Whenever our staff travels, we’re amazed at the wonderful things children’s ministers do to decorate their classrooms. So we decided to have a contest to ferret out those hidden wonders — and then honor the best of the best with coverage in Children’s Ministry Magazine.
Our design team had a tough job because there were so many great rooms to choose from. Each church had worked long and hard to make their children the real winners of this contest. You inspired us with your passion for reaching children, commitment to excellence, and faith in God!
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We learned that the #1 reason people create amazing rooms is that children are worth it! Listen to what Dale Hudson, and a winner of the Most Innovative Room category wrote, “We believe that if children can grow up knowing that church is a fun and exciting place to learn about God, they will continue on as they mature into teenagers and adults. We want them to walk away saying, ‘Church is an exciting place to be and God is an exciting God to learn about.’ Beige walls, metal folding chairs, and an overhead projector will not cut it anymore. This is the visual generation.”
Redecorating rooms was also a learning process for most of our entrants. You’ll find in this article the steps they took and the obstacles they overcame to create winning rooms. Cindi Boggio from Faith Factory at the Family Life Center in Mukilteo, Washington, and a Most Innovative Design winner, itemized all she had learned:
- There are ways to make a huge impact at a minimal cost.
- Remodeling is a witnessing opportunity. Letting people and businesses know why you want materials is a great way to open the door to tell them about your church, vision, and Lord.
- We need to develop timelines and break large jobs into smaller ones.
- There’s only so much I can do on my own.
- Redecorating will snowball!
- Creating deadlines helps, not hinders.
- I have awesome talent available in my church body!
- Work made fun isn’t work.Look what God has done!
“Look what God has done!” That was the resounding cry of almost every contest entrant. They asked God for big dreams and then saw him faithfully provide to fulfill those dreams. Our only double-category winner is BLAST: Bible Learning and Spiritual Training at First Presbyterian Church in Visalia, California.
Beth Richards, their children’s director, saw God move in amazing ways. She writes, “Although this was a monumental task for us and a great leap into the unknown, we never looked back once we started! Our enthusiasm and faith were fanned by the Holy Spirit moving discreetly throughout our congregation. Our largest ticket items were donated, as was almost all the labor to transform the rooms…It seemed that each obstacle we met (usually in the form of a huge bill that was due) was removed by an even grander form of support (usually in the form of a donation). We felt God’s hand in everything we set out to accomplish because when it was all finished, the overall transformation was far more than we had envisioned! Even today, when I walk through the classrooms, I sense God’s presence. We learned that God is faithful and that he answers prayers. We also learned to trust his guidance.”
So have we whet your appetite enough yet? If you’ve ever dreamed of transforming your Christian education area, you won’t want to miss out on these expert interviews and design tips to help you create winning rooms in your church, too.
CHURCH ATTENDANCE UNDER 250
Most Innovative Design
Adventure Bay at Fellowship of South Bay in Lomita, California, submitted by David and Jodie Searle.
This church of 200 features a King’s Kidz children’s church program that meets in a dockside community named Adventure Bay. The stage looks like a boat dock, and puppets interact with the children from the windows and rooftops of the village shops built adjacent to the dock. Their yearlong theme of Adventure Bay has enabled them to transform a 30×30-foot worship center into a seaside experience. Their Adventure Bay goal is to capture children’s interest by using a dynamic and interactive worship experience.
How’d They Do That?
- We gutted an old classroom by removing cabinets and unused sliding partitions.
- We painted the room a soft blue. It’s amazing the difference a paint job can make.
- We carpeted the room and built kid-size benches.
- We built puppet stages out of plywood, cardboard, and assorted framing materials. Then we painted designs on the storefronts.
- We hung fabric behind the puppet stage and the overall stage to hide background clutter and enhance puppet viewing.
- We built an 8×8-foot dock out of 2×6-inch lumber and landscaping posts to fit over the main platform. We painted the dock brown and used black spray paint to give it an old wood grain effect.
- We used an overhead transparency from Big-Action Bible Skits (Group Publishing, Inc.) projected onto a white queen-size bedsheet to paint the background ocean scene with tempera paints.
- We purchased an assortment of nautical junk at a local nautical salvage yard and got several interesting pieces from a church member. We placed these all over the dock and stage.
