Content Creation 102
This is an overdue continuation post on the content creation process we at Student Life go through with regards to thematic development (with special attention to how we arrived at the theme for Summer 2010, which is Re). If you missed the first post, you can scroll down a little bit or just click here. After we went through the process of initially brainstorming theme ideas and then narrowing them down based on the criteria I mentioned, we were left with three theme ideas. "¡UNITE!," "Light the Darkness," and "The Good Life."
"¡UNITE!" is a theme I've been kicking around for a few years. I keep making it a part of my proposals, yet we never end up doing it, which is okay. That's part of the process. The general idea behind it is that so much of our focus in youth ministry is on a teenager's "personal relationship with Christ," and that's all fine and good and everything. However, there's this other huge aspect of Christianity that's corporate or communal. So, that's what this theme would talk about, the people of God, the (big "C") Church. In previous iterations this theme as also been called "Synergy" and "We the People." The theme verse I had selected for it this time was actually a passage of Scripture, Ephesians 4:3-6.
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
"Light the Darkness" is an idea Roger (one of our V.P.'s and Director of Events) brought to the table. It initially occurred to him at the end of the film I Am Legend, which he was watching on a plane ride back from a trip to Haiti with Compassion, if I remember correctly. Towards the end of the film Will Smith's character is talking to a woman about why he has hope and Bob Marley. This is what he says:
He [Marley] had this idea. It was kind of a virologist idea. He believed that you could cure racism and hate... literally cure it, by injecting music and love into people's lives. When he was scheduled to perform at a peace rally, a gunman came to his house and shot him down. Two days later he walked out on that stage and sang. When they asked him why - He said, "The people, who were trying to make this world worse... are not taking a day off. How can I? Light up the darkness."
So, we dropped the "up" and were left with "Light the Darkness." Some might be surprised that we were considering a theme that came directly from a zombie/vampire film like I Am Legend and indirectly came from Bob Marley. But ideas come from all sorts of places, and the metaphor of light driving out the darkness is about as Christian and Biblical as you can get. For a theme verse, we had all kinds of options, including Matthew 5:16, Ephesians 5:8, 1 Thessalonians 5:5 and John 8:12. Out of all the options my early favorite was the one from Ephesians.
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.
"The Good Life" was a last minute addition to the process. In fact, it hadn't come from any kind of meeting, email or conversation. I was just working through a number of different projects at the time and was reading in the book of Micah. When I read chapter six again and came to verse eight, I just though, "this would make a great summer event theme." So, I had Micah 6:8 as a theme verse...
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
... but I had no theme, you know, the word or phrase that goes on the t-shirt. I spent just a day or two trying to come up with something and landed on "The Good Life" just for the sake of having something. Micah 6:8 had to do with righteous living and it was called "good." So, "The Good Life" seemed appropriate.
Honestly, I didn't think much thought would be given to it. You see, once we have some ideas, I generally write them up in some kind of proposal that seeks to cast some vision for how the theme would work at an event and what the overall message would be. Sometimes that's in outline form. Sometimes it's just bullet-pointed ideas. This year, it was basically theme ideas with theme verses, some tentative marketing copy, and then a paragraph or two explaining the general gist of the idea. Here's an example for "Light the Darkness."
Theme: LIGHT THE DARKNESS
Verse: “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.” – Ephesians 5:8
“You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.” – 1Thessalonians 5:5
“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” – John 8:12
Copy: The World can be a very dark place. In the midst of this shadowland, we as Christ-followers are called to live as light, as beacons of hope and love. We’re to live lives that confront the problems of evil in our world and that serve as guideposts pointing everyone around us to God. When truly living as we were intended we cannot hide the illumination within us but must shine for all to see. We can and we will LIGHT THE DARKNESS.
The Gist: This theme is very missional in nature, perhaps in its purest sense. It’s not cause-driven nor is it chiefly concerned with evangelism, or social justice or correct behavior. This speaks directly to the purpose of our lives and existence and the difference that we truly can make and should make in the World. It fits very naturally with who we are as an organization and what we’ve been saying. We’ll have to walk a fine line to not making it about our individual or particular causes, but step back and cast for students the bigger vision of God’s work in the world and how he calls us to be an essential part of it.
Once I've got all that, I pitch it to a group of various people that lead the events. Well, going into it, there had been a lot of conversations already, and most had centered around "Light the Darkness," so much so that I pretty much figured the pitch meeting this year was just a formality and that our theme was already pretty much decided. We were on a tight time-line, and making the theme decision quickly would have been great, and so many people seemed to really like the idea. So, I figured I'd throw out "¡UNITE!" and "The Good Life" to show I was doing my job, but that we'd walk out of the meeting pretty quickly with us all rallied around "Light the Darkness."
However, this was not to be the case.