For part one of this series click here.
So you’ve got your youth room or designated area in your church’s parish center . . . now what? Where do you begin as far as decorating goes, and what do you do if other ministries are using the same space throughout the week?
When I started off in youth ministry, I had the blessing of coming into a recently fixed-up basement of the smaller, original church across the street from our current parish center. When the high school youth ministry started, a whole slew of other amazing ministries needed a space as well. After meeting with the pastor, my predecessor was able to find a place on our church grounds that could be called home for the starting youth ministry.
The spot wasn’t ideal (a dark, old, dusty basement of a historic, little church), but it was going to prove the paramount place. There were random boxes filled with odds and ends over the years, including old pews, broken statues, and just about anything you could think of. It took several deep cleanings before it could be used. There were empty walls in an open space without any dividers for different transitions of the night, so the team put their brains together and came up with ideas on how to make some distinct spaces within an open area; something that would interest teens as far as decorations go, and even a little educational in catechesis too.
Using an object for multiple purposes was key. Older, tall bookshelves that nearly reached the ceiling was perfect for holding supplies, bibles, and pictures, as well as doubling as a divider in the room to create a completely new area within. This was perfect for our permanent area, but also works if you have a non-permanent space as well. If you are sharing the space with another ministry, designate different shelves for each and think about adding wheels to the bottom so they can move.
We found some great bookshelves at a garage sale that we sanded down and repainted. We turned one bookshelf over, secured it a little, and made it into a stage for our teachings. Good ol’ rolling partition walls can play a big part if you have a transitional youth room. You can decorate them and use them for instruction or as a divider to break up the area for small groups.
Consider hanging up a shower curtain rod between doorways and adding a cool window curtain on them. This is great for soaking up sound, and it works as a divider. Furniture can also work as spacing pieces. Arrange bigger couches and chairs in a way that make different spaces for small groups. Furniture like this works in transitional and permanent spaces because it can be so diverse for different groups and settings. It can also be easy to move, especially if you put little sliders on the bottom.
Next comes the fun part of decorating. As mentioned in the previous article, you want to help capture teens’ different interests; something that makes them feel comfortable and at home, yet is also reminding them that they’re at youth group to encounter God. With modern apps like Pinterest, you can find ideas right at your fingertips just by simply searching “youth ministry room”. We used modern saints that we knew had stories that appeal to and relate to our teens, such as Pier Georgio Frassati. Then we searched for some awesome, modern posters of them, like the ones found at Cassie Peace Designs. We also projected modern images on the wall, and painted them in. You can also download free graffiti fonts to create, project, and paint a cool quote of theirs. If you can’t paint on the walls, place these images on an extra large poster board that can be pinned or velcroed to your walls, partitions, or bookshelves.
Adding these relatable saints with some of their impressionable quotes with a modern look made the space teen-worthy and catechized them at the same time. This brings in a little bit of a sacred space to your area as well. A sacred space is perfect for a youth room because it draws the teens into prayer and thought about God and our faith. You can do plethora of things to create one, but I just simply found random end tables or podiums no one was using in the parish, covered it with a cool cloth on clearance at Hobby Lobby, and added a beautiful statue of Our Lady, some candles, and rosaries. Not only did we have our closing prayer for the night around this area, but we would refer to it during some of our teachings too.
If you have a space where you can’t paint the walls with cool modern saints and images and your walls are just neutral colors with no flare, don’t fear! Get a handy CORE member who has some extra PVC piping to make a collapsible frame where you can hang a cool curtain to make a backdrop. Get some huge storage bins on clearance to store some power strips, extension cords, and Christmas lights! You can gather old sets from parishioners and cheap ones on clearance after the holidays to add mood lighting to your area for prayer and some good ambiance. We were able to wrap them around old posts that we didn’t know what to do with. I was also able to get some patio lights on clearance after summer time and drape them from the ceiling towards the middle of the room to create a cool lighting effect. Lights like these are easy to take up and down for whether you have a permanent or transitional space.
When it comes putting that teen flare for decorating as well, start with what your church already has and build from there. For example, if your church has all those random, old pieces of furniture from over the years but they’re not modern, you can modernize them by simply spray painting them black or another color to make them look sleek and new. Find someone crafty on your CORE team who can reupholster old cushions to something more appealing.
So, whether you’re setting up your youth group in a transitional space or permanent place, really tap into the resources and materials your church already has, find some crafty CORE members, speak with your pastor about space limitations, get your teen’s input, pray, get to it, and have fun!