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Youth ministers hope free film inspires students

The popular student disillusioned by teen partying. The outcast with few friends. The pretty girl forced to grow up too soon.

They are characters in a movie to be shown at First Baptist Church next weekend — but youth minister Randy Winton knows from experience that those descriptions reflect many of the teens he has counseled over the years.

He is hoping that “To Save a Life,” a free movie to be shown at 6 p.m. Saturday, May 22, at the church, will help teens understand how they can help each other.

“Everybody will identify with somebody in that movie,” Winton said.

Winton and other youth pastors in the area will gather to watch the movie on Tuesday to prepare for the event. After Saturday evening’s showing, they will break the teenagers and parents up into small groups to discuss the issues raised in the film.

In the movie — which was written and produced by a youth pastor who also happens to have a film degree — main character Jake Taylor’s life is changed when he witnesses a tragedy in the life of his childhood friend, a young man who became an outcast in high school. Taylor, a basketball star also known for partying, soon becomes involved in a local church youth group, and he reaches out to some of the “fringe” students at his school.

As a youth minister, Winton said he has pastored students on both sides of the high school social spectrum — and he hopes the movie shows that students are not alone.

“It’s heartbreaking that there are kids who don’t feel their life has value,” he said. “Sometimes, even our most committed church-going kids don’t recognize that there are kids out there who are hurting.”

Winton hopes the themes in the movie — from drinking to teen pregnancy to suicide — will help open a dialogue not only for students but for parents, who are also encouraged to attend the film showing.

“We’re hoping to use this as a vehicle to touch on a lot of issues,” he said.

Some parents may not realized what life is like for high schoolers today, he said. “Everybody recognizes that it’s tough to be a teenager today,” Winton said. “But sometimes parents may not recognize or may not want to see that their children are involved in these things.”

Discussion with parents will focus on how to recognize those issues — and how to deal with them, he said.

Winton emphasized that the movie is not just for First Baptist youth — and it is not just for those already involved in a church youth group.

Students at several churches have been asked to invite others to the film — including those who don’t attend church and those who might be considered on the “fringe” of social circles.

Winton said he appreciates the leadership of other youth ministers and churches who have been involved in the preparation for the film.

“We’ve got a great network of youth ministers working together,” he said.

The showing of the movie will be free. Winton said he encourages all high school students and their parents to attend, although he said parents may want to use discretion in allowing middle school students to attend because of some of the themes in the film.