The film opens to a typical teen led carwash with Newsboys pumping in the background. Before the story even begins, I’m in!
I grew up a pastor’s kid at a couple of American Baptist churches in North Jersey. Specifically, my mother was a youth pastor for most of my life, eventually moving more into a lead pastor role. Immersed in church from the time I was born, I spent 12+ hours every Sunday in the church building and several more throughout the week. I was heavily involved in our youth programs, attending the ones for my age group and helping with the ones for the younger kids.
This movie was made for folks like me. Yes, that means it’s probably a bit too “inside baseball” for folks less familiar with evangelical youth programs. For me, though, so much of this resonated.
Pastor D is appropriately named. Sure the D technically stands for David, but it may as well stand for Dick. Like so many stereotypical youth pastors, he plays a very specific role – he dresses like an uncool guy trying to be cool, has a haircut that was cool about a decade ago, dons a hideous soul patch, and regularly puts forth a grossly overdone amount of enthusiasm. Judgemental and extremely insecure at his core, Pastor D wears a fake persona like a costume all day, every day. The real him sneaks through a ton, though… especially his insecurity.
The kids are archetypal roles of youth group kids, too. There’s the “cool guy” who is cool because he’s in a youth group, but likely treated like a loser at school. There’s the rebel who likes to quote the dirty and dark parts of the Bible, as well as asking youth leaders extremely uncomfortable questions. There’s a quiet kid who seems to hate the youth leader but still shows up each week. And, of course, there are kids who obviously want to hook up but feel guilty about it.
While I’m thankful that I didn’t have a Pastor D (my mom wasn’t that type of nightmare as a youth pastor, albeit she WAS my mom – which can be weird), I totally felt some of the discomfort and weirdness of this film as it could have been me and my youth group. The “who likes who” stuff was everpresent. The dynamics between the kids felt real. The kids. antics and pranks felt extremely realistic, as well (like the boys having a contest of who can dip their junk in mouthwash for the longest… which I could totally see a friends and I doing).
There are plenty of Pastor D types that I’ve heard about from my friends and witnessed with my own eyes. Extremely competitive, easily getting jealous and upset, treating people poorly under pretense of caring about them… this is a stereotype for a reason. Stereotypes usually come from a group of people who all act a certain way. This Pastor D type exists and there are many Pastor Ds.
The ins and outs and details of the story are what creates the fun in this. The addition of a second youth leader creates a great dynamic. There are misunderstandings that create hilarious confusion about sexuality. There are deep teaching moments peppered into the story – both for the kids and for us, the viewers. From start to finish, this mockumentary kept my attention. The little details are great and should reward repeat viewings… and that CCM soundtrack has my toe a’tappin’.
It’s scathing, fun, and hits a sweet spot for me, as a former youth group kid. Highly recommended for ex-vangelicals, former youth group kids, and the those in the church who still haven’t had their sense of humor beaten out of them.