General Ministry
Tony Myles

Tony Myles is a youth ministry veteran, conference speaker, author, volunteer youth worker and lead pastor of Connection Church in Medina, Ohio... and he really likes smoothies.

We have a lock-in coming up this weekend, and I’d love your input on something.

To Save A LifeEver seen the movie “To Save A Life” with your youth group? I know this was a popular trend when it came out a few years ago, but I’m wondering about a few pieces of the movie and its effects.

  • Early on in the film, the main character is shown taking his shirt off to have sex with his girlfriend and diving into bed with her. It’s certainly one step further than an implied closing of the door.
  • At one point in the movie, the main character critiques the youth group for a game where they drink soda out of someone’s sock. His stance is they should be about something more meaningful than that.
  • A pastor’s kid is portrayed as a drug-selling cynic who takes up space in the back row.

I know we live in a culture where all of that isn’t a big deal to kids who regularly watch everything from The Walking Dead to Glee. However, I wonder if even “not a big deal” scenes mean something more when a youth group puts something up on the screen.  Could a Christian movie like this (with its great message) set up kids in a negative way?

I’ve pondered that while considering if we let our high school students watch this movie:

  • Would church parents have trouble with a movie where the boy and his girlfriend are shown making out and taking the steps that lead into sex?
  • Would students become forever critical of anything goofy game we do in the future that actually has a point?
  • Would the stereotype that pastor’s kids live under only be amplified?

To top it off, the movie centers around the theme of how a teen’s suicide affects another student.

Invite teenagers into an epic adventure with Jesus. Check out Pierced: The New Testament today!

Sure, our youth groups can always watch Napoleon Dynamite, the Princess Bride or any other old standby flick. I’m wondering if those are “safer” than a Christian movie with some edge.

Is “safe” even the goal? Likewise, are we so geared up to “be real” that we don’t think about how unnecessarily raw we’re being?


How service-minded are your teenagers? Take this short quiz to find out!


  • Blaine says:

    I think “To Save a Life” has a few issues. While I do believe they don’t “in the end” glorify the behavior you mentioned above, it does dabble very much in showing how much fun partying can be… without showing the major negative stuff.

    Oh, and the Princess Bride… we watched it as a youth group… not a safe movie in that setting. Of course I watched it MANY times as a kid. The whole plot is centered on revenge. There were some funny scenes where you could see all the youth leaders cringe. For instance, “I don’t want to ruin such perfectly good breasts.” HAHA. I have learned that EVERY movie needs to be previewed with the youth group IN MIND.

    • Tony Myles Tony Myles says:

      Ah, yes… you always need to have your hand over the mute button in a couple of those scenes near the end. Inigo Montoya’s famous speech to Count Rugen, for example. 🙂

  • Tony, those are some excellent thoughts, and definitely some points you should be considering/wrestling with as you decide whether or not to show the film to your students.
    I showed this film to students (7th grade and up) soon after it’s release and did not regret it.

    If I have any regret it’s that I didn’t have more time after showing it to discuss the many, many topics the film tackles. Sex, suicide, teen pregnancy, drug/alcohol abuse, Christian hypocrisy, and the list goes on.
    To answer your three concerns my take is this:
    – parents would be more concerned if the film glorified the act of taking steps towards sex. But the film actually makes students stare right in the face of consequence rather than making it appealing to live in the moment. The stance it takes is a stark contrast to 99.9% of any other media sources.

    – the potential for them to become critical of goofy games is possible. The owness comes upon us as leaders to put a priority on “good clean fun”. God loves fun and for some students our ridiculous games are the only time they can have fun with friends that doesn’t require breaking the rules or the law. It shouldn’t be the only thing we do, but fun and laughter are definitely a great tool for breaking down walls and getting through to teenagers.

    – not confronting the stereotype of pastor’s kids doesn’t make it go away. It stinks and I pray that my kids don’t have to live under that heavy burden, although I know at some point and to some degree they will. This is an important topic to discuss as much and as soon as possible. Whether the film is shown or not.

    You can stick to safe/goofy movies, but if that’s all a youth ministry feeds their students the main character’s point about the church not taking anything seriously is 100% valid and there’s a disconnect that we are creating with our students.

