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What’s a Youth Worker to Do with The Passion?

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October 2nd, 2009
Passion movie-related stuff  

It may be the most controversial movie of our generation.

Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ opens nationwide on February 25. Few films have generated so much pre-release dialogue—both positive and antagonistic. “I had to make this movie,” Mel Gibson says. “I couldn’t notmake it.”

As a youth worker, what will you do with the film?

Christian leaders who saw The Passion before its release were largely unanimous about the movie’s faithfulness to the biblical accounts of Christ’s suffering, even allowing for the fictional parts of the script that were crafted to describe the everyday relationship between Jesus and his mother, Mary, and to describe Satan’s role in the last 12 hours of Christ’s life.

Billy Graham said, “I doubt if there has been a more graphic and moving presentation of Jesus’ death and resurrection.”

Doug Fields wrote, “This movie impacted my life, it got me thinking, and I became so excited that teenagers might actually see what we’ve been teaching… I wept as I saw the Scriptures come to life. I felt the humanity of Jesus like never before.”

Conveying a more cautious optimism, John Fischer wrote for Chuck Colson’s December 1, 2003 Breakpoint, expressing concern that Christians would “jump all over this film and use it as a tool for evangelism—or even worse, as a tool for ‘our side.'” He suggested that, instead, The Passion “needs to speak for itself,” adding, “It remains to be seen what the evangelical community will say. It might be best if we said very little except to give it priority as a work of art.”

What’s a youth worker to do? How often does a film come out that is so integrally related to the core message we are trying to teach this largely biblically-illiterate generation?

Christian ministries, including interl’inc and Teen Mania, have acted quickly to provide resources for churches to use. (Check out these resources and article links.)

In his “Simply Youth Ministry” newsletter, Doug Fields told readers what he planned to do with his own students at Saddleback Church:

  1. Write to parents and encourage them to take their kids to see this.
  2. Contact our local movie theatre and see if we can rent it out for a private screening for our teenagers and their friends.
  3. Purchase large quantities of the Gospel of John so non-churched students can further investigate Jesus.
  4. Create discussion opportunities following each screening.
  5. Show the trailer to our leadership students and begin brainstorming how they might want to bring their friends to the movie when it opens February 25th (Ash Wednesday).
  6. Create a handout for our regular students: “10 ways to get your friends to see this movie.”
  7. Start talking about the movie with our students to create a little pre-view hype. Honestly, I think the “R” rating will work to that advantage for students to be interested in seeing it.

And what about that “R” rating? Should a youth worker go out on a limb and encourage parents to let their younger teenagers see the movie? (By the way, signed parental permission slips should be used for anyone under 17 – download movie release form in PDF.) The most important thing is for you to see the movie before you take your group. This will help you answer questions beforehand, and help you decide if your group should even see it. Those who have seen previews acknowledge the graphic brutality of the scourging and crucifixion sequences in the film. In the Breakpoint article, John Fischer commented, “Mel Gibson…did not make this movie to benefit from the growing demand for good wholesome family entertainment. There is enough blood and gore inherent in a real crucifixion to render it unfit for such viewing anyway, and it appears the movie is true to that reality.”

As youth workers decide how to promote or use The Passion, they would be wise to do so cautiously—and prayerfully—and in ways that are consistent with the ministry context God has put them. Hey, who said this job was easy, anyway?

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.

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