I recently finished The Hunger Games Trilogy.
If you haven’t heard of these, here’s a snippet from the Library Journal: “In a not-too-distant future, the United States of America has collapsed, weakened by drought, fire, famine, and war, to be replaced by Panem, a country divided into the Capitol and 12 districts. Each year, two young representatives from each district are selected by lottery to participate in The Hunger Games.”
And these Hunger Games are literally a fight to the death. The 24 kids are placed in an arena and forced to fight one another to the death to the entertainment of the Capitol (the oppresive, centralized regime) and the other districts. The winner is then celebrated for life as the victor of the Hunger Games.
You might be thinking: How in the world is this relevant to Junior High ministry? Well, I’m going to run my own version of the Hunger Games and let the worst kids fight to the death…
In all seriousness, here’s where I think the Hunger Games is fascinating to Junior High students:
1. The Quest for Something More
We all love a hero. We all love the adventure, the fight for something greater. And although (at least initially – I don’t want to give too much away) it seems shallow what they are fighting for, the quest becomes much greater.
Despite the goofiness this age group sometimes portrays, they desire to give their lives to something more. This book appeals to that innate drive inside of them they are just learning about.
2. Not All Of Life Works Out
It’s my belief that junior high students are tired of the “You can be anything you want to be” and “life is going to be great if…” type of sentiments we unload on them.
I was recently speaking with Steve Wicker, one of our campus pastors at Eagle Brook. Every year, he calls some local college professors to just inquire into what college age students are like these days. This year, the professors resoundingly mentioned that each student came to college already having navigated through a major crisis.
Kids are learning younger and younger that life sucks sometimes and it isn’t all a bed of roses. The Hunger Games is not for the faint of heart. In fact, things don’t work out very often for the protagonists. Students get that. They get that life doesn’t always work out that well.
3. Complexity of Story
The final reason I think they appreciate the Hunger Games is because the story is interwoven with confusing and complex feelings of love, betrayal, death, and emotion. It forces a person to consider who is “good” and who is “bad.” There are no black and white answers.
And junior high students are figuring out at this age that life is not black and white. There is much more complexity and abstractness than they originally believed. The Hunger Games is complete with complexity and abstract feelings of deep and profound emotion.
In conclusion, if you’re a youth pastor (or not), I’d recommend reading these books. They are entertaining, but they also provide some layers of deeper thinking about how this applies to our world today!