With more recent school and community shootings (Tuscon and Los Angeles) this past week we watched the movie
“To Save A Life”
I must be honest, I was a bit skeptical about showing this movie. We watch all sorts of movies with our teens, but I am hesitant to view “Christian” films with them.
For one, generally the production value is not very good
Second, they are usually very predictable, poorly scripted and acted
Third, these type o movies often portray an unrealistic view of life’s reality and the complexity of faith
Not so with To Save A Life
I was very impressed with the production value, story, writing, and acting.
More importantly, the theme(s) presented were very real and relevant.
Without giving away the movie here is a sampling of the themes/issues addressed (and often visually depicted):
binge drinking and partying
And here is the thing- they were handled in a very realistic way. Social issues and activities that most teens find fun were presented as just that in the movie.
Beer pong was played and enjoyed (and youth workers know that teens enjoy playing that game…doesn’t mean that they should)
Faith issues were handled in a similar fashion.
Personally, I felt that the youth pastor, youth group, and conversations about faith were honest.
Even the youth pastor was poked fun at and the corny games often played at youth group were shown for what they really are.
The writers pulled no punches trying to protect the church and youth groups, however also showed the redemptive side and hope.
The youth pastor came across as someone who genuinely cared about the welfare of students (emotional, physically, relational, and spiritual). Though he believe in the power of faith to transform a life, he was not dogmatic nor pushy.
The main character Jake is the stereotypical popular athlete but instead of a happy-go-lucky conversion story, he struggles with his new faith and becoming a “Christian”.
The anger and feeling of betrayal by his friends is very real.
I have had a few “Jakes” in my youth group and their stories and journeys are very similar to the character depicted in the movie.
Becoming a Christian is not always easy, fun, or what it appears to be. But the question the movie beckons to be answered is “Is it worth it?”
What I also appreciated about the main character and youth group was the diversity.
Often, youth pastors seem to target the popular students at school. They are seen as key influences and the thought is if you can “win” them you can “win” the school. History has shown certain ministries such as Young Life and Youth For Christ, F.C.A. and others specifically targeted that demographic of teenagers.
The negative is that one’s youth group can take on that perception and image, to the exclusion of many other students.
However, in To Save A Life, the main character did not leverage his popularity, but rather used his authentic charisma and confidence to work hard to include others, especially those marginalized in school. This served as a great example.
If you had not figured out, the main theme of the movie is about saving lives of struggling teens. This message could not be broadcasted any louder. Our students and our communities need good resources, places, and communities of safety and refuge. My hope and prayer is that the church and our youth groups can one day be known for that.
I highly recommended watching this movie with our students. Let me know what you and your students think if you do watch it.
Here are some quotes and endorsements from the youth ministry world:
Teenagers are going to love the story and cast in To Save A Life. Super realistic portrayal of life on a high school campus — not all fake, like some movies, but the real stuff. This is a movie you’ll want to see with friends.”
—Mark Oestreicher, President, Youth Specialties
“To Save A Life flashes moments of genuine brilliance, and the multiple storylines all lead to a satisfying ending. While it has some doses of reality in it people might typically shy away from in a church setting (the film is PG-13 for thematic images), it is shown when story-critical and is tastefully done.”
—Josh Griffin, MoreThanDodgeball.com, High School Pastor, Saddleback Church
“To Save A Life portrays timely issues for today’s teens. Youth workers, parents, and teachers should definitely capitalize on this opportunity to take teens to the theater. Riveting conversations will follow.”
—Craig Detweiler, Director Reel Spirituality Institute & Associate Professor Fuller Theological Seminary
“As a middle school youth worker, I can see the lonely students in my ministry going unseen and unheard until someone says yes to being a friend. This movie is one more catalyst to helping our teenagers understand the power of that sort of love.”
—Brooklyn Lindsey, Youth Worker & Author, Confessions of a Not-So-Supermodel
“This movie is awesome. It conveys the raw emotions of life, and is a gritty testament to the ups and downs of high school. To Save A Life shows that life isn’t easy and relationships can be messy. My friends who have seen the film are already talking about it and encouraging others to go see it.”
—Zach Hunter, Teen Author & Speaker
Here are some great resources following the theme of the movie: