Twelve episodes filmed in Vancouver, London, Paris and Jerusalem, the Youth Film Series explores timeless questions about faith, life and God for a new generation. We spoke to Alpha Canada’s Jason Ballard and Ben Woodman to find out how the Youth Film Series can equip and inspire leaders around the world.
Why did you decide to put Alpha on film for youth groups?
Jason: We wanted to create a tool that anyone could use to help spark a conversation about faith, even if they’re not an experienced public speaker. Also, video allowed us more space to be creative – to travel the world, to use interviews, animations and a variety of locations.
How can young people benefit from the film series?
Ben: For Christian young people, the Youth Film Series helps them open an ongoing discussion about faith with their friends.
For young people who wouldn't call themselves Christians, it helps create a safe place where they will feel respected and comfortable enough to speak their minds and have conversations that they might not have anywhere else.
Jason: Also, a film gives the viewer space to disagree openly in a way that is more difficult when the speaker is in the same room. A film creates an environment where you can feel confident thinking and speaking for yourself.
What were your highlights from filming the series?
Jason: For me, there were two highlights. I love what Alpha represents and its vision to help the local church, so it was an honour to be part of that. The other great part was being able to film the ‘Who is Jesus?’ talk in Israel. To go to Israel and stand in the places he stood was incredible. As I wrote the talk, my own faith became stronger. It hit me – more than ever before – that this guy really rose from the dead. It’s an honour to receive that truth and to share it.
Why are you so passionate about young people?
Jason: Most of Jesus’ disciples were teenagers. Ben was my youth pastor in high school, and he encouraged me to run a discussion group in my school with a video series similar to Alpha. When it came to the final week, I wanted to have a live talk and give my friends a chance to respond. I asked Ben to do the last talk, but he convinced me to do it. I probably wouldn’t be doing this today if people hadn’t encouraged me like that when I was younger.
What are the next big challenges for youth workers?
Jason: Nowadays, young people are self-learners, they don’t want to be told everything, and they don’t believe in experts, they want to discover things for themselves. I think Alpha is shaped really well to respond to this.
We know that Alpha is not a magic tool that solves every problem and makes it all easy, but we believe it's a great tool to carry some of the weight. Youth workers are our heroes, so it's a real privilege for us to serve and help them. We know there is a real need for resources and if the Youth Film Series can help, we are honoured to be able to offer it.
What new features of running the film series will help young leaders?
Ben: One of main features is that we’ve embedded the questions for discussion in the talk. We’ve done this to help make it even easier to facilitate the conversation. Every Episode includes three breaks for discussion: we pose a question, interview people on the street (from all over the world), and then the question reappears for you to pause it and talk it over in your group.
In what way is the message of Jesus still relevant today?
Jason: The message of Jesus is always good news. Everybody needs hope, and it’s a message of hope. People in every generation are faced with questions of their own selfishness and pride and the cost of that. Questions of eternity have always affected us as humans. When we die, what are we going to face? Jesus invites us to have confidence that we can die and know we will spend eternity with God in Heaven. I don’t think we live in a culture that spends much time thinking about eternity. Our culture is more concerned with today, but the promise of eternity still matters because it is a promise for today too – that we can have a relationship with God today.
What would you say to anyone who is thinking about trying Alpha?
Ben: I think I’d say, ‘You have approximately 570,000 hours left to live, why not spend less than 24 of them with us on Alpha, exploring life’s biggest questions?’