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This topic starts with a "why" and includes numerous movie suggestions and resources for teaching Bible stories and principles using secular movie clips.

Reply below! Your suggestions are welcome.

Teaching the Bible with Secular Movies and Music

a short article by Neil MacQueen originally written for the Writing Team's MAGI Video Workshop which uses clips from Disney's Moana.

Using secular movie clips and songs to help illuminate Biblical concepts and provoke discussion has a l-o-n-g history in Christian education. Using secular media in youth ministry is pretty common, but less so in children's ministry -- which is odd given the vast amount of media our kids consume, especially in these days of YouTube and the internet.

There are several websites which cross-reference secular clips with scripture and biblical subjects. Try WINGCLIPS.COM for example.

One of lesser-known reasons to use popular secular media is that it teaches our kids to compare and contrast the Bible's message with messages in secular media.

Take Star Wars for example. Once you realize it's a story about a messiah, an evil empire, and redemption, you can't watch the other movies in the series without thinking about these themes. There's even a book about it by a Presbyterian minister: The Gospel According to Outer Space by Robert L. Short.

Another reason to use popular secular media is for its memory-enhancing value. How many times will your children watch Star Wars over their lifetime?  And every time they do re-watch it, your lessons, if sharp and well taught, will be refreshed too.

Moana, the recent movie from Disney, is a great example of this kind of powerful teaching opportunity, and it's one of the reasons our Writing Team used clips from it in our "Magi" lesson set. As a story and animated movie, it is acclaimed as one of Disney's best. Its themes are universal --seeking, challenge, courage, heart, redemption. Its hero is a young child out to save her people. The added fact that it is also a musical with great songs that appeal to all ages makes it a golden teaching opportunity

DID YOU KNOW THAT Moana's songs were written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the famous songwriter of "Hamilton" who just so happens to have attended a Christian university?

It's amazing how many themes from the Bible are found in Moana, albeit, with some different interpretations.

  • Moana feels a call to be different, to explore beyond the reef.
  • Her grandmother says the "ocean has chosen you."
  • There are "Pharisees" in the story (her father is one), and prophets (her grandmother).
  • Everyone else is afraid to travel beyond the reef, but Moana learns that it is the only way to "restore the heart of Tafiti and save her people."
  • Maui, the comic relief, introduces himself as a selfish "demi-god" (half-god). But Moana's story of salvation is also Maui's story of redemption. He is a flawed hero.
  • Maui teaches Moana how to be guided by the stars, a knowledge her people have lost.
  • Moana realizes that LOVE is what Teka the Volcano goddess needs most, and it transforms both of them.
  • Moana's example restores the heart of her people too, who learn to set sail again.


Supporting Members can access the Video~Music Workshop Lesson for the Magi that uses several Moana clips.

To be sure, secular movies RARELY exactly correspond to the Bible's message--but that's where the discussion fodder is! The same is true for the movie Moana.

Some Questions for Moana

  • How is Moana like and not like a Magi?
  • What was life like for the Magi that may have prepared them to want to venture beyond the reef?
  • What is the "heart" that the Magi were seeking and wanted to see restored?  Who restored it?
  • How does love and not fear restore people?
  • What does it mean to be a Magi today?
  • Who are the people in our lives that have or can teach us to be guided by the stars?

What are the differences between... (the Magi and Moana)

Make a list comparing and contrasting the:

  • Heroes
  • Villains
  • Problems
  • Surprises
  • Risks
  • What's the "redemption story" in the movie?  How are people saved/redeemed?
  • Main themes
  • etc.

By using secular media, we also teach our students how to parse the message they see and hear in secular media and compare it to the Bible's message.

Good vs. Evil, Heroes & Saviors, the Secret of Life, the Help of God (or gods), the Wages of Sin, Redemption ...these are universal themes read and seen throughout media. They are themes about which our students need the tools to understand how the Christian message differs. And yes, it is often "hidden" between the lines and scenes for the Spirit to help us see.

Several authors have written books about the parallels and influence of the Christian story in modern media. One of the most famous is The Gospel According to Outer Space, by Robert Short. It looks at the parallels between Superman, Star Wars, and the like, and the story of Jesus. That book, and others like it, were the source of lots of study group discussions back in the 80s and 90s.

