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Should the House Lights Be On or Off During Worship?

Is It Better to Keep House Lights On During Worship?

If you have been to several different church services, you may have noticed something very different about each one. I am not referring to the building itself or the seating, I am referring to lighting.

One church might be dark with light only on the stage, while another has bright overhead lights on during worship. And others may utilize strobe or flashing lights to enhance the performance of a presenter or musical number. If you are a pastor or worship leader, you may be interested in knowing which way is the best.

So, should the house lights be on or off during worship? Well, there are good reasons for either choice. Keeping the house lights on is a good choice if the worship leader’s goal is to demonstrate that this is a safe and cheery place. House lights on also encourages more participation from the congregation.

Keeping the house lights off might help people focus better on what is being said or sung. It may also deter members from chatting or using their phones. The darkness can create an atmosphere of reverence and worship for those participating in the meeting.

Let’s talk more about the pros and cons of each and which situations one would be better than the other. We will also explore what church members prefer and why!

When To Use House Lights

When you want people to be comfortable, bright lights are a good choice. You may also want the bright lighting when you have multiple readers or presenters. The added light will allow everyone to see what they are doing better.

This type of lighting is perfect for times where you want people to feel engaged and involved with the meeting. For example, if you are wanting participation from the congregation, they will likely participate more with lights on.

Good lighting is also beneficial if you are celebrating something. If you want to fully show how great an event was, there is no better way than with bright lights!

When To Turn House Lights Off

This type of lighting works best if you are having a single speaker or you are trying to have a more worshipful meeting. The darkness makes it easier to focus on God and can create an atmosphere of reverence. If you are singing hymns, the simplicity of just light coming from candles or electric candles will add to the effect.

Also, if you are having a musical performance, darkness can make it feel more special. The light on the performers will keep the focus on them instead of being distracted by other things going on in the meeting.

Best Of Both Worlds

Again, depending on your service and members, one choice may be clear. If not, then the best option may be to implement both! In order for this to work smoothly, you will want to have a clear plan of your service or meeting. It will also be beneficial to have a volunteer to two trained and ready to operate the lights throughout the meeting. If you plan to switch between lights on and off, I would highly recommend a dimming system.

Light dimming systems help you to control how bright your lights are depending on what you are going for during your presentation or meeting. This will also create a smoother transition of lighting for the congregation so the changing lights aren’t distracting.

An Example Lighting Plan

For an idea on how I might plan my lighting for a service, consider these things:

  • House lights on prior to the start of service so members can easily find a seat. This also promotes friendly fellowship as people can chat with those around them and greet visitors.
  • Once service starts, house lights are dimmed until the song leader or worship is ready to begin. This sets the mood for what they will be leading us in doing!
  • During announcements, I might keep the lights dim so people can focus on what is being said.
  • House lights brighten up during scripture reading and prayer time. This allows everyone to see what is being said.
  • During the preaching part of the service, I would again keep the house lights on so people can see better and be engaged with what is being taught or spoken about.
  • House lights go off for reverent musical numbers or for giving an altar call. This creates a more worshipful atmosphere and keeps the focus on God or Jesus.
  • Following special presentations, house lights go back down for closing prayer or song. This allows people to leave feeling reverent and reflective.

Possible Problems With Too Little Light

Some people might feel uncomfortable in darkness and not be able to concentrate. They may also not be able to see the words on a projection screen or lyrics from a songbook. In this case, having less light is actually worse than too much because it could make for a poor experience for those watching and listening.

Also, the presenters may not like the glare of bright stage lights when the house lights are off. This may be distracting or uncomfortable for them.

Finally, if people in the congregation can’t see the stage and performers well enough they may start talking or moving around.

Possible Problems With Too Much Light

With too much lighting, people may be distracted by what is going on around them as well as what is being said or sung. This will likely cause to show a lack of reverence and worshipfulness. It also makes for an uncomfortable feeling during special songs that may be more worshipful in nature.

Also sometimes bright house lights give small children more freedom to run around and play which can be very distracting. Some presenters prefer the house lights to be dim or off completely so they can focus on what they’re doing and not on what everyone in the congregation is doing.

Steps To Take for Planning House Lighting

When deciding how to approach lighting in your service, what are the things you need to consider? The answer will likely depend on several factors, including:

1. The members of your congregation and their preferences.

2. Your musical setting and style of music.

3. The number of presenters and their preferences.

4. Your church’s budget.

5. The space you are using for your service or meeting, including where you plan to place your stage/platform and how much light is already available in the room (natural sunlight through windows, etc.)

Thoughts From Church Members

A survey of church members from a variety of denominations found that church members prefer dimmed lights during announcements, prayer time, scripture reading, and sermon/teaching time.

They also prefer dimmed lights for special presentations and worshipful activities. Members did not have a strong preference for how lighting should be used during the offering. They generally prefer house lights on for fellowship periods, children’s church, and nursery care.

Thoughts From Pastors

When pastors were asked how they like to see things lit in their churches, they said that for worship services they prefer the house lights to be turned off except for during special songs or presentations. They also want people to feel free to talk and move around before service starts up again.

Pastors also sometimes prefer the room to be lit with only natural light coming in through windows. This lighting can still be dimmed during worshipful activities but won’t have to be too bright if the windows are clear or opaque.

Thoughts From Performers

Many church creatives or performers want all house lights turned off except for a dim spotlight on themselves, a dim spotlight on the worship leader or a lit area where their music stands are. They also want to be able to see everyone in the congregation while they perform and may not want bright lights shining in their eyes or distracting them from what they’re doing.

The performer’s desires should be taken into consideration when thinking about lighting for your service or meeting. So be sure to discuss the options with them prior to your meeting.

What Is Best For Your Church

So what do you think would be the best option for your service or meeting? There is no right or wrong answer as to how to use lighting. It is all based on preference and each situation is unique.

To decide which option will work best, we suggest that you:

  1. Investigate your congregation’s preferences. You can do this through an anonymous survey or a sample group taking a vote.
  2. Consider what you think works best with the musical setting of your service or meeting.
  3. Be aware of any limitations you may have based on the budget, space available, or networking capabilities.
  4. Find out from performers if there are any specific requests they want to make about lighting that should be considered for the service.
  5. Experiment! Perhaps once a month, you can try out a different option and see which one worked the best.
  6. Once you know what is best for your congregation, service, or meeting, make a plan and stick to it as much as possible. Most people like a dependable church service where they can focus on worship.


I hope this article has helped you in deciding what lighting to include in your worship services. Remember that you can always change your lighting if it isn’t working. The most important thing is that you and your congregation are able to worship together and feel the spirit no matter the lighting.

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