‘It just kind of flows’: Set designers create the scene for Vacation Bible School

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Cheryl Rose helped put together the creative theme for Calvary Baptist Church’s vacation bible school. The theme is “Spark your Creativity.”

By Elissa Maudlin

HANCOCK COUNTY — Big Legos, a big Rubik’s Cube, a giant Etch A Sketch and giant speakers. These are some of the elements Sharon Gibson and Cheryl Rose are putting together for Calvary Baptist Church’s 2022 Vacation Bible School. The theme this year is Spark Your Imagination.

In the past, they have made a life-size elephant cut-out out of insulation board from Home Depot, hand-painted it and made a waterfall in the church’s community room.

“We kind of do everything larger than life and over-the-top,” Gibson said.

With pieces and parts scattered, Rose said it’s “a hot mess” right now as they prepare the decorations. Her favorite part of decorating is getting it all put up and “[they] have a plan in [their] head of where everything is going …”

“When we get it all put up, it kind of just flows,” Rose said.

Previous themes include jungle, sports, under the sea and travel. Gibson and Rose decorate the sanctuary, entryway and top of the stairs at the church. They have a recommendation pamphlet for things they can do and use it as a jumping off point, Gibson said.

She’s been a part of Calvary Baptist Church for 30 years and met Rose at a jewelry party she hosted at her house 20 years ago. They’ve been friends ever since, she said, and have been a team ever since they started working on VBS sets.

Rose said “[they] make it [their] own” when talking about how they use the recommendation pamphlet.

When Rose was a young girl, she went to Vacation Bible School; later her children did as well. She feels decorating the sets is “a way to carry on that tradition” for other children.

“We both feel that, you know, Vacation Bible School is a really important opportunity to provide to kids in our church and our community,” she said. “It’s a way for us to know they are learning and hearing stories about Jesus. It’s our way of serving and giving back.”

Emma Flick, kids ministry director at Fortville Christian Church, said it’s a way to get kids to come back to the church.

“Our main goal is to get families connected to the local church,” she said.

Flick has attended Fortville Christian Church since first grade and has decorated but got more involved the past couple of summers in VBS. Past themes have been Press Play (a music theme), Focus (a theme related to eyes, glasses and binoculars) and video games. The church’s decor coordinator is Allison Gray and their decoration style has simplified over the years with their decorations onstage. Instead, they spend time in other areas of the buildling rather than just the stage.

Denise Barber, a church volunteer and VBS set designer for Brookville Road Community Church, said via email, when it comes to designing sets, “The bigger, the better.”

“… We create large statement pieces that take time and space, bigger than life,” she said, “just like God’s love for us.”

She’s done sets for VBS for seven years and started attending the church when her son was six months old.

“New to this area, we wanted a church family in which my son could grow and develop friendships,” she said via email, “and we heard a lot about the great youth program [Brookville Road Community Church] offers.”

She said via email she, another volunteer named Crystal Baer and sometimes others work on the sets. Over the years, they have created rockets, canyons, rock formations, waterfalls, palm trees and cacti. Along with being a volunteer, Barber is a wife, mother and nurse.

“I love the creative outlet [creating the sets] gives me and enjoy seeing the kids smile (and some adults, too)!” she said via email. “It’s also a way for me to give back the talents God has gifted me with.”

Despite the time commitment it takes to create the sets, Gibson and Rose said it’s hard to say it’s difficult because “[they’re] doing it together and [they] laugh and have fun …”

For them, it’s “worth it in the end” to see reactions from the kids and invite them into the church — for example, inviting families who don’t go to church.

“VBS is an important outreach for our community kids,” Barber said via email. “They feel safe in the environment and learn more about God’s love for them.”

For Gibson and Rose, they find joy in being there on the first night and seeing the kids come in.

“That makes it worthwhile,” they said. “To see the kids’ faces …”