Removing Walls as Leaders: A Free Movie Lesson from Remember the Titans

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Credit: Mike Watson Images / Thinkstock

On the road to unity, we have to take down the walls we have built to separate ourselves from others. Even when we do it one brick at a time, we see that little by little our perspectives and lives change for the better.

INTRODUCTION

We are currently in week 2 of our four-week series on the movie Remember the Titans. This movie takes place in 1971 in Alexandria, Virginia. Up until this point, the high schools had been completely segregated – white students in one high school, and African-American students in another school. However, the law changes and a new school, T. C. Williams High School is opened, bringing the two races together in one school for the very first time. The townspeople are divided among racial lines. Coach Boone – an African-American has been appointed the head coach over the current Hall of Fame coach – Coach Yoast. The players have not gotten along, with much fighting between the black players and white players. Coach Boone has tried to get them to know each other and come together as a team through forcing them to sit together on the bus, spend time each day with a player of another race, and more – but nothing has worked.

We join the movie today with the Titans in the middle of a two-week football camp. The players are still divided by race. The two leaders of the team Gary Bertier – a white player, and Julius Campbell – a black player have had a heated conversation. Things look like they might explode and that the players may not be able to come together as a team.

WATCH THE MOVIE: Start at 30:48. End at 56:34

SMALL GROUP DISCUSSION GUIDE

Divide into small groups of 4-8 people. Make sure there is at least one adult in each group.

OPENING DISCUSSION

  1. What stood out to you from the movie today? (A favorite scene, a moment that you connected with, a quote that hit home with you.)
  1. What themes or important issues were presented in the story?

WALL BUILDING ACTIVITY

Each group needs a piece of poster board, several markers, and paper (at least 3-5 pieces per person).
Give each person a few pieces of construction paper and a marker.
SAY: Many people in the town and on the team do not like – perhaps even hate – each other. When we start hating people, it is similar to building a wall between us and the other person or group of people.

ASK: What things cause walls to form between people or groups of people? What type of emotions and actions (i.e. anger, jealousy, fear, resentment, the silent treatment, gossip, etc.) cause walls to form between people and hurt relationships with others?

Have youth write these things that create walls on their pieces of paper (one per piece).
Attach the “blocks” of paper onto a poster board using tape or glue sticks to create a wall.

SMALL GROUP DISCUSSION

  1. What “blocks” were creating walls between the players?

Fear, not knowing each other, learned behavior from parents, not wanting things to change.

  1. What helped the players to change and form relationships with the other players?

They got to know each other. Camp. They realized at camp that there is a better way to live. They saw that race was not something to keep them separated. They put the team first.

  1. How realistic is it that the players were able to come together through their experience at football camp?
  2. While at camp, the team was unified and friendships crossed racial lines for many of the players. When they return they are surprised to see how the town and school have not come together like the team has. How do you think the players felt when they returned home?

Confused as to why so much hate exists. Frustrated racism so bad. Worried.

BUILD THE WALL

Call the small groups to wrap up conversation so that we can share together as a class. Invite each group to share their wall (poster board) with the other groups. Have one person from each group bring their wall and attach it to a wall at the front of the room.

At the beginning of the movie, the players of different races wanted nothing to do with each other. The only interaction they had was forced and usually resulted in insulting each other or violence towards one another. Through their experience at football camp, the players were able to break down many of the blocks that separated them. One thing that helped them to be successful was strong leadership – from the coaches and from the players Gary Bertier and Julius Campbell.

Let’s now shift our focus in our groups to discussing Leadership – particularly Servant Leadership.

Invite small groups to regroup to do the Small Group Discussion and Searching the Scriptures sections.

SERVANT LEADERSHIP

SMALL GROUP DISCUSSION

    1. Who was the best coach or leader you ever had? What made him/her a great coach or leader?
    2. When was a time you experienced bad leadership or coaching?
    3. How does Coach Yoast’s leadership style compare with Coach Boone’s?

Coach Boone has a harder, more abrasive style. He yells to make his point. His rules are strict. Punishment is used as a deterrent. Coach Yoast is more nurturing. He focuses on relationships. He wants to make others happy including the players. Both want to win. Both have the respect of the players.

