A few months ago I approached the folks at Technologies for Worship Magazine about an article and the idea grew into a regular column. I am really excited to be able to write regularly for a magazine that really can reach out and provide a rather unique service.
Over the last few months I have been given a son, a new job and a whole new opportunity to make a difference. One thing that I wanted to keep with me was the chance to work with churches and their dramatic outreach programs. Luckily one of my assignments in my new job is to make lighting easier to understand and more accessible to the Worship community. I have been selected as the System sales consultant and Lighting Designer for Techni-Lux, Inc. in Orlando Florida. One of our new offerings is a design and consultation service through our dealer network. This service is available to anyone and most importantly, any church to help work with existing lighting systems, new installs or even seasonal productions.
As I embark on this venture I want to open with a few thoughts. I now have over 20 years of experience in all forms of theatre and I truly enjoy sharing some of my knowledge with those that want to hear it. Several years ago I discovered that one of the most willing and grateful recipients were houses of worship. The response and encouragement that I have received over the years from the congregations that I have worked with has been unimaginable. The one concern that I have is trying to gain the trust of the church team. I will waltz in on a project and start proposing new ideas or concepts that can sometimes seem radical or even a little scary to accomplish in time. However I have always found that the folks involved will be dedicated and willing enough to get it done.
It is so rewarding to see the difference that a new view can offer. Often times, all that a “Professional” is giving is another look at the project. It doesn’t have to cost a lot or involve a reworking of the show, so don’t be afraid to ask for an opinion. Many times you can contact various resources in your community for a little guidance and they will provide it. I have even worked with a few groups that realized that productions can be another form of outreach besides the obvious. The people in the community that find they enjoy working with your group may want to stay around, what a great way to show them the family of a church.
I grew up in what I would consider to be a traditional church environment. New lighting for us would have been fresh candles, and drama only happened when it would rain the day of the ice cream social. This is a good caring group of people that knew what they believed and practiced it well. The problem in my eyes was that I felt as though it could be more interesting and educational. Blame it on TV, media, schools, movies or the weather if you like, but many folks today expect more action to keep their attention.
Clergies are starting to realize that there is an entire sector of America that is yearning for more spiritual knowledge, but they can’t get their attention. The youths and teens are obviously the future and they are also the most critical about their time. They will not listen unless it is worth their attention.
Recently I worked with a church that installed a new lighting system. On the first day of the systems’ use with the youth group, a teenage girl stopped to look at a pattern shining on the floor from one of the lights. I heard her comment to another girl “The church finally gave us our own space”. Of course the room was the same and the lights had been installed for everyone’s use, it was just a “look” programmed to offer a special feel to the room. What occurred to me was that the youths felt an ownership that they hadn’t felt before and had a new sense of belonging because the space had been “branded” to them.
This brand was easily changed by the push of a button because of the complex system that was installed, but it gives each service a distinct feel and ownership. This is at least part of what was missing to these teens. They see marketing and branding all around them, but not at their church.
One way that seems to work has been by fighting fire with fire and going up against mainstream media with similar offerings through the church. This is where I have found my talent along with many of my cohorts. Helping knock that entertainment level up a notch in shows and even services.
The equipment offerings that are now available are staggering. Trade shows happen every day, hocking new ways to entertain us. Many of these technologies are perfectly applicable to a sanctuary and hopefully I can help sort out some of them. Just remember that any new technology should only enhance an experience and not replace or destroy it.
The most common mistake that I see is the good intentioned addition of some tool that goes unused soon after due to the misunderstanding of its ability, lack of operational knowledge or flagrant miss-use. Make sure that whatever you add is usable and that someone thoroughly understands its use.
Many of the new lighting technologies would be a perfect marriage to the church experience, however they are often ignored as too extreme or radical for a church. All I ask is that you remember that not too many years ago it would have been unheard of to have video projectors, cameras, sound systems, monitors or even par cans and dimmers in a sanctuary.
In many ways, lighting is just playing catch-up to other technologies. In a future article I will talk about lighting as the modern Stained Glass window.
With the holidays upon us, the most valuable time to work on productions beckons. The opportunity to tell the greatest story ever is now and of course at Easter. These are prime chances to utilize new tech and team to work on a way to let some have a new understanding of our faith. We will look at these areas the most.
I am going to try to use some projects that I have worked on over the years as anecdotes and also introduce some new ideas and products. I welcome questions and feedback for ideas. If you come to the land of sun and theme parks, look me up and I’ll show you our showroom and the new lighting developments. I would love to hear about your facility and shows. Peace.