Thursday, October 2, 2014

Rock And Roll Church: Thoughts On Lighting A Worship Service

Rock & Roll Church

That is what I have sometimes jokingly called churches that use smoke and cool lights on stage and turn the house lights way down or off the congregation during the worship songs.

I enjoy almost every part of what we think of as "modern" worship; The songs, the musical style, the video screens, the bands, etc. The only part of it I've never embraced is the lighting. I've had a few opportunities to lead worship in a set up like this and as a worship leader I was uncomfortable not being able to see the audience well. I've always liked to see the audience so I could judge if I should end a song of praise shorter than originally planned or if should I extend it. (I'm aware you can't really judge if someone is worshiping by their outward appearance, but you CAN tell if people are completely disengaged.)  So for years, I've been an "all lights on" kind of worship leader.

Recently however, I've been questioning my stance on this.

I was fortunate to be able to go to FUGE with our Student ministry back in June. I saw our kids worship there with a freedom I hadn't seen from them prior to that. After worship one night, I had the following conversation with a student...

Student: "I wish we could worship like that at Northside."
Me: "YOU CAN! We sing the same songs, our volume is just not as loud and our lighting isn't the same."
Student: "I just feel like everyone would be watching me."

Her reply has stuck with me.

Later, an adult told me the same thing. She wished she could feel more free to worship outwardly with hands raised, but she felt like everyone would be looking at her. I reminded her that raised hands is a biblical expression of our worship. I also explained that if God were leading her to do that, I think she'd be blessed if she followed His direction in spite of what anyone around her was doing. (Of course, everyone is free to worship as they feel led at our church, but as of this writing, I'd say less than 10% of our worshipers at Northside choose to worship in this way on any given Sunday.)

Back to the lighting...
I heard a pastor recently explain why his church turns the house lighting down during the worship. His church does it to make people feel more comfortable. When the lights are low, you feel like you can't be seen as well, because... well... you can't be seen as well.

I think Don Chapman explains what I'm talking about well in his article on
Here's an excerpt...
"The church I’m attending dims their lights during worship as most contemporary churches do. Then one Sunday, the lights were up during the music. I immediately noticed and felt… weird. I felt oddly exposed and unfocused. I realized the effect the dimmed lights had on me and how it enhanced my worship time – I somehow felt more comfortable to worship and could better concentrate on the songs. The dimmed lights took away distractions."

So my question to you (worshipers and worship leaders) is this...

Do you prefer lit congregation or dim lighting on the congregation?

To my Northside family, don't freak out. I'm not saying we will or won't make any lighting changes. I just think it's wise for me to examine my own opinions on such matters from time to time. If my preference of having a fully lit room is hindering anyone from worshiping more freely, I know I need to change...
 because it's not about me.


  1. That's EXACTLY why we adjust the lighting during worship at Southview, Shawn - to give people freedom to worship. When our worship pastor explained that to me a few years ago, and I saw the difference, I was sold, and now I much prefer it.

  2. Did you have any blowback from any worshipers when making the change? I'm not going to make any changes without all leadership being on the same page, but I'm VERY interested in seeing if it will make a difference here too.

  3. I can see why people feel less "exposed"/more private with the lights low. However, private worship is something we can do in the privacy of home. However, when we worship corporately, is the community aspect something to consider? We are worshiping together as a community, not merely was private "islands" who just happen to be in the same room.