 

Easy to Incorporate

You don’t need to feel intimidated by modern lighting systems because they’re now easy to incorporate. Modern rigs, application-based controls, and sound-activated programs help empower church volunteers to get into lighting design and technology even without previous knowledge or experience. 

What Composes a Church Stage Lighting System?

Each light and equipment in the church stage lighting system has a specific use. Let’s rundown the essentials to understand how the whole system works. 

Lights

All lights fall into these three groups or types: 

Hard-Edged Lights

Hard-edged lights are those that are often pertained to or called “spots.” They are the most effortless type to control. They are pretty casual and standard because of their hard-edged beam, producing crisp and hard shadows. The usual hard-edged lights are followspot, moving head spot, and ellipsoidal. 

Soft-Edged Lights

Soft-edged lights are those that produce delicate, smooth fields of light. The only downside to them is it’s hard to mask them off of screens, curtains, and other sets that we try not to hit. Still, they make the most excellent, smoothest-looking wash. The usual soft-edged lights include scoops, par cans, striplights, blinders, and cyc lights. 

Beam Lights

The beam lights are a comparably small group of lights and produce a very tight shaft of light. The common ones are pin spots and moving head beams.

Light Source

You can now determine the source once you’ve figured out what type of light you need. 

LED

LEDs are bright, energy-efficient, and can produce excellent colors. Quality white-source LEDs can work just as great as a conventional lamp. However, they wouldn’t be as needed, mainly if you only use the lighting system a few hours a week. 

Arc Lamps

You can use arc lamps for applications that need intense brightness. When placed inside moving lights, they can be super bright. However, they are also expensive to replace. 

Conventional Lights

Conventional light sources diffuse light in all directions. They need optical systems like lenses and reflectors to modulate the illumination at a particular angle. 

Dimmer Packs

Dimmer packs are essential if you are using conventional lights. You plug the lights into them for you to have intensity control using a lighting console. 

Be careful not to use these dimmer packs for your LED or moving lights. You might fry them and cause damage if you do that. 

Lighting Consoles and Other Control Equipment

Another significant piece in your lighting setup is the console. Here is where you control the fades, transitions, intensities, as well as groups of lights. Most of these run as computer software, and you can operate them on a dedicated PC or as a standalone console. 

In recent years, computer-based consoles have taken the lead in providing the best value for the lighting system. You may want to note this when you finally decide to invest or upgrade your setup. 

DMX Signal Cables and Power Cables

The final component that is essential to start your basic lighting system is the cabling. It is best to use an actual DMX cable for your lighting control to save you from a lot of stress. When it comes to power, use lines rated for your equipment’s or dimmer packs’ maximum level or output. 

Where to Place the Stage Lighting for Worship?

When setting up the church stage lighting, our priority should be ensuring that the congregation clearly sees the people on stage. Your first step would be getting an excellent light wash. From there, you can fill in more to sidelight, backlight, and light any sets you may need to have a color or to be illuminated over the congregation. 

Things to Consider when Buying Church Stage Lighting

Here are the things to note when you’re weighing your options on investing in or upgrading your church stage lighting. 

Budget

One of the critical things to consider is the budget. You have to know how much your church has allotted for the new equipment. Note that you don’t have to buy expensive gears to get the best lighting. As we previously mentioned, excellent stage lighting is available for all church sizes and budgets. Expensive doesn’t always mean the best quality. It’s best to know what fits your church’s needs. 

Sanctuary Measurements

You have to familiarize yourself with the size of the sanctuary. You can either buy too much or too few if you don’t get the correct measurements. It would be a good idea to consult an expert or someone knowledgeable in this to make sure you’re getting accurate information. 

Architectural LED Wash

The architectural LED wash is optional and may compose moving and fixed headlights to produce color-changing options for the background. 

Additional Options

You will also need to consider if you want lighting fixtures that would illuminate specific areas or sets like a cross, the steps, or baptistery. Other additions to check if your church needs them would be backlights and house controls. Getting these will all depend on if you would have a use or need for them. 

