Considering a GAP year?

gapMost high school seniors scramble to fill out college applications and cram for ACT’s and SAT’s, all while trying to apply for as many scholarships as humanly possible. Why? College is just what you do after high school, right?

Well, not everyone.

Some students opt to take a year off before starting college. A gap year isn’t just a year between high school and college to just hang out and do nothing. Some students use this time to work and save money, while others use it to really figure out what they want to study in college and where God might be leading them. Many teens just aren’t ready for the rigors and responsibilities of college yet.

But a gap year doesn’t have to just be about you. It can also be an opportunity to serve and make a difference in the world. This month, we’ll take a look at several organizations that offer ministry opportunities and the necessary training for students during this gap year.

YWAM (Youth With A Mission)

Founder: Loren Cunningham
Goal: To know God and to make Him known

Youth With A Mission (YWAM) is an international organization of volunteer Christians from all over the globe who are committed to serving Jesus and sharing the gospel. YWAM (pronounced WHY-wham) has been focused on sending young people throughout the world to share the gospel since 1960. If you have the travel bug or want to see more of the world God created, YWAM has more than 1000 operating locations in 180 countries. Even though you may be looking at taking a year off from school, you can (and should) continue learning. YWAM offers a variety of training opportunities, ranging from media and technology to ministry and discipleship. Their Discipleship Training School (DTS) is designed to help you understand God more deeply. It is also designed to help identify your gifts and kindle your passions to use on the mission field. The DTS is a full-time 12 week training course followed by an 8-12 week period of outreach.

YWAM also equips volunteers to use interesting and inviting ways to share their faith, such as performing arts, sports camps, and church planting. In addition to evangelism, YWAM seeks to meet practical and physical needs through mercy-focused ministries, including disaster relief, disease prevention, and women’s rights.

Impact 360

Founders: John and Trudy Cathy White
Goal: To equip young adults to become Christ-centered, servant leaders

Impact 360 has developed a unique gap year program that is not only academic, but also focuses on leadership and practical experience. This program is geared toward 18 to 20-year-olds who have a strong desire to grow in their faith and understand God’s calling on their lives.

Participants spend nine months at the Impact 360 campus in Pine Mountain, Ga. While there, students study about apologetics and Christian worldview, participate in weekly service projects, and take part in Chick-fil-A® SERVE leadership training. This program also earns 15 hours of transferable college credit from Union University. Students also participate in a one-month international mission trip to Brazil.
Up to 33 students are selected each school year to participate in this training course. Those interested in applying for IMPACT 360 must meet the following criteria:
• Be 18-20 years of age when entering the program
• Completed high school before entering the program
• Have a GPA of 3.0 or higher
• Have a minimum ACT of 22 or SAT (critical reading and math) of 1030
• Nuture a growing relationship with Christ
• Have leadership experience
• Be a person of solid character

This article was written for the March 2013 issue of ec by Jonathan Bass. Get your subscription here:

March Reviews // Tech

iPad Mini

Apple, Inc.

ec’s grade: A+

When CEO Tim Cook announced the newest member of the Apple family, the iPad Mini, a few months ago, it was met with mixed reactions. However, since it’s release, the new smaller iPad has proved to be another winner for the company. No, it doesn’t do anything different than a standard iPad or iPod Touch, but the size is about 40 percent smaller than an iPad, making it a perfect travel companion but a tad smallish for an E-reader. Typing is faster on the smaller keyboard and the retina display is still the best looking screen among tablets. Like other iOS products, everything feels familiar, fast, and glitch-free and with Apple’s vast selection of native and third party Apps, there’s not much this little guy can’t do.


 Tap Tap Tap Camera+

FEATURES: Vast array of photo-editing, deep integration with social media outlets
PROS: After-the-fact image stabilization and flash simulation
CONS: iOS only, maybe too many features?
The iPhone camera is one of the devices best features, but the native camera app leaves much to be desired. Tap Tap Tap Camera+ takes advantage of  iPhone’s processing power to create professional quality photos that compete with high-end image editing software.
ec’s GRADE: A

by Dropbox

FEATURES: Subscription-based cloud storage for mobile devices.
PROS: Free download, easily syncs between multiple devices,
CONS: poor data reception can temporarily make files inaccessible, pricey ($120/yr for 50GB storage)
Problem: You own a tablet, an E-reader, a laptop, and a smartphone but you want to be able access the same files from each of them yet not all of them have document storage. Solution: Dropbox puts file storage within the app making your docs show up on every device.
ec’s GRADE: A


