At the Movies Sermon Series Ideas for Preachers

Life exists in seasons – so why shouldn’t your sermons? Summer Sermon series meet the community, the church, and the preacher in reality – Summer brings a distinct flavor and pace in contrast with the rest of the year. 

This is especially true if you have (or want) young families in your church.

School being out means later nights, vacations, volunteers in-and-out of town, Youth Camps, Kids Camps, Vacation Bible Schools, and space for trying new things. These dynamics are just a few reasons a church might pick a special sermon series that runs through the summer. 

You may have heard about the immensely popular Lifechurch At the Movies series they run each July. Lifechurch has found their At the Movies church series to be an extremely successful way to keep their congregation engaged during a time most churches experience an attendance dip.

We will discuss the additional benefits of running an At the Movies sermon series here. 

God On Film Mockup

God On Film Free Sermon Series Guide

Insights and examples for preaching an “At The Movies” sermon series. See how you could structure your own series to connect with your people!

Eight Reasons To Do An At The Movies Sermon Series

There are eight reasons why an At The Movies sermon series is a good idea for churches to consider. Below this list you’ll find explanations for each reason.

  1. Connecting The Preacher to Culture
  2. Connecting the Congregation To Culture
  3. Creating An Easy Invite 
  4. Training in Gospel & Cultural Analysis
  5. Introduction of Variety and Fun
  6. Modeling for Parents How to Engage Their Children
  7. Utilization of Best Practices
  8. Giving Elementary Volunteers a Break

Connecting The Preacher To Culture

First, an At the Movies sermon series forces the preacher to stay connected to and aware of culture. It is easy as a Bible teacher and shepherd to get swallowed up in a sub-Christian bubble because it can make it difficult to lead your people to flourish in their secular workplaces and neighborhoods. Visitors to your church might walk away thinking, “he doesn’t understand me, my life, or my concerns.”

Running an At the Movies church series can help the preacher remain up-to-date with the culture. Nobody plans on becoming irrelevant and out of touch! Yet many of us will because we haven’t done the work to stay tuned into popular culture. 

Does being relevant matter? 

Jesus incarnated into a cultural moment. It is why cross-cultural missionaries work to learn the language of the indigenous cultures to which they are sent. Pastors must similarly require themselves to keep relearning the ever-changing English language, especially as it evolves from generation to generation.

Like the Apostle Paul, we’d like to be able to quote from and meaningfully interact with the popular culture shaping the hearts and minds of our church members as a means to affirm and confront the dominant culture (Acts 17:28).

Connecting the Congregation To Culture

Second, a church At the Movies sermon series allows the preacher to cast a vision for the church in the essential task of staying connected to culture while simultaneously not being overly influenced by it. 

As preachers go, so goes the congregation. 

Many Christians have ostrich instincts – bury their heads and ignore the issues in the world around them. We want our people to be aware of the world around them as they are sent as missionaries! The goal isn’t to lose faith but to spread it and share it in a way that meaningfully answers the questions the culture asks by addressing them at the level of deepest longing and desire. 

If our congregants cannot empathize with the fears and hopes of their non-christian neighbors, then their evangelistic efforts will come across as smug, dismissive, and impersonal.

If our congregants cannot empathize with the fears and hopes of their non-christian neighbors, then their evangelistic efforts will come across as smug, dismissive, and impersonal.

As congregants grow in awareness of cultural values, cultural priorities, and the cultural forces that disseminate both the values and priorities, they will become aware of how influenced they are by the world around them. 

We love to believe that we are “free thinkers” who arrive at our priorities and dreams on our own, but the reality is that our desires are learned and are contagious. 

“Do you see how affected we are by the world around us?” ought to be a recurring question in this sermon series. 

This is not meant to shame Christians but to help them grow in awareness of their affectedness. 

Creating An Easy Invite 

Third, it creates an easy-invite dynamic for congregants. Most Christians want to invite their friends to church but have a difficult time taking that first step and bridging the awkwardness of extending an invite. 

When churches do something out of the ordinary, it creates an opportunity for someone in your church to extend a low-pressure invitation like this: “Hey, our church is doing something different, and I thought you and your kids might be interested.” 

Clearly, we’d prefer everyone to be totally unashamed of the gospel at every turn, but our members are all at different stages and phases of their development.

Training in Gospel & Cultural Analysis

Fourth, it teaches congregants how to process and think through culture and cultural issues. Modeling how to affirm and confront culture is a huge part of discipleship. 

We are not to be “conformed to the patterns of this world” (Romans 12:1), but how do we actually de-conform ourselves? 

It is a process driven by the Spirit that requires some cultural analysis. 

  • Where is our culture congruent with the Kingdom of God? 
  • Where is our culture incongruent with the Kingdom of God? 

