This set design was the biggest one I’ve done since I have been a Kid’s Pastor. This year was my first time putting on a VBS, and I decided to go with the Basic Elements VBS by Josh Denhart. It did not disappoint! Our kids, parents, and volunteers loved the science theme and the Biblical content found in the curriculum. If you are looking for something different for your VBS next year, check it out! While this set design may have been done for a church-wide VBS, most of the decor would also be great for a kid’s church series, like this year’s August theme in 252 Basics. Since this is such a massive set design, I am going to break it up into sections by the rooms/themes.
Our church has a really open lobby with high ceilings and lots of windows. This is great for a lot of things,
but I wanted to create a different environment for the kids to walk into. We decided to black out all of the windows and doors to get rid of all natural lighting so we could control the feel of the environment. We used black kraft paper and black gaff tape to get the job done. Just a warning, even though we pre-tested the gaff tape on the wall and it didn’t take any paint off, when we went to remove it at the end of VBS it did take some paint off. I believe it was a combination of the extreme Arizona heat during the day and the adhesive that caused the problem. Normally gaff tape is ok to use on walls, but use caution. Once we had the lobby windows and doors blacked out, we had complete control over the lighting. We bought 16 cheap LED lights off eBay to use in the lobby and around the hallways to add some fun colored elements. We looked for a bundle of eight lights on eBay that were located in the US (for quick shipping) and bought two bundles (16 lights total). Note they are very cheap, and as with most lighting, you get what you pay for, but they served our purposes just fine. Be prepared to have one or two of them show up broken or defected and the seller we dealt with was very understanding and even gave us some money back! It was absolutely worth the amount we paid for them. We also changed the normal lightbulbs in the light fixtures in the lobby out for different colored lightbulbs.
The hallways were probably my favorite part of the whole set design. We bought 16 rolls of RGB 5050 LED strip lights, which is surprisingly affordable, and it transformed our hallways into a party. We lined the edge of the ceiling all the way down both of the hallways with it, and turned it on color changing mode. We also used some of the cheap LED lights to help light the hallways enough to safely walk through them. We didn’t use any fluorescent lighting in the hallways at all. All the lighting came from the LED tape and LED lights. I would seriously have just hung out in the hallways all the time they were so cool. We had to make a lot of decorations to cover the walls in the hallways. We made many different colors of giant beakers and test tubes out of neon poster board for one side of the wall in the hallways. I made one beaker and one test tube as the templates, then traced the templates for all the rest. The beakers took up a whole piece of poster board, but the test tubes were about three to a piece of poster board. We used the remainder of the poster board to make “bubbles” in different sizes to have pouring out of the test tubes and beakers on the wall. When the lights were out and the LED tape was flashing on the walls, it made the test tubes and beakers look like they were glowing. It was a really neat and unexpected effect. For the other side of the walls in the hallway, we created lots of colored arrows corresponding to the colors of the classrooms the kids would be visiting each night. I created a template arrow out of poster board, but made all the arrows using different colors of kraft paper. We attached all of the beakers, test tubes, and arrows to the walls using clear tape and mavalus tape. Only a couple tiny spots of paint came off the wall at the end of the week, which wasn’t bad at all considering the walls were covered in decorations. For the ceilings, we created molecule structures of various sizes. The molecule structures are easy to make, and people are very impressed by them. All you need is foam balls in various sizes, dowel rods, hot glue, and acrylic craft paint in several colors. We needed a lot of foam balls because we were making molecule structures for all of the hallways and the main stage in the sanctuary. I found the smaller sized balls at the Dollar Tree and the 99 cent store. It doesn’t really matter if they are the smooth foam or the regular styrofoam. We used a mixture of both. I bought the bigger sizes in bulk from Amazon. First, we poked holes in the stryofoam balls with a pen or pencil, then hot glued all of the foam balls to individual dowel rods. We painted the foam balls on their individual dowel rods and stuck them into stryrofoam sheets to dry. Once all of the balls were painted and completely dry, we assembled the molecule structures by hot gluing them together. We used five or six dowel rods and smaller foam balls to create the molecule structures for the ceilings in the hallways and used more dowel rods and larger balls for the structures in the sanctuary. We hung them from the ceiling tiles using clear fishing line.
