Tag Archives: Arts

We are the Gods!

This will be my last post on ‘The Cabin in the Woods” (probably).

I’ve written four other posts relating to different aspects of the film. If you have the time, please have a read.

As usual, this post contains SPOILERS

At the end of the film, we discover that people all across the world are being sacrificed to appease the wrath of the gods who live under the earth. But these are no ordinary sacrifices. The gods crave entertainment and demand that the teenagers be dispatched by horror movie conventions (cabin in the woods, vengeful Japanese spirits, mermans etc). When the sacrificial system falls apart, the gods break out on to the earth to cause destruction.

In other words…the gods depicted in the film are… us!

I believe there are two ways of applying that message to our circumstances:

1) We demand to be entertained. We need horror movies to satisfy our blood lust so that we do no go out and do it in the ‘real’ world. Some would argue that people kill others because of horror movies. “Cabin in the woods” argues that horror movies actually stop us from killing. They allow us to express the dark parts of our humanity and experience all the emotions of horror (fear, adrenaline, excitement, anger, revenge) in a safe environment.

2) We like things the way we are. We don’t want the boat rocked. We have a good system in place and we have expectations that we think should be met otherwise we’ll kick up a fuss.

It’s the 2nd point that is most relatable in my own youth work context.

I work for a church.  In my role as a youth worker, I have clear expectations of how the youth work should be done. Whether the congregation voice it or not, they also have an expectation of how youth work should be done. And at times, they kick up a fuss if its not done in the way they think it should be.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Sometimes without realising it, we end up serving the ‘gods’ of the congregation rather than the God of the church. We end up playing to their expectations and their rules. And when we get into a system like that, like the film suggests, it can be very hard to break out of.

What methods are you currently employing in your youth work? And who sets them?

Which god is influencing your youth work?

Practical ways of using film in youth work: Part 1

I run a website with fellow ICC graduate Mark Williamson called reel faith which seeks to offer an alternative view on how films should be used in youth work. I taught an open evening lecture on the subject at the international christian college on Thursday 1st March and myself and Mark are speaking about the same issue at the youthwork summit in London on May 19th. I have also written a number of blog posts on the subject of why we should no longer be using two minute clips from films to simply make a theological point. Read them here or here.

As you can see, dialogue between film and faith is incredibly important to me.

At the lecture at ICC I offered a couple of practical ways films could be introduced into your youth work programme and over the next couple of blogs, I want to outline those ideas.

One Month Film Study

Start by showing the film at your group on the first week of the month. Show the film in its entirety and have a discussion using the questions I have suggested previously. What will become obvious is that there will be two or three major themes that the young people highlight from any given film and on that evening you can have a brief discussion about those themes and find out what the young people think about them.

For the three remaining three weeks I would suggest looking at one theme a night. I find this a great way to do youth work as the talks and discussions you will then be giving for the rest of the month have been suggested by the young people. It is issues that they want to wrestle and grapple with and the young people should be more engaged with you because of that. It also means that rather than coming with your own agenda for a particular film, you are letting the film speak for itself and allowing open dialogue to flow out of it.

So in theory you could do two or three films over a year and spend a month looking at each one of them. You are no longer spoon feeding young people about issues within films and instead are giving them the tools to critically engage with film and culture in general themselves.

An example could be Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Week 1-      show the film

Week 2-      ‘Going against the flow’

Week 3-      ‘Integrity’

Week 4-      ‘Sacrifice’

Have a go yourselves and put your comments and thoughts up on here or on the reel faith site. We’d love to hear them.

The Bible in Transmedia: A New idea for Youth Ministry?

I was getting my weekly fix of tech news by way of BBC click this morning and I was struck by one of the reports on Transmedia.

Transmedia is the technique of telling stories across multiple platforms and formats using current digital technologies. This concept is not new as I remember when I was in 6th year at school (a good 12 years ago now) signing up to receive e-mails from Patrick Bateman, the serial killer (or is he?) from the brilliant subversive novel ‘American Psycho‘. I had enjoyed the book so much that I had signed up for this extra feature to continue to feed my Bateman fix.

Things have moved on since then and with the rise of augmented reality, apps and social media, transmedia is going from strength to strength with authors now building on the universe of the novel for those interested in going deeper.