As a Sunday school teacher, I tend to see quasi-Christian themes in all sorts of media. But it doesn't always happen right away. It wasn't until I had seen Moana for the third time with my granddaughter that the parallels jumped out at me. That's one of the blessings of a web ministry like  --  we can post what we are seeing so others can see and use it too.

The Blessing of YouTube and DVD Players

The rise of YouTube has made showing secular media clips so much easier. Not only are key scenes and songs being released by the publishers on YouTube, they are being posted there by fans. You'd think the publishers would be upset, but most view any publicity is good publicity. YouTube's licensing and advertising revenue sharing also keep the movie companies happy.

In spite of the ominous FBI warnings on DVDs, US Federal Copyright Law gives EDUCATORS quite a bit of latitude to use clips from any type of media for teaching purposes. So while you can't legally show Moana in worship or fellowship without a license, you can show it without hesitation in a face to face teaching situation.


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Lessons from the Guardians of the Galaxy movie

from Neil MacQueen

Creative Christian educators, youth leaders, and pastors have been reviewing, discussing, and "sampling" secular movies for decades. Many even include references in their sermons. Doing so helps young people and adults see the biblical themes and parallels in popular media, harnesses the highly memorable visual and emotional impact of movies for spiritual growth, and reinforces your teaching points when the movie is viewed again (and again).

Our Writing Team's Ruth Video Workshop lesson uses this same time-honored teaching technique.

After watching the Ruth video, the lesson explores the term "Guardian-Redeemer" (lit. Gaw-al' in Hebrew) which is used eight times in the Book of Ruth by the NIV, and memorably connects it to a powerful scene in the popular Guardians of the Galaxy movie. Then the kids complete an "I Am a Guardian-Redeemer of the Galaxy" movie poster we made for this lesson. The lesson comes with a discussion guide for BOTH the Ruth video and a downloadable video clip we created that uses the scene from Guardians of the Galaxy movie. Check it out!


Visual Parables, the movie review ministry of Rev. Ed McNulty, is one of the most well-known and appreciated. And fortunately for us, Ed has posted all his movie reviews online at

Excerpt of Ed's review of Guardians of the Galaxy's final scenes:

"They decide to stand together. They decide that they are more powerful together than individually. This is a beautiful image of the church.

I love the verse in Ecclesiastes that says, 'Though one can be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken' (Ecclesiastes 4:12). This truth is what the Guardians of the Galaxy learn as they stand united against Ronan."

GospelOuterSpacebookThe Gospel From Outer Space was one of the most influential publications about Christian themes in movies. First published and widely read in the 1980s, Rev. Robert Short's book explored the biblical parallels and messages lurking in Superman, E.T., Star Wars, 2001, and Close Encounters. Though since passed, I'm sure Robert would have included Guardians of the Galaxy in an update. You can find reviews online of newer movies by other pastors and teachers.

Like many teachers in Sunday school, many pastors like to reference popular media in their sermons, and there are resources on the web to help them do so.

In fact, if you're using the Ruth Video Lesson, you might want to share the Ruth Bible Background from the Writing Team and the following "Ten Life Lessons" with your pastor who might be interested in preaching about the Guardian-Redeemer of Our Galaxy to dovetail with what you are teaching in Sunday school.

The following is an excerpt from Rev Mark Sandlin's blog post about the "Ten Life Lessons from the Guardians of the Galaxy" posted at Read the post for the full quotes. I'm just going to excerpt the headlines here:

1) A little can say a lot. (About Groot's economy of words.)

2) Music is powerful. (Peter Quill, a.k.a. Star Lord, is practically transported by music. “O-o-h child things are gonna get easier. O-o-h child things’ll get brighter.”)

3) You don’t have to agree on everything in order to work together.

4) Most of our biases aren’t about reality. They are about ignorance.

5) Dancing is one of the best things ever. (David knew this, too.)

6) “I was a fool. All the anger, all the rage, was just to cover my loss.” – Drax

7) Love grows.

8) “Life is giving us a chance.” – Star Lord

9) There are things in life that are too big to handle on our own.

10) Like it or not, we are in this thing called life together.

I'm also proud to say that all three of the pastors mentioned in this article are from my PCUSA denomination, a denomination not always known for its media or creativity. Ed and Robert in particular resourced and enlightened generations of pastors—including me.

