The latest in book and movie sensations is coming to the big screen and more than likely many of your teens have already read the book and even more will be at the movies in the next few weeks to watch the Hunger Games. The books have been praised by people over and over for their excellent writing, dramatic plot, and great presentation of ethics and tragic from war. The best part about it is that the main characters are all teenagers who have to evaluate life, perfect for a discussion starter in youth ministry. While the books are great (I’ve read them and HIGHLY endorse the whole series), the movie adaptation is receiving a lot of buzz and negativity from Christian circles.
Note: If you have not read the books and do not want the spoilers, skip this paragraph. It is always interesting for me that we as a society are completely for creative writings like the Hunger Games series, but when we put it out on movies, it suddenly becomes a problem. The main issue with the movie is that they are keeping authentic with the book and plan to show teenagers killing other teenagers. That is the whole essences of the first and second book, how can a post-apocalyptic government even conceive of something like that.
This article is not going to explore the positives and negatives of the movie (or book) because Jonathan McKee has already done an excellent job of going through the “should we” or shouldn’t we support it” debate. As youth workers, we know many of you are going to be watching it with teens from your youth group and we wanted to offer you five tips to incorporate with the trip.
Do Not Go In Blind. There are some graphic and disturbing images that will be shown. PluggedIn.com is the perfect resource for the Christian worldview on all things entertainment and they have a review of the article here [Link comes out Thursday]. If you have the time, read through the whole first book before you even decide that you are or are not going to be going to the movies with teens. For more conservative churches, you might find yourself completely opposed to watching it, but you will not know until you read it for yourself. Do NOT rely on hearsay or ignorance to be your only defense when a parent asks you about it beforehand or after their teen watches it with you.
Educate Parents. We are not the parents of these teens and ultimately it is the choice of the parents if their child can go watch it. Most parents simply know that it is an exciting book and do not have the time to invest in researching what it is about, let alone taking the 6-8 hours to actually read it from cover to cover. Share the PluggedIn.com and Jonathan McKee articles with them so they know. Give your endorsement or caution to them, but allow them to make the final judgement call. We want to empower, encourage, and equip the parents to be the best influences in their children’s lives.
Invite Knowledgeable Adults To Join You. This may be the biggest win for you, to allow parents and volunteers that you know would thrive with this kind of engagement with teens. Ensure that they know what they are going to watch, what the game plan is for incorporating a discussion into ministry, maybe even a few tips and Bible verses if need be, and allow for relational ministry to flourish. Your volunteers will be seen as heroes, teens will surely open up, and you will have just empowered them to do ministry on a whole new level. Opportunities like this do not come around very frequently, take advantage of it to its fullest.
Debrief After The Movie. Get your church to spring for McDonald’s french fries and take them out afterwards to discuss what they saw, how they felt about the movie, and why this should matter to them and their faith. There is so many different great subjects here to discuss that you really do not need an outline. Most likely the teens will drive the conversation, but even if they are typical teens and do not initiate the conversation, you will have a buffet of topic choices to discuss.
Incorporate It Into Your Sermons Even if you do not go, I guarantee you that your teens (and volunteers and parents) will go watch it. Make your next few sermons revolve around the topics of anger, hate, violence, and sin. The topic is culturally relevant, Biblically discussed at length, and perfect for this age group. Your environment of spirituality may be able to bring in new thoughts, engage them in ways that they have not thought about yet, and make some real difference in their lives.
Will you be taking your youth group to watch this? Regardless of that, how are you preparing to discuss this with your teens?
Other links to check out about the Hunger Games:
- ‘The Hunger Games’: There is no there, there by Ben Kerns