As I watched this, I started thinking to myself, could this be the next big thing in christian youth ministry? Could we start creating transmedia bible stories? Now, I know that the natwivity (the nativity story told through twitter) has been running for a couple of years and this gives ‘twitterers’ the opportunity to see the story in a new perspective but I’d like to see things go further. Because the simple truth is, many young people do not engage with the bible.

We started the ‘beautiful disciplines’ series at our youth fellowship last night and, as part of the introduction, you get everyone to fill out a God Audit (or as a I prefer a Godit). One of the questions asks about where you are in your relationship with God and what you would like to improve on. Almost of the young people said they would like to read the bible more.

Why is it that young people are not engaging with it?

There’s a variety of reasons and this isn’t the blog post to go into that. There are far better blogs out there that wrestle with these questions. The question I am more interested in is how do we change that?

I believe transmedia could be an option. Imagine your young people are studying the story of Jonah. They get to the point where he is swallowed up by the fish and then they go on facebook or twitter and add/ follow Jonah and ask him how he felt about that. Whilst they are waiting for his response, they can read his status updates, stream a video journal of Jonah from inside the fish or be directed to his blog that he wrote whilst inside. Once they’ve digested all this info, they can go back to the bible, finish the story and repeat the steps.

Is this a viable option for youth work? Could this help young people engage with the history stories, the letters of Paul, the prophecies of the prophets, better?

I’m not sure. But it’s an interesting idea and one worth exploring.

Storytelling Thoughts: A Fresh Perspective

Last Saturday I attended ‘starting with stories 2’ at the Scottish Storytelling Centre (i thoroughly recommend it for anyone interested in developing their storytelling skills).

Throughout the day we were given a number of different tips for developing stories and making them more interesting.

One area that stuck out for me was telling the story from a different perspective.

Our group chose the story of the ‘three little pigs‘ and one of us began telling the story from the part of the narrator (the main way this story is told). About a minute later, the ‘teacher’ rang a bell and the next person in the group had to pick up the story but tell it from the point of view of the pig. Another minute later, I then continued the story from the point of view of the wolf, and so on.

For me, this helped to establish the other characters and also bring a fresh perspective to the story. I’m so used to telling stories from the perspective of the narrator but I found it far more interesting to tell the three little pigs story from the viewpoint of the wolf. It brought new depth to it.

At our Sunday night group, we are sharing the parables of Jesus.

here are links to the story of the sower and the prodigal son.

Both of these stories I’ve told from the narrators point of view but now I want to begin to experiment from different perspectives and see what new things can come out of the story.

Thoughts? Have you had experience of telling any familiar stories from a different angle?

I’ll share some other tips in a later post.

Worship Songs about Doubt and Pain

Once a month, our wednesday night youth house group looks at an aspect of culture and reflects on it from a christian worldview.

We celebrate it. we engage with it and we critique it.

This month we looked at music. Each young person was asked to bring a song and I printed off the lyrics to them. One by one we listened to them. studied the lyrics and discussed them.

All but two of the songs dealt with issues of resentment, loneliness, bitterness and low self esteem.

These are songs that the young people, and myself, empathize with.

They are songs that speak of the suffering of the human condition that we all experience at times.

Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, the psalms, the prophets.

The Hebrew Bible is full of songs, poems and outcries of suffering. Songs of Lament. Songs of Pain. Songs of Doubt.

I asked them whether they felt these emotions and ideas were found in the songs we sing at church.

They answered with a resounding “NO!”

Why don’t we sing songs of doubt, anxiety and pain in church?

Why do we pretend these are not legitimate experiences?

Why do we only sing songs about how good God is and how our problems disappear when we see God?

What would a worship song about doubt and pain look like; sound like?

What would a church look like that gave space to more songs of lament?

Maybe it’s time we write these songs with our young people.

Bruno Mars and the Cross of Christ


Image by skyremix via Flickr

Greg Boyd‘s tweet, “It was God’s love, not his wrath, that needed to be “satisfied” with the death of Jesus. “For God so loved… that he gave…” got me thinking.

Recently, I’ve been ranting to my wife about Bruno Mars‘ song ‘Grenade‘. the chorus goes like this:

I’d catch a grenade for ya (yeah, yeah, yeah)
Throw my hand on a blade for ya (yeah, yeah, yeah)
I’d jump in front of a train for ya (yeah, yeah , yeah)
You know I’d do anything for ya (yeah, yeah, yeah)

Ridiculous sentiments that don’t make any sense. But you know what, the crucifixion doesn’t make sense either.