- Potted palm trees, fish netting and sea shells, piles of nautical odds and ends, dozens of suspended birds, and even tropical scented plug-in air fresheners helped create the tropical paradise.
Price tag: $300 (excluding carpet)
Obstacles to overcome: Finding laborers. David and Jodie Searle write, “We had a small group of very dedicated workers who worked long, hard hours. Additional helpers would’ve made a big difference. A couple of times we had a large number of volunteers show up, and we were unprepared. We didn’t have tasks identified, and we didn’t always have tools or materials available. I’m sure this discouraged some of the volunteers. In the future, we’ll spend more time preparing for the actual work with these steps:
- identify small jobs,
- estimate the time the jobs will take,
- ensure that all necessary tools and materials are available, and
- spend time advertising our requirements so we find unknown talents or resources currently available in our church.”
Runner-Up: The King’s Kids of Oologah Assembly of God Church in Oologah, Oklahoma, submitted by Diana Coe.
Honorable Mention: Wayside Presbyterian Church in Landisville, Pennsylvania, submitted by Jane Kintzi.
Most Resourceful Design
My Father’s House at Valley Christian Assembly in Charleston, West Virginia, submitted by Stan Jenkins.
This church performed a resourceful makeover to make a dilapidated room warm and inviting. Stan Jenkins writes, “Our room was covered with paneling that was bowed and rotten. Attempts at painting and covering it with pictures helped somewhat, but it wasn’t nearly enough. Our carpet was so old that we had to keep it in place with blue electrical tape.”
The first thing they changed was their ministry’s name. “Our idea was to change the name from K.I.D.S. Church to My Father’s House and teach the kids that our king wonderfully made them and they’re heirs with Jesus,” writes Stan. “We are now in the process of having medieval costumes made.”
How’d They Do That?
- We removed the paneling. Church volunteers helped paint the walls off-white.
- We redesigned the layout of the room.
- We tore off the unnecessary door of the puppet house to give more space.
- We cut a bookshelf in half to make two bookshelves.
- A generous church member donated three windows, which have added light to the entire area.
- The church bought another cabinet to store materials.
- Another church member donated two banners and a wall mural of a castle.
Price tag: $1,285 (including carpet)
Obstacles to overcome: “One major obstacle was expense,” Stan writes. “Not being a church with a large budget, the expenses could’ve been a problem. Yet when someone in the church heard of a need, they stepped in to meet that need.”
Another major obstacle was the mess involved in remodeling. Teachers and students worked out of boxes and cartons for several weeks. It took patient kids and willing volunteers to overcome this obstacle.
Runner-Up: Summit Assembly of God in Youngstown, Ohio, submitted by Dalinda Marshall.
Honorable Mention: Augustana Lutheran Church in Grand Forks, North Dakota, submitted by Dawne Barwin.
Best Design in Capturing a Ministry’s Theme
Grace Castle at Grace United Church of Christ in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, submitted by Stacy Zeger.
What better place for a king’s kid to meet than in Grace Castle! “We chose a medieval castle theme so our students could relate in a fun but enriching way about our one true king-God,” writes Stacy Zeger. Stone walls, banners, a family shield of faith, a royal throne chair, medieval pictures, royal armor, and warmth from crackling logs create the decor of this special place. All of this helps kids learn about being a king’s kid.
“Our attendance had been slowly declining when I decided to use a theme,” Stacy writes. “Our class is made up of mostly boys, and this really appeals to them. Occasionally one of them dresses as a herald to bring us announcements, and they take turns being a jester who brings us ‘church-appropriate’ jokes.”
How’d They Do That?
- To make the walls, we covered big pieces of cardboard with stone-type paper ($15 to $20 per roll).
- We purchased posters and pinups from teacher supply catalogs and stores, and from a party supply store.
- We made banners and shields from poster board. (Making the decorations temporary enables us to change to another exciting theme when the time comes.)
- We created a bulletin board with photographs of each child sitting in a throne-type chair and wearing a crown.
- We used a miniature castle to collect the offering.
Price tag: $100
Obstacles to overcome: The biggest challenge I faced was finding inexpensive decorations. I recycled old toys and hit the thrift shops to keep costs down.
Runner-Up: The Castle Condo Kids at Belmont Church of Christ in Dayton, Ohio, submitted by Monty Liles.