Today, I’m excited to share excerpts from a conversation I had recently with Ken Neff, Children’s Pastor at Christ Central in Lake City, Florida. I ‘met’ Ken through a Facebook group for kidmin leaders. He posted this picture of a set he designed for his kidmin and I wanted to talk to him and see why and how he does this.
Ken has been featured on churchstagedesignideas.com and is highly sought-after to help design sets for kidmin environments. What I found fascinating is that Ken has NO construction background. Prior to becoming a Children’s Pastor, he was in retail for 12 1/2 years – where he picked up marketing and art skills – and was a deputy sheriff for 10 years.
Kathie Phillips (KP): Why do you do what you do [take time to design and build sets]?
Ken Neff: (KN): “To me, it’s more than stage design. It’s the whole atmosphere. Not only are kids visually stimulated, but there is usually something else going on.” For example, Ken’s church ties music into the monthly theme. When they did a baseball theme, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” was played. Costumes are also integrated along with the set design. For the baseball theme, volunteers wore baseball uniforms and hats. Ken also mentioned that prayer and God-given ideas inspire his creativity.
KP: What set design ideas do you have for churches on a budget?
KN: “I often hear, ‘I want to do something but I don’t have a budget for it.’ However, if you plan ahead, you can do something. Planning ahead makes preparing a lot easier. An added benefit of that is you can purchase items for a good price or get them donated for free. You can’t do that if you wait until the last-minute.” Ken’s ministry has a different teaching series each month but he plans out the year in advance. In fact, he’s already working on ideas for 2016!
KP: I’m curious about what curriculum you use that inspires these great sets. Do you write your own curriculum?
KN: “Yes. We write it all. It’s God-inspired but even if you use published curriculum, there’s no reason you can’t still build a stage and have props that engage the kids.”
KP: Are you the only one constructing these fabulous sets? Do you have any help?
KN: “I am the primarily one responsible, but there’s a lady in our church who comes in about a week before I change the set to help paint things. She’s an artist, so that’s helped a great deal.” Ken mentioned that he has picked up artistic skills from this sweet lady.
KP: Changing out your set every month must mean that you need a great deal of storage space. What kind of storage do you have?
KN: “We have a 30 x 50 ft storage space at our church.” Ken also recycles and repurposes quite a bit, so this helps to keep clutter to a minimum.
KP: What storage options would you suggest for those in portable churches?
KN: “You have to get creative if you’re in a portable church, but it can be done.” Some suggestions might include renting a storage space, storing items in someone’s garage, or asking your portable church location if you could store things there.
KP: What advice would you give to churches who share space with another group or ministry?
KN: “If you can make just three (3) props that go along with your theme, I would make them out of something like styrofoam. That would help it to be lightweight and make transporting to a storage area manageable. You could also get with other ministry leaders who share your space to see if they could incorporate the same theme so that props could be left up during the week.” It should be noted that Ken’s ministry shares space with their church’s weekday preschool, run by his wife, Andrea. That makes leaving his set in place a lot easier!
Quotables from our conversation:
“It’s a good feeling that we, the church, can have a huge impact on kids like Disney does and not have to spend millions of dollars to do it.”
“We need to make Jesus exciting!”
Here are a few other tips Ken suggested:
- Build/group things in odd numbers. It’s easier on the eyes.
- Look for resources all around you. Things like paint, wood pieces, and empty carpet tubes can be donated by people in your church. You can also find inexpensive pieces from flea markets or second-hand stores.
Check out more of Ken’s work here. If you’d like to contact Ken, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ken & Andrea Neff are the Families & Children’s Pastors at Christ Central located in Lake City,Florida. They minister on a weekly bases to 300 children. Through the creative anointing that God has placed on Ken’s life, he brings the Bible stories alive for the children by creating a monthly stage design that goes with the curriculum that he and Andrea and write. They believe in equipping other leaders and pastors to advance the Kingdom of God.