Big Lighting Ideas For A Small Church
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Many rural and contemporary urban sanctuary congregations use the high ceiling church lighting. It plays an essential role in providing adequate illumination inside the modern or vintage chapel. Every small church requires lighting design according to their interior structure. However, there are many factors to consider when establishing the correct sort of sanctuary lighting ideas, as many environmental impacts are necessary to be found.
What are we aiming to achieve when we choose lighting for a church? We need a certain amount of light to see, but lighting also creates an ambience, helps to create an inner state. So what ambience are we seeking to create in our churches? These and other questions face parishes and monasteries when they grapple with what electric lighting to install – if indeed any at all, for so often ‘less is more’.
If we are not asking the essential question about what atmosphere we are trying to create then we need to be. The lighting required for a boardroom, a library, or a sitting room at home will be different from that in a church. If a church community is not clear in its own mind what end result is required, then the lighting designer whom they employ is likely to opt for the default setting of a secular public building. And this is likely to mean lots of light – too much for a church which traditionally has fairly low light levels.
When we start quantifying worship by the lighting and mood, we’re already in trouble. We’ve slipped from viewing worship as a Spirit-enabled response to God’s self-revelation in the gospel to seeing it as an emotional experience that can be humanly produced and manipulated. Worship is not simply a mood. Aesthetic elements should support and complement our response to God’s Word and the gospel, not overpower it, distract from it, or be the foundation for it.
God has given us means to motivate and affect people – the Word, prayer, the gospel. He’s given us the Lord’s Supper and baptism as visual and sensory ways to remember the gospel and its implications. Aesthetics are important, but secondary. Every time in history the church has overly emphasized aesthetic and artistic elements the gospel has suffered.
Four Reasons to Turn the Lights Up
1. We’re speaking to one another.
When I go watch a movie, I don’t mind that the theater is completely dark. I have zero interest in what the people around me are doing. I just want to see what’s on the screen. But a movie theater is not the church. The church is Christians meeting with God and each other around the gospel.
We’re commanded twice in the New Testament to speak to or teach and admonish one another as we sing (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). That involves not only hearing others, but seeing them. When I’m not leading I’ll look around a few times just to take in the fact that I’m singing God’s praise with other saints Christ has redeemed. I’m encouraged by their participation and the reality that I’m not alone!
Focusing all the light up front can subtly communicate that the most significant activity of the meeting is taking place there. But we’re gathering as the church not going to a concert. We’re a body, a temple, a house. The most important sound of the gathering is the congregation, not the musicians. A lit auditorium can help reinforce that theological principle (see Ps. 34:3; Ps. 150; Col. 3:16; Rev. 7:9-10).
2. House lights enable a leader to see the congregation.
More than once I’ve been in a situation where I can’t see who I’m leading. If I catch it in rehearsal, I ask the tech people to turn up the house lights. I want to be able to see how people are responding and whether they’re engaged. That’s harder when I can’t see them.
I can hear someone saying, “But you don’t know my church. I’m trying to avoid looking at their unenthusiastic, bored, disengaged, discouraging faces!” True. It can be less than inspiring to the people you’re leading. But it’s better to know how they’re being affected than to close my eyes and ignore them all together.
3. We don’t want people to be ashamed.
When the church gathers to strengthen one another, we should do whatever we can to encourage boldness and engagement. We should not be embarrassed to worship God, let us remember how we used to scream when our favorite team would score or our favorite music group would play our favorite song. Why can’t we have that passion to worship Jesus Christ who has given us the best gift and that is Eternal Life. Isn’t that worth getting exited about?
4. We want to make it possible for people to see their Bibles.
A dark room makes referencing a physical Bible during that time difficult, if not impossible. At times, we turn lights down when we sing and turn them up for the preaching. Do we never want people to look at their Bibles when we sing? Or write down a thought they received during a song?
Of course, nothing I’ve said here forbids a candlelight service. And you can keep singing when the power goes out. And as I mentioned earlier, there are legitimate reasons to adjust the house lighting when we worship God in song. But God doesn’t put people next to me in the gathering so I can ignore them. We sing together to deepen the relationships we enjoy through the gospel.
So next time your church meets, try leaving the lights on or at least turning them up. It may be a little awkward at first. But if you take time to explain biblically what you’re doing, you might be surprised how people in your congregation start to realize the crucial role they play on Sunday mornings.
What makes congregational worship amazing is not the lighting or the architecture or the aesthetics. We’re in an ordinary room doing something extraordinary. We are God’s people joyfully and expectantly engaging together with the Creator of the universe and the Redeemer of our lives in the power of his Spirit.
These helpful lighting ideas are something worth shedding some light on. A church interior should give a sense to incomers that this is a special place, a sacred space, not separate from but nevertheless distinct from the world outside. If the lighting inside is as intense as daylight, or is just like a well-lit work place, then we have little reminder that this is a place set side to Worship and Glorify Our Lord and Savor Jesus Christ and that is the most important thing.