    Anyway, thanks for the thought provoking post. I hope you show it to your students, it served us well!

    • Tony Myles Tony Myles says:

      Really appreciate this, Jeremiah. It sounds like it really can be a useful movie – my main hurdle was if it was worth showing or recommending. There’s something different about telling students about a film versus showing it to them. On the other hand, it does seem like there are times to sit down and watch it with them. I think we’re looking at having a separate movie night for it and keeping the lock-in one notch down in terms of heaviness. We’ll still have some good conversation at it, and I know we’re likewise planning some things to give students a voice into this side of things. It may just be that the movie itself needs its own forum. Thanks!

  • zac says:

    I’m in that movie… kinda. I was sitting in the truck as it drove away right before the end credits. Sorry if that ruins the movie magic 🙂

  • Jon Greenhill says:

    It is a good movie indeed. We had a couple of suicides in the community last year and our students insisted on showing it one night and inviting their friends. The only problem was that they didn’t tell their friends they were watching a movie about suicide. About 10 minutes in it was fun to watch their friends faces. Good discussion starter. Not sure if I would do it at a lock in though. Our group left in good spirits but were definitely trying to come to terms with the subject matter. If you want to play games or anything afterward it might hurt the processing for students. Just a thought..

    As far as if parents would get upset. Take them to a public high school dance. Then showing that movie wouldn’t really bother them.

    • Tony Myles Tony Myles says:

      One of the reasons I was considering it was due to us also having a number of local suicides in the past year. I think you’re right about it not being best shown in a lock-in… we’re now leaning toward having a lighter-themed lock-in, but inviting them to a follow-up movie night over Christmas break where we’ll show it. Thanks for the insight!

  • Kraig Bishop says:

    Went and saw this movie with my wife in the theater to preview it, and knew immediately my students needed to see it. Here’s the truth: partying without the consequences probably is fun in the moment, but this movie does a good job of dealing with the consequences. We try to tell our students not to go party. The truth is, most of them will experiment no matter what we say or do. There are a lot of “fun” things that aren’t worth our soul, but students will always struggle to believe that just because we say so. The lessons were worth it for me and for my students. There is a level of reality that isn’t always there with movies like this.

  • Holly says:

    I have a home school parent that gets upset with most of the things we want to discuss or show. So, we try to be mindful and let them know what we do before we do it. If they don’t want their kids there that night/morning that’s fine.

    There are things that should and need to be discussed. And I think a movie is a great media to use. Sure there are PK stereotypes being reinforced (I’m a PK), but stereotypes are usually birthed out of some truth. Sadly, but truthfully.

    In regards to the sexual innuendo. I’m not quite sure it steps over the line. It’s real. It happens. We’re not hiding it. Another question to discuss.

    The things with games– its always going to be how they are presented. Sure, some kids are gonna find them cheesy/corny regardless of how to act about them. But if you get into it then they most likely will. Whether they see it portrayed in a movie one way or another.

    • Tony Myles Tony Myles says:

      Ah – good call. And you’re right… some parents who take a more hands-on approach (i.e. home school families) to their parenting will want to have their hands in a bit more, and perhaps rightfully so. Best to catch them on things ahead of time. Appreciate the perspective on that and the other matters, too.

  • Art says:

    We showed it in our youth group – with the senior pastor in the room. The shortcomings of the film are far outweighed by the message it brings.

  • I like the movie. Would not hesitate to show it to the youth. Sadly with the dynamic of our current group there is not a parent involved enough to care to be offended. The movie is honest about sin, it’s consequences, the real struggles teens face and presents the Gospel. If I showed it to the youth, or family movie night. I would disclose the objectionable plot issues in advance and stand by my decision. Sometimes the best way to deal with the “Home School Parent” that objects to everything, is to stand your ground. Can’t make everyone happy, so just know and be able to defend your reasoning and make sure you Sr. Pastor is in the loop.

  • Leave a Comment

    Please keep in mind that comments are moderated and rel="nofollow" is in use. So, please do not use a spammy keyword or a domain as your name, or it will be deleted. Let us have a personal and meaningful conversation instead.