At a holiday club meeting a couple of weeks ago, one of the volunteers got really annoyed because the club would be running at the same time as her group (it also meets in the church) and she hadn’t been told about this. She was adamant that her group couldn’t be moved (even though it was still 3 months until the club).
Three weeks ago my wife went to speak to someone else in the church who had wronged her. the person got very defensive and started hurling insults.
At the Youthwork Summit in London on Saturday, Professor William Struthers talked about pornography. He stated that people who turn to pornography are trying to fill an area of intimacy that is currently not been fulfilled.
This is always about that. We do not act in a vacuum. Our actions are always linked to something. The issue staring at you is often not the real issue. There is always something else. This is always about that.
The volunteer was annoyed because for years her group has not been recognized by the leaders in the church. She got angry, not because of us, but because of years of hurt. This ‘issue’ is actually about that ‘issue’.
The person who went off the handle at my wife wasn’t annoyed at my wife. They were annoyed that someone had told my wife what they had done. Their issue was not about the fact that my wife came to speak to them. It was that someone had told my wife. This is always about that.
Pornography is not the issue. It’s about what has led someone to it that is the issue.
Behind ever action is a reason; a story; a life.
Sometimes we see the action and ask: “why are they reacting like that?” “Why are they over-reacting?”
Because all we sometimes see is the action, the conclusion. More often than not, we do not see what has led up to this. We try to solve the issue. But the issue we are trying to solve isn’t really the issue. It’s the issue behind the issue that we need to look.
We need to take a step back and realise that
As I said yesterday, Marc Williamson and I spoke at a national youth work event, “The Youthwork Summit” in London on Saturday around the issue of film and youthwork. You can read the transcript here.
The feedback from our talk has been brilliant and I have had the opportunity to engage with people through twitter and face-to-face about some of the concerns or issues they have surrounding it.
What I’d like to do now is to respond to some of the general queries people have had about what we said so that dialogue can continue. That is the main reason we want to explore films. We want to engage in conversation and I am only too happy to talk to those who agree or disagree with what we have to say.
Let me say first of all that we were not endorsing any of the films that we spoke about. I do not agree that we should be endorsing any film over another regardless of what we think of it. Rather, I am keen to see dialogue with films that young people are watching. We may disagree with what they watch, and there are times when we should say that, but what I want to see more of is youth workers talking about those films with their young people. There were a couple of people who said they didn’t pick up on that aspect so I wanted to state that before I go any further.
Where are the other themes?
We only had ten minutes to try and communicate kingdom themes in five films. Everyone has a different opinion of what the Kingdom is and its values. But we had a limited time to speak of what we say as the overarching narratives: return from exile, reconciliation, incarnation, identity and sacrifice. There are many more and a longer presentation would have allowed us to tease out more of these concepts.
We shouldn’t be encouraging young people to watch horrible films
One of the films we discussed during the talk was “Saw 3D”. I knew that picking this film would cause an issue. Some others also disagreed with our choices of “Twilight” and “Bridesmaids”. I understand that. People have very strong opinions to films; whether it be ones they like or dislike. There are many reasons why we may dislike certain films. We may find them offensive or sick or whatever but we have to be aware of our own preferences and not try to push them them on to others.
I understand that many people will consider “Saw” and other horror films sinful and corrupt and that we should not be encouraging our young people to watch them. I have no issue with that. But in my experience simply telling young people not to watch something often results in them watching it. What I’d rather see is that if you’re young people are watching films like this, rather than simply ignore it or give them a lecture, engage with them. That doesn’t mean you need to watch the film but find out about its theme so that you can discuss it. Talk to them about the good and the bad things about it and help the young people make informative choices.
You won’t be able to work with them all their lives and it is better to give them the tools to critically watch all kinds of films so that they will do this long after they’ve left the youth group.
Suitability of films
This sort of ties in with the last point but I think its slightly nuanced. What are suitable movies? That’s a good question. Those that had issue with some of the films we talked about said that they weren’t ‘suitable’. Either because of violence, or the oppression of women etc. Again, I understand that. But again I ask, what is suitable? If our young people are all over 18, can we not show them an 18 rated film just because it has violence and sex? Is it wrong to show them these kinds of film? Who decides that?
My problem is that in most christian films discussion resources, the only films that are used are ‘safe’ films. Ones that have positive themes and are rated for children. But is this healthy? What is that telling our young people? Now I’m not saying that just because a horror film is really big at the time, that we show that to them. But if they have all seen it then it might be worth discussing it. We too easily put culture into good and bad categories. But that’s not good practice.
I hope this has been helpful and please feel free to comment and keep the discussion going.
- Youth Work Summit Talk (smoorns.wordpress.com)
- Practical ways of using film in youth work: Part 1 (smoorns.wordpress.com)
Last weekend I, along with my colleague Marc Williamson, spoke at the Youthwork Summit in London on “The Kingdom of God in 5 films”. I really enjoyed the talk and speaking to folks afterwards (those who agreed and disagreed). I’ll be blogging about the whole event soon and also replying to a few of the comments that people share about our talk specifically.
We are keen for dialogue in film. We want to discuss and explore ideas together. Both with those who agree and disagree with our opinions.
A full transcript of our talk (including the bits we had to cut out for time) is now up online on our film site. please take a look at it here and let me know what you think.
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.
If you have to go to one youthwork training event this year…make it this one.
Don’t believe me? Go to the site and have a look or check out my review of last years summit below:
part 1: exploring culture
part 2: inspiring ideas
part 3: deepening faith 1
part3: deepening faith 2
part 4: final thoughts
You’ll be glad you did.
Reflecting on it some more, I think there are some questions we need to ask ourselves as we reflect on how we travel with our young people through these experiences.
When are young people ready?
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, our culture tends to put an ‘age’ on when cultural rite of passages should happen. ie first sexual experience, smoking, drinking etc. But adolescent development teaches us that there is no set age for when someone is ready for this. An indicator for me is when young people start reflecting on things outside of themselves. The moments when they begin to realise that the world is bigger than them and they start to care about what else is going on in the world. These are signs that young people may be ready to move into a new ‘status’ and that a rite of passage experience may be helpful here.
What rite of passage?
Yesterday I reflected on how my first mission to London with my youth group was probably a rite of passage as it allowed me to put into practice some of the theology (god talk) that my youth worker had been teaching us. There is no one size fits all when it comes to this but an understanding of the young person will aid this discussion.
Who joins them on the journey?
Generations ago, men join with the young boys and lead them into adulthood. the same with women and girls. Children of both sexes had older examples that they could look up to and imitate. This has all but been lost in our generation because rather than seeing adolescent as a transitional stage between two fixed stages “child”/ “adult”, we have turned it into its own fixed stage “teenager”. Faith communities have the opportunity now to bring some of those ancient practices back to the forefront. There must be older men and women joining in for the rite of passage. I am not saying there needs to be a set age but it cannot simply be just their peers and there must be older guys for boys and older women for girls.
Any further thoughts? Have I missed things?
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)
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.