An At the Movies sermon series gives you the chance to train your church in cultural analysis without just doing a lecture on it. 

Introduction of Variety and Fun

Fifth, it introduces variety and levity. It’s hard to believe that anyone would want to be a joyless, frowny Christian. Rhythms and habits are good, but every now and then shaking things up is necessary so that churches break from the temptation to have faith in their forms and strategies to form people rather than in Christ and His present and personal Spirit to form people. 

“Sacred cows” are always at risk of developing! 

An At the Movies series gives the preacher and their family a chance to watch some movies! 

Often preachers feel guilty about resting and enjoying themselves by doing things like watching movies. Preparing for this sermon series will require that you watch a whole bunch of movies with some of your best friends and loved ones, and it will be “work”! 

Family watching a movie at home together.
Prepping for an At the Movies series can mean “working” is a Family Movie Night.

While this might be an issue if you did it year-round, mixing up your workweek to include watching a mixture of lighthearted comedies, heart-wrenching dramas, and purely entertaining action flicks could work wonders for your Summer calendar’s malaise.

Modeling for Parents How to Engage Their Children

Sixth, At The Movies sermon series helps model for parents how to interact with their children and adolescents who are regularly bombarded by cultural messaging in various forms. Demonstrating how parents can non-anxiously interact with the over-and-over messaging in media will give them hope that they can do the same. 

Even though most of the media teens consume is something besides movies, you still have the chance to show what critical thinking looks like at a macro level. 

Demonstrating how you can personally interact with sub-Christian or even explicitly anti-Christian content without feeling personally threatened because of your security in Christ will open up parents’ ability to imagine themselves as similarly leading with a non-anxious presence rather than being tossed to and fro by the winds and waves of media. 

Utilization of Best Practices

Seventh, it has proven effective at many churches. There is no honor in reinventing the wheel as we seek to engage the lost and disciple God’s people. Churches like LifeChurch.TV have done this for years and have experienced a lot of fruit in a variety of ways. Recontextualizing best practices for your congregation is a vital tool for success.

Most preachers and leaders will only pioneer one or two – if any – original best practices in their entire lifetime; however, all preachers and leaders must develop the skill of finding and adopting best practices that others have discovered.

If you’re looking for examples of how LifeChurch.TV shaped this sermon series, there is a lot of wisdom to gain simply by observing their models and iterations over the years. Check out and their Tips and Tricks guide for folks like you who are exploring how to adopt some of what they’ve pioneered:

Following someone else’s example is a chance to model humility to your leaders and your church members. The fact that someone had a great idea first and you’d like to try it also gives permission to those in your congregation who are slow to adopt best practices from others in the name of charting their own course.

Preachers and leaders do not need to be entrepreneurial or innovative to be faithful and effective in their calling! 

Giving Elementary Volunteers a Break

And last, Summer can be a difficult time for your kids’ ministry leaders and volunteers. Purposefully creating a handful of worship services that strategically engage kids who’d typically be in Kids Ministry can create a “Family Church” dynamic intermittently without committing to it as a comprehensive ministry model. 

Family church worship service.
Family worship services create meaningful memories for families while giving your Children’s Ministry volunteers a well deserved break.

Similarly, especially if you only do one service each week, this could create an opportunity for the 52-week-per-year ministry to children to take a break, fully participate in service, not stress about recruitment, not create or learn curriculum, and sit with their families during the service. 

This break for elementary ministry would require purposefully selecting movies, showing clips of them as you are able, and reconsidering your general liturgy; it might be worth it if your volunteers are energized and refreshed heading into the Fall. 

Three Key Concepts to Leverage When Analyzing Movies and Films

Meaningful cultural analysis requires three movements or phases: understand, affirm, and confront. If you’d like to really sharpen your theologizing about culture, read Al Wolters’s excellent book, Creation Regained

These three movements would be a terrific structure throughout your At The Movies sermon series. Here are some key questions to ask when watching the movies:

  • Understand: What is the movie about, and what is the effect it’s working to have on its viewers? 
  • Affirm: How does this movie faithfully reveal aspects of God’s character or true things about God’s world? Where does God agree with what the movie affirms or celebrates?
  • Confront: Where does the movie fall short of God’s story or word? How is Jesus better than the best character in the film? Where does God disagree with what the movie affirms or celebrates? 

Let’s take a deeper look at these three categories.

1. Understand

Before cannonballing into the deep end with overly confident assessments, we ought to do the work required to understand the desires and worldviews we are engaging with. 

In preaching, this could look like saying things similar to, “At first, it seemed like what JK Rowling was trying to convey as evil ought to be dismissed as merely a person working through their trauma, but I was wrong.” 

