Preparing for Christmas Pt. 3—Pre-Build Sets

Christmas sets.jpg

Continuing our series on Christmas prep, today we’ll wrap up with the other thing I’ve learned to do ahead of time whenever possible. These two weeks feel like the calm before the storm, but I try to get as much done as possible so the week of Christmas feels less like a storm and more like a celebration. That’s why I do all this stuff early whenever possible.

A few years ago, I was really short-handed and had to pull off Christmas with me and one other person. It occurred to me the only way that was going to work was if we did as much as early as possible. Up to that point, we had been doing the “Christmas Week Marathon” method. I always hated it, but we had enough hands to throw at the problem and we got it done. 

After that year, I realized we could spread the workload out over 3-4 weeks, and enjoy the process a whole lot more. So that’s what we do. The thing we tried last year—and it worked so well we’re doing it again—is to build the set pieces a week in advance. 

Build Components If You Can’t Build Sets

If you recall, we did the block walls last year, and instead of trying to cram the entire production process in one week, we build the boxes the week before. I didn’t want the block walls going up before the weekend before Christmas, but we could get them mostly built ahead of time. Then we just had to rig them on Christmas week, which took a few hours. By then, we already had about 30 man-hours into the set. 

This year, we’re starting today in fact. On Dec. 4, we’re gathering our raw materials for the set, and it will take a few hours to pull together. In fact, two weeks ago, I had the guys start painting some 2x8s that we had lying around. Those will be supports (overkill perhaps?) for the set when it’s all done. 

Plan Early

I can’t say this enough. I started working on our Christmas set ideas back in October. I peruse sites like ChurchStageDesignIdeas, and read various design-centered blogs to get ideas. Once I find things I like, I save them to Evernote, and begin to work out the details. 

This year, I’m stealing an idea I saw on the Country Music Awards (you’ll have to wait for that post to see what it is). I liked the look, and while I was watching the show, I figured out how I could replicate the look on a low budget. 

It’s easy to figure out stuff like that when you have time to shop and come up with ways to make things happen. If you wait until build week, you’re scrambling, and you have to make do with whatever you can find. That may work, but it’s usually not ideal. 

Enlist Help

One of the things I love about Christmas and Easter (and I suppose VBS, too) is that it is a great excuse to get the team together. We have a ton of high school guys on the team, and they love coming in to help work on projects like this. 

I do all the design work, and will often build prototypes of what we want, then I can turn them loose to make it happen. Or we can all work together, depending on the project. A few years ago, when it was just me and Thomas, we did enjoy working closely together, but I think we were both pretty exhausted by the end. Last year, we had a bunch of other guys helping and we all got to go home earlier, and have more fun in the process.

Plus, having a bunch of Jr. & Sr. High guys around is a great excuse to go to Dairy Queen for lunch several days in a row…

Well, that’s my set of secrets for surviving Christmas. I again apologize for begin late on this. On the other hand, this also works for Easter and VBS, so consider this early for those two events. How do you prepare for Christmas?

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