Lakewood Church – Houston, Texas

Notes by Bill Klages

I was engaged by Lakewood Church as the Entertainment Lighting Facilities Consultant for the conversion of the Compaq Center Arena space to a 16,000 seat Sanctuary. The renovated facility was opened in July 2005.

The following abstract from the New York Times article at the time of the opening gives an accurate outline of the Project:

NY TIMES: NATIONAL DESK | July 18, 2005, Monday
A Church That Packs Them In, 16,000 at a Time
By JOHN LELAND (NYT) 1454 words
Late Edition - Final , Section A , Page 1 , Column 2

ABSTRACT - Nondenominational Lakewood Church, nation's largest congregation, moves into Compaq Center, once home to Houston Rockets, after $95 million in renovations; church boasts 30,000 members, revenues of $55 million in 2004 and television audience in millions; like many evangelical churches, building has no cross or other religious iconography; Pastor Joel Osteen, who inherited church from his father in 1999, spreads simple self-help message that congregants say is both uplifting and accessible; members see him as combination spiritual leader, motivational speaker and celebrity; photos (M)

Because of the importance and widespread distribution to local TV markets of the Lakewood Church Television Ministry, the primary goal of the facility design was to provide broadcast Television production capability. I visualized a Network Broadcast Audience Studio. It was to this end that I was able to apply my broad experience in TV production. This philosophy was paramount in the minds of the entire design team. A great advantage was that the Pastor, Joel Osteen, had been in charge of the Television ministry for his father. Because of this we had definite direction from the outset of the Project as a result of Joel’s complete understanding of the details that would be required to meet the primary goals, From the staging, camera placement, sound reinforcement through to the lighting, we had the benefit of his council.

A typical Service of Lakewood Church is divided into two basic sections. The most important and the one that has the greatest TV audience is Joel’s Message. The lighting for this section was to be simple as well as handsome while directing the viewer’s attention to Joel. As the congregation is an important element in this section, special attention was given to the lighting of the Congregation (with as little glare as possible, of course).

The end result is as shown in the two wide shots below. Although the overall result is bright and happy, it is not flat or limited in contrast. Notice that although the Congregation exposed to the camera, it does not compromise the center of attention, the Pastor.

The second section of the Service is the extensive Music portion of the Service. In a departure from traditional Church lighting schemes, it was my opinion that the excitement of this section could only be captured for both within the Sanctuary and by the Television camera by making the lighting as specific and, as a result, as theatrical as possible. This approach insures that both the live Congregation as well as the TV viewer have similar emotional responses to the performance.

This isolation of functions is carried throughout the lighting scheme by combining carefully focused directional sources, both fixed and moving, as the music dictates. Some of the individual results that were offered during the opening event are illustrated by the shots that follow. For the technically disposed, the exposure level was about fifty foot-candles.

One important point must be mentioned. The success of the lighting system of any production facility, Church or otherwise, must start with the their location and accessibility of instrument mounting positions,. At Lakewood, such positions were realized by the extensive use of catwalks, some motorized trusses, and numerous fixed positions at both overhead and floor levels. These are illustrated by the pictorial sketch below.

A particular successful detail of the Lakewood installation is the configuration of the catwalks. Their design is unique in that the instrument mounting pipes are located off the catwalks so that passage along catwalk platform is not impeded in any way. In most cases there are an upper and lower pipes so as to not limit instrument saturation. The lower mounting pipe allows for 360 degree rotation of moving light fixtures.