I’m going to be completely honest. Don’t get mad at me for saying this… but I’m not a big fan of most Christian movies.
Trust me, it’s not because they’re Christian. Heck, I’m a believer. I would love for Christian films to be good. My distaste exists simply because many Christian films have been put together by people with great hearts, but not a lot of skill in the area of film making. (just because a restaurant is owned by a Christian, does that necessarily mean the food tastes good?)
WIth that in mind… I recently screened a Christian film written by a youth pastor, a film that I actually liked! So I wanted to pass my two cents on to all of you. The film is called To Save a Life and will be in theatres this January. But the film makers are doing screenings for youth pastors and churches all over the country (see a list of screenings here) now. You’ll definitely want to catch one of these screenings (see a youth pastor promo video of the film here).
My two cents:
When the filmmakers asked me if I would screen their film, inside I thought, “Oh man. I hope this isn’t another Extreme Days or Left Behind. But I didn’t want to be closed minded, so I gave it a shot. I figured, I’d give it 15 minutes. If it stunk by then… I’d hit eject.
So I gave it a shot.
Not only did I not eject the film after 15 minutes… I don’t think I looked at my watch once.
The cinematography was surprisingly good. It only took me about 90 seconds to realize that. In addition, the story really captured me as a youth worker. I think you’ll find To Save a Life an authentic glimpse into the thoughts of many unbelievers.
Ever since Jake Taylor was a kid, he was the type of guy you couldn’t help but like. For Jake, life is good. He has friends, fame, a basketball scholarship, a future and the hottest girl in the school. Not much to get down about, right?
Enter Roger Dawson. He’s Jake’s childhood best friend before Jake’s popularity goes into high gear. Miserable and mad over being on the outside of Jake’s, or anybody’s inner circle, he’s tired of being pushed aside by everyone. He walks onto campus with a gun in his pocket and pain in his heart, and makes a tragic move.
Jake is devastated at what Roger has done. And something in him changes. In seeking answers in his own life, one question plagues him the most… Could I have saved him? He is now deeply compelled to reach out to the students who are on the fringe of acceptability by the school’s upper crust. But he finds reaching out to the undesirable threatens his world. He may lose his own friends, his scholarship, his dreams and even his reputation to do it.
Let me not lead you astray, this isn’t the best movie I’ve seen. The film has its flaws (at times I wondered if they tried to cover too many issues in the film—I fear that some might call it preachy). But I thoroughly enjoyed the storyline, especially the raw look at the typical American youth group. All too real.
As the story unfolded, I really grew to like the lead, Jake. He was very real. Audiences saw the conflict between just having compassion and acting on it. It’s a real struggle that kids experience.
The youth group scenes were REALLY good. In my Do They Run When They See You Coming? book I gave a similar glimpse of a youth ministry through the eyes of an “unchurched” kid. I’ve used these kinds of stories for years in my student evangelism workshops. This film does the same thing, really capturing that moment through the eyes of the “visitor.”
And a funny side note: the writer made the pastor’s kid the evil nemesis. Classic! (Since he and I are both PKs) Probably not too far from the truth. The writer really understands youth ministry today, revealing both the good and the bad. You’ll meet a couple very real committed kids, and then you’ll meet plenty of “stagnant” kids. A great snapshot of today’s youth groups.
When I finished screening the film, I immediately wanted to see how Christian teenagers would respond to this call to compassion. The message of reaching out on campus is inescapable.
I gathered a group of teens and tweens in my living room and screened it again, this time following the film up with questions. The sheltered kids in the group were a little surprised by some of the raw elements of the film (nothing profane, just the fact that a Christian film showed kids partying and doing what high school students do at parties). They all were really challenged by the film’s authenticity and call to reach out to people outside our normal comfort circles.
So from a youth worker’s perspective… the film was brilliant.
I just trained a group of student leaders on this very subject a few months ago. We specifically talked about what happens when “people walk in the door to our youth room.” Then we talked about the student that will never “walk in our door.” How do we reach out to them? I think this film showed that struggle, and the balanced approach youth ministries need. The film isn’t all about “coming to youth group.” We see believers inviting kids to church, but we also see a Christian who has the guts to walk up to people where they were (a kid at the lunch table, at his house playing video games, etc.)
Keep your eyes out for this film. It probably won’t be winning any awards… but it well worth seeing. Furthermore, it will be a great discussion piece for your Christian students.