I love movies. As in, I’ve watched 85 films already this year, which averages to around 3 a week, if my math is correct. Some might call me a movie snob; I prefer the term “cinephile.” While one could argue that film is a big waste of time and money, I believe filmmakers are theologians of sorts. They tell us stories that both reflect and shape our cultural values, including our views of humanity and God. The movie theater becomes a sanctuary, a 2-hour respite from the summer heat and boredom. In the youth ministry world, movie theaters–alongside malls–become the centers of summer activity for many of our students.
Your students are not only watching movies this summer, their views are being inherently shaped by them whether they realize it or not. Students tend to approach films in one of three ways. Some are sponges–they mindlessly soak up anything and everything that a film offers, including messages and values that are intrinsically unBiblical. Others are funnels–they mindlessly avoid all cinema (and all other media, for that matter) and let it slide past them due to its supposed sinfulness. Finally, some are sieves (or colanders, or strainers, or whatever word you prefer for that thing you use when making spaghetti!)–they wisely filter which movies to watch or avoid, using a Biblical filter for discerning the messages that films are presenting, and critiquing films based on Philippians 4:8: Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.
People don’t become sieves on their own. Students need wise and discerning people to watch movies with them in order to have conversations that go deeper than, “yeah, that was a cool movie.” They need someone who will take them to a film, then take them out for ice cream or coffee afterwards in order to intentionally have that spiritual conversation. They need someone who will expose them to films that reflect the beauty of our Creator that they might not otherwise watch. They need someone who will hold them accountable to the films that they watch, lest they become sponges like the majority of teens around them. They need to know why a film isn’t okay to watch, not just what is wrong with it.
So go watch a film. Invite some students along. And expect Jesus to show up at the movies with you.
Joel Mayward is first and foremost a follower of Jesus, which is the foundation for his love of his wife Katie, and son, Copeland. Joel loves pondering all the interconnections between film, theology, and youth ministry. He is the high school pastor at Red Mountain Community Church in Mesa, AZ. You can read his movie reviews and youth ministry musings on his blog.