Why Movies Matter (in Youth Ministry)

by Mark Pittman

Transported to another place, moved to tears, scared out of our seats, or actually clapping in excitement, there’s no doubt that movies can have a serious impact. As a youth pastor, there were usually two ways I would use movies in my ministry. First, during a talk, I would play a movie clip that I knew would help drive home a point. This can be a little tricky, but most of the time the clip did exactly what I needed it to do. The second way I would use a movie is just as a fun event for a big group of students – this usually was few and far between, because it’s hard to find a clean/fun movie that you can take everyone to.

Then The Passion of the Christ came along, and suddenly we had a whole new animal on our hands. Here was a movie that could be a ministry event. Since then, we’ve had a number of movies that have been more than just clips or fun. (The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Amazing Grace, Prince Caspian, Soul Surfer, etc.) There are a couple great things that happen when you use a movie as a ministry event.

Movies “Stick”
All it takes is a hand reaching for a hat under a closing garage door to make us all flash to Harrison Ford running with a whip in his hand. And let’s face it, Hollywood does a great job of melding story, character, image, and even music to fuse a clear image in our brains. So when I talk about being a “slave to sin” (Romans 6:18) I can put on my best Morpheous voice and ask, “What if you were born a slave and you didn’t even know it?” – and transport students right to that scene—and even better, take that scene and attach a Biblical thought to it.

The bottom line is that your students are going to go see movies. If we can use things that they are already putting into their lives to help communicate truth, then we can be a part of Ephesians 5:16 and be “… making the most of every opportunity”. Of course you have to exercise wisdom (there are going to be movies you say “no” to even if they have a good clip because you don’t want to endorse the whole movie) and there will be even fewer movies that get the “ministry event” title. But when they come along, let’s use them to the max!

You get to “Post Game”
Most of the time the post-movie conversation goes something like, “That was so funny when…” and everyone gets a recycled laugh. But if we have our ministry eye/ears on during a movie, we can eventually get to “What did you think about…” at the post-movie fast food joint.

Another great thing about movies is that they are usually embedded so well in our brains that we can have discussions about them well after we’ve seen them. Make sure you’re ready to do way more than just watch a movie. A few great questions can lead to some life-changing discussions (and back to God’s Word).

“Total Recall”
For some reason, movie quotes seem to stick in our heads. (I’m pretty sure that most junior high guy humor is just a series of recycled movie lines!) But, when we take movies or scenes and tie spiritual lessons to them or even just have good discussions around them, what you do with the movie becomes tied to the memory of it. It’s almost like you’ve taken what Hollywood wanted to say and turned it for the kingdom. Then you get the spiritual recall whenever they see, hear or even think about that movie.

Movies do matter – and wise youth leaders know how to make the most of them!

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