FEATURES: multiple levels, growing number of song/style choices, available on XBOX and Playstation
PROS: “Play” is controlled by an electric guitar (not included), teaches how to actually play the instrument
CONS: Does not include instruction on music theory or technique, tracking can be  glitchy
Rocksmith is a Guitar Hero-inspired video game that is more accurately a visual guitar instructor. Players score points by hitting correct notes and can advance from single note levels to multi-note complexity.
ec’s GRADE: B+

Expecting more from your spiritual life

Your teachers don’t care if you cheat on a test.
Your boss doesn’t care if you give away free food.
Your coach doesn’t care if you win or lose and just wants everyone to have high self-esteem.
Your parents don’t care if you break curfew as long as you had a good time.

expect moreDoes that sound about right?

Absolutely not. Those scenarios are ridiculous. That’s because in the real world, you have real expectations. Your teachers expect you to do your own work. Your boss expects you to have integrity. Your coach expects you to leave it all on the field or court. Your parents expect you to honor their rules.

No matter how high these expectations may seem, you most likely do a great job living up to them. In fact, the higher the expectation, the harder you probably work to make it happen. Setting high standards is a great way to motivate yourself to excel.

But, sadly, when it comes to our spiritual lives, we don’t often set very high standards for ourselves. We push ourselves academically, socially, and at work, but when it comes to walking with God, we slack off and accept mediocrity. We justify not reading our Bibles, not sharing our faith, skipping student ministry activities, and not praying— all in the name of “being busy.” The truth is, our standards are too low. We were created for more.

You were created for more.

The beauty of walking with God is that He is the source of energy for all the other activities in our lives. Not only that, but all other commitments in our lives have the potential to become false gods. A false god is anything that gets most of your heart, passion, time, thoughts, and joy. To keep this from happening, Jesus has to be the priority in your life.

Setting the Bar

So, what do you do when you have high standards for yourself in every area of your life except your spiritual growth? Here are five quick ideas:

  1. Lose the guilt. Walking with God isn’t about feeling guilty because you miss church every now and then. Following Christ is about finding a joy and forgiveness so captivating that you can’t help but give Him your everything. It’s about returning again and again to His presence because you find yourself there. It’s about hiding His Word in your heart because it’s a sword to fight off the enemy. Walking with God is an adventure and delight. It is not a burden or another to-do list. Change your perspective.
  2. Set some goals. Write down two or three realistic spiritual goals. Beginner goals might include: memorizing one verse a month, listening to worship music on the way to school, or praying with a friend every day.Radical goals could be memorizing a book of Scripture, organizing a student-led fast for the lost at your school, praying for an hour in the morning, sharing Christ with a teacher, making friends with the outcasts, or going on a mission trip.
  3. Find a coach and a team. You weren’t meant to live the Christian life alone. You need a spiritual leader who pushes you to reach spiritual victories. You also need a team of Christian friends. If you’ve become disconnected from student ministry, it’s almost a guarantee you’ve also fallen away from your relationship with God. Get reconnected and start seeking Christ consistently with other committed believers.
  4. Celebrate your victories. Did you reach one of your goals? Celebrate! Tell your coach and your encouragers. (See tip 2.) Praise God and be proud of the work He’s doing in you. When you win a big game, the team celebrates. It should be the same in your spiritual life.
  5. Sacrifice to excel. You can be too over-committed to being spiritually healthy. Boldly, cut some things out of your life. It might be a sports team, a job, or a demanding friendship. Anything that keeps you away from God is an enemy. Build a fortress around your walk with God. Push back anything that tries to take away from that relationship.

Without Christ at the center of your life, any positive aspiration has the power to become a slave-master, whether it’s sports, academics, or a desire to be good at something. It will exhaust you, weaken you, and never satisfy.

You don’t accidentally make straight A’s, and you can’t live a godly life accidentally. You were made to run after God. You were wired to do great things for the name of Christ.

So, what mark do you want to leave on your high school, your community, or your family? Expect great things from yourself spiritually. Then, get ready because God will do even more than you ask or imagine according to His power that is at work within you (Eph. 3:20).

This article was written for the March 2013 issue of ec by Jennifer McCaman. Get your subscription here: .

