Let The Games Begin

After a long absence combining spring break, out of town visitors, and a rather nasty bout of the flu, I am back…and just in the nick of time: The Hunger Games is released today!*

As some longtime readers are aware, I blogged on the books back in November as a part of a class exercise for my “Foundations of Youth Ministry” course at Northwest University.  The following are the links to those discussions:

1.  “The Hunger Games and Adolescence”

2.  “The Hunger Games Meets God”

3.  The Hunger Games as Practical Youth Ministry”

Today, I’ve also guest blogged with youth ministry organization Interlinc about the new film.

My wife and I will be seeing the movie tonight, and I look forward to offering a full review tomorrow.

In the meantime, a brief word about the place of pop culture in youth ministry.  One of my students offered a little pushback in class yesterday, asking why things like The Hunger Games should be a part of youth ministry conversations or youth group lessons in the first place.  Moreover, he wondered, what are the bounds of culture and ministry?  Are there appropriate limits we should follow as we pursue these ends?

A few thoughts:

  1. Pop culture should make an appearance in youth ministry when not talking about it would make no sense.  Twilight or the The Hunger Games are BIG teen phenomena.  To never speak of them seems a little silly.  They are some of the (increasingly few) stories that most teens share, and as such they provide a platform for drawing out important points of conversation.
  2. The use of pop culture in youth ministry should be limited and precise.  Having a little fun with The Hunger Games or doing a series this month makes sense; renaming your ministry “Katniss’s Kids” is just sad.
  3. Along the same lines, remember that pop culture is just that: POP.  It makes a loud noise for an instant, but then fades quickly.  Use, therefore, what you can for the time…but don’t hold on to it too tightly.
  4. Remember that some cultural items are richer sources of teaching and reflection than others.  Transformers, probably not so much.  The Hunger Games, as I have argued passionately, has a panoply of issues tailor-made for discussion and theological reflection with students.
  5. Concerning the appropriateness of material, remember to take into account things like ratings (an “R” rating, for instance, legally excludes 5/6 of your students), parents (with whom potential controversial material should be discussed), and your church/ministry environment.
  6. In all of these matters, remember to keep in mind the matrix of cost/benefit that should be in play here.  Pop culture should not be utilized in ministry just because one can or in order to prove a personal point. Rather, in all cases the benefit of such integration should always outweigh whatever costs or negatives may be incurred in the process.

There are just a few thoughts, and not all of them unique to me.  Feel free to comment and add your own thoughts in these areas.

*Speaking of “the nick of time,” I look forward to weekly updates and thoughts on AMC’s Mad Men, finally returning to television for its fifth season this Sunday!

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2 comments on “Let The Games Begin

  1. becci says:

    I would just like to say that I HAVE used “Transformers” in Youth Group before…”no sacrifice, no victory.” Good stuff! Plus, there’s giant robots beating each other up–who wouldn’t want to watch that?!

    • Becci:

      Hmm. Transformers, eh? I’ll have to take your word for it. 🙂 But that’s a good example, I suppose, of how something that is big in the culture ought to be mentioned….and if there is something there we can use, why not?

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