It got to the stage where God was like, “how do I express my love to them? How do I show them once and for all?”

And he came up with a ridiculous sentiment.

Die for us. Die with us. Die in place of us.

How do we show our love for people? We go over the top. We do grand gestures proclaiming our love. We buy stuff or them, we give up our lives for them, we write songs for them, we make movies for them. We try and satisfy that love any way that we can.

How did God satisfy his love for?

The cross.

Youth Work Media Resource 2

Over the years I’ve made a number of little short films.

Many of these I have used with youth groups to spark discussions.

And I wanted to make them available for other groups to use.

Included here is an embed to the short film and some basic discussion questions. If you would like a ‘hard’ copy of the films then please message me and I can get one done for you. The cost would be £5 and all funds would go towards making another short.

Short film #2- “Moby

A man’s life is turned upside down when he is mistaken for the musician moby, by an obsessed moby fan.

For me, the film is about identity. Where do we get our self worth from? Who tells us who we are? What we’re meant to think, how we’re meant to act? If someone tells you, you are something enough times, will you start to believe it?

Introductory Activity

Draw a large body on a piece of paper (draw round a young person if someone is happy to do it) give you post-it notes and get the young people to write one thing down they would like to change about themselves and stick it on the person.

Questions for Discussion

1) have you ever believed something that someone said about you that wasn’t true? How did it make you feel?

2) Who influences the TV you watch/ the music you listen to/the clothes you choose to wear? (people/ magazines etc)

3) What are things your parents or friends say that makes you feel good/ bad?

4) Are there things you would like to do but or worried to because of what your friends or family might think of you?

Read Mark 1:9-13 (it might be good to give context to the story)

Just like Jesus, we are loved by God not by how we dress, or what we do. We are loved because of who we are. We are loved because we are children of God.

Creative Response

Set up a mirror and a flipchart or whiteboard next to it. Divide the paper/board into two- a positive column and a negative column, each with a list of words. Print out copies of the positive column. Have a piece of paper with the following instructions:

Take a look at yourself in the mirror.

What do you think of yourself?

Take a look at the Truth (positive) and Lies (negative words) next to the mirror.

Which list do you associate more with?

Do negative views stop you living life to the full?

Take a copy of the positive column and over the coming week, look at these words of truth.


Youth Work Media Resource1

Over the years I’ve made a number of little short films.

Many of these I have used with youth groups to spark discussions.

And I wanted to make them available for other groups to use.

Included here is an embed to the short film and some basic discussion questions. If you would like a ‘hard’ copy of the films then please message me and I can get one done for you. The cost would be £5 and all funds would go towards making another short.

Short film #1- “Shore”

A man awakes alone on a beach, haunted by a figure in black.

For me, the film deals with a number of themes including hell and the choices that we make in life. The character in the film commits an act that haunts him for eternity. He becomes trapped in his own personal hell because of the guilt and shame that has built up.

Questions for discussion

1) Have you ever felt the way the man in the film does?

2) Where do you think the man is? Is he in hell? What is hell to you?

2) What kinds of things do you feel guilty about?

3) Do you struggle to forgive yourself for these things? Why/ Why not?

4) Do you think God can forgive you for these things?

“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28)

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

Creative Response

1) Fill a large jar with water and have a number of small soluble tablets. Ask the young people drop the tablets into the water and watch them dissolve, explain to them that this is just like God forgiving the bad things they have done.


2) The rocket confessional on proost

an interactive flash confession created by Jon Birch. Type in your confession and watch as it is launched into space and be absolved.

Prodigal DVD now on sale.

My 30 minute short film, “prodigal” is now available to buy on DVD.

“Prodigal” follows a repentant Satan who makes a deal with God to allow him to re-enter Heaven. But a group of angels and demons will stop at nothing to make sure his plan is unsuccessful.

check out the review by International Christian College Vice Principal Graeme McMeekin here.

the “prodigal” facebook page is here.

check out the trailer/ prequel below


The DVD includes a filmmaker commentary, the trailer and the short black comedy “a cheerful giver” starring Michael Montgomery and Stuart Falconer about an overzealous minister

The DVD is available for £5.

Please make a payment through paypal to smoorns@mac.com with your address and it will be posted out to you.