An Easy-to-Follow Church Lighting Guide (2023)

Church has always been the place where people come to find peace and discover their spirituality. Whether you lead a Christian worship band or volunteer in a traditional church, the goal is the same, “engage” the congregation and drive them toward the word of God. Lighting plays a significant role in creating the atmosphere which lets the audience fully embrace the church experience. 

Table of Contents

This guide discovers the key elements and lighting requirements for an excellent church stage lighting design and will help you create an effective design. You’ll learn to light up the church architecture and engage the audience. Let’s get started.

8 Critical Things to Consider for Traditional Church Lighting 

We have two types of churches operating in recent times, traditional and contemporary, and the lighting considerations for both are different. First, we explore the lighting design for established churches and cathedrals. 

church pendant lights fixture

1. Lighting Requirements

The recommended light level in a church depends on various factors such as church type, size, and location. According to IES, worship is a personal endeavor, and the lighting should represent the intensity and intimacy accordingly.

We recommend 20 to 30 footcandles (215 to 320 lux) of illumination for traditional churches.

Both footcandles and lux describe the brightness levels of a light source.  

Moreover, distribute light evenly without sharp shadows in the sitting area. This will help the audience read and participate in the whole church experience.

2. Mounting Height 

Traditional churches have insanely tall ceilings, which gives them a signature serene atmosphere.

We recommend the light fixtures be 10 to 12 feet above the floor. Use suspended light or pendant lights to reduce the distance for tall ceilings. 

Another rule of thumb is that the distance between the fixtures should be 1.2 times the distance between the light source and the floor. This is also true for small chapels. 

Moreover, years of candle soot and dust accumulate on the ceilings, turning them black, which absorbs the lights leading to loss of illumination. A clean roof will let the light beam bounce back and enhance brightness. 

Church lighting

3. Lighting Control 

You may need different light intensities for other areas. Sometimes you must focus on clergy near the altar or the choir singing hymns in the chancel. Maybe you need to light up the available room for the congregation for easy reading of the scriptures. Installing dimmable lights for strategic light distribution inside the church is best. 

You can invest in dimmable light switches, which give more intelligent control. 

4. Create Focus 

Creating focus is similar to the lighting controls we talked about earlier. Focusing on specific aspects of the church has a dramatic effect. Use light fixtures to illuminate crosses, statues, paintings, or the altar near the church stage. We recommend a 2:1 ratio brightness intensity for creating focus. 

5. Natural Lighting 

Traditional churches usually have large windows, letting sunlight enter the place. Consider the element of daylighting in your church lighting design as well. The color temperature of daylight is around 4000 K, so you need luminaire with a cooler color temperature to complement natural sunlight. 

The church combines natural light with led lights

6. Aesthetics

Proper church lighting must be practical and aesthetically pleasing because the goal is to create a serene environment. It should be bright enough so that the congregation can read and move about freely.

Carefully use accent lighting to create visual interest. Highlight the vintage architecture, sculptures, paintings, and altar.  Hide the unnecessary cable run for better aesthetics and safety.

Churches with wooden and stone structures look the best in warmer lights, about 2700 K to 3500 K. 

Churches also hold special events like weddings, baptisms, Christmas, and memorial services, which you must remember during the initial lighting design phase. Use high CRI-rated bulbs for better color rendering, as no one wants dull-looking flowers, decor, and a pale bridal dress on the wedding day. 

LED church stage lighting

7. Lighting Layers 

Every successful lighting design combines lighting layers that complement each other. Here are some strategies you can use. 

Indirect and Direct Lighting 

Direct lighting means directing the light source to illuminate the targetted space, and indirect lighting is done when fixtures are directed towards a wall or ceiling. The light bounces off it, creating a more aesthetic vibe. It also distributes the light more evenly. However, this style only works in light-colored and concrete ceilings.

Accent Lighting 

Accent lighting highlights architectural features, sculptures, church stages, or furniture. 

Task Lighting 

The church experience can be broken down into tasks like clergy giving sermons or volunteers holding meetings to plan the next holy event. Lighting these areas results in better performance. 

8. Energy Efficient 

Using energy-efficient lighting systems is pivotal in running a sustainable church. LED bulbs are the most efficient solution available right now. LEDs have 70% more life span than incandescent and fluorescent lights and come with various fixture designs, colors, temperatures, and color rendering options. 

Using retrofit bulbs is also a good alternative, as it will save you the cost of a complete lighting system renovation. 

church pendant light fixtures

Lighting Fixtures for Traditional Church

Floodlights and Spotlights

Vintage churches have many unique architectural features to highlight, and spotlights are best for this.

You can also use them to light the stage and create a dramatic focus on the singing choir. 

If there are sculptures and paintings present in your church, then place spotlights above or below them to highlight their unique features. 


Scones are lighting fixtures in exquisite designs usually inspired by a catholic, vintage, or roman theme, which light up the space and give it a unique ambiance.

Pendants, Chandeliers, and Suspended Lights

Many churches have tall ceilings, so using pendants and suspended lights helps cover the distance and provide adequate illumination. Chandeliers are more for decor and basic general illumination. 

Wall washers

Wall washers are your best bet to light up a stone wall to bring out its unique texture. 

7 Essential Things to Consider for Modern Church Stage Lighting

Contemporary churches host concerts and other fun activities to attract younger audiences toward the spiritual path. They require a different approach to lighting, so here are some valuable tips that can enhance your tech-savvy worship. 