How to Run and Program the Church Stage Lighting

Each church will have a different need and desire for lighting. Here is a general guide that can help give you an idea of running and programming your church stage lighting. 

Focusing your lighting

The main goal and the priority here is lighting the people well. 

Front Lighting

Stage or front wash provides an overall fill of light and color to your stage lighting. It is the front light of your entire production. They are essential as they can create that warm and cozy ambiance that many worshippers seek. 

Front lighting is used mainly for color and visibility. It also focuses on a person or set piece and provides most of the ‘key’ lighting when a video is being used. This lighting works better if positioned at an angle between 30-45 degrees.

Side Lighting

Side lighting is used commonly for effect. It’s usually used with bolder colors to accent or emphasize movements and contrasting hues coming from opposite sides. 

Backlighting

Like side lighting, illuminating a person or subject from the back is mainly for effect. It also helps create depth on the stage. If coming from low angles, it can even give the impression of a silhouette. One keynote when using backlighting is that the lights should deliver a relaxing feel to the audience. 

Programming

Once the lights are set up, programming comes next. You may not need to do this every week, but it’s going to depend on your church’s worship service setup and style. The important thing here is for us to be on the same page with the worship leader and pastor to determine the overall feel of the service. 

Pre-Programming

Here is the part of programming where your discussion with the worship leader happens. You must know their vision for the worship service. It will help you figure out and help them with the lighting setup that matches their concept. You can start with some basic questions like “What lighting do you prefer for this week’s service?” or “Do you have a color preference on your songs?” 

Once you’ve gathered the creative ideas and information you need, you can now start programming. 

Programming Conventional Lights and LED’s

As discussed earlier, your front or stage wash will be your base lighting. It is why you must have a great stage wash to build from. It can be non-moving conventional or LED lights. From there, you can fill in the other needed lights. You can also stick with 9-10 colors for your LED lights for side and backlighting effects, so you don’t get overwhelmed on which to use. 

Programming Moving Lights

Since these lights can move, these gears can play dual roles. They can go from a texture on the set to backlight, sidelight, or some sort of a special effect. You can start by creating color palettes on your lighting console. From there, you can pick the ones that would look great for highlighting a setup or person or would work well in a haze.  

Another thing is if your worship service is commonly very cued and there are usually no spontaneous changes, you can write cues that contain all the necessary information. It is a way to train new volunteers and get them used to the lighting system.

Programming Non-Music Parts

It is also essential to plan the non-music parts of the worship service. Even your transitions and fade times need to be prepared to ensure the lights won’t be a distraction. 

You also need to work on the lights for walking in/out of the stage, preaching, announcements, and house lights. You can experiment to see what works well for each of them. You can also run the cues on virtual masters or executor buttons since the lighting doesn’t usually need to be adjusted. 

Rehearsal

The rehearsal part is where you get to experiment and play with the lights. You can now test the cues you’ve jotted down and tweak and adjust before the Sunday worship service. You can also rehearse along with the worship band as they practice, especially with the timing and transitions of songs. It will be helpful as you get to see what lights and colors would work great for a particular piece. 

Service

Here is where it all comes together. You now get to playback what you’ve programmed and rehearsed, and you need to follow the flow of the service with an eagle eye. Be mindful of sudden changes like the announcement time or spontaneous prayers between songs. Remember that it’s vital that the person or people on stage are well-lit and are visible to the congregation. 

Final Thoughts

Church stage lighting plays a vital role in the worship service. It should help enhance the ambiance because people are looking forward to the worship experience. If the lighting is done wrong, it can be a distraction. It is why investing in a good church stage lighting system is an excellent decision. 

Once you have the system set up, you can find ways to make the lighting more interesting. Add more colors and effects if need be. Our ultimate goal is to help create an environment where the congregation can feel comfortable and at home in worshipping the Lord. 

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Alex Shute
EDITOR
Alex Shute, MBA
Alex is a family man and entrepreneur based in Los Angeles. His passion is to serve the global Church and bring people of diverse backgrounds together to learn & grow.