Monday, April 1, 2013

4 Church Ministry Lessons We Can Learn From Pixar Movies

Everyone loves Pixar movies.

Seriously. Everyone.

From age 6 to 60, the Pixar filmmakers manage to consistently capture our hearts and imagination. The Toy Story films can make us laugh and cry, even after dozens of viewings. The first ten minutes of Up is one of the most affecting and beautiful filmic romances. WALL-E is a wonderful tribute to the silent films of a forgotten era. The Incredibles is still one of the best superhero films ever made (I love it way more than The Avengers or The Dark Knight Rises). Even the weakest Pixar films are more engaging and compelling than nearly any other animated films out there. They're some of the top movies you can show to your youth group.

The church could learn a lot about intergenerational ministry from Pixar movies. Their films are consistently well-crafted, joyful, uplifting, and make us excited for whatever they create next. What if that's how people from every generation viewed the church: as well-crafted, joyful, uplifting, making us excited for next Sunday?

Here are four lessons the church can learn from Pixar films:

-Truth is truth, no matter what age. Pixar films contain some simple-yet-profound truths that connect with both children and adults.Churches often separate children, youth, and adults into isolated programs, usually with good intentions. The kids can't handle the adults' service; they'd get bored. Adults wouldn't find the kids' stuff interesting, it's too simplistic and childish. So the thinking goes. What if the church focused on simple-yet-profound truths that spanned generational differences? Every person needs reminders about pride, envy, forgiveness, grace, thankfulness, truth, and love. Every person needs to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. If it's true, then it's always true, and always worth hearing.

-Depth doesn't equal boring. Some of the insights and themes from the Pixar movies are really quite profound and thought-provoking. WALL-E is a powerful indictment of consumerism and environmental neglect; Up deals with the loss of a child, a spouse, and the absence of a father; Monsters Inc focuses on the consequences of fear and judgment; Ratatouille is a fantastic meditation on art, culture, and criticism; the Toy Story films are all about authentic community and camaraderie; The Incredibles has a strong portrayal of a healthy marriage undergoing struggles and a mid-life crisis. These are weighty themes, yet they are never inaccessible to children. Instead of avoiding deeper questions and issues in our church context, let's dive into them in a way that isn't boring or overly philosophical.

-Great stories capture the imagination. Don't just tell people facts and figures and data and observations. Tell them a story. The story of God redeeming humanity is one of the most drama-filled epics of all time, and we dare not make it dull or vapid. In the middle of sermons, small groups, or Sunday School classes, let's make sure that we are telling great stories about our God and His impact in our world.

-Laughing together builds community. When children and adults can laugh together, there is a moment of shared joy and a breaking-in of the kingdom of God. Laughter energizes and uplifts. Laughter has the power to make us forget all worry, anxiety, and fear, even if only for a moment. Some of my favorite memories of missions trips or summer camps were the moments of deep belly-ache tears-streaming-from-my-eyes laughter, the kind of memories that can be quickly conjured with a simple gesture or word that immediately triggers a smile. Cultivate a culture of joy and laughter in your church context, and watch the community grow.

Intergenerational, joy-filled, excellence in craft, truthful, great stories, and simple-yet-profound. It's a Pixar-esque vision for the church.

What other lessons could we learn from the nature of Pixar films? Share in a comment!

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