Reach Youth in Your Community With a Church Movie Event

The Ultimate Youth Movie Event Planning Guide

What do you remember most about your teenage years? Chances are, awkward feelings bubble up to the surface as you recall struggling with self-esteem, establishing an identity, making friends, and living up to the expectations of parents and elders.

Teenagers today face similar challenges, yet their struggles are compounded by the pervasiveness of social media, the internet, and a comparison culture. Nevertheless, the teen years remain a fundamental season for learning new skills, asserting independence, and finding a niche in the world.


Teens live in a culture that’s heavily influenced by peer pressure, targeted advertising, and consumer trends. A culture that tends to convey misguided messages of love based on appearance and achievement. This makes it challenging for youth leaders to share a more significant message with teens – the message of the Gospel.

It’s important for teens to hear that they are valued and loved exactly as they are. They need to know that their worth doesn’t come from this world, but instead from a Savior who cherishes them.

When churches invest in their youth, they provide an atmosphere where teens can make mistakes and still find encouragement to get up and try again.

Reach Youth in Your Community With a Church Movie Event Unfortunately, young people sometimes exhibit a rebellion towards authority and tradition. Therefore, it’s important to meet teens where they are rather than force things upon them. We’ve found that teens respond more favorably if you share the Gospel in fun ways that they can relate to.

Here are four essential tips for you to consider when planning a youth movie event.


There’s a lot of great movie options for planning a youth movie event. If your primary goal is to share the Gospel with teens, choosing a christian film may be more appropriate than other family-friendly films.

When deciding on film for a youth movie event, make sure it’s a film that teens can relate to in some way. Showing a relatable film makes it easier for youth to see how the themes of the movie are more applicable to their lives.

A movie such as, I Can Only Imagine, which sold out box offices across the nation this past spring, is the perfect example of a movie that can positively influence teens. The film follows Bart Millard’s journey from an abusive childhood to finding God’s grace and mercy as a teen, joining his church’s youth worship band, and eventually starting the group, MercyMe.

I Can Only Imagine is a powerful example because it gives youth an opportunity to see their own pain and trials reflected in the life of someone who ultimately came to know Jesus and the love of a Heavenly Father.

Outdoor Youth Movie Event This is a message we all need, but for youth, in particular, it is crucial to help them establish a safe outlet where they can express their fears and sorrows. Providing teens with such an environment prevents them from turning to things of the world, such as drugs, alcohol, or unhealthy relationships.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28


It doesn’t require exorbitant amounts of money for a youth movie event to be successful. It also isn’t necessary to pull out all of the stops. But there are simple ways to make your movie event fun and exciting for teens.

Choose a fun theme: One way to choose a film for a youth movie event is to pick a theme. For example, if you decided to have a sports-theme, then the 2015 hit movie Woodlawn might be right for your event! A theme also gives you the opportunity to add fun elements to your movie event. Here are a couple more ideas:

  • “Hollywood Glamour”– Roll out a red carpet for photos pre-show, invite teens to dress up in their best impression of 1920s glamour, and end the night with an Oscars-style ceremony to thank volunteers and community partners.
  • “Outdoor Movie Night”– Kick the evening off with corn hole and roasting hot dogs around a campfire before busting out the s’mores and popcorn for the main show on an outdoor screen.

Make sure to prepare snacks: Ask any parent of a middle or high schooler, and they would all probably say that their teens eat them out of house and home (this is the truth). While junk food shouldn’t be their go-to snack, teens will love to munch on special treats during the movie event.

  • Popcorn or chips are movie event staples, but you can add more fun to the mix with out-of-the-box options.
  • If you decide on a specific theme, it’s easy choosing foods to fit your specific topic.
  • For more customized options, consider setting up a candy bar or DIY trail mix bar.
  • Make it a potluck and have everyone bring their own favorite treats to share.

Combine it with a lock-in: An evening full of games, tons of pizza, and hanging out with friends is exactly the type of thing teens love. Make an impact on their night by showing a movie that shares the message of the Gospel! Showing the film early in the evening before everyone gets tired gives them something to talk about into the wee hours!


Once your movie event is over, don’t let the momentum slip away with the ending credits! By offering a follow-up study based on the movie or topics in the film, you help the youth in your community take the message home while continuing to explore what it means for their lives. The resources don’t have to be expensive but make an effective option for assisting teens to dive deeper.

Youth_bible_study for Youth Movie Event by City On a Hill Studio Consider setting up a table where attendees (and their parents) can browse and purchase curriculum related to the message. Ask ministry partners to consider sponsoring or donating journals or devotionals as a giveaway to those who attend. If you have the resources, you could even do a drawing for door prizes. Contests and drawings always garner excitement, especially among teens.

For example, YM360 offers an I Can Only Imagine 4-week student devotional that encourages teens to spend meaningful time with God while reflecting on the themes from Bart Millard’s story. And, you can purchase enough devotionals for all the youth in attendance for less than $10 a piece!


It’s one thing to see a movie and take its impact home with you to reflect upon. However, you should ultimately encourage teens to connect with a community and pursue growth in the areas where they felt challenged by the movie.

For teens who don’t have strong faith-leaders at home or who are entirely new to the church, extending the impact of your movie event into the weeks and months following the event can be life-altering.

Movies like I Can Only Imagine share deep and compelling messages about redemption, forgiveness, and salvation. These are things the world outside of the church doesn’t talk about very often. By starting a group study based on your movie event, you give the teenagers in your community the opportunity to unpack what they are processing after the movie and group as an individual in Christ.

Youth Bible Study with Church Movie Event One option is to split the youth up into small groups and create a space where they can reflect on a devotional together. Another option for encouraging youth to grow in their walk with Christ is to participate in a small group study together with friends or family.

The I Can Only Imagine 4-week small group study is a great fit for teens who are more mature and are ready to face any brokenness, guilt, or feelings of rejection that may exist in their lives. It’s also a great way to encourage youth to invest in learning more about God’s enduring plan and the hope that exists through Christ. We are called to build each other up and encourage each other’s faith, and youth aren’t exempt.


Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome, “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” (Romans 1: 11-12)

If planning a youth movie event seems daunting, check out our beginner’s guide for hosting a movie event. This in-depth guide offers step-by-step tips, from selecting a movie license to following up with youth after the event. If you really want to captivate an audience with an inspiring and enduring movie, I Can Only Imagineis the place to start.

I Can Only Imagine Movie License Kit

Do you have compelling stories from hosting a movie event for youth in your community in the past? We’d love for you to share them in the comments below!

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