Movie Clip Discussions

Pay it Forward (evangelism, impacting others)

Dynamic ImageIf you haven't already seen the Mimi Leder film “Pay It Forward” with Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt, James Caviezel, and Haley Joel Osment, I recommend checking it out. This isn't an action flick, it's not a comedy, it's a compelling drama that follows the efforts of a young boy who has a desire to make a difference in the world.

Let me warn you- this film paints a pretty accurate picture of the world today: an alcoholic mom (Helen Hunt) with a shattered past working two jobs to try to get by, a teacher (Kevin Spacey) bearing the scars of an abusive past, a homeless lady, a convict, and a boy caught in the middle. Although there is no sex or nudity in this film, it is PG-13 and full of content that you would want to review first. Please refer to for a full content review.

The movie “Pay it Forward” brings up many issues that hit home for kids today, and provokes many positive discussions about how we can respond to what life throws at us.

I've described the scene and provided discussion questions. I haven't included start and stop times for the particular scenes for two reasons: 1) If I do, many youth workers will not preview the film and they'll just go rent it 5 minutes before youth group and show it. I recommend previewing any film before showing and considering the ramifications. 2) I also didn't provide the start and stop times because . . . I'm lazy!

Topic: Impacting Others/Evangelism

Although the film never talks about evangelism, the film provides a great springboard to discuss it. A social studies assignment leads to social change in cities from Las Vegas to Los Angeles when an 11 year old boy, Trevor (Haley Joel Osment) puts his heart into an extra credit assignment. The assignment is to think of something that can change the world . . . and put it into action. Trevor comes up with a plan that looks much like Robert Coleman's Master Plan of Evangelism. He launches the idea he calls “Pay It Forward,” his goal being helping three people, who each help three people, who each help three more, and so on. He decides that he would help three people in a way that they couldn't help themselves: he tries to help a homeless person clean up and get a job, he tries to hook up his mom with a positive man in her life, and he tries to keep his friend from getting beat up at school. He is discouraged as some of his efforts fail, but they prove to be far from futile when they start multiplying from person to person by the end of the film.

You can relate the film to this verse: I Corinthians 15:58- “So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and steady, always enthusiastic about the Lord's work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” Sometimes in life we don't see the results of our good deeds. God assures us that nothing we do for him is in vain.

Furthermore, this film illustrates how even a young kid who puts his heart into doing right can do amazing things. Many of us often feel like our efforts are futile. But we can't give up. God rewards our perseverance. In the film Trevor says, “I guess it's hard for people who are so used to things the way they are — even if they're bad — to change. 'Cause they kind of give up. And when they do, everybody kind of loses.”

Discussion Questions:

    1. What did Trevor do that was so amazing that it started a statewide movement? (He simply helped people in a way they couldn't help themselves.)

    2. What is a way that we could help someone around us?

    3. Numerous lives were impacted because one boy made an effort to help three people. How could the efforts of helping one person multiply to others?

    4. Write the name of three friends that you can impact with the love of Christ.

    5. Now write what you can do to show them that love.


Jonathan McKee

Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Guy's Guide to FOUR BATTLES Every Young Man Must Face; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; If I Had a Parenting Do Over; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers on Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.


  1. Clinton Crest
    July 13, 2013 at 12:00 am

    I thank you for providing this resource. I have found it refreshing to be able to take worldly movies and make them relavent to ministry.

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