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Andrew Dunning, what is working for you?

Lights, camera, action... Andy is the man. I have really enjoyed getting to know Andy when he comes in from time to time to Fellowship and does some consulting/contract work. Andy is a master when it comes to lighting and has worked with many of the big dogs. To learn more about Andy visit his website at


I have the incredibly huge blessing of making a living by doing something I love.  When I begin telling people what I do, it is easy to key in on the well-known names in Christian music with whom I’ve worked over the years.  I’ve created the lighting for concerts, tours, festivals, crusades, corporate meetings, as well as for numerous conferences and special events. 

Lately, though, I’ve been talking a lot about the time I’ve been spending in churches.  This has come as a fairly big surprise to me.  You see, through the years, I’ll admit to having had fairly low expectations when it came to church production.  Though I have had several very satisfying projects in and for churches, I was guilty of the same attitude that has bothered me coming from the secular music market – the attitude that because something was being done by a church it was quite likely to be incredibly cheesy.

My mentality has drastically changed in the last year.  I now find myself having pretty high expectations and really enjoying working in churches – with a lot of desire to help to provide as high a level of production for weekly services (not just for special events) as I and my colleagues have been  providing for tours and other projects.  This mindset has changed as a direct result of having spent a lot of time with a long-time acquaintance (now friend and client), Mike Walker, at Fellowship Church.  Many times in recent months he has challenged my thinking:  “We have the opportunity each and every week to tell the GREATEST story ever told.  Why can’t the presentation come up to the level of the story we are telling?  As a church we are presenting Christ and the Christian life to the world.  Are we doing our best to represent Him as best we can?”

THREE main elements of production philosophy

  1. The worship service is to be an experience, not an observation of a performance.  “Church” is to be personal.  Participants need to be immersed – drawn in – engaged - submerged
  2. The presentation is to be unified.  The different service elements – the music, the dramas, the video, the graphics, the printed material, the scenery, and the lighting need to point to the sermon and its tone - and to each other.
  3. These core ideas are appropriate regardless of a given church’s service style, size, or (within reason) budget.  The specific methods, emphasis, and/or technologies used may simply be different for each.

There is a lot of talk about pursuing excellence in the individual creative arts, but many churches rarely look at how the different disciplines can and should work together. They discuss technical training but rarely mention the art of production.  That is where I come in.  I help churches to see that lighting isn’t just about providing visibility.  It is also about providing and accenting beauty and encouraging or creating mood.  Done well, it can help to enhance any service.  Also, though my primary focus is lighting, all of the production disciplines are so interrelated that I also often end up involved with other service elements as well, like scenery and video.

QUESTIONS to ask and things to consider

  • Do the different service elements work together?  Is it obvious that the creative staff are actually talking?  For example, do the colors and patterns in the video graphics and the lighting complement each other?  Do they match the desired tone of the services, the sermon, or a given song?
  • Is scenery used on or around the stage?  Is it on-stage only or are the themes replicated throughout your room?  Do they give a visual identity to a given sermon series?
  • If operators are making an effort to match lighting w. music, do the colors and cueing work for the tone and timing of a given song?  Does the lighting change with the music or is a single supporting, defining look created for each piece?
  • Is careful consideration given to the “look” of the stage and room during the message?  Does it look as good as the rest of the service or is it an “oh, by the way”?
  • Do light levels change at appropriate times in during services in different physical places or is there an “all-on all-the-time - everywhere” mentality?
  • How is color used in the lighting?  Is there a richness/vibrancy missing because of a lack of color?
  • Is video interactive during the services or just used for “pre-show” announcements?  Is it used for more than IMAG?  Is it used for either sermon notes or sermon illustrations?

If you have gotten this far, thank you for staying with me while I’ve rambled.  I hope that this has given you at least a little food for thought.