This is Not Your Grandma's Church: How One LD is Changing the Worship Experience
Today we're joined in the lounge by Cole Pierce, lighting director of Fresh Life Church. Cole is going to break down the ins and outs of church lighting. Without further ado here's Cole!
My name is Cole Pierce. I’m the lighting director for Fresh Life Church—a multi-site church in Montana and Utah. We currently have 8 campuses and are planning on opening 2 more in Montana and one in Wyoming later this year. Our church has about 5,000 people attending in person every weekend and twice that watching online through our website, app and television broadcasts. With more people watching online than in person, we focus heavily on the production quality in order to send out exciting content on a weekly basis.
We believe faith comes by hearing, and our Pastor Levi Lusko preaches a message on Saturday night in our main broadcast location in Kalispell, MT which is then sent out to every campus for Sunday’s message. Each satellite campus has live worship, a campus pastor and then a video teaching. We also tour a few events throughout the year that are focused on the younger generation, which brings the need for exciting new gear.
I often get asked how exactly I handle 8 (soon to be 11) totally different locations being the only full-time LD. We typically have volunteers running every location except our main broadcast location, and part of my job throughout the week is to program each location remotely in my office using a visualizer and console. This then lets me send out the show file to each location which they can load onto their consoles on the weekend and run them via their volunteers.
Fresh Life is a very “young” church relatively speaking and a lot of it is due to our commitment to production quality and making our church services more “worship experiences”. We often say, “We are not your grandma’s church, but she is more than welcome to come!” We create an atmosphere of expectation and worship through the use of professional lighting, video and sound systems.
Recently, I’ve been traveling all over the country upgrading, tweaking, and training other church’s lighting rigs and volunteers in order to adapt to a more modern worship setting. The point of lighting is not to create a “show” and take away from the worship setting, but instead to enhance the worship by setting a tone.
I often explain to a lot of traditional church’s that ask what they should do in terms of lighting that they can dramatically change the look and feel of their room just by adding some color. One instance in particular happened a few years ago when I went on tour for a college-aged show in Europe. It was a church-based event that held shows in theatres and churches around the UK and Hungary. One stop in particular was held in an old church with stained glass windows and huge arches. I decided to change the design up for this stop to focus on the beauty that was already present in the building. I took the stage LED bricks we were using and focused them up the edges of the arches, and re-focused my positon pallets to focus certain soft-edged breakup gobos on the focal points of the room. This was by far my favorite stop of the tour even though it took a little extra work. There are certain times on tours when you get opportunities like running a million-dollar lighting rig in a venue built 500 years ago that you just can’t handle like another show!
Along with church lighting, I have done a ton of concert, club and theatre lighting as well through the years and to me, nothing is more exciting than bringing what you learn from each form of lighting into each other in new and exciting ways. There’s nothing wrong with taking dramatic theatre style lighting into a concert design when you’re intentional about it just as there have been times when I have worked with churches who meet in clubs and bars where they have to work with what the club has. It’s always fun stretching your creative juices and making a great atmosphere for church by using only 120 moving lights that are hung on a grid 15’ above a dance floor!
I love what I get to do and the fact that every job, tour and day is totally different and new. Yes, there are certainly hard days and those days you fly to an “almost done building” to install rigs when in reality there aren’t even studs for the walls yet (different story for a different day); or that late load in from a long bus ride through the night; but there’s not anything in the world I would trade it for as I’m sure most of you reading this can agree!
Cole Pierce is the Lighting Director at Fresh Life Church. He started off early in theatre lighting throughout middle school where he quickly fell in love with the art. In high school, Cole received opportunities to help with bigger concert productions where he learned the true potential of a career in lighting. He then received a business degree through Montana State University and started his own lighting company. He became the Lighting Director for Fresh Life in 2011.