There were two major decoration elements on the main stage: giant molecule structures and the science lab in the center of the stage. We brought black pipe and drape in to make a false back-stage and give us a uniform backdrop. We made two 12-foot long molecule structures like the smaller ones in the hallways to go on each side of the science lab in the center of the stage. We hung them from the pipe and drape using clear fishing line, and surprisingly none of it fell down or fell apart the entire week of VBS. To create the 12-foot molecule structures, I constructed them on two 6-foot tables. When we needed to transport them to the stage, it took about 3-4 people to keep them from breaking. The science lab in the center of the stage was really just a hodgepodge of science stuff we found. We brought in two rolling cubbies and filled them and decorated them with stuff. We bought a plasma ball and two large lava lamps from Spencer’s and filled the cubbies with books, plants, test tubes, and beakers. We put a large white table in front of the cubbies and covered it with a spandex white tablecloth. On the sides of the stage, we had two large white pop-up beakers we borrowed from another church that we put lights in so we could change the colors to go with the lighting scene. The pop-up beakers were from an old science lab VBS from 2008. If you can find anyone who still has these kicking around their attic or storage closet, borrow them. We also used them for a fun large group game where the kids had to try to fill up their beaker with balloons before the other team.
We created two rooms in each of the themes that were pretty much identical, with only a few minute differences. The slime rooms turned out a lot better than I expected. We used a lot of neon green poster board and plastic tablecloths to completely “slime” our kid’s and youth rooms at the church for our game room rotation. The “slime drippings” hanging from the ceiling were created out of poster board. I used an entire sheet for each one. I drew the shapes with pencil first, then cut them out. I decided that I actually wanted them to look different so I didn’t create a specific template for them. We simply hole punched them and strung them around the room using clear fishing line. Always triple knot your fishing line any time
you are using it to hang items from the ceiling and never try to tape fishing line to the ceiling because it will slip through even the strongest of tape.
We also made some slime splats out of poster board
to put around the room and on the doors. We slimed the curtains, pipe and drape, stage and anything else with long slime made out of green table cloths. We made two long strips of slime out each table cloth. We bought two big black trash cans to put on the stage and decorated them with more poster board slime. We created some big “caution radioactive” signs and symbols using images we found online. We just printed them out on 11×17 paper and cut them out. We used some of the signs around the room or on the doors. We covered the doors to the rooms with brown kraft paper, then decorated them with slime splats, black test tubes, and caution tape. My favorite thing was the awesome test tube doors. A couple volunteers spent well over two hours on that masterpiece.
The space rooms were by far the most talked about of all of the rooms at our VBS. They were also the most time-consuming to decorate. We decided we wanted to black out all the walls in the room. This was quite the task, but well-worth the result. We used the same black kraft paper to cover the walls as we used in the lobby and it took almost an entire roll to cover one room. We used black gaff tape and black push pins to reinforce the tape. Make sure you use a lot of gaff tape to keep the paper on the walls. We didn’t have any problems with paint removal in the space rooms when we removed the tape. We decorated the walls with glow stars and glow planets to make it look like outer space. They glowed so well that we decided not to use the fluorescent lights in these rooms, and kept them dim with some up-lights and lamps. We also made some large rocket ships for each of the walls. We cut the shapes out of sheets of cardboard, painted them with silver spray paint, and added the details with different colors of acrylic craft paint. We made lots of “planets” to hang from the ceiling around the room using different sizes and colors of paper lanterns. We painted them with acrylic paint, added glitter to some, and even rings to some of them using cardboard and foil.
Science Lab Rooms
The science lab rooms were pretty simple to decorate. We used more of the large poster board beakers and test tubes that we used in the hallways on the walls and doors in the science lab rooms. We decorated the shelves and tables in the room with various test tubes and beakers filled with colored water and different colors of fragrance beads I found at the Dollar Tree. I also found this giant coloring poster that looks like a science lab on christianbook.com. We hung them from the white boards in each of the rooms and let the kids color them. My favorite thing about these rooms was the decoration we made on the outside of the room over the door. We taped a large black beaker made out of poster board to look like it was pouring out on the top of the door frame, and used a neon green plastic tablecloth to make it look like slime was pouring all over the doorway.
These rooms were probably the least exciting in decor, but they were our snacktivity rooms so the real fun was on the inside. We used the periodic table of elements as our inspiration for the theming in these rooms. I had seen several different people posting on Pinterest periodic tables using the books of the Bible, and I loved the idea. I used that ideas as the main decoration in each of the rooms. We created the Books of the Bible Elements and printed each of the sections of the Bible on a different color of cardstock. We created some other elements using some files from the curriculum and hung some of them on their own from the ceiling, and hung others inside three hula hoops taped together to create a molecule. I don’t know what exactly they are supposed to be, but we made these cool looking things out of black paper lanterns and painted foam cones, and hung two of them in each of the element rooms. We made some “gears” using the leftover plastic reels the LED tape came on. We spray painted them silver and they were ready to go.
What is your favorite VBS theme? How do you choose which VBS you are going to use? Does the theming play a big part in your decision?