Teaching my Young Intern How to Connect Movies to Faith
I have a darling young girl who wanted to intern with Shepherd Project this summer. She is primarily doing a survey of Christian books (fiction and biography, old and new), evaluating them for their Christian content, entertainment value, etc. (We will be releasing that project at the end of the fall!) But another part of her internship is to do movie discussions. We were excited to have a younger perspective give some feedback about how she was able to connect a given movie to her Christian faith. Earth to Echo was her first attempt, and you will be AMAZED at the results! (She’s just 14!!!) The thoughts are hers, the paper is hers… but how did we get to this point? I thought it might be helpful for parents and youth leaders, etc. if I walked you through our time at the movies.
I think one of the things that has been really helpful as I have done this with kids is to prep them ahead of time. I challenge them ahead of time to think, as they watch, about how this story might connect to the Bible or Christian life in some way. They then watch the movie a little more purposefully, a little more intently, rather than just being entertained and forgetting what they saw. So preparation is helpful.
One time I took three young kids to see Kung Fu Panda 2. I had already seen the movie and knew that it was remarkably similar to the story of Moses (genocide, saved in a basket, raised by someone else, becomes a future leader among the people…), so I was able to prompt them a little more specifically before they saw it about what they were looking for. They were young (grade school to middle school), so they benefitted from a little more specific prompting, which means we benefitted from the fact I’d already seen it. This time, however, with my intern, we saw it together for the first time, and we both went into it with the same assignment, to be looking for ways it connected to the Christian story, and neither of us had any idea how that might play out. All that to say, it’s important to prompt your child to be looking and thinking as he/she watches, and the level/specificity of prompting you give may vary based on your exposure to the film and the ages of the kids.
One other note of preparation that should be mentioned—take a moment to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to help you do this. Don’t let fear that you won’t have any ideas, or don’t know your Bible well enough keep you from trying. Anchor yourself in prayer, and trust the Holy Spirit.
- Time to Discuss
We set aside time to grab a coffee and discuss the movie afterwards. I’ve done this with youth groups and kids I babysat and my intern… and I can tell you that the discussion is far richer if you’ll set aside time to really stop and visit about it, verses trying to do it on the way home. It’s important to stop and engage rather than trying to have a deep, meaningful conversation en route to the next thing.
- Ask them what impacted them about the movie
The first step for us, especially this time since neither of us had any preformed ideas going into the movie, was to discuss what impacted her. (When I saw Kung Fu Panda 2, since I had prompted the kids with a specific question, that was the question I asked them after: What Bible character did the Panda remind them of? Who had a similar story to the Panda’s?) Mikayla said the thing that impacted her most about the movie was this idea that kids can still make a difference. That was the one thing that stood out to her the most…and it was perfect.
- Ask them how that thing that impacted them might connect with the Bible.
Since Mikaya’s big take-away was that kids can make a difference, I asked her if she could think of any verses in the Bible that spoke to that, or maybe some examples where kids in the Bible had done something significant. At first she drew a blank. That’s OK! I knew she knew her Bible enough to come up with something, so I gave her a minute to think.
Eventually she mentioned David, of David and Goliath fame. We talked through that story. It was actually a fantastic parallel (as you’ll see in her review). As she described the story of David and Goliath, we both began to see more and more connections between the two stories. We dialogued back and forth, and sometimes I helped her put a finer point on something she was dancing around, as you do in a conversation, (so don’t feel you can’t engage in the discussion!), but I let her lead it.
I then asked if she could think of any other examples of youths in the Bible. She mentioned Moses. We thought it about it and didn’t come up with any great connections with that story. But then we went on to others, Jesus, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, finding some connections with each. In the end, we thought David had the best story to connect to in her review, but we learned a lot from the others as well, and just from the fact that there were so many examples of God doing mighty things through young people. (And certainly we only scratched the surface.)
I will say that it will probably help if you see an immediate connection between what your kid says and the Bible, because then you can help guide them with your question a little, but it’s not necessary, so don’t be afraid. If you don’t know, you can think about it together. What a great way for your child to see you are learning, too! Don’t worry if you ask them how the movie might connect with the Bible and you, yourself, don’t have any ideas. You might be surprised with what your kid comes up with, or what you both come up with together if you simply take the time and try.
- Use Google if you need to!
I happened to remember that Paul had told Timothy “not to let anyone look down on you in your youth”, and asked my young friend if she knew that verse. She had actually read it that morning, but forgot about it until I mentioned it. It was a verse that spoke exactly to what had impacted her about the movie, (and maybe God had her reading it that morning for a reason…to prepare her to be impacted by that in the movie!). It was great that I remembered the verse, but what if I hadn’t? It was great that she thought of David, but if we hadn’t come up with any connections? That’s where I would Google it, or tell her to, or do it together!
In fact, I could have just as easily asked her if she knew any verses that spoke to being young, and if she said no, I could have asked her to research and see if she could find any. I didn’t have to say, “Well, what about this one?” We could have Googled: “Bible verses about being young” or about your impact on the world, or whatever… Or “Who are young people in the Bible who did great things?” etc. Then we could have had the fun of looking through the answers and learning together.
Don’t let this be a daunting thing, let it be a fun experiment between the two of you (or however many there are!). There’s not a right or wrong way to do it, or right or wrong answers, only opportunities to see the story God has written woven into the stories of man, to grow in your relationship with each other, to encourage each other in your faith… Don’t miss so many wonderful opportunities because you’re afraid of something in this process.
As my intern and I talked, I learned a lot about her, and was reminded about what it felt like to be a kid. I saw some other connections in the movie…and as we talked, I began to see more connections that we had both missed. It was a fun process and learning experience for us both! I so hope that you will be encouraged to step out and do the same with people in your life, whether younger, older or peer, friend or family.