    1. Coach Boone benched Petey for fumbling. Coach Yoast then invites Petey to play defense for him. How did each coach show good leadership in this situation? Did either display lack of good leadership in this scene?

GOOD. Yoast shows good leadership in that he gives Petey a new opportunity. Also, he recognized something in Petey the other coaches did not – his desire to be successful and to do anything to help the team win. He helped Petey do something even Petey did not think he could do.

Boone made a tough call in benching his starter. Leaders have to make tough decisions.

BAD. Yoast went around Coach Boone asking Petey to play defense without consulting Boone – his superior.
Boone let his fear of failing lash out and treat Petey harshly.

Finish the Sentence:

A good leader always…

An example of good leadership from the movie is…

I am a leader when…

SEARCHING THE SCRIPTURES

Invite a youth to read Matthew 20:25–28

    1. What leadership model does Jesus surprise the disciples with?

A leader is a servant. Leadership is not about power or authority.

    1. In what ways does Jesus back up this model with his own actions?

Jesus gave up his power to submit to God’s will and punishment and death. He loved and served those who others felt were the lowest. Jesus used his gifts and power to lift others up, not to pursue power or titles for himself.

  1. Can you be a servant and still be a strong leader? Why or why not? Give examples.
  2. Were there any examples of Servant Leadership in the movie?

Invite a youth to read Ephesians 4:13b–16.

    1. God’s goal for us to become “mature adults.” What does that look like according to this scripture?

We live as we believe. We are not deceived or tricked by things that are untrue. We tell others the truth in a loving way.

    1. What things trick and mislead people? How were the young people in this movie tricked and mislead to believe things that were not truthful?

Commercials and culture that tell us that we will be happy if we have the right car or clothes. The kids in the movie believed that they were too different to get along. The white kids bought into stereotypes of black people that were not true and vice-versa. The were mislead that it is ok to mistreat or hate someone because of the color of their skin.

    1. What are some examples from the movie of people growing more into the person God wants them to be?

Bertier is turning away from being racist to seeing people as more than their race. The coaches are learning to work together and become friends. The players are accepting the role of bringing the town closer.

    1. Bertier’s girlfriend says “Standing up for what you believe in is good and all, but you’ve got your priorities mixed up this time.” In what ways is Bertier taking the harder path and growing?

Bertier is going against what his friends, girlfriend, and mom believe – which is he should not associate with the black players. He is risking losing them to do what he knows is right, see beyond just color.

    1. What does this movie teach us or reveal to us about God’s story and God’s desire for us?

God desires us to live in unity. God tells us we are Christians and God’s children first and foremost. God desires us to love our neighbor – regardless of color, gender, political belief, etc.

CLOSING

Call the class back together.
SAY: Many of the characters in the story are experiencing what life and relationships are like when some of the blocks that form walls between them are removed.

The team went away together for a camp where they were able to “break down the walls.” This could be compared to a youth going on a retreat or a mission trip and having an incredible experience in their faith and getting that spiritual high only to come back to everyday life.

ASK: What is hard about keeping the “mountain top feeling ” that you get on a mission trip, camp, or retreat?

ASK: How do you keep that spiritual high and apply it to life?

ASK: How can you break down some of the blocks in the walls that exist between you and others?

Invite youth call out actions/emotions that would help tear walls down.

SAY: The easiest way to tear down a wall is to start tearing it down early before the wall is built too high. The higher the wall gets, the harder it becomes to tear the wall down. We start loving the people by making a choice. We make the choice to focus on the positive aspects of the persons/ groups of people. We need to think and work for the good of the individuals/groups.

God desires his people to be of one mind and one body. We all have a desire to belong and to live in community with others. Make a choice to live in such a way as to remove the blocks from walls that currently exist and to not add blocks and build walls between yourself and others.

PRAY

BENEDICTION OPTION

Youth stand up and form a circle standing shoulder to shoulder. Youth cross their right arm over their left arm and then hold hands. Have two youth separate their hands to form one empty space in the circle. Have each person think of someone new to invite or someone who has not been involved in a while to invite back into the community.
Say the benediction below: You can say each line and have the youth repeat or all say it in unison.
“The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” AMEN

After everyone says “amen” they twist turning towards their right until they are all facing outward.

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