Modern Westside Baptist Church

1. Dynamics of Song 

Worship is about getting closer to God and being one with the universe. Lighting eases up this process and can make or break any worship song. 

We recommend using colors to emphasize certain parts of the songs. If the lyrics are about struggles and hardships, use shades of red to set the mood. Similarly, you can use whites and blues to lift the spirits for the message of hope. 

LED truss warmers, washers, ellipsoid lights, and haze machines can control the worship song’s dynamics and create an immersive feeling. 

You can also add a projection screen at the back of the stage, which displays mesmerizing visuals to the congregation.

Lights and music can touch the soul and emotions of people. Having a perfect balance can make a difference. You don’t have to go overboard with the lighting controls, as they can be distracting.

Remember, it’s all about creating a conducive environment to help the congregation ponder and self-reflect. 

2. Lighting the Worship Band

Christian music and concerts are a pivotal part of the modern church experience. The center of it all is usually a worship band that engages the audience. 

We recommend using only one high-powered flood and ellipsoidal light for each worship team member. A worship team usually has 2 to 5 members, so dedicating one light to each is enough. 

Also, place the light source to the light left or right of the worship leader to create a dramatic effect and avoid making the visuals flat and dull. 

3. Light the Speaker

Lighting the speaker needs a little different approach. Start by projecting two lights, one from the left and another from the right, to the speaker. This will take care of front lighting while eliminating any unnecessary shadows. The audience will have clear visuals of the speakers.

Add another ellipsoidal light at the back of the speaker, creating a three-dimensional effect and making the speaker look more appealing to the congregation.  

Church lighting

4. Colors and Temperatures

Contemporary churches have the stage as the main attraction, so the main lighting setup comprises ellipsoidal lights, washers,  truss warmers, spotlights,  and floodlights. 

Some color works well, like red, yellow, and white. In contrast, some combos create bad visuals like green, yellow, or magenta.  

For faster and upbeat songs, it’s better to use bright colors and light. Similarly, darker colors work best for slower songs in creating an atmosphere of contemplation. 

5. Color Wash

Color wash evenly distributes the light and evokes positive feelings in the congregation. It’s best to install a color wash light on the sides or backside of the stage and avoid the front truss. Frontside is best for ellipsoidal and floodlights. 

6. Haze Machine

Haze and fog add drama and serenity to the worship experience. It also emphasizes the light as you can see light travel in waves throughout the stage, creating a surreal effect.  

7. Automation

Modern church lighting design isn’t possible without automation, usually done using software like vista and keystone.

Such software help synchronize each beat, bridge, and chorus of a worship song with moving lights.

If you’re a lighting designer for a church, mastering such software will help you create thematically extraordinary lighting designs. 

Awesome church pendant lighting

Lighting Fixtures for Contemporary Church

Ellipsoidal Lights 

Ellipsoidal lights are popular fixtures for lighting up a stage. It can create focused, high-intensity beams perfect for illuminating a performer. 

Stage Washers

Light washers’ lenses create a pleasant, soft light wash around the stage. They are necessary to even out sharp beams of floodlights. Nowadays, led pars are the best option for an energy-efficient light wash.

Truss Warmers 

Trusses are the main components of modern church stage lighting. These vertical frames carry all the major lighting equipment. Truss warmers are lights usually present under the structure that illuminate the truss transforming vertical pillars into beautiful visuals. 


Spotlight fixtures are great for focusing on the stage performers and creating an attractive ambiance. 

Fog and Haze Machines 

Haze machines create stunning visuals as light beams flow in a rhythmic pattern that mesmerizes the audience. 

Why Use LED Lights for Church Lighting Design?

LED church lighting

Sustainable Lighting

LED technology enables the designer to make a sustainable lighting solution that preserves traditional churches’ cultural heritage and makes the illumination more sustainable and eco-friendly.

It helps cut significant amounts of electricity bills and increase the experience of worshippers. A high-quality LED bulb can last 50,000 hours, tremendously reducing operational costs. 

Energy Efficient 

By an estimate, LED bulbs are 60% more energy efficient than traditional fluorescents and metal halides. They also release minimal heat, which is beneficial in controlling the temperature inside the church. 

Variety of Designs 

LED technology is flexible, which enables manufacturers to play with many vintage and contemporary designs. 

Intelligent Control 

LED technologies are best suited for automation and intelligent control. Now software is available that gives you control over thousands of features, all with the help of one click. 

Final Thoughts 

This brief church lighting guide gives you basic ideas of how different approaches are required for adequate lighting. The first half of the guide deals with traditional churches, and the second half dives into the lighting design of modern churches and worship songs.

We’ve discussed all the lighting requirements, the key elements, and various lighting fixtures to help you create a fantastic church lighting setup. 

RC Lighting Is a One-Stop Shop for Your Church Lighting Setup

Lighting a church or cathedral is challenging due to worship’s intimate and emotional nature. But don’t worry! We have the perfect products for the job.

RC lighting manufactures high-end LED fixtures which are sustainable, durable, and comply with international safety standards. Each product goes through extensive testing by industry experts ensuring premium quality. 

Our vast catalog includes LED par, pendant lights, spotlights, scones, and washer lights. We also customize orders for our esteemed clients and tailor them to their business needs. 

RC lighting also has 24/7 supportive customer service and offers a free project evaluation. So, hop on a call with us and get your FREE QUOTE NOW!

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