7 Common Stage Lighting Mistakes to Avoid for Churches

01.24.21 09:45 PM By Alex
There are more than 350,000 religious congregations in the U.S., and 50 percent of Americans say they belong to one particular church. That number has dropped significantly in the past 10 years. 

To address the changing needs of their congregations, more churches are embracing technology to reach more people. In fact, two-thirds of congregations in the U.S now use some kind of visual production media in their services. 

In this article:

A modern production strategy goes way beyond attaching a microphone to the pastor and throwing up a light. And stage lighting mistakes and poor production value can turn away the same people that churches are trying to attract. We’ll break down the seven most common stage lighting mistakes churches make, so you can discover how to do it right.

​Know Your Why

One of the biggest mistakes churches make early on in the process is not fully understanding why they’re thinking about upping their production value. 75 percent of churches say they began using visual media technologies in worship to reach more young people. That’s a great reason, so it’s even more important to get it right. Young people are pretty sophisticated when it comes to technology. They won’t have much patience with a microphone that cuts out or lights that randomly turn on and off. Other common reason churches have for improving the lighting in their services include:

  • Better visibility for the congregation. Better lighting means more people will be able to see what’s happening on the platform.
  • Mood setting. The ability to change the color or intensity of the lighting can reflect the mood of the service from somber to joyful.
  • Emphasis or attention on one speaker. Quality lighting can spotlight one speaker on stage, adding greater focus to their message.

Appropriate lighting can also add motion and movement to the services. The technical crew can program the lighting to keep up with the flow of the service. This can add a visual cue to the congregation to help give them a more immersive experience.

​A Low Budget Can Cause Stage Lighting Mistakes

Churches must watch their spending carefully, but a low-budget lighting solution can cause a lot of problems if you have big-budget expectations. Before you embark on the buying process, take a hard look at your stage lighting budget. Effective lighting can be achieved with a small financial investment, as long as you have the right expectations. You can’t spend $1000 on one light and then wonder why the pastor is the only one anybody can see. Some churches do just fine with a simple lighting setup. If you want more than that, you’ll need to adjust your financial approach.

​A Lack of Training

Larger churches may have more money to spend on training for the technical crew. They may even hire a technical director to oversee the church’s production services. Regardless of how many people your church recruits for technical work, be sure they’re fully trained on the equipment before you debut it on Sunday morning. Some vendors will provide training as part of the equipment packages they sell. Tap into the expertise of your church members. You may discover a lighting professional within your congregation. He or she may be happy to work with your technical crew on education and training.

​​Confusing Cues

A church service is a production for the technical folks, so it should be treated as such. That means your technical team should review the order of the service before the service. They can use a tool like Planning Center to plan and create Orders of Service. You want to make sure the lighting director is keeping track of light cues. They should create their own “rundown” of the service with all the lighting cues clearly marked. This may be as simple as a note in the margin of the Order of Service. Some churches schedule technical rehearsals so everyone involved knows exactly what to do and when. This is especially important if your church is planning a major event like a concert.

​Short-Term vs. Long-Term Purchases

In the technical world, you really do get what you pay for. So, it pays to think about what your production needs will be today and five years from today. That will help you set an appropriate budget. For example, some equipment will last 10 years or more, so you’ll want to factor that in when deciding how much to spend. Do you spend $1000 on one light that will last two years or $3000 on one that will last five years or longer?

​Know Your Audience

A lot of churches take a far less traditional approach to their services. Contemporary worship services can look more like a rock concert than a Sunday morning sermon. In fact, they may not happen on a Sunday at all. As you develop your production strategy, know your congregation. Mega-churches often appeal to a much younger demographic that will be attracted to a service with amazing lighting and sound. Friday night concerts have replaced conventional worship services. Your production strategy should reflect it.

​Don’t DIY Your Lighting

You may be able to scrounge up a light or two from that dusty storeroom behind the sanctuary but resist the temptation to do it all yourself. Allocate enough money for a consultation with a professional production company. Their technicians are trained well and devote their entire working lives to helping churches create a worship service that will be meaningful and impactful. Trust their expertise and allow them to recommend lighting equipment and techniques to amplify your congregation’s experience.

​Keep It Simple

One of the more common stage lighting mistakes is simply trying to do too much too soon before you’re fully trained. Invest in the basics first and make sure all your technical people know exactly how to work with the equipment. Then, you can build on that gradually to create the lighting experience that best serves the needs of your congregation. Our engineers are available to answer any questions you might have. Contact us with your question or make an appointment to discuss your options.