Why Movies Matter (in Youth Ministry)

interlinc Southwest Director Mark Pittman

Transported to another place... moved to tears, scared out of our seat or actually clapping in excitement, there’s no doubt that movies can have a serious impact in our lives. 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 (like Alone Yet Not Alone) 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” (Rom 6:18) I can put on my best Morpheous voice and say “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 you can have discussions about them well after you’ve seen them. So 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... in fact 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.

How to book out a theater

Renting a theater can be a pretty easy thing... call your local theater’s manager (get past the “now playing” message) and ask what cost/availability and they have. You may need to think about a time that works for both you and the theater... pre-dinner afternoons are usually great! And when I do things like this, I’ve learned to make sure that I call 3-4 theaters to see who is going to give me the best deal and work with me the best. I’m never shy to let theater managers know that I’m calling a few others to find the best deal/availability for our group.

We will be providing additional details as the actual theaters become available..

You might be saying, “I only have 25 kids in my group... I can’t rent out a theater”
Here are a couple ideas that may cause you to call the theater manager and book beyond just your youth ministry.

Call some other youth groups in your area. Odds are, if you make a couple calls you’ll find a couple other groups willing to go in with you on a theater rental. You might even want to try and do a multi-group event thing... play some 1950's games (if you’re an insider, you probably already have downloaded some great game ideas)... make a big shindig out of the whole thing!