Behind the Scenes Decorating: Worship Rally & Missions

When designing the Worship Rally at Times Square set, designer Gordon Brown had a big vision. “Seeing New York City for the first time, the thing that impressed me most was just the sheer size of that city!” exclaimed Brown. “I knew Times Square needed to be tall—taller than eight feet. I wanted it to look really tall, so I made the flats 13 feet high.” Those of you who store the decorations from year to year will be thankful that Brown designed them to break down into eight-foot high panels.

One of the most important things to consider when building a set is the application for the set. How will it be used? The LifeWay VBS sets are designed for use in our marketing video shoot and for display at the VBS Expo events. “They need to be collapsible. I have to think about how I will move this from point A to point B,” said Brown. He designed the flats in 4’ x 8’ panels so they can be collapsed to fit on elevators.

The next thing Brown considers is how the set design will inspire others. “Will people look at it and think they can do it? My goal is to inspire others. I want to hit somewhere in the middle between a basic set design and a fully blown out design,” said Brown. “When I’m at a VBS Expo I hear two responses: ‘Oh my gosh! I can do that!’ or ‘Oh my gosh! I can do so much better than that!’ And they do. Some churches have created a volcano that actually works, or added water pumps and water to their waterfalls.”

When it’s time to start putting your ideas into action, Brown recommends starting with a scale drawing. “Churches don’t have to think of the same practical uses we [LifeWay] are thinking of for our sets. They do need to consider the height of their classroom ceilings and their sanctuary ceilings,” Brown advised. “For example, in a sanctuary with 20’ tall ceilings, hanging a backdrop will result in the bar the backdrop is hanging from being visible. However, if you use free standing panels this problem is avoided.”

Brown also designed the set for Missions Central. “I knew it needed to be the inside of Grand Central Station. That’s a really huge space! The predominant architecture features stood out to me—the iconic clock and the windows. The information booth inspired our TV stand area for viewing the Missions video. You don’t always have to be literal in your interpretation. The Missions Central set is impressionistic,” said Brown. “Everything was made from recycled flats. I used wooden frames with insulation panels screwed inside. One of the key things I think about when designing a set is reproducibility and affordability.”

To find out how to reproduce these sets for your VBS, consult the Decorating Made Easy book. Here you’ll find step-by-step photos and how-to instructions.

For a little more inspiration, watch our Decorating Worship Rally at Times Square and Decorating Missions Central videos with set designers, Melita Thomas and Gordon Brown.