Set the Stage: A Review of the New Book by Jonathan Malm

Set the Stage

Jonathan Malm is a writer, entrepreneur and author. He is the creator of,, and SundayMag, and the author of Created for More: 30 Days to Seeing Your World in a New Way
and Unwelcome: 50 Ways Churches Drive Away First-Time Visitors.

He is also becoming a fast friend of mine. We met at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention and have since connected to collaborate on our projects. You can check out an article I wrote for SundayMag that released this month here –

When he asked me to check out his new e-book Set the Stage: A Manifesto for Church Stage Design, I was immediately excited because I have dedicated my work and ministry to resourcing the church with ways to create experiences where people meet Jesus and grow in their relationship with Him. I love partnering with other church media guys to resource Media Directors, volunteers, and pastors with not only great tools, but great thought-provoking ideas they can use in their ministry.

In creating experiences, it’s not only about the tools we use, or how to accomplish a project. I believe, sometimes, we need to evaluate the philosophy behind why we do something. That’s exactly what Jonathan has put together in this book, as it relates to stage design.

“That’s why I put together this manifesto. I mean it to be a tool for stage designers to read and evaluate their philosophy for doing stage design. My hope is that it will peel away the surface layers of stage design- past the pallets, Coroplast, and LED strips. This e-book isn’t about the material of stage design; it’s about the driving force of stage design.”

Excerpt From: Jonathan Malm. “Set the Stage.” 

In Chapter 1, Jonathan tackles the “why” behind stage design. He talks about his first church experiences where he thought having a great stage design was a necessity. He realized that the church’s growth had nothing to do with the stage design or the lighting. He gives compelling reasons why you should and should not spend energy on a great stage design.

Jonathan goes on to write about how seeing stage design as a tool for Visual Worship can make them more effective.

In Chapter 3, he tackles the topic of who we are creating stage design for. Are we over-spiritualzing stage design? Do we design our sets for God or for our audience?

“Truly great design is more about removing-from than adding-to. You remove everything that isn’t absolutely perfect until your visual theme is the only thing people see.”

Excerpt From: Jonathan Malm. “Set the Stage.” 

In later chapters, Jonathan speaks about Decorating vs. Designing. How decorating is about related things coming together to fill empty spaces. Designing is about creating one thing to make a statement.

The book also features tons of quick tips from church media professionals from around the country. This portion of the book is worth the entire cost in itself – as incredible talents from churches of all sizes share their insights into great stage design.

This is a great book and should be in every Media Director’s library. If you have volunteers that help you design your sets, why not buy a few copies for your team to read?

You can purchase and review the book on Amazon here: Set the Stage: A Manifesto for Church Stage Design

About the Author_02

Author Photo

Creative Director / Owner
[twelve:thirty]media | Columbia, SC

Carl Barnhill has served on staff at some of the largest churches and organizations in the country. He served as Media Director at Precept Ministries International, directing the television and radio program Precepts for Life with Kay Arthur, broadcasted to over 98 million homes around the world. He served as Video Production Director at Pinelake Church in Brandon, MS, where he produced media content for four campuses, as well as led volunteer teams.

He most recently served as Video Coordinator for Newspring Church in South Carolina. Newspring has 10 campuses across the state with a weekly attendance of over 35,000. At one campus alone, the number of consistent volunteers serving in media production tripled, under his leadership.

He currently serves as Creative Director and Owner of [twelve:thirty]media, a company that serves churches and ministries all over the world through motion graphics content and church media coaching.

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