MDS 014 – 5 Ways To Design, Implement & Execute Effective Church Lighting with Daniel Rethwill

This week I decided it was time to touch on a subject, that in my opinion, is often overlooked but critical to increasing the engagement in your services. That subject is lighting. Most churches lack not only the right equipment, but the knowledgable volunteers needed to utilize this tool that can vastly help communicate the Gospel in your Sunday Morning services. In order to help share some helpful advice on where to start and how to accomplish this, Ive asked my friend Daniel Rethwill, a lighting designer from AGI Professional in Eugene, OR, to join us for todays discussion. I met Daniel when I was going to bible college in Eugene, and at the time Daniel was just a high schooler, just getting his feet wet into the world of lighting and tech. Fast forward 6 years later and Daniel has become my go to guy for all lighting questions, suggestions and equipment. Daniel has a lot of great advice to give us, so if this is an area of need for your church, don’t hesitate to jump on it!

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Show resources:

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Daniel’s Main Points

5 Ways To Design, Implement & Utilize Excellent Church Lighting

  • Create a lighting system within your budget (7:00)
    • Front light, back light & texture (up) light.
    • LED front lights are more affordable these days.
    • Incandescent fixtures are still the most affordable.
    • Know the difference between DJ lights and pro grade lights.
    • Pro grade light = color match, brightness, warranty, longevity.
    • $300-$800 for a good pro grade wash fixture.
    • Computer based lighting console options are more and more common.
  • Create even front and back lighting (23:45)
    • Front light is the most important light you have on your stage.
    • The human eye is naturally drawn to the brightest thing in the room.
    • To eliminate shadows, use multiple fixtures from different angles.
    • Focus your light to hit 6 feet above each person’s head.
    • 35 degree angle is optimal from light bar to stage.
    • If you have a high lighting angle, use up light on the front of the stage.
    • Back light helps give dimension to what’s being lit.
  • Maintain your lighting system (36:50)
    • LED lights last much longer.
    • Make sure you keep track of the usage in hours of your fixtures so you dont blow a bulb in a service. 700 hours is average for an incandescent fixture.
    • Wire up your power outlets to a circuit that can be shut off when you’re not using your LED fixtures. It’ll extend the life of the electronics.
    • DON’T use XLR cables to connect your fixtures. DMX is a digital signal, XLR is an analog signal.
    • You cannot daisy chain more than 32 LED fixtures together.
  • Get creative with your lighting elements in service (44:10)
    • Listen to the setlist and know the songs before you program anything!!!!
    • Your lighting scenes need to match the dynamics of the music.
    • Your lighting choices need to assist the goal of the service, not be a distraction
    • Match your light colors with the media background colors
    • Look for special service segments to make sure you have the proper light locations for those.
    • The louder and faster the song, the higher and brighter the lights should be. Ride the front light intensity. Slower quieter songs elicit softer and darker lights.
    • Lighting tech needs to be at rehearsal to work through scenes and cues, not the day of service. Preparation is in the details.
  • Change up your lighting look periodically to keep things fresh (53:02)
    • Lighting can go hand in hand with screen or environmental projection.
    • If utilize props or elements on stage for your stage design, make sure they are lit properly so people can see them!
    • Try to change your lighting look/stage design minimum of 4 times a year. Once per season. Spring, Summer, Fall & Winter.
    • Add a few things for Christmas & Easter to make those events stand out.
    • Don’t get carried away. KEEP IT SIMPLE!


SEEDS – Live event front lighting video

Main fixture brands:

Suggested Fixtures

Suggested Light Boards

Lighting Software

Music Suggestions: These have been added to the MDS Playlist on Spotify