Set Design: Begin with Goals, Decide Between Off-The-Shelf or DIY, Then Build

Good set design is only as good as the lighting on it. Sometimes all a set needs is white light, other times a color wash is the best fit.

Set Design: Begin with Goals, Decide Between Off-The-Shelf or DIY, Then Build
When deciding on how you want to build your set, there are many DIY options, along with an array of off-the-shelf products, including these Samurai Panels, produced by ModScenes, as part of this set design at Ada Bible Church in Ada, Michigan.

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Set Design: Begin with Goals, Decide Between Off-The-Shelf or DIY, Then Build

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In the modern church, set design has grown into a great art. Over the years, churches have moved away from ornate buildings, and entrusted the visual beauty of the church to artists in their congregation.

This phenomenal art of set design can be incredibly rewarding. It can help us to engage our congregation and create an atmosphere that draws people closer together and closer to God.

When building your set, it’s important to plan well.

Let’s explore the basics of set design and how we can create wonderful visuals for our churches!

The best place to start with any set design is the goals. They can range from creating something that is visually interesting, to communicating an intricate place and time. As a good set designer, it is imperative to figure out your goals. The best set is the one that fits your congregation best. For many, that will be a nice design that lasts years or months, for others that will be a series-based set change that keeps with the momentum of the church.

Here are a few common goals for stage design:
• Provide a more welcoming atmosphere
• Communicate energy from stage
• Hide the imperfections of the worship space
• Create an aesthetic that supports worship
• Formulate opportunities for creatives in the church to serve.

Chasing after these goals in a set change can be a great catalyst!

Stage designs are best split into two categories: abstract and literal. A literal set communicates a time or place, with this being typically a very detailed and realistic set. An abstract set, however, communicates an idea or even just an unrelated visual to improve the aesthetic. Literal sets typically are much harder to pull off well. Many times the feel or ideas within a literal set can be communicated with a more abstract set. Looking to create an old style living room feel? Instead of creating walls and detailed props, you can hang some older looking lamps, which will communicate a similar feel with more flexibility during your worship set.

Once you’ve set your goals and your style of set, move on to the how. There are two good options: off-the-shelf products and DIY solutions.

Companies like and Stretch Shapes make products that can be a huge time saver and take the guesswork out of your design. The patterns by Mod Scenes can be reused in different orientations and setups (kind of like Legos for scenic) to stretch your set build dollars over multiple sets. Many of the products by both companies are also fire retardant, which is a huge plus when accounting for safety.

More About Steven Hall
Steven Hall has served on staff at Journey Church in Norman, Okla., for more than three years. He has been involved in lighting design for 10 years. As the church's Technical Director, he oversees all aspects of production but is most involved with lighting and scenic design. Steven also recently started a church scenic company, Steven is a graduate of Full Sail University. He lives in Norman, Okla. with his wife, Sara, and son, Dorian. You can reach Steven on Facebook at
Get in Touch:    More by Steven Hall

Latest Resource

Worship Facilities Magazine, January-February 2018
The January-February 2018 issue of Worship Facilities Magazine offers articles about the many steps a church had to take in the aftermath of a fire, and another involving a church making the jump to 4K.

Article Topics

Visual Arts · Stage Design · Team Management · Budgeting · Team Development · Abstract · Atmosphere · Church · · Colored Lights · Literal · All Topics

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