Neil MacQueen
Minister on-the-loose in the PCUSA and Lead Writer at


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"A Charlie Brown Christmas" - Birth of Jesus. Available anywhere.

"Home Alone" - Jesus in the Temple (at 12). Segments: (1) on the plane when mom discovers he's missing; (2) her efforts to get home; (3) when mom and son are reunited.

"Finding Nemo" - same story as above. Could also be used with the parable of the lost coin/sheep/son - searching diligently until it's found.

"Ben Hur" - Sermon on the mount. (available at most retailers or

"The Nativity Story" - could be used with several stories: The visit with Elizabeth; the birth of John the Baptist; Jesus in the temple (the segment on their travel to Bethlehem and how they had to ration their food).

"Bruce Almighty" - several segments on prayer; Gifts of the Spirit.

"Liar Liar" - would be okay with the Ten Commandments (better with older children/teens. Some content may not be suitable for young children.)

"Planet Earth" segments could be good for Creation lessons. Can be done in short clips. Available online from

"Jonah" by Veggie Tales. It's too long for a class time, but can easily be done in segments.
(Available at most retailers and Christian bookstores.)

"It's a Wonderful Life". Could be used with thematic lessons - spiritual gifts, love, community, prayer.

"The Prince of Egypt" - could be used with Baby Moses, slavery, exodus and deliverance. Could also be used during Lent to explain Passover.

"Akeelah and the Bee" could be used with thematic lessons. Community, encouragement, spiritual gifts.


Last edited by Luanne Payne

Our Cinema leaders seem to use "Godspell" (1973) with many stories about Jesus' life and death.

Moderator adds: Here is a link to a Scene Guide created by Matt Page (UK). Note: the DVD chapter index is done by the Songs.

Last edited by Luanne Payne

WEBSITES that list and help match "SECULAR" movies to Bible stories/topics

Last edited by Luanne Payne

Disney's Frozen

Ten Biblical lessons we can learn from Frozen

  1. Some forces are more powerful than ourselves
  2. Love is patient
  3. Forgiveness heals
  4. Everyone is a bit of a fixer-upper
  5. People were not meant to live in isolation
  6. Freedom is not the absence of rules
  7. Love forsakes worldly desires
  8. The least likely people can be wise
  9. Evil never wins
  10. The ultimate act of love is a sacrificial death. In the end, Anna had a choice between saving her own life and giving her life for Elsa. Anna chose to save her sister, just as Jesus Christ died to save his beloved children, us. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13, NIV)

See the full discussion at

Tip: Google "Frozen Sunday School Bible Lessons" for numerous resources.

Link to a Wisconsin Episcopal Church's "FILM SCHOOL" Sunday School for Youth.

Description, Concept, Films they've used.

A note at the bottom of the list of films says to contact Aran the leader for "how" they used each film. Perhaps we'll see their notes online someday. (hint hint)

Wonder Woman 

This 2017 movie is FILLED with Christian imagery! Things like loving people instead of giving them the punishment they deserve and also a sacrificial death to save the lives of others. Wonder Woman would be a great discussion-starter with teens or adults.

A search of the internet show all sorts of articles that discuss the imagery and themes if you need a bit of help organizing your thoughts. Here is one from CBN: Five Theological Points in Wonder Woman We Can Agree On.

If you need help with discussion questions, you can search the internet for that, too. Here is one Bible study that looks at the movie and then talks about the Armor of God: Bible study: Wonder Woman.

Here is an article with great question suggestions for discussing secular movies. It is written for family movie night, but the questions could be used for classroom discussion, too.

In 4 faith talks for family movie night, specific questions are given for discussing any  movie. Here are highlights:

  • The BIG story (good versus evil) - who was the good guy in the movie?
  • The BIG lesson (moral) -- what is this movie telling you about life, love, relationships, friendship?
  • The BIG picture - what things in the movie are different from reality?
  • The BIG hero -- who needed to be rescued, what makes a hero heroic?


"WingClips" website

"Movie clips that illustrate and inspire"

Large searchable database of movie clips.

Sort by Title, Scripture Verse, Topic

Note: Many of the clips are also available ON YOUTUBE -- posted by a fan, so double check there too once you find a clip you like.

Copyright Info: It is perfectly legal to show a short clip of a copyrighted movie for the purposes of COMMENTARY and in face-to-face teaching situations, such as in a classroom.

Last edited by Luanne Payne

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