While putting together my set design together for this month, I was reminded that you don’t need a big budget to create some pretty amazing sets. When I talk to other Kid’s Pastors, one of the most common struggles I hear about is that they don’t have a big enough budget to accomplish goals in their ministry. I understand that this can be a problem, but we don’t have to let it stand in the way of doing awesome things in our ministries. We just have to use a little more of our imagination and creativity to get the job done. I’ve discovered that when I have a big budget, I tend to just go out and buy things, but when I have a smaller budget or no budget at all, I have more creative ideas because I am forced out of my comfort zone to find a solution. For this week’s post, I want to talk about how to create set designs at little or no cost to you. Let’s start by looking at this month’s set design that I put together for free. That’s right, I said, FREE!
This month’s set is based on the theme Dirty Jobs from the 252 Basics curriculum. The idea with this theme is to represent some of the “dirty jobs” people have. We are representing construction workers, painters, and trash collectors/janitors in our set design. We were able to re-use or re-purpose many of the elements from our last set and for our center stage we just left the stage covered with the tan kraft paper. We simply removed the map pieces that had been taped to the stage. It was a bit dirty, but that actually worked for this set. I already had a big bottle of brown craft paint on hand because it is one of my top 10 set design essentials. I used a paint brush to fling brown paint directly on to the kraft paper to make it look like mud splats all over the stage. After I was satisfied with the amount of “mud splats,” I put on a pair of old boots, stepped in the brown paint, and walked all over the stage. As you can see from the pictures, the stage looked sufficiently filthy at this point. On the left side of the center stage, I made a huge wood pile (also using materials from the last set). I knew that just leaving a pile of old wood on the stage wasn’t the best idea, so I surrounded it with small traffic cones and used caution tape to keep kids away from it. It serves as decor and a safety precaution. I also left the pair of muddy boots at the edge of the stage. On the right side of the center stage, I made two big black trash bags full of the vines, signage, and other trash from our previous set.
On the right side of the stage, I was representing janitors and trash collectors. I used an old metal trash can that we were using for storage as my focal point for this side of the stage. I filled the trash can with “trash” that was created from our last set, and at the top, I put some real trash that I had collected from people around the office at church. I also put trash all around the trash can and attached some to the trussing using gorilla tape to make it look like the trash was overflowing everywhere. To top it all off, I raided our church maintenance closet for a broom, dust mop, toilet paper rolls, and some cleaning products. I made two cardboard signs using some spare cardboard I always keep on hand and some brown and black craft paint. I taped off the words Initiative and Dirty Jobs using some spike tape (I couldn’t find painter’s tape), and splatted them with paint using a paint brush. After they were completely dry, I removed the spike tape to reveal the words. They are a little hard to see in the pictures, but you get the idea.
On the left side of the stage, I represented painters and construction workers. I used more of the traffic cones and caution tape for the front and topped them off with a couple construction worker hats. I raided a couple other storage closets for paint cans, paint rollers, a paint tray, a tool box and tools, a shovel, and spare wood. I attached the big plank of wood to the trussing using clear fishing line so it wouldn’t fall.
There you have it, a set design that cost me $0. I know you are probably thinking that you don’t have all the same items on hand that I do and that may be true, but bet you can use some items you have on hand to create your own awesome set designs. A good place to start is with the three R’s: reuse, repurpose, and recirculate. What do I mean by those three words? Let’s break it down.
Reuse: What items do you already have on hand or lying around from a previous event or set design that you could use again without changing anything? When you are tearing down after an event or set design, make sure you save any items that you could potentially use again by putting them in a storage container and labeling them clearly so you can find them again when you need them. Go dig through those storage closets in your church, and I guarantee you will find some hidden treasures that you can reuse.
Repurpose: What items do you already have on hand or lying around that you could modify and turn into something fresh and new? That’s what I did with the spare wood pieces, cardboard for the signs, trash in the church, and kraft paper covering the stage. If you made a sign or decoration for one set you might be able to turn it around and use the other side for something else. Don’t throw it away until you have thought about how it could be repurposed for something new.
Recirculate: What items could you possibly borrow or have donated by someone else in your church or community? Just because you don’t already own the item or you don’t have the budget to buy it doesn’t mean there’s not someone who does. What items do you have on hand that you could donate or loan out as a resource to other ministries? I have been on the giving and receiving end of this, and it is has been such a blessing to my ministry and to other ministries.
What are some creative ways that you have made an event or set design happen with little or no budget?