If you want to see how fun the children’s department is at a church, check out their craft closet; every church has one. Some are junky, and some look like the shelves at a Michael’s® store. At my church, it was the place we kept the aluminum Christmas tree left over from the Christmas play of 1972, the bathrobes (a.k.a., “shepherds’ robes”), the wire coat hangers and tinsel that become halos in December, the pair of sandals that “Jesus” (a.k.a., kid with longest hair) wore during the Easter play, and the endless plastic containers of glue, glitter, markers, construction paper, beach balls, and so on. But no matter how it looked or what it contained, everyone knew that this is where the real fun began!
Regardless of where your church falls on the space-financial-creative spectra, a well-stocked crafts and supplies closet is more valuable than the sum of its parts. So here’s my list of five easily obtainable, affordable children’s ministry staples—all easily adaptable to various themes, programs, and purposes.
- Plastic Milk Crates. You used them in college for bookshelves—now they are making appearances in Sunday schools and VBS programs all across the world! Here’s a short list of possibilities:
- Skyscrapers (just add construction paper)
- Indoor garden containers (just add dirt)
- Light fixtures (thanks, Pinterest®)
- Vinyl record holders (for you hipsters)
- And of course, the aforementioned bookshelves (for your Sunday school room)
- Cardboard Boxes. Kids (and several of us adults) love a good box. It sends imagination into overdrive! The list is endless, but here’s a few of my favorites uses for this timeless resource:
- Puppet stages for VBS and Sunday school programs
- Giant Legos (just paint them and add Pool noodles)
- Canoes (with just enough duct tape and prayer, they actually float!)
- Pool Noodles. I was at my sister’s house for a pool party last summer and was surprised to find how fun pool noodles were in the water! I have been using them for so many other things, that I had forgotten their original purpose. So, in addition to keeping middle-aged men (me) above water, here are other less conventional uses:
- Sea anemone (a knife and some wire is about all you need)
- Fences (tape rows of them together and line your church hallways with them)
- Giant crayons (wrap them in colored paper)
- Giant flowers (attach tissue paper or plastic flower trays)
- Giant candles (great for class parties, Advent, etc)
- Giant candy (wrap with cellophane paper to create Tootsie rolls, Smarties, etc)
- Foil curtains and landscape fabric. We use these every year for VBS. Nothing says ‘party’ like a wall of flashy fun . . . and the strips of colorful hanging foil invite kids to participate! Here are a few other ways to make the most of these:
- Sectioning off stage areas (makes a large stage a small one)
- Camouflage (Not sure how to incorporate your pipe organ into a beach theme? Cover it.)
- Wall covering (black landscape fabric hung in hallways can create a fun mysterious entrance to Sunday school rooms)
- Ocean waves (drape blue ones over the chairs in the choir loft – it looks like waves!)
- Grass (cut green ones in half and hang them on the wall (fun for Easter egg hunts)
- Thrift stores. Okay, so it’s not a resource, but it’s like the best place ever to get those cool, one-of-a-kind items for your Sunday school and VBS productions! And it won’t break your budget! Here are a few things that I always stop here first for.
- Christmas lights (usually available found year ’round, and always cheap)
- Sports equipment (Badminton rackets to hang on your wall, soccer balls, etc.)
- Vinyl records and CDs (They look great hanging from your Sunday school ceiling, and are fun to use as ‘stepping stones’ on the carpet, and as centerpieces for special events)
- Children’s books (Stock up your resource room with these, and allow kids to take them home)
- Lamps (they just look great in your Sunday school rooms, even on stage for productions)
- Costumes (doing a superhero lesson? Chances are good you’ll find a cape and shirt)
Remember, IMAGINATION is the key! As Albert Einstein said, “Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.”
These wonderful storage closets and spaces disappear about as fast as animal crackers in a children’s Sunday school classroom, so if yours is vanishing into leftover glue-stick and fabric-we’ll-use-someday oblivion, here’s one final bit of advice: When you can’t store it, pass it. Many churches are space-challenged, while others are financially challenged, so this sort of exchange is a great way to build community and to bless others with resources that they may not be able to provide (either creatively or financially).
Have fun creating awesome spaces for your children!
Tony Stogsdill is the Marketing Manager for all children’s curriculum at Cokesbury. Besides marketing, he dreams up sets and designs, helps create new and exciting themes, and visits thrift stores as part of his weekly routine.