Popcorn Theology, curriculum review and suggestions

I picked up Popcorn Theology for my family.  We watch a lot of movies together as a family.  I have two teenagers who are ripe with religious questions. Perfect.

Michelle Richards wrote Popcorn Theology for Unitarian Universalist middle school age youth with youth groups in mind. Each session features a movie that highlights the values lesson.  Rather than show the whole movie, excerpts are suggested and excellent activities make it all come together. I’ve not used it in a classroom setting, but the sessions are so clearly written that I would feel confident picking it up and facilitating a class just as it is designed in the book or with miner adaption.

But I have to say, it’s awesome for families!   It hasn’t taken much to translate the activities or change them slightly for the home environment. We started out with the movie Contact, because that’s my favorite movie ever.  We lit a chalice and shared a reading from Carl Sagan, which elevated the mood of movie night immediately. We played the Faith or Fact (p. 73) game before the movie to warm up.  After I had problems remembering to stop the movie at the designated times for the questions and discussion, my eldest son took over that job.  (He likes to be in charge and does it well.) We waited until dinner time the next night to do the Leap of Faith exercise, which was actually kind of nice, because it kept the momentum and discussion going.  Other movies we’ve watched using Richard’s guidebook have been equally rewarding.

Suggestions for Congregations

What if congregations created Popcorn Theology Kits that families could check out? Some of the lessons require props or light assembly.  A religious community could conserve resources by having one kit for each movie/lesson that is checked out and returned.

What if a congregation didn’t keep this gem to the middle school or high school group, but made it a multi-generational offering?  Part of a larger religious education series?  With a youth and adult co-facilitating?  Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

How else could you envision using Popcorn Theology?

Themes and Movies of Popcorn Theology

In response to Dove’s question in the comments…

The Choices We Make

  1. Back to the Future
  2. Star Trek Generations
  3. Forrest Gump
  4. Saved!
  5. Little Buddha

The Search for Truth

  1. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
  2. Oh, God!
  3. Bruce Almighty
  4. Heaven Can Wait
  5. Contact

Working for a Peace Fair World

  1. Bowling for Columbine
  2. Hotel Rwanda
  3. Jurassic Park

Acceptance of One Another… and Ourselves

  1. Dances with Wolves
  2. Willow
  3. Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
  4. Hoosiers
  5. Field of Dreams

More Enthusiastic Plugs

Michelle Richards has a new book  called Tending the Flame: The Art of Unitarian Universalist Parenting.  And she writes the UU Parenting Blog that I’ve been enjoying.  For more about Michelle and her other resources go to her website.

I recently got to meet Michelle at the Central MidWest District Religious Education Conference.