Not letting first instincts shape long-term perspectives is key to maintaining a meaningful engagement with culture, cultural figures, and those immersed in the very worldviews you are attempting to draw attention to. 

Until I can state someone’s point of view favorably and plausibly and do so in such a way that they agree with how I’m stating their position, I don’t yet have the right to critique their perspective.

Until I can state someone’s point of view favorably and plausibly and do so in such a way that they agree with how I’m stating their position, I don’t yet have the right to critique their perspective.

The inability to engage with the goal of understanding is part of what is destroying the fabric of society – we want to “own” or “destroy” the opposition without doing the more difficult, dissonance-inducing work of truly understanding. 

The Philippians 2 command to “consider others more significant than yourselves” applies here – can we do this with the authors, artists, and actors putting their work into the world?

2. Affirm

When God, through Moses, is addressing His people who have just been freed from slavery in Exodus, the first thing He does is affirm them (they are called “very good” in Genesis 1:31, which was written shortly after the Exodus).

Likewise, when Jesus enters our fleshy world, His first move is to incarnate – to become just like the people He was seeking to save and serve without becoming sinful like them. He wore their clothes, spoke their language, and participated in cultural realities that weren’t sinful. 

It is basic to human connection – we move towards people we are similar to and that we like; beginning with criticism is now a meaningful strategy to make a friend! 

All human cultures are built by persons made in God’s image; thus there will be something to affirm in what they are making. Even with something as obviously bad as the tower of Babel in Genesis 11, someone could say, “Wow! You are imagining your creator well in creating such a substantial and impressive structure. The instinct to build is good and comes from the command to have dominion over culture.”

If you can’t yet see the elements of good in the movie you are seeking to interact with, you aren’t ready to publicly talk about what you’re analyzing.

3. Confront

Right after God, through Moses, tells humanity they are very good (Genesis 1:31), He tells them about how they are rebellious, cursed, and going to return to dust (Genesis 3). (For the record, He also assures them of grace (Genesis 3:15b, 3:21) in the midst of His judgment.)

Humans are, without exception, sinful, and even their best creations will be flawed to some degree and possibly even complicit in creating or facilitating evil. No matter how good a movie is, there will be something wrong with it because it wasn’t made directly by God and was instead made by a sinful human. 

The good news of Jesus both affirms and confronts all cultures and cultural artifacts (like movies) without exception. 

If you can’t yet see the elements of evil in the movie you are interacting with, you aren’t ready to publicly talk about what you are analyzing.

Three Dangers to Be Aware of When Preaching With Pop Culture & Movie Themes

In addition to these three warnings, it’d be wise to run your plans by some wise men and women – this type of sermon series could easily create a bunch of unnecessary and avoidable meetings for you if you don’t solicit the right amount of feedback before you begin the series.

Preaching Through Podcast has an episode on Preaching Through A Non-Fiction Book which is not dissimilar to preaching through a movie. There are good insights to gain from the conversation that can help you with both dangers and benefits of an At The Movies sermon series.

1. Engagement vs. Endorsement

Be clear that you’re engaging with these movies, not necessarily endorsing them. Otherwise, you’ll have to answer for every bathing suit or curse word that appears in the script. 

It is, of course, unless there are movies you think folks ought to watch. Then think through your disclaimer based on your local points of anxiety.

2. Parents Not Being Prepared

It’d be worth emailing the parents in the church ahead of the sermon series to prepare them to engage about these issues at home. 

Perhaps do a small gathering for parents only a handful of weeks before the sermon series and do a training with Q&A about how to engage with your kids at various ages and stages of development about movies. 

Good parents will be upset if you open dialogue on various issues before they’ve had the chance to do so. It might mean some parents will opt out of the sermon series or parts of it, and that’s okay. Remind them that the church isn’t here to replace or supersede their parental authority, just to supplement and support it. 

3. Preaching Biblical/Christian Ideas without Preaching the Bible

It could go without saying, but you’ve got to actually pick a Bible text or a handful of texts and preach it/them.

The power is in the Word of God not in your cultural analysis. 

Prayerful selection and exposition of Scripture will be the centerpiece of your sermon.

For example, when you are talking about how Jesus is the True and Greater Ron Weasley in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, you could say, “Ron was willing to risk his life so that Harry could live – yet, in Christ, we don’t have someone simply risking their life for a friend but giving their life for a friend, and as John 15:13 says, ‘Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.’ That verb “lay down” is active, not passive, communicating that Jesus sought to give His life and wasn’t merely moved by emotions at the moment to do the right thing, but had soberly considered the cost and chose to pay it.”

