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Sanctuary lighting could affect attendance, attention spancomment (0)

June 30, 2011

Revamping your church’s lighting system might seem daunting but it’s worth considering, Michael Thompson said.

A little different lighting can change the whole mood of the place, said Thompson, president of Thompson Sound Inc. in Trinity. And changing the mood for the better can change the potential for ministry for the better, too.

Lighting “can cause good things to happen if used wisely — attention goes up and attendance can go up due to the service ‘looking’ better,” Thompson said.

All of this can lead to more people in the pews hearing the gospel, he explained.

In the 1970s, the Southern Baptist Radio and Television Commission analyzed churches to study the relationship between lighting and attention span, he said.

“Churches with the better lighting systems kept the attention of the audience focused on the stage much longer than churches with average/standard lighting systems with no real attention to proper stage lighting techniques,” Thompson said.

He offered some things for churches to think about when deciding whether to consider new or updated lighting systems.

• Focus
“Whatever is happening on stage — whether preaching, piano offertory music, choir special, etc. — that action should have the brightest lighting on it,” Thompson said. “The eyes and attention follow the brightest spot in the room.”

If the brightest spot in the room is the preacher, then people will focus there, but if it’s the stained glass, then people will eventually be looking at the windows, he said.

“And if the stage lighting is all bright all the time, then the attention falls off again due to no specific point of focus.”

The lighting should help direct people to what’s most important and help keep their focus there, Thompson noted.

Beatrice Barnett agreed.

“When a sanctuary is darkened and the preacher preaches in a spotlight, it pulls all the attention to the preacher and tells the congregation that since the preacher is highlighted, the message needs to be paid attention to,” said Barnett, rental project manager for Theatrical Lighting Systems Inc. in Huntsville.

• Mood
“The mood of a service can be directly related to the lighting as well as the sound and overall look of the church worship space — paint color, fixtures, wall treatments, etc.,” Thompson said.

A bright room is cheerful but a dark room creates a gloomy atmosphere not friendly to visitors, he explained.

Different lighting options can not only focus the congregation but also add variety and excitement.

“Lower the room lighting level to candlelight levels while creating a focus point on stage with proper production lighting, and we have the setting for a great sermon or an exciting wedding or a moving solo,” Thompson said. “If the room has recessed lighting fixtures in the ceiling plus chandeliers and wall sconces, even more can be achieved through the lighting.”

For example, visible lighting, like chandeliers and wall sconces, can be dimmed to a low setting with the center of the stage lit for preaching, he said. But the recessed ceiling lighting can be left on so that people’s Bibles are easy to read.

“The room looks dimmed but (it) is still bright enough to read, and the proper stage lighting creates interest focused on the center of the stage,” Thompson said.

And with LED lights, churches can easily impact mood by changing colors and brightness, Barnett said.

“Lighting is really the biggest factor when changing the mood or upping the level of excitement,” she said, and it can help churches create an inviting mood “especially if they are trying to get younger members to join.”

• Savings
Some lighting systems just cost a lot of money, Thompson said. Not buying new ones — powering the old ones.

“Older systems utilized large lighting instruments lit by large incandescent lamps or bulbs of up to thousands of watts each,” he said.

“These systems’ cost was very high.”

The wattage ran the bills up, but so did the heat these systems produced — the air conditioners had to work extra hard to compensate. Some churches are still fighting this battle, Thompson said.

“Now we have high-output halogen lighting lamps, which reduce the wattage required to achieve the brightness needed,” he said.

“These halogen lamps can also be used in many of the audience lighting fixtures to increase the brightness of the audience without increasing the amount of power used and air conditioning costs.”

LED lighting cuts the extra heat to nearly nothing, too, which keeps the preacher lit without being “cooked up,” Thompson said. “The LED lighting fixtures have a higher initial cost versus standard stage lighting fixtures, but when their other benefits are considered, the price quickly drops,” he explained.

“They have a bulb life of approximately 50,000 hours or more for the good units — most stage lighting lamps have a 2,000 hour life.”

For more information, visit thompsonsound.com or tlsinc.com. (TAB)

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