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Making Movie Nights Work: Part Four - Follow-up

by Marc T. Newman, Ph.D.

If you have planned, promoted, and produced a great movie Bible study event, it is tempting to rest - mission accomplished! Not quite. One of the reasons many people are dissatisfied by the outcome of events is that they quit too soon. They think that when the event is over and everyone heads home that they are done. To avoid that sinking feeling that all of the hard work resulted in too little payoff, you need to be willing to do the appropriate follow-up.

There are five follow-up strategies that can help you see results from your event: prayer, evaluation, feedback, looking back, and looking forward.

1. Pray. The event is over, but the people you are discipling remain. Take time to pray over each of the participants in your small group. Keep in mind the questions they asked or the answers they gave, as each provides insight into areas of strength and struggle. Pray that the Scriptures read that evening will find their way into the people's hearts, minds, and actions. Pray that participants will be excited about sharing both what they did and what they learned with friends. Pray about ways that, as a leader, you can better sense and discern the needs of your group, and know how best to meet them.

2. Evaluate the evening. Remember in section one of this blog series - in the planning stage - we asked, "Who are we trying to reach?" and "What do we want to achieve?" Whether alone or with your planning team, you want to examine how well you met the goals of the evening, and uncover any areas you think you might have been able to do better. Make sure that this does not turn into a self-flagellation exercise. Focus on the positive as well as identifying areas in which you might improve.

Identify any issues that may have arisen during the study that merit further contact or specific, deeper Bible study later. If you chose to do a study on a film such as Bella or October Baby, and discovered that many of your students didn't understand why abortion was such "a big deal," you might slate a study on the sanctity of human life to do later in the semester.

3. Email or text students and elicit feedback. Don't rely solely on your intuition about the event. Use email or text (find out each student's preferred method of communication) to solicit feedback, or follow up about something that student said at the study. Students are constantly amazed when group leaders specifically recall something the student said at the study. Most will be willing to engage further. If you are unsure what kind of follow-up questions to ask, see the blog series on asking follow-up questions.

4. Use social media to post about the event. Just as you can use social media to make people aware of an event, you can use it to look back on the event and make it personal. You can use Instagram to post photos of the event. Everyone likes to see pictures of themselves with their friends. Include shots of the group in the midst of discussion. Present a fun, but balanced look at the evening.

If you felt pressed for time at the event, and didn't get to all the questions (or the follow-up questions you would have liked to ask) then post follow-ups on Facebook and invite students to answer. For student leaders, get them involved in generating posts and encouraging their friends to participate in the online discussion. Moderate the discussions to ensure that everything stays friendly.

5. Look ahead to your next movie Bible study night. If you have done it right, students should be excited about this form of Bible study outreach. If you have done only one movie Bible study, be ready with the date for your next event, and have a film selected. But let students know that you are going to solicit recommendations from the students about what films they would like to use for event number three and following, particularly what films would be good for outreach to their friends. The movies that you, as a leader, would like to use, may be quite different from the movies they might select.

One way to avoid saying "no" is to put a list of films in front of them that you know already have study guides and have them give their thoughts about why their group of friends might prefer one movie over other movies on the list. To make it more interactive, rather than just having them "vote," consider asking them to make a case for why this movie would be best for the group.

Once you have done two or three movie Bible studies, you will notice some interesting things begin to happen. First, students will be excited about coming, and about inviting their friends. Even a new student, who knows little about the Scripture, will have an easy time asking friends to attend a movie night. Second, you will notice that students will become more media-literate. They will start to look at film more as a dialogue than a monologue. They will notice spiritual, moral, and ethical themes in film because they will be looking for them, rather than sitting, slack-jawed, in front of the screen just drinking in Hollywood's message. You will have taught them that movies - and by extension television, radio, music and other art forms - have a message, that they create worldviews, and that the Bible has something to say about that.

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