Insights from Bill Romanowski

Kara Powell | Oct 19, 2009

This past weekend I was a general session speaker at the Association of Youth Ministry Educators Conference in Louisville, Kentucky. I especially appreciated a general session that preceded me by Bill Romanowski, Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences at Calvin College. Bill sent me the manuscript for his talk prior to the conference and I want to share some of his insights that I found especially intriguing.

“To better target church groups, a leading Hollywood marketing firm conducted research and curiously found religious and nonreligious people indistinguishable when it came to watching movies. In fact, the religious folks seem to have a penchant for the sentimental, the melodramatic, and the violent, which puts them pretty much in the mainstream of American taste in entertainment.”

“Film studios hired religious marketing consultants ‘to scan their family-friendly scripts for objectionable content and to devise marketing plans to reach the Christian audience.’ Perhaps Time film critic Richard Corliss got it right: ‘Hollywood doesnt necessarily want to make Christian movies,’ he wrote. ‘It wants to make movies Christians think are Christian.’

“Movies…reflect a culture they help to create. In that regard, and to some extent a requirement for popularity (translated, commercial success), movies are more likely to affirm peoples beliefs than to introduce new ones. In short, people want to be entertained while also affirmed in what they already believe.”

The conversations after Bill’s presentation raised interesting questions:

-To what degree are adolescents capable of understanding the implicit messages of movies?

-How can we have conversations with kids about films - before and after the film - that help them become more sophisticated viewers of films?

-What does it mean that a film is “Christian”?

What have you done to try to help kids become more critical “consumers” of films? It’s such an important question and I’m curious to hear.

Kara Powell

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Fuller's Chief of Leadership Formation. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, Growing With, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. Kara lives with her husband Dave and their three children, Nathan, Krista, and Jessica, in Southern California.


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