10 Oct Our Set Design Process (System Overhaul-Part 4)

Final Installment

A few years back, I wrote a series of posts that told the story of how the creation of a set design team and process came to be. The 3-part prequel series was written during a season of ministry that was very overwhelming for me. Feeling burned out and almost ready to quit, I decided to make some changes to the way I was managing my time, organizing my tasks, and utilizing volunteers. This season, while difficult, led to the system I currently use for our set design process and I can honestly say now, that I am grateful I went through it. You can read the prequel series here:

And now… hopefully better late than never… here is the final installment of this series, complete with the system we use and how it was developed.  

The Room Where it Happened

Hamilton fans – you’re welcome! 😉

In part 3 of this series, I mentioned that I called a meeting and asked anyone who ever had done anything with set design to attend. We met one Sunday afternoon in a room that actually no longer exists in our church. It’s now a cafe area of our lobby but at that time it was a small room where we gathered and had an honest conversation. I shared my struggle of being overwhelmed with my current schedule and informed this team of volunteers that I was going to have to cut back our monthly set design rhythm to either a quarterly rhythm or less. I shared that I could not keep up with what I was doing and we needed to probably move to a static set that could possibly be enhanced 3-4 times per year. I was asking them if they could commit to helping me during the months we decided to add a little extra, provided we determined those months in advance and gave them notice.

Interestingly enough, the team of people in that room were not okay with this solution. They very quickly started asking questions about what it would take to keep up with a monthly design rhythm and asked if we could look at the current process and make some improvements. As we evaluated, they shared their concerns about the current process:

  • We always had just one work night per month.
  • There was very little collaboration or brainstorming going into the project.
  • Most of the tasks fell back to one person – me.
  • They felt like we got a lot accomplished at our one work night, but most of the time it was just the front half of the process.
  • They felt badly that they would have to leave any painting projects to dry and when they came back on Sunday and it was all constructed and cleaned up, but they couldn’t take part in seeing it come together.
  • Sometimes they had to wait for me to finish prepping things before they could do anything.
  • If others could get involved in getting things prepared in advance of the work night we could be more efficient.

We looked over our evaluation of the current process and began to brainstorm ideas for a new one:

  • We listed everything that goes on to create a set
  • We decided from that list, the number of meetings/work nights we would need to make it happen
  • Someone suggested that the brainstorming phase move to something digital
    • This is where the creation of our private Facebook group was born. People could brainstorm ideas for the next month there rather than coming out another evening for another meeting.
  • We decided we needed two work nights so we could paint on one, and assemble on the next.
  • We decided to make them the last two Tuesdays of the month (or the last and first Tuesday depending on where the first Sunday fell).
  • We talked through where we would store the pieces we were working on (our church has no storage and we share space) after the first work night since we would still need the current set for one more week.
  • We talked about who would help with resets, etc.
  • We created a timeline for all of these steps


I mentioned this in one of the prequel posts, but after we came up with our timeline and task list, I asked people who could own what. What happened next was amazing! I told them to think on it for a week, but as I left that meeting, I had a team leader, an admin for the Facebook group, painters, craftsman, shoppers, calendar admin help, and more. Everyone saw themselves somewhere in that process and jumped right in. 

Several years later, this team is still going strong. They are like a second family to me and every month, I am amazed at what they create. There are still months that I am down to the wire with planning and running for supplies at the last minute, but the team always pulls together to help each other pick up any slack. The collaboration and creativity brings my heart so much joy.

When I think about myself as a leader, I point to the development of this team as a game changer. A marker moment in my career. And not because I created it or had anything to do with making it happen. But because I listened to the voices of people smarter than me, and handed it over. The development of this team came out of a messy time in my life, but has now become this beautiful thing. That’s like God isn’t it?  To make beauty from ashes.

I am grateful for my set design team. I am grateful for the irresistible environments they create each month. I am grateful for the family I’ve gained as I work with them. I am grateful for collaboration, and shared work load, and less stressful hours. But most of all, I am grateful for what God taught me about surrendering all to Him.

We are better together.