But what if you could create a prop or stage design to go with your lesson or series that didn’t break your budget or your brain? I’m here to say: You don’t have to have a Broadway-sized budget to make a bigger-than-life prop. If you can take everyday objects and reimagine them as something awesome, you can do it!
Here’s a reality: Visual stimulation raises the effectiveness of every lesson you teach.
To a certain degree, we’re all visual learners. Granted, some of us are more so than others,
but visual stimulation is important for all of us. We purchase things that look good—from food
to cars to houses. We’re drawn to attractive and visually interesting things. We like to visit beautiful places. Your kids are no different. So why not create an atmosphere that’s visually stimulating for them? After all, our job is to get their attention on God, right? We’re trying to show them that following Jesus is a wonderful thing—so give them a glimpse of that wonder!
With the few simple tips I’m about to share, you can create visual elements that’ll change the atmosphere of your room and provide a learning experience your children won’t forget—all for far less than you might think.
If you want to be a wildly creative, budget-abiding ministry hero (according to your pastor), then you can’t brainstorm one day and build the next. Follow these steps.
Unless God is the inspiration for your ideas, you’ll be going from your own intellect. That always leads to struggles and frustration. Ask God to guide you and show you what he wants. Don’t let it be a power struggle, because as you know, he wins.
You must be intentional when it comes to getting ideas on paper. I’m going old school when I say paper, but the idea is to get the plan out of your head and onto something visual. So get it on paper, computer, tablet, smartphone, or chisel it on stone tablets. Whatever you use, make your vision and ideas clear to yourself and your team members. As you brainstorm, think in kid-friendly terms. Or as I like to ask, “What can I create that’ll make this lesson leave a visual download on kids’ hard drive?”
Be inspired: You can tackle prop building and stage designs without breaking your budget. Your sweat equity will change the atmosphere of your children’s ministry and lead to greater ministry impact.
3. Size It Up
Evaluate the area you have to work with. Don’t be too ambitious and build a 12-foot tree when you have 8-foot ceilings. Are you a portable church that needs movable objects? Do you have a place to store props, or are you sharing the space with another ministry? If it’s just one prop, can you use it for more than one lesson? For example, a 12-foot pencil made from a carpet roll tube is a great prop that can reinforce many points. (See what I did there?)
- This may be a giant #2 pencil—but who’s #1 in your life?
- Jesus erases all our sin.
- Like an unsharpened pencil, without Jesus, there is no point.
If you’re building props for a series where the stage design will be up for a few weeks, consider things suchas video screens, musical instruments, and speakers that you’ll have to work around or implement into your design.
4. Gather Material
Did you notice I didn’t say shop for material? I’m not saying you won’t have to buy things. What I’m saying is, you can bargain shop for clearance items, go to flea markets and yard sales, and contact local businesses for cardboard boxes and to ask for discounts on slightly damaged items such as wrongly tinted paint. Borrow items from church members for your themes or a specific lesson. You’ll be amazed at what people have in their garages and barns that they’re happy to see put to use.
5. Think Safety First
When you get ready to build, keep safety at the front of your mind. Don’t compromise it by building something that could fall and injure someone. Ask yourself, “Are children going to be close enough to touch it? Is it just mounted on the back wall? Will someone be standing on it?” We’ve built a 9-foot waterfall that a guitar player stood on top of, a 24-foot wooden dock that we preached from, and a barn that a drummer played in. So think safety first, and make your fire inspector, insurance company, lead pastor, and parents very happy.
Be inspired: You can tackle prop-building and stage designs without breaking your budget. Your sweat equity will change the atmosphere of your children’s ministry and lead to greater ministry impact.
Ken Neff co-leads family and children’s ministry with his wife, Andrea, at Christ Central Church in Lake City, Florida.
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