Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Youth Room on a Budget for a Normal Size Church

My church is a fairly average size church.  If you go to a small town church, you'd probably call us a big church. If you attend a mega-church, you'd think we were a small church.  For the state of Texas, where things tend to be bigger, we're right in the middle.

If you're a large church, building a new facility, you probably won't find anything helpful in this post.  But, if you're a pastor or volunteer of a "normal" sized church, there may be some suggestions which are helpful.

None of this is ground-breaking. This is just what I did with my youth room. I hope it helps.

A Little Background

If you want a full history of where my youth room came from, the full history is at the bottom of this post.  The short version: my youth room is a converted shed which is about 900 sq. ft.  If you just look at the outside, you'd have no clue what was the inside would look like, or that we can comfortably fit about 40 people in the room in rows.

While my budget for converting the inside of the building wasn't small, it had to cover a lot of stuff and, as you would expect, audio and video equipment ate up most of my budget.  So, when it came to decorating the inside and creating the right vibe, my budget was fairly limited.

Each sub-heading will cover a different element in the room and the estimated cost.


Here are some quick suggestions for making the most of your budget money or getting stuff for free:

  • Keep an eye out for the discounted and used items at music stores, and keep some budget money available for when something totally random is available at an unbelievable price.  I've never set out to purchase a light truss or fog machines, but luckily had the funds to buy them when I found them 80% off.
  • Have a place to store furniture WHEN it gets donated.  I almost had three resturant booths for my youth room for free, but I had no place to store them.  
  • Be likable!  You should probably do this anyway, but when people like you, they're more likely to think of you and your ministry when getting rid of stuff.  
  • Check Craig's List often. People give away the most random stuff at the most random times.  

String Lights | Under $40

The back wall is simply Clear Globe String Lights.  They're cheaper and longer than the alternative types of lights we found.  In fact, we bought ours at Lowe's earlier this month for $5 less than Amazon is selling them for.

I'm only using three strands of bulbs behind my stage.

Picture Clothesline | $15 for 100 pictures.

This is one I saw on Pinterest.

Price Breakdown:

  • Clothes pins - 100 for $2 @ Walmart
  • Twine - $2.50 @ Walmart
  • 100 4x6 Prints - $12 @ Walgreens (This was a sale price. Regularly this would cost $20)
  • 15 Nails - Pennies

Chairs & Couches | $0 ...well, $15 worth of spray paint

My youth room currently has roughly 40 metal chairs, five fancy chairs, two love seats, and a couch.  All of them were donated to the church.  The metal chairs were in the shed when we acquired the building (and just needed a little spray paint), and the other items were just donated over time.

People love to donate couches to youth ministries.  We did purchase slip covers for all of the couches to make their colors match.

If you keep your standards low and know someone with a trailer, you can find chairs either dirt cheap or free on Craig's List.  We actually found about 200 chairs in the shed when we first acquired it.  We had trouble getting rid of them.

Video Game Corner w/PS3 | $200 

Price Breakdown:

  • TV - $150 (off of Craig's List)
  • PS3 & Games - $0 (donated)
  • Storage Cubbies - $50 (Home Depot)

Hidden Storage | $10

This one is a bit more subtle, but makes the room look far less cluttery.  In the middle of the picture is a dark blue area on the stage.  That is a sheet from Walmart nailed to the wall.  Behind it is our storage space.  Since our room is so small, we don't have very many places to store things; the stage turned out to be one of the primary locations.  Prior to hanging that sheet. it was a major eye-sore, and kind of ruined the vibe we were going for.

Likewise, if you look at the table that the TV is seated on, it is covered by sheet.  Under the sheet going all the way back to the wall is storage.

Christmas Lights | $20

As you can see in most of the pictures, there are Christmas lights all over the room.  They're a cheap way to get lots of alternative lighting.  Typical fluresant lights don't give off a very inviting light color.  Christmas lights emit a nice warm light and give a nice vibe. Just by stringing up Christmas lights, it changed the vibe of the room instantly.

Projector & Screen |  $10

Price Breakdown:

  • Projector - $0 (donated)
  • Screen - $0 (donated) - This size and type of screen costs $90 at Radio Shack
  • Zip Ties - Pennies
  • Hardware to Suspend Projector - $10

Obviously you can't count on getting a projector donated, but seriously, people love to donate stuff to their churches.  If they appreciate your ministry, they will want to help you.  A year and a half before we moved into the shed, a family from the church donated their very nice portable projector and screen.  The first year I had it, we only used it a handful of times, but I knew I was going to need it eventually. When the time came to move in, I already had my projector.

The screen is suspended from the ceiling by daisy chained zip ties, and the projector itself is on a stand two guys from the church built before church one Sunday.

The Stage | $200

The stage was built by volunteers in the church.  We just needed to purchase the raw materials.

A Lot of Background | The History of Our Youth Room

Just shy of three years ago, my church moved into our first permanent building.  Prior to our arrival, the building had been a Mexican restaurant with a large wedding hall attached to it.  We gutted the inside, and converted the wedding hall into our sanctuary, and the restaurant section into our children's ministry. The one ministry without a home was the student ministry!

Luckily, this strange Mexican restaurant with wedding hall also used to be the firehouse and, sitting in the parking lot was a shed with two large bay doors where at some point in time, I'm sure, the firetrucks were parked.  At the time we acquired the building, the inside of the shed had an apartment built into it.

There's really no way to adequately describe this apartment inside of a shed.  You would walk into the shed and it looked like any other shed.  Except to the left was a door.  If you entered the door, you would be in the living room of an apartment.  Inside the bathroom, there was a window with a view of the INSIDE OF THE SHED!  There was a window air conditioner unit in the living room, but no windows.  So, they cut a hole in a door to the outside and sealed the door shut.  Creepy.   If I were a serial killer (and I'm not), this is the sort of shady apartment I would have wanted to live in.

For financial reasons, they were unable to convert the shed when the church first moved into the facility.  As it turns out, shady looking sheds with apartments inside don't exactly have electricity which meets the fire code.

Once we had acquired the funds to replace the electricity, buy a REAL air conditioning unit, and put lights in, a Boy Scout offered to make his Eagle Scout project doing the demolition work on the inside of the shed.

Within a few months, we (and by we I don't mean myself -- I'm not handy) had converted a shed with a creepy apartment into a youth room in need of decorations.

Here's another post on working with teenagers:

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