Tuesday, June 28, 2011

TruStory | Summer Sunday School

We just launched a new Summer Sunday School Program at our church called TruStory.

Eric and I were responsible for setting up the facility for the launch. We had a very limited budget ($200 for everything) and way more ideas than money. We had to keep pulling it back to what was reasonable, simple, and affordable.

The program has three main components: Large Group Celebrate and Worship, Personal Response, and Small Group.

The stage complete, in use during our dress rehearsal, a couple of days before launching the program.

The Large Group Celebrate and Worship included multi-media worship, traditions and storytelling. We wanted a stage and some kind of fabric backdrop, but we knew we had to keep it simple because of our limited budget.

We were loaned a stage from a local Christian Camp and Conference Center that they weren't using all Summer (thank you Warm Beach Camp). We needed lumber to shore up the three 4' x 8' flats, black paint to repaint, lumber to build steps on both sides (it was an 18" rise), and material to skirt the bottom. Eric had lumber in the garage for the steps and he happened to have enough black fabric to skirt the entire stage bottom (we planned the steps the right size to make the amount of fabric we had work perfectly). He made it look awesome!

The stage before it was stabilized, shored up, and painted.
My awesome husband painting the steps he constructed.

The stage itself took a lot of time, but the backdrop was a lot more stress because I didn't know how I was going to pull it off. I had found this website that showed you how to make a free-standing backdrop using PVC pipes. We tried it, but I had made a critical error. I thought it required 1/2 PVC pipe and it required one and a half inch PVC pipe. Big difference. We were able to return most of the pipe and all the fittings, but the larger PVC pipe was significantly more expensive, so we went with a fixed solution. Again my husband came up with the solution and fixed my problem. (Sorry, no pictures of my oops.)

The fabric backdrop before stretching it. Pretty lousy.

Next came the fabric solution. I ended up purchasing two king size flat sheets at Walmart, navy blue. After ironing them (an awful chore) I slipped the top loop (after carefully cutting the stitches that closed the fold) through each side of the PVC pipes. I stitched the sheets together in the center. This was tricky. Then came the issue of how to pull the fabric taunt, so it looked less like cheap fabric sheets. I called on my brother who works with fabric for a living. He had us use cut pieces of the PVC pipe that we couldn't return and wrap the excess fabric on each side of the stage around it. Then he and Eric pulled both sides together in the back of the stage (at three points) to pull it taunt. They secured it. Then to secure it taunt from top to bottom we stapled the fabric at several points to the back of the stage.

The fabric after it was stretched and secured. A huge improvement!

Make the letters for the backdrop was the easiest part and the most fun. I had gone through a lot of ideas, but this one seemed the simplest and easiest to execute. I started by mocking up on the computer what I wanted my backdrop to look like. Then I printed out the letters at 100%. That meant that I had to use multiple sheets of white paper (since my printer only prints regular letter size paper) and tape them together to form a patter. I did this with each letter (and bird). I cut out the pattern then traced it onto foam core board. I was able to get the board at the local dollar store for $2 a sheet, instead of $5-$6 at the local office supply store or even Wal-mart. It took one sheet for every two big letters. So I was able to do the whole thing using three sheets of yellow and two sheets of white.

Here's one of the paper pattern pieces I started with.

Here are the tools I used to cut the foam core. There are definitely tricks to make it easier.

I learned cutting foam core board is an art. I got better at it by the end.

I was pleased with the stage when it was all done.

The next step was setting up the Response Stations. We started with three (and have since added a fourth).

A place for kids to draw or journal a response to what God is telling them.

A place for kids to respond by writing an encouraging note or card to a friend or parent.

My favorite and not our idea. This is a place for kids to attach their prayers (using clothes pins). This one is modified because we wanted it free-standing and portable. The one TruStory provides plans for is 4' x 8' and not hinged.

The third element is small group and required the least amount of set-up. I set up spaces around the room (we have three) for the small groups to meet. I made signs so that they knew that was their spot every week. They have a basket that holds their supplies for the create or engage time. This is also where I put the small group leaders "Cheat Sheets" that has the info they need for the Reflect, Engage/Create, and The Blessing. Also, we use colored blankets for the kids to sit on, helping them to stay with their small group.

The greatest thing was seeing it in action for the first time. It made all the work worthwhile. For dress rehearsal we all brought our kids, so even my three year old got to participate. She loved, loved, loved it!

Gracie doing all the motions with Auntie Kim who was leading the songs.

The Prayer Wall even got used that first night!


  1. You guys did an amazing job!!! The kids at our church are so blessed to be part of this program. I sure hope my J&P get to be involved with something like this when they are older. Great job Cami (and Eric)!

  2. Wow! What an amazing process! Thank you for sharing the behind the scenes preparation. You guys are so creative and you give of yourselves so freely - truely an inspiration to me! Love you!