devozine

For Youth Workers Post

MEDIA MESSAGES

Darren Wright

“In the Habit” session for use with devozine meditations for May 23–29, 2016.

MEET THE WRITER

darrenDarren Wright is a Uniting Church Youth Worker, serving in the Riverina Presbytery in New South Wales, Australia, as the Presbytery Education and Discipleship Worker. Darren has previously worked in congregational ministry, high school chaplaincy, and local government as a youth worker. His interests include music (Radiohead, Ben Harper, The National, Of Monsters and Men, Ryan Adams, Laura Marling, All India Radio, Florence and The Machine); film (Avengers, MegaMind, Harry Potter, How to Train your Dragon, Scott Pilgrim, Big Hero 6); TV (Chuck, Doctor Who, Big Bang Theory, Community, Agents of SHIELD); theology; pop-culture; and at-risk youth. He is particularly interested in how the church and theology connect with pop culture. Be sure to check out Darren’s blog.

STUFF YOU WILL NEED

  • notebooks for each person (given out a week ahead of time—see “Checking In”). Encourage group members bring to this session their journals about media habits and messages.
  • paper and pens
  • magazines and newspapers
  • computer or tablet with Internet
  • Bibles
  • art materials (scissors, paper or cardboard, markers, colored pencils, glue, glitter, yarn, etc.)
  • prize for “Taking It Further” exercise (optional
  • Print-Friendly Version of this session

PLUGGED IN

  • You may wish to read to the group a selection from the book Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation, by James K. A. Smith. The selection, from page 19 to the bottom of page 22, is entitled “Making The Familiar Strange” and describes the shopping mall as a place of worship. It’s a great piece, but a little long. James K. A. Smith talks about the idea in a YouTube video (from 6:50 to 11:35).
  • Search online for “media literacy,” and you’ll soon be drowning in helpful articles and resources.
  • Gruen Transfer is an Australian television show that explores advertising and the messages it sends. A number of Gruen Transfer videos are available on YouTube. Be aware that there is occasional swearing in the show so you’ll need to watch a video before using it. As an example, watch “Gruen Transfer Hamburgers.”

CHECKING IN

The week before this session, give each of the group members a blank notebook in which to write about their media habits and messages during the week. They may want to write responses to questions such as these:

  • How much TV do I watch?
  • What shows do I watch?
  • What advertisements are shown during my viewing time?
  • How many movies do I watch in the week? What are they?
  • What music do I listen to over the week?
  • What music videos do I watch?
  • What magazines do I read over the course of the week?
  • What advertisements do I read in the magazines? At whom are they aimed? What message do they send?
  • What websites, blogs, e-zines do I read over the course of the week?
  • What messages are being promoted by the television shows, advertisements, movies, and music?
  • How do media messages make me feel?
  • How does the media I consume shape the way I think? dress? act?

This may take a fair bit of time to do. Group members may want to lengthen or shorten the time they spend observing and recording their experience with the media.

Make sure you complete the assignment as well; and if you have other leaders in your group, make sure they do the same.

Use online resources if you wish. The group could use a blog or Facebook to share their experiences.

[NOTE: If you choose not to do this activity, skip the section below that invites you to reflect on the journals and spend more time together exploring media messages.

                              * * * * *

As people arrive for the session, offer them refreshments and a place to sit. Be welcoming.

If group members were able to keep track of their activity with the media over the last week or so, now would be a good time to discuss these questions:
       What media messages did you encounter?
       How many of the messages were aimed at your age group?
       Where did you see the messages?
       How did the messages make you feel?

If group members did not record their media habits, here are a few other ideas for your “Checking In” time:

  • Distribute magazines and newspapers. Invite group members to find advertising, articles, and images that send messages to young people. Discuss:
         What categories of messages did you find?
         What surprised you?
         What are the most prominent messages you found?
         Why do you think they are the most prominent?
         What messages targeted at young people come from different media?
  • Distribute paper and pens. Invite group members to make a list of what they bought over the last couple of months. Encourage them to think of clothes, food, music, electronics, and so on. Discuss:
         What does the list tell you about your priorities?
         Why did you buy specific items? (Why Coke over Pepsi?)
         What do your purchases say about you?
         Do you like shopping? Why?
         What have you bought that you thought would make you happy? Did it make you happy? For how long?
  • Invite the group to talk about their favorite television advertisements. Attempt to find the advertisements on YouTube and show them to the group. Discuss:
         What messages do the advertisements send?
         What are they selling? To whom are they selling it? What are they promising?
         What can you tell about the company or its message from the advertisement?
         What messages targeted at young people come from different media?

EXPLORING THE WORD 

Scripture: Psalm 139:14a

Invite the group to read aloud Psalm 139:14a (NIV):
       “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Invite conversation:
       In what ways do messages from the media encourage us to believe that we have been woven together by God, that we have been wonderfully made, or that we are known by God?
       How do messages from our media encourage us to believe that we are not beautiful, that we are not woven together by God, that we have not been wonderfully made, or that we are not known by God?
       In what ways can we question the messages that media sends us?
       How difficult is it to question media messages?
       Does questioning media messages change the way you dress, eat, drink, or make friends?

SHARING IN PRAYER 

Bring group members together. Ask them to sit in a circle. Place a pile of magazines in the center of the circle. Invite the group to cut out the advertisements and articles that send messages about our lives, bodies, selves, clothing, food, drink, and so on. Ask group members to make a pile of ads and articles in the center of the circle.

Provide art materials. Ask each person to choose one or two magazine clippings, to identify the messages they send, and then to write prayers about the messages, turning the media messages into pieces of beauty by forming them into prayers.

TAKING IT FURTHER

Invite group members to go for a walk in a shopping mall. Ask them to spend an hour walking around in small groups and making a list of different messages they see that are targeted at their age group.

After an hour, bring the group together. Give a prize to the group with the longest list. Discuss:
       What messages did you find?
       What surprised you?
       What shocked you?
       What did you expect?
       When there are so many messages targeted at youth, how do we fight them?

—from devozine In the Habit (May/June 2016). Copyright © 2016 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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