What’s the Big Idea?
How many stories did you and your kids take in this last week? This month? This year so far? If you count every TV show, every movie, every book, every article, every video game, it adds up.
Now think about this: Every story comes with a point, a perspective on life, a way in which it attempts to reflect the teller’s idea of what is true or meaningful or even just interesting. In short, almost every story comes packed with at least one big idea about something.
The question that motivates this month’s activity is, how are we and our kids processing those big ideas. Do we even notice them? Do we dismiss them? Do they penetrate into our subconscious minds and inform our own worldview even when we never give them a second conscious thought? Does that matter?
On our sister site for students, PlanetWisdom.com, we have long championed that students who consume media should develop the wisdom of skill of being able to identify what that media is teaching and how that fits (or doesn’t) with a biblical worldview.
NOTE: The point of that skill isn’t to then mindlessly condemn and dismiss every story that presents an unbiblical worldview. The point is to be able to have a conversation from a biblical perspective with the art and media that informs us and moves us and influences us.
Take in some stories with your kids over the next few weeks: Movies. Video games. TV shows. Books. Whatever they normally consume. Maybe even a show or something they know you don’t necessarily like.
Then designate some time, either immediately following the viewing or at a family meal later in the week, to talk through a few questions about what you watched together.
• What did you think of that story artistically? Was it well-made? Did it ring true? Did you enjoy the experience?
• Now even more important: What was the big idea of that story—or the top two or three big ideas it was talking about? What was the central message or observation the storytellers were making about life? What did they assume to be true about people, life, or death in the telling of their story?
• How do those big ideas fit with what we believe the Bible teaches to be true about life?
That’s it. Just those three questions—or your own version of those questions. The first time you do this, it might be really hard for your child to come up with any answers, at all. Many of us are just not used to thinking about our entertainment this way.
After talking over the first batch of TV shows or movies or other kinds of stories, warn your child that you’re going to have this same conversation about a few stories they take in during the next week. Again, watch with them if at all possible.
The more you practice asking and answering the question—“What’s the big idea of that story?”—when talking about media stories, the more adept your kids will become at evaluating their media not just for whether they like it or not or whether it had “bad stuff” in it, but also for what it is saying about truth.