A free ministry resource has been created for youth and small group leaders to utilize the "High School Musical" craze that has gripped teens in America since 2006.
With the highly-anticipated theatrical release of "High School Musical 3" only two weeks away, church pastors and leaders are being encouraged to download the free study guide and ministry clips produced by Simply Youth Ministry to engage their youth in Bible-based discussions stemming from the upcoming Disney movie.
"Kurt Johnston, the youth pastor at Saddleback Church, and our friends at Simply Youth Ministry have teamed up to create resource materials tied into the themes of the movie," says actress Kaycee Stroh, who plays Martha Cox in all three High School Musical installments, in a promotional video for the "WildCats Weekend" resource. "So you can see High School Musical 3 with your youth group opening weekend and then be ready for a meaningful discussion Sunday morning. The best part: it's all free!"
"High School Musical 3" is the third installment of the "High School Musical" franchise that began as a television film. The first "High School Musical," which released Jan. 20, 2006, became the most successful movie that Disney Channel Original Movie (DCOM) ever produced, drawing 7.7 million viewers in its U.S. premiere broadcast. Furthermore, the film's soundtrack was the best-selling album in the United States for 2006.
Not long after, "High School Musical 2" drew even larger crowds when it debuted on Aug. 27, 2007, drawing in a total of 17.3 million viewers in the United States through its premiere broadcast – making it the highest-rated Disney Channel Movie to date.
The "High School Musical" franchise has, for the most part, received approval from the Christian and conservative communities for its promotion of G-rated youth culture and the absence of the violence, drugs and sex that prevails on media screens today.
Media watchdogs such as the Media Research Center claim that the "phenomenal, record-breaking success" of High School Musical proves the fact that "[n]ot everyone wants to drown in a sea of sexual innuendo and violence."
"Hollywood likes to tell us there isn't a market for family-friendly television shows," said L. Brent Bozell III, president of Media Research Center, after the success of "High School Musical 2." "Those smut and violence peddlers don't have a clue."
The High School Musical franchise follows the lives of students at East High School in Albuquerque, N.M., who broke status quos and united members of rival cliques in the first installment and worked to overcome relationship-straining obstacles in the second.
Time magazine described the movie hit as "a raging bacchanal of hand holding, milk drinking and explicit thespianism!"
"Even the kids' rebellions – baking crème brûlée, angry dance numbers – would look good on a college application," the magazine added.
When Simply Youth Ministry was asked to produce a Bible study resource to go along with the upcoming sequel – the first to hit the big screen – Kurt Johnston, the junior high pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forrest, Calif., said he was thrilled.
"I'm super excited about High School Musical 3 – not because of the fact that I'm 42 and I can't wait to see it, but because I'm the parent of two young teenagers, I'm a junior high youth pastor and High School Musical 3 is the talk around my youth group; it's the talk around my dinner table at night. And I would imagine that your students are talking quite a bit about it as well," he states in a promotional video for the resource.
It was with the desire to springboard meaningful, biblical discussions from the movie that Johnston and Simply Youth Ministry created the Bible study for "High School Musical 3."
"I know that your kids are going to see the movie. I know that kids in my youth group are going to see the movie. In fact, we've rented out a whole theater just to take our kids to go see this movie because it's such a big deal to them," Johnston said.
"[W]e've created a free Bible study discussion guide that - whether you see as a youth group or maybe your small groups go and see it, that whatever the case may be - you can put this Bible study in the hands of your youth group leaders and they can have some really meaningful discussions about some of the themes found in the movie," he explained.
Other organizations that have produced resources based on the High School Musical franchise include youth ministry Dare 2 Share and Bethany House, which published "Wildcats in the House," a spiritual devotional for teens written by Steve Russo and his 11 year-old daughter, Gabi.
"High School Musical 3" makes its theatrical debut on Oct. 24.
On the Web:
High School Musical 3 - Complimentary Clips and Study Guide at wildcatsweekend.com