Parent Category: SWM International
Written by David Bennett
When your people walk into the church for the first service of your missions conference, does it look like missions conference time has arrived? Do they feel that something special is about to happen? Is there excitement in the air about the conference? Do they sense they are going around the world to the lost of various nations, peoples, races, and cultures? Do they look forward to returning tomorrow and the next day?
Or do your people relate missions conference to just another series of services of the year with some special speakers and messages about missions?
When your conference speaker and missionaries walk into your church upon arrival, do they get a sense that you have prepared your people for this conference? Do they get excited about being in your conference? Then, when they leave your conference, do they tell other missionaries about your missions conference?
Decorations can make the difference in the atmosphere of your conference. Banners, maps, posters, table decorations, and even special booths can really stir the atmosphere in your church for furthering the cause of world-wide missions.
One time I saw a gym decorated with typical housing from several places around the world. I walked into a hut that represented the continent of Africa. It had a thatched-roof and walls. Inside were some African souvenirs, a map of the continent, a list of the countries in Africa, and statistics about the population in each country. Some religious statistics were also included. Photos and pictures of African people hung on the walls. I was impressed. I felt as if I were in Africa!
Then I went into a house from Europe with the same basic idea for its interior, only representing Europe. I made my way to the house representing Asia, made of bamboo. I was thrilled to spend time looking at both the outside and inside. And then I walked to a representation of what one might find in South America. Each time I actually felt like I was there in person. I am sure everyone else who surveyed those “dwellings” also got that feeling. It helped to show the reality of the need and increase our burden for those peoples represented.
As I entered each “dwelling” I was mentally taken to that region of the world. What a tremendous job was done by some behind-the-scenes church members to prepare the minds and hearts of their people for a missions emphasis that week!
I have seen churches decorated with light houses, boats, fishing nets, fishing traps, porcelain light houses, and even a genuine rotating light with fog horn that sounded at the beginning of each service. Do you think I was impressed? Do you think the people had an idea of what the theme was for the week? You guess.
One church had as its theme “Around the World in 8 Days”. It was an 8-day conference, and it was only a few years ago. The front of the church was decorated with a large, 20-25 foot hot air balloon. The speakers could actually speak from its gondola. This wasn’t just another church service. This was MISSIONS CONFERENCE!
Did the people come for 8 days? Sure they did. This was the most exciting week of the year. Everyone knew it and could see that great importance was given to it.
Do you think that preaching from the gondola did anything for the speakers each night as they entered it to deliver the challenge of taking the Gospel to the lost around the world? I remember feeling a great responsibility as I entered to preach. (I wasn’t able to stay in it to preach, as you might figure out if you know me, but I felt honored to enter that huge decoration which added significance and excitement to the purpose of the conference.)
I have seen some great decorations at mission conference banquets. I wish I had taken pictures of these things to show you. (Believe you me, I am taking pictures now. Some of those decorations will be shown on these pages.) As you will notice, many of these items are not expensive. Many others can be easily made by some creative hands in your congregation. We have developed an entire page of homemade conference decoration ideas.
If you have any pictures of your own missions conference or any good ideas for decorations that we might include on these pages, please, send them to us. We would appreciate your help in developing this site for other churches who are interested in building their missions program through their missions conference.
WHERE TO DECORATE
1. The Church Entrance & Foyer
2. The Church Hall Ways
3. The Church Auditorium
4. The Church Class Rooms
5. The Church Bathrooms
6. The Church Fellowship Hall/Family Life Center
7. The Church Sign
WHO CAN DECORATE
1. A Team of Volunteers
2. A Selected Group
3. A Missions Committee
4. Sunday School Classes
5. The Youth Department
6. The Lady’s Fellowship Group
Some people have great ideas but do not have the abilities to actually do the decorating. Others can decorate well but don’t have many ideas. Choose people who will do a good job and who will inspire others to get involved, too.
Teachers and students from your Sunday School or Christian School may want to decorate their own rooms.
Give your team the theme for the conference and a budget to work within, but give them liberty to use it as they desire. You may be surprised at what some people will think of and make.
Make sure you give them this responsibility well in advance as some people really do better with a lot of notice. This gives them more time to look for the decorations they need and time to make anything necessary. The light houses I have seen and the hot air balloon were not prepared on the morning of the first service of the conference, but weeks of thought and hard work went into those things. The typical houses from around the world took much thought and preparation. But it was worth every penny and every minute invested.
We have included some web sites on these pages that will take you to places where you can buy international flags, world maps, borders for your bulletin boards, statistics you can put up, and even posters and place mats offered by other mission boards. Again, if you have info that would be profitable to add to this site, please, let us know.
WHEN TO DECORATE
Decorations should be up at least by the Sunday prior to the beginning of the conference. As you verbally prepare your church folks for the conference week after week, you should also give them a taste of what is coming by decorating the church for the Sunday preceding the beginning of the conference. This will help build even more excitement.
Of course, decorating for the conference banquet or missionary prayer breakfast may only need to be done a day or two in advance, depending on how you have to use your space.
Once the conference is over physically, leave your decorations up for at least one more week in order to remind your people of what just took place in their church as well as in their lives. Children especially will remember and refer to the conference by what they still see up in the church.
This also gives your people the impression that you are not in a hurry to forget about the conference and get on with the daily grind of the ministry. And it may serve as a reminder to turn in a late faith promise card or to write a missionary as promised.
HOW YOU CAN DECORATE
1. Decorate according to your specific Conference Theme
2. Decorate with a traditional International Flavor
3. Decorate according to the Missionaries Present and the Fields they Represent
Be sure you budget monies from your church budget or faith promise account for the expenses of next year’s conference. Your people will give more to missions if the church and its pastor are prepared and excited year after year about the missions conference. Knowing the divine importance and eternal blessings of being involved in missions, be sure to be a “liberal” when it comes to underwriting your missions conference.
Be sure to vary your decorations yearly. By changing your decorations from year to year, you establish an atmosphere of excitement as people will wonder for weeks in advance about the decorations for the next missions conference. It is also more “fun” to be dreaming, thinking, creating, and making new decorations for the conference rather than simply putting up the same thing from the year before.
Find someone in your church who would be willing to take pictures of your conference. These pictures can be used to record your church history as well as to catalog ideas for the future. Remember, you can also be of help to other churches by sending some of your best photos to us for their inclusion into our web pages of ideas.
You may have someone in the church, young or old, who would like to make a scrapbook of each year’s mission conference. These photos would be very useful in this case, also.
Conclusion: When a missionary or visitor arrives at your church for the missions conference, do they have any idea there is a missions conference planned? Do your members get anxious for the missions conference week to come? Are your people active and excited throughout the year as they dream about how to decorate for the next missions conference?
Get yourself excited about doing something different this next conference. Be creative. Think big. Plan well. Get your people involved. Get their input. Listen to them. Cut them loose and see what God will do for the whole church through an exciting missions conference that is well prepared and decorated.