Encourage Positive Entertainment Alternatives

Our Creator is not anti-entertainment. The arts and media are not inherently evil. It's a rare individual God calls to throw out the television, listen to music written only by Handel, and never darken the door of the neighborhood theater or video store.

Few families can set and maintain such austere media boundaries successfully. Many (though not all) who go this route just give their kids ammunition for rebellion — especially when they leave home for college or jobs. I'm convinced the workable approach for most of us is to find constructive entertainment alternatives.

I don't mean that entertainment has to be "Christian" to get a thumbs-up. There are really three types of artistic expression: positive (which generally includes media with a Christian worldview), neutral, and objectionable. The first two are those we should seek; the latter is the type we should avoid.

Just what do I mean by these three classifications? Positive entertainment is that which inspires, uplifts, encourages and motivates the listener or viewer to do something to make this world, another individual, or oneself better. It might be a song that promotes forgiveness, condemns spousal abuse or gives a boost to volunteerism. It might be a television program that highlights the joy of remodeling someone's dilapidated home to make it more wheelchair accessible for an occupant.

Objectionable entertainment is the opposite. Examples abound as this type promotes pride, selfishness, immorality, rebellion, greed and drug use — often portraying these behaviors as glamorous, fun and beneficial.

How about "neutral" entertainment? I'll explain it this way: On the music side of things, think of a song with lyrics that might go something like, "I looked into her eyes, and she in mine/And we walked along the beach hand in hand." These love-lines aren't going to bring about world peace, but there's nothing wrong with the ideas being advanced here, either.

With these categories in mind, discuss as a family what constitutes suitable positive and neutral entertainment — and how to find those types.

Consider Family 'Movie Nights'

Focus on the Family has published three Movie Nights books, exploring quality mainstream films you can watch with your kids as a fun launchpad for positive, healthy discussion afterward. Newer, printable versions of many Movie Nights discussion guides are available at pluggedin.com for use with both teens and young children, and more are being added regularly.

Think of Movie Nights as mini-curricula designed to help families talk about spiritual truth, using the "parables" found in certain popular films. For example, here are a few of the discussion questions for Toy Story 2 listed in the book Movie Nights for Kids:

  • When Andy leaves Woody behind, Woody dreams that Andy says, "You're broken. I don't want to play with you anymore." How do most kids tend to treat others who have something "wrong" with them? Read Matthew 25:31-40. How do you think God wants us to treat people who are "broken"?
  • Wheezy the Penguin, put on the shelf because his squeaker doesn't work, says, "We're all just one stitch away" from being sold in a yard sale. What do you think he means? Is this how God feels about us, always ready to punish us or throw us away if we don't please Him? Read 1 John 1:9 and 1 John 4:16-19 to find out.
  • When Al does that last commercial in his chicken suit, why is he crying? If things had turned out differently and he'd sold Woody and the other toys, do you think he would have been happy? For how long? Read Jesus' story about the greedy man in Luke 12:15-21. How is this man like Al?

There are even suggestions for a pre-film field trip to the toy store, a post-movie service project (giving away toys no longer used) and photo treasure hunt (taking pictures of the most valuable things in your home — people), plus behind-the-scenes trivia about two voices featured in the film. That beats arguing about movies any day! To try a "movie night" with your kids, go to pluggedin.com, pick a film, and print out a discussion guide.

From Plugged-In Parenting, published by Tyndale House Publishers. Copyright © 2011 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

Next in this Series: Talk Your Way Through Conflict