Behind the Scenes Decorating: Music and Recreation

I had an opportunity to sit down with our very own content editor and rotation set designer, Melita Thomas.

Melita has been building sets since she was old enough to hold a hammer. A real creative handy-man, her father was always building sets for church. “We spent a lot of time together building and planning for the next big thing. So, from early on I had experience building and planning things for use in church.”

Through her high school and college years, Melita was involved in theatre. College coursework in set design, including drafting projects, helped solidify her personal experience in building sets for church programs. “I loved designing both the Recreation and Music sets. The Music set was fun for me because of all the theatre I’ve done. It felt like I was at home.”

Truly, one of the neatest things about the Music Rotation design is bringing in pieces from past VBS themes. “The idea behind the Music set is that we are waiting to be in a production—getting ready long before opening night. So, you can drag out things you have in storage and use them as props. Things like costumes and spotlights that you don’t use often can become your decorations, and you really don’t have to make a lot.”

A lot of people pass over the recreation decorating ideas because they do their recreation time outdoors. Even so, these decorating ideas are worth a closer look. “I designed the pieces so they could be used anywhere you have a space to fill—hallways, the entry way to Worship Rally, or even a photo opportunity for Family Night.”

Melita’s favorite part of the Recreation design is the cityscape. “I made stencils out of card stock for painting the windows. They are whimsical, not straight and square.” A round foam paintbrush made painting them easy. “I think you can invite kids and teens to help paint your cityscape. It’s not something that you can mess up.”

When it comes to building a set for use in the church, Melita has some wisdom to pass along. “Know your space. Know the age of the kids in the space. Some things look good, but they may be a hazard.” Melita believes the room really belongs to the children. “Decorations need to be functional. They need to be able to be touched. If you are going to the trouble of building something, it needs to have a purpose.”

If you’re leading preschoolers this year, take note of a new article in all the Preschool Leader Guides that give three ideas for decorations that are designed to be used while teaching.

Decorations make VBS unique from any other program, but the decorations need to enhance what you are doing and not become a distraction.“The point of VBS is teaching children about Jesus and introducing them to relationship with Him. You do not want the kids so preoccupied by flashing lights and marquees that they miss the point that there is a God who loves them so much that he gave his Son for them.”

Decorating for VBS also should not blow your budget. The Decorating Made Easy book will help you to replicate the set designs you see in the VBS 2011 Catalog. There is also an “easy decorating ideas” section for those who are looking to keep things simple. “The goal of the book is to provide a framework for your own creativity. Use it as a springboard.”

And the final words of wisdom Melita has to offer: “Don’t try to do it by yourself!” Remember, Melita’s love for decorating and set design was born when working on projects together with her father. There will be some people who want to get involved with VBS just for the purpose of making the environment fun and purposeful. Some people may not be able to be present during your scheduled VBS time, but they are willing to come during the evenings the week before and decorate. “Find people in your church. It could be a teen who needs an outlet,” Melita advises. “You could end up connecting people’s faith and life in ways you’ve never thought of to glorify God and be part of something so much bigger.”


  1. Jamie says


    Gorgeous skyline! What did you draw it on? I've had visions of one in my mind for months - but couldn't think of anything tall and wide enough to do it on and still be able to stand it up!

    Any help would be great! Email at: jamietot at gmail . com

  2. Melita Thomas says

    Thanks, Jamie! It's painted onto rigid insulation foam. It comes in 4 X 8 foot sheets at your local hardware store (either in blue or pink). I'll email you a picture of the rear bracings I used to get it to stand. In the meantime, you can check out this video where I demonstrate some of the techniques I used in creating the skyline.

  3. sherry summers says

    Melita, What was used for the base of the cobblestone walkway in the Bible Study at Battery Park? It is so cool. I understood 4 x 8 sheets, but what is it?

  4. Melita Thomas says

    Sherry, it is made out of luan (type of wood). Spray paint it all over then lay out the cobblestone pattern with painter's tape. Paint it to look like stone, then peel off the tape and voila!

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