Thomas Nankervis arrived early to study the Bible and sat comfortably in the teenage room near a handwritten sign that read “Jesus Rocks”.
He waited patiently, but with enthusiasm, as the lights dimmed and the Star wars the film was played on the big screen television. He and other teens watched several scenes showing the good guy Luke Skywalker and listened to other characters describe the bad boy Darth Vader.
The projection of Star wars was much more than a film for this group of ten high school students. The popular Star wars will be the focus of the weekly Wednesday Bible study group at St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church.
The group’s curriculum for the next few months will focus on the six Star wars movies and a book, The Gospel According to Star Wars: Faith, Hope and tHe Force by John C. McDowell.
“The idea is to go in depth,” said Dan Segale, youth minister at UMC St. Andrew’s. “Go beyond words. Go beyond thoughts.”
Tying pop culture to Bible study keeps today’s teens interested in their faith, Segale said.
“Which teenager wants to be spoon fed after the scriptures? ” he said. “Not this multimedia generation. If you’re not early, you’re miles behind.”
Segale and his mother Wendy Soto co-teach the Bible study class. Soto, a Valrico mother of three, suggested the Star wars study programme. She said Segale didn’t hesitate.
“Dan is always trying to do new, exciting things,” Soto said.
After a 15 minute clip, Segale, Soto and the teens got deep. The program asked them to read Bible verses aloud, separate pieces from the film, and draw on their personal experience.
During a discussion, the students learned that one of the R2 units had a bad motivator. The students were then asked to talk about who or what motivated them. Some said music. Another said success. A teenager said his father.
The teens were later asked why they thought C-3PO said, “Thank the manufacturer.” What did they think it meant?
Almost all responded, “God.
The program, Segale said, doesn’t portray Luke Skywalker as God or Darth Vader as the devil, but rather focuses on how they and the other characters act.
“He uses their actions to personify evil against good,” he said.
A Star wars Newbie Olivia Thomas, 14, of Brandon, said she would be back to see more and learn more. She enjoyed the clip and the chat.
“I thought it was really cool,” said Thomas, a student at Blake High School in Tampa. “I didn’t realize how much of it relates to the scriptures.”
Nankervis, 17, from Riverview, is a huge Star wars fan and is delighted to discover the connections between the films and the scriptures. He also appreciates that Segale and Soto want to make Bible study relevant and fun.
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“We never do the same thing twice,” said Nankervis, a student at Riverview High School. “It definitely makes him more attractive. “
Pastors recognize that they need to do more to reach young people. Just reading passages from the Bible, even served with pizza, just wouldn’t work.
“They’re going to say I’m going to take a nap,” Segale said.
But they will stay and participate if the material is interesting and relevant, like Star wars, said Segale.
Tying Bible studies to mainstream culture is nothing new in St. Andrew’s. The college Bible study group just completed The Gospel According to Harry Potter: Spirituality in the Stories of the World’s Most Famous Researcher, by Connie Neal.
“Our pastors worship the avant-garde,” said Segale. “They love the cutting edge programs that engage this generation of teens.”
Segale said his goal wasn’t just to preach to teenagers. He wants to reach them. He hopes that what they learn in Bible study will stay with them for a long time.
“Teaching the Bible means nothing unless you are of the service of the heart,” he said.
At the end of the hour-long class, the teens thanked Soto and Segale, then grabbed their phones and put their candy wrappers in the trash. Nankervis gave Soto $ 5 for a copy of The Gospel According to Star Wars. Smiling, he said he would see them all next week.
Monica Bennett can be contacted at [email protected]