Movie Reviews // March

Wreck-It Ralph

Walt Disney Animation Studios, 2012

Starring John C. Reilly, Jane Lynch

Ralph is the bad guy in an arcade game named for its hero, Fix-It Felix. Day after day, he terrorizes the game’s denizens, while Felix swoops in to repair the wreckage and save the day. Felix returns to his penthouse; Ralph trudges to his “home” on a trash heap. When a discontented Ralph sets out to prove that he, too, can be a hero, he finds himself in over his head in an unfamiliar world of sci-fi soldiers and candy-coated racers. With the help of friends old and new, Ralph must face a heroic task and confront his true identity in this beautiful homage to the pixelated pastime.
Rated PG for some rude humor and mild action/violence.
ec’s grade: A+


 Red Dawn (2012)

Waking to an invasion by North Korean soldiers, Jed and Matt Eckert act quickly to evade capture; then, with the city on lockdown, they form a motley crew of rebels and set out to take back their hometown.
Pros: Minor nostalgic appeal for older viewers; decent cast, despite weak script
Cons: Hollow, violent, unnecessary remake captures cheesiness of 80’s cult hit …without any of its campy charm
Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense war violence and action, and for language.
ec‘s grade: D-

Fun Size (2012)

Forced to babysit her strange little brother on Halloween, Wren thinks her life cannot possibly get any worse…until she has to track him down when he goes missing.
Pros: A few slightly redeeming themes emerge…but seem forced and incidental
Cons: Sexual crudeness and language abound; Nickelodeon production tag may mislead younger teens
Rated PG-13 for crude and suggestive material, partying, and language.
ec‘s grade: D


Pitch Perfect (2012)

When aspiring-diva-turned-reluctant-college-student Beca half-heartedly joins an a cappella group, she discovers friends, challenges and talents in the most unexpected of places.
Pros: Fun, Glee-style musical numbers; positive messages of friendship and acceptance
Cons: Crude language, humor and dancing; several sexually-oriented gags
Rated PG-13 for sexual material, language, and drug references.
ec‘s grade: C+


Rise of the Guardians (2012)

To overcome fear-mongering villain Pitch Black, Jack Frost must band together with childhood icons like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy…and he finds answers to his own mysterious past along the way.
Pros: Innovative premise with mass appeal; attractive animation style and effects
Cons: Very few; a few frightening moments
Rated PG for thematic elements and some mildly scary action.
ec‘s grade: A-

 Skyfall (2012)

When a mysterious villain hits a little too close to home, the hopes of England – and the world – rest on the aging shoulders of everyone’s favorite secret agent.
Pros: Perfect blend of new, dark James Bond, with subtle nods to the campy, gadget-laden 007 of years past
Cons: Despite mass appeal, inappropriate for younger teens because of sexual content and action
Rated PG-13 for intense violent sequences throughout, some sexuality, language and smoking.
ec‘s grade: B+

These reviews were written by Bryan Daniel for the March 2013 issue of ec. They are meant to inform. Get your subscription to ec at

5 Tips to step out of your sibling’s shadow

March_12So, how do you blaze your own trail when your brother or sister has gone before you? Check out the following tips:

1. Pursue your own interests.

Jeremy’s older brother was the quarterback for his high school football team and led them through two winning seasons. So, when Jeremy came in as a freshman, the coach repeatedly approached him about playing for the team. But Jeremy wasn’t remotely interested in sports. He had played in middle school and really didn’t enjoy it. Rather than give into the coach’s requests to join the team, Jeremy explained that football just wasn’t his thing. Not having practice for sports freed him up to join the debate team, where he excelled. Soon, he was making his own mark.
Instead of trying to make yourself into version 2.0 of your sibling, figure out what interests you and invest your time and effort there.

2. Focus on your strengths.

Sarah always dreaded the first day of school in math class. The minute her teacher figured out she was related to her older sister, the teacher would make a comment like, “Your sister was one of my favorites! I’m looking forward to having another A student!” The problem? Sarah struggled in math and felt resentful that things had come so easily for her sister. But, during her sophomore year of high school, Sarah discovered a passion for writing and started to focus on that instead. Focusing on her strength helped her to feel better about herself, even in the classes where she wasn’t as successful as her sister.
Don’t beat yourself up for not being as good at something as your sibling. You’re each unique—and that’s a good thing!

3. Think outside the box.

Troy’s older sister was really involved in the drama program at his school, and she’d gotten the lead in the school play several times. She was also really outgoing and had a lot of friends. But Troy was fairly shy and always felt like his parents expected him to have a different personality, that they wanted him to be more like his more outgoing sister. They worried when he would hang out with the same friend every weekend or turn down an invitation to a party. Then, during his junior year, Troy found a job at a comic book shop, where he made friends with similar interests. When his parents recognized that he was content, they backed off.
We’re not all wired the same way. Your siblings may be extroverts who thrive on crowds of people and lots of friends, while you’re an introvert who cherishes a few, deep friendships with people who really get you. Instead of hating your differences, learn to celebrate them!