Not Sure Where to Start? Movies to Consider Over the Years

At the Movies Sermon Series 2023

  • Super Mario Bros
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
  • Jesus Revolution

At the Movies Sermon Series 2022

  • The Adam Project
  • Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
  • Top Gun: Maverick
  • Hustle
  • Father Stu
  • The Lost City
  • The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

At the Movies Sermon Series 2021

  • Black Widow
  • Raya and the Last Dragon
  • Cruella
  • Encanto 

At the Movies Sermon Series 2020

  • Wonder Woman 1984 
  • Mulan
  • Onward
  • Scoob!

At the Movies Sermon Series 2019

  • Shazam!
  • Spiderman: Far From Home
  • The Voyage of Doctor Doolittle 
  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters
  • The Lion King
  • Toy Story 4

Other Past Movies that Make Great Sermon Series

  • Avengers: Infinity War
  • Hotel Transylvania 3 
  • The Incredibles 2 
  • Ready Player One
  • Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
  • Ralph Breaks the Internet 
  • The Greatest Showman
  • Interstellar
  • Despicable Me 3 
  • Cars 3
  • Wonder Woman 
  • Fast 8 
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 

Christmas At the Movies Sermon Series

So far we’ve discussed a Summer At the Movies sort of sermon series. But what about an Advent sermon series rooted in movies? Advent already tends to be thematic – Love, Joy, Peace, and Hope. What if we selected films that exemplify those themes? 

Christmas At The Movies Sermon Series by Ministry Pass.
Explore the Christmas At the Movies Sermon Series from Ministry Pass.

The list of Christmas (or Holiday season) movies that center on “love” are nearly infinite (think Love Actually and the rest of that genre). You could compare and contrast the depictions of love we see in the various films over the course of one week or over the course of a four-part series where other movies are picked that exemplify other traditional advent themes. 

For Joy, you could choose Elf and affirm and confront Will Ferrel’s depiction of radiant joy and happiness.

For Peace, you could pick Christmas with the Kranks and highlight the tension of holiday parties, children, and neighbors. 

For Hope, you could talk about National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (careful here with endorse vs. engage!) and give the example of how Clark Griswald is planning on a bonus check and builds a huge pool that he then can’t pay for (what an example of false hope!).

A similar type of thematic engagement with Christmas or the Advent/Holiday season, in general, could happen by engaging with non-Christian Christmas songs.

Building Out Your At The Movies Series

You have choices about how you want to do this: either theme-driven or movie-driven. 

Do you want to make the series “big idea” a series of themes (Creation, Suffering, Meaning, Friendship, etc.) or a series of movies (Harry Potter, Fast X, Barbie, and Air)? 

If you pick the movie first, you should be clear on the top 2-3 themes you want to engage with in the movie. For example, in Harry Potter, you could talk about taking the Lord’s name in vain vs. magic, domestic oppression/liberation, and the value of seeking out wise counsel in older generations.

If you pick the theme first, select 2-3 movies that support the topics you’re working to highlight and demonstrate. For example, if the theme is suffering, you could highlight how Batman finds meaning in the loss of his parents, how Ironman laments the loss of his life, and how in The Way Back, Coach Al’s inability to process his suffering leads to isolation and addiction. 

You could even keep it simple and just do one movie with one theme, depending on how deep you want to get in your analysis, and how long you’re congregation can handle your preaching. For example, you could focus on money (wealth & poverty) using any of the Hunger Games movies

At the Movies Sermon Series from Ministry Pass

Need some more ideas? Check out our library of helpful resources that will help you get started. The LORD be with you!

The Movies 2017

The Movies 2018

The Movies 2020

At The Movies

Summer At the Movies 2021

Let’s Go to the Movies 2016

God on Film

God on Film 2014

God on Film 2016

God on Film 2019

God on Film 2020

God on Film 2020: Part 2

God on Film: The Classic Edition

Christmas At the Movies

Blockbuster and the Bible

Blockbusters: Living God’s Story


Children’s Sermon Series

The Movies

At the Movies

At the Movies 2

Final Thoughts On At The Movies Sermon Series

It could be said that the main motivation behind an At The Movies sermon series is to connect with culture. As great as that is, connecting with the culture simply to be relevant misses the point. 

The main motivation behind this article is to help you identify the good in the culture and connect it to Christ while calling out the evils in culture and point people to a counter-cultural way of living, modeling the way of Christ.

Just as is the case with all sermon series you preach, the more studied, planned, prepared, and rehearsed you are in your content, the greater the potential for preaching sermons that are meaningful, sticky, truthful, and compelling. 

Using the principles from this article and the suggested movies provide you with a great foundation to build off of and shape a series that is true to God’s Word and ready to connect with the context He has called you to reach.

God On Film Mockup

God On Film Free Sermon Series Guide

Insights and examples for preaching an “At The Movies” sermon series. See how you could structure your own series to connect with your people!

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