Giving youth pastors the tools they need to make and shape disciples.

Youth Ministry Programming Tip: Taking Clues Not Cues From Popular Culture

11 · 06 · 13



Taking everything popular culture offers and trying to translate it into spiritual terms is an example of a youth ministry taking it’s cues from pop culture. Just because we  see a You Tube Video or a popular teen movie doesn’t mean we need to talk about it, show it, or try to create a lesson about it in our youth ministries.

Here are some bad cues from culture that I don’t translate into youth ministry programming.

  • Twerking contests
  • Bible study using almost any movie with Seth Rogan or Jonah Hill
  • Royals by Lordes

Just because it’s popular  and our kids are into it doesn’t mean it needs to show up in our meeting.

There is some innocuous stuff like What Does The Fox Say, which is a silly music video and has made a brief cultural impact. You could show this video as an opener once, after that, a week is a long time for video to still be popular. Kids move on.

What are the clues to determining whether cultural moments are sticky enough to use in your faith community and which you should leave alone?

1. Does the content encourage or inspire us 

To many videos, songs, etc, are in a race to the bottom. They speak to our base nature such as Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines, it’s a catchy song but I wouldn’t play it in the youth hall, or anywhere else. On the other hand,  I shared some thoughts on Katy Perry’s song Roar and how it fits with every believers call to live their faith out.

2. Does the content contain strong teachable moments that resonate universally (Rated R movies excluded) 

As I mentioned earlier, I am not fan of Seth Rogan and Jonah Hill.  All their movies teach now is what not to do and what kind of movies not to see (save Jonah Hill’s Moneyball).  I recently did a video on turning movies into lessons where I share four steps about turning movies into lessons and one of those steps deals with themes. I used Ender’s Game (the movie not the book) as an example. There are plenty of teachable moments in the movie that I could make into a midweek meeting bible study or Sunday School lesson, but I will be using these teachable moments with our student leadership because I think the theme of leadership is the theme that spoke to me the loudest.

In my early days, where I was high on passion and low on wisdom, I gave into the cues of culture. My idea of discernment was , “they like this I should use it” , but it was a poor way of exegeting culture for spiritual truth. Today I am slower on the draw. I watch, listen, pray, and discern and if I can’t  draw some thing spiritually solid from the movie, song, YouTube clip, etc. I’ll let it pass until God shows me some cultural content that does.

If you are interested in getting my Movies2Message Worksheet on Ender’s Game, I’ll be sending it out this Friday to my Get it First subscribers. You can sign up for the newsletter down below or at the top of this page.

How do you judge whether a piece of popular culture makes it into your youth meeting?

Leave your thoughts in the comment below.



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