BIG DAY – Transport Your Church To New Locations

Oh man. The church is a dump, literally. And it is the morning of the Preaching Rally. In just a couple hours, hundreds of guests would be here.

There’s trash scattered everywhere outside.

Apparently, someone had come the night before and destroyed the place, dumping trash bags, flinging papers, flooding the front yard with the church’s hose and spraying graffiti everywhere.

It was a mess.

When my mom arrived at church, she seemed unconcerned. As the family freak-outer, she was uncharacteristically calm.

She got right to work. She grabbed a black trash bag, picking it up with both hands.

She ripped a hole in the side of it.

Then, she started dumping it all over the ground!

If someone were flying in a small plane overhead, they would have looked down and wondered why this deranged woman was spinning in circles, spewing trash all over the grass, the plants and the trees. What they would not have known is this: it was all part of the plan.

The theme for the Preaching Rally that year was “Choose to Abound.” The contrast was between the world’s way and God’s way of life. One is filled with trash and produces nothing good. The other is clean and healthy–a breeding ground of abundant life.

Later that day as our guests walked up the sidewalk, through the mounds of trash bags and past the putrid pool of trash-water, they read a sign that said, “Do you want this…” Inside the main doors, attendees were transported underwater, and a different sign read, “…or this?” The walls were covered in blue cellophane and teemed with schools of fish. On the platform, the backdrop was covered in colorful coral, a sign of healthy water.

From the moment our guests first walked onto our campus, they were being influenced by the theme. The decorations play a vital role in driving the point home.


Two Areas of Focus: Indoor and Outdoor

We split the decorations loosely into two areas: inside and outside. The outside decorations usually features a large scene, or a walkway of themed decorations. For example, for our “Surrender” theme, we decorated the outside of the church with gray cardboard sheets and carpet rolls that looked like the guns of the battleship where Japan’s Unconditional Surrender was signed at the close of World War II. Another year had a giant Bible–12 feet tall by 16 feet wide–with the inscription, “We are TIMELESS by following God’s Word.” For our “Gender Matters” theme, our guests walked through a gauntlet of 7-foot tall cardboard male and female figures. The outdoor decorations sometimes set the scene for the biblical text, as it was with our “Do Something” theme with David’s mighty men camping out in canvas tents.

The indoor decorations immerse the attendee in the theme. Our “Timeless” theme depicted Joshua’s monument of 12 stones taken from the Jordan River, with a hand-painted backdrop spanning the platform. Our “Gender Matters” theme split the room in two, with predominantly blue decorations down one wall and predominantly pink decorations down the other. Silhouetted sailors stood at attention, lining the walls of our sanctuary aboard the U.S.S. Missouri for our “Surrender” theme, and monster ice cream banana splits tempted the viewer during our “Ice Cream Sundae Relationships” message for the “Pure Love” theme.

Whatever the theme, the decorations serve by driving the point home through an immersive experience. I still remember being impacted by the 20-foot tall castle scene that transformed the platform of Faith Baptist Church in Wildomar into a battle ground. I remember walking through the “maze” at the Men’s Advance, featuring various scenes from Peter’s life, or helping to build the 10-foot tall platform that looked like the fishing boat where Peter stepped out to walk on water. The messages of the conferences were deepened by the impact of the decorations. That kind of impact is what I want for our Preaching Rally.


Doing the Work

Our decorating chief chooses and works with the decorating team for months. They have a budget of a few hundred dollars, and they are given the vision for the theme months before it is announced to the church. The decorations chief brainstorms with the team and clears her ideas through me. Once approved, they coordinate their own work days at the church, gather their own materials, and create all their own sets. One year, our gym was covered in paper mache rocks for a couple weeks. Another year, my brother and dad helped build an underwater cave with a diver suspended by fishing line, so it looked like he was swimming with the fish.

For photos of all our past Preaching Rallies, including detailed images of the decorations, visit

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