Movie Nights are a popular church event and community outreach. You can simply pop a DVD in a player and call it a ministry, or with a little advance planning, you can offer an event that will truly resonate with your congregation and minister to your community.
Find a movie.
With literally hundreds of Christian movies available, don’t limit yourself to the handful of titles that screened at your local theater. Instead, spend an hour or two searching through the selections at your local Christian bookstore or online. Select a movie that ties in with your sermon series or that touches on an issue dear to your church’s heart. Introduce your church to something they haven’t already seen or perhaps even heard about. Christian Film Database (CFDb) includes almost every Christian movie available and allows you to search by topic to find exactly what you’re looking for.
Contact the distributor or the filmmakers to find out about licensing. Licensing fees are reasonable and often based on size of audience. Many filmmakers are choosing to handle their own distribution and will allow churches to screen for free if you ask. You can find the contact information either on the DVD cover, on the movie website, or through the listings at Christian Cinema or CFDb.
Make it special.
Instead of just showing in the sanctuary, rent a projector and screen and enjoy a drive-in movie. Kick off the night with a meal and have dinner and a movie. Pick a chick flick and have a Girls Night Out. Pick a romance, get the youth to babysit, and offer a date night for young couples. Find a multigenerational movie and combine a night with senior adults and youth.
Invite the filmmakers or cast members.
While it may not work out, it never hurts to ask. Filmmakers and actors love to promote their films and will often do what they can to attend movie nights. Dave Woodruff of Bedias, Texas contacted Bruce Marchiano about showing one of his movies and Mr. Marchiano came for the screening and stayed longer to share with the church and community.
Pick a date.
Find a time that works best with your church and community calendar. If possible, don’t schedule at the same time as other events. Determine the date and time that will get the best response rather than sticking it in a time slot that no one else wants.
Promote the event.
Send a press release to the local newspaper. Add it to community event calendars. Make up flyers and put them around the church. Share the event on your website. Print up cheap business cards and encourage members to pass them out as free tickets. If you have the filmmakers or actors coming, see if you can arrange a radio or television interview with them ahead of time.
Test the equipment.
The week before the movie night test the DVD in your equipment. Experiment with the best settings for volume and picture. Preferably test at the same time of day as the screening to make sure it’s dark enough for the picture to show well. If not, determine a way to cover the front windows or otherwise darken the room.
Welcome the crowd.
Make sure everyone knows where the movie is showing and how to get there. If you’ve invited the community, be sure to include signs on the doors letting them know where to go. As they arrive, greet them at the door and welcome them to your church. Perhaps hand them a brochure about your church with a list of the ministries offered.
Don’t forget prayer.
Cover your event in prayer from the initial selection of the movie through each step, asking God to use the movie night to speak to hearts and draw others nearer to Him. Open the night with prayer asking God to bless the night and minister to each individual there.
Start a series.
Have a monthly movie night. Invite other churches to join you. Get with your local theater for special screenings. Host a film festival to introduce your community to a wide range of faith-based films. Dave Woodruff started Bedias, Texas Christian Film Festival as monthly screenings at a church and now hosts monthly screenings at a theater. Faith and Family Films arranges weekly film screenings at churches throughout Vermont. Friends Family Theater is a weekend ministry in Michigan that shows faith-based films in a drive-in setting. Rich Gerberding started Heart of Illinois Regional Movie Ministries and offers a booklet guiding churches on how to start their own movie ministry.
These are just a few examples of churches using movies as a way to minister to their community. Each church is different so each movie night should be as well. Tailor your event to best suit your needs, then sit back and allow God to work though the messages in the movies to minister to your group.
Sharon Wilharm and her husband Fred are award winning filmmakers who travel the country screening their movies and teaching filmmaking at film events. Providence, their latest film released Valentine’s weekend in AMC theaters across the country. It recently received four Crown Awards including Best Picture, Best Youth, and Best Evangelistic. Sharon blogs about faith-based films and the people who make them at www.faithflixfilms.com