Last week I saw a post on the Young Life Leader blog that described, in detail, a Hunger Games Club. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. The blog, itself, has moved on with other ideas, but I haven’t. Now, to be clear, I like the Hunger Games. I’ve read the whole series. The series is culturally relevant for adolescents right now. Naturally, the idea was then turned into a basis for a YL theme club.

I would like to invite YL staff, leaders, really anyone who is walking where faith and culture overlap into a conversation. Is that progression acceptable? Culturally relevant + popular movie/book + fun = club or youth group activity. I believe we need to put a bit more thought into things than that. Most of you would probably agree with me – but that doesn’t mean we actually do it. We can get caught up in the idea and pat ourselves on the back for running a great club before we think through the implications.

Take the Hunger Games.

When we strip back the love story and the adventure, we have a story about teenagers who are forced to kill because of systemic injustice. Hmmm. Sound like Young Life club? To me, it sounds more like Guatemala’s 36 year long armed conflict. To me, it sounds like the kids I know who are getting murdered by gangs while the police turn their heads. To me, there is no place for that concept in Young Life club. To me, it sounds like a Campaigners lesson on respect for authority (Romans 12) and protecting the least of these (Matthew 22).

However non violent and fun the activities in the club plan were, they were based on very violent acts. Club, we say, is a place where kids come to experience a safe, warm, welcoming environment that reflects the kingdom of God. The Hunger Games concept just does not fit that description.

Here’s where I had to do a gut check – when I can’t tell if my own cultural bias or personal beliefs are impacting how I see a situation, I seek wisdom. I go to Scripture. I run things past other YL staff and leaders. Is my violent, global south context impacting my ability to see a good club idea for what it is? Or is this bigger than global north and global south – is this a kingdom issue?

The feedback I got said, “this is a kingdom issue.” We, in YL, say that we are for every kid, every where. We are reaching a world of kids. Even if kids in your club don’t face systemic injustice and violence, kids in the club down the road, or halfway across the world do. We can model to our kids what life is like for their kids through what we do both in and out of club. This is kingdom – good news. unity. justice. redemption.

My pondering on the Hunger Games club has led me in two directions –

1. Our interface with cultural trends – how do we seek to redeem, connect, create space for interaction and conversation while still uplifting the truth and beauty that is the Kingdom of God?

2. Our role as leaders and staff – We must be the ones asking these questions. We must invite kids into these discussions with us. Do we need to waste so much food in club? Or at camp? How can we be responsible with what we have? Is this really a good idea, a great song to sing, just because it’s popular?

Are we ready to engage in conversation when the inevitable “why” question comes our way? Why not do a Hunger Games club when everyone loves it?

Every day that I work with kids in high risk communities in Guatemala City, I learn more about what it means to effectively love and minister to them. Some of these lessons I’ve tucked away for personal reflection and use; others, I share because I think we need to be having conversations like this within our leadership teams, friends, club kids, etc.

Your turn. I’d love to hear your thoughts, responses, how we’ve done well, how we can do better.

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