4. Let go of bitterness.

Jason’s brother never liked to play by the rules. In high school, he constantly got into trouble and barely graduated. That legacy left a long shadow. Jason always felt like teachers would blame things on him in class because they expected him to behave like his brother. This caused him to grow bitter and angry. One of Jason’s friends noticed Jason’s anger and encouraged Jason to forgive his brother and let it go. Once Jason did, his whole mood and attitude changed. He also politely told his teachers about how their assumptions made him feel. Once they were aware of his experience, they adjusted their expectations of him. It’s hard to live in a sibling’s shadow, especially when he or she didn’t have a very good reputation. The easiest thing to do would be to hold on to those bitter feelings and let them define who you are. But as a Christian, bitterness shouldn’t be one of your defining characteristics. Learn to forgive and focus your worth on who you are in Christ.

5. Identify what’s really important.

Stacy’s sister was a cheerleader who won homecoming queen and was voted most attractive in senior superlatives. Stacy envied her and would constantly compare herself to her. But the summer before her junior year, Stacy went on a mission trip to an orphanage in Honduras. The children there were so full of joy, even in the midst of poverty. Suddenly popularity and social status seemed less important to Stacy. That fall, Stacy started a service club at her school; she had replaced her priorities with something more meaningful. If you spend all your time trying to outshine your sibling, it may be time to realign your values. Jealousy and constant comparison are not the way God has called you to live. Focus your purpose and your worth in Christ, then let Him define what’s really important. And don’t be surprised if your priorities shift!
It can be hard to follow in the footsteps of an older sibling. Sometimes the expectations can be overwhelming, but try to enjoy your differences. Ultimately, God is the one writing your story, and it’s yours alone—no one else’s.

This article was written for the March 2013 issue of ec by Gretchen Williams. Get your subscription here: .

March Music Reviews

Matt & Toby


Matt & Toby
Tooth & Nail Records

ec‘s grade: B+

Matt & Toby is a side project from a couple of the guys from Emery. I’ve always enjoyed Emery’s harder stuff, but have always been a bigger fan of their more melodic moments. When I heard rumors that a side project was in the works, I readied myself but was expecting more of the same. Imagine my surprise when I heard the first tracks coming from my earbuds: It was melodic, mellower and—dare I say?—more mature. There are definite rock-ish moments, but none of the rawk that Emery fans might expect. Another big plus is the intentionally transparent and thoughtful lyrics. My personal faves are “What Plays in My Head,” a song about fatherhood, and “You Will Sing.” Hopefully, this side project will become permanent.



ARTIST: Keith and Kristyn Getty
ALBUM TITLE: Hymns for the Christian Life
LABEL: Getty Music
PROS: Beautiful modern hymns, laced with traditional Irish-folk instruments
CONS: Not for the typical teen, which isn’t really a con…just an observation
TOP SONGS: “In Christ Alone” (featuring Alison Krauss), “A Mother’s Prayer”
THOUGHTS: The modern resurgence of folk music isn’t something the Getty’s are chasing because they’ve been playing and writing ancient sounding, Irish folk hymns for years. Thinking teens interested in lyrical theology will wear out this Celtic gem.
ec‘s grade: A

ARTIST: Disciple
ALBUM TITLE: O God Save Us All
LABEL: Fair Trade Services
PROS: When Disciple hits, they hit it out of the park
CONS: For the first time, there seems to be a distinct attempt to write radio-friendly songs
TOP SONGS: “RIP,” “Draw the Line,” “Outlaws”
THOUGHTS: In typical Disciple style, “O God Save Us All” is a rocker through and through. Including a few new industrial turns, the album doesn’t completely stack up to some of their earlier work, but for fans young and old, this is a strong project worth your time.
ec‘s grade: B-

ARTIST: Chris August
ALBUM TITLE: The Upside of Down
LABEL: MCA Nashville
PROS: Perfectly crafted songwriting showcasing August’s ability to turn a phrase
CONS: Much more mellow than anticipated, some may be put off by the many sparse ballads.
TOP SONGS: “Amen,” “This Side of Heaven,” and “Restore”
THOUGHTS: The writer/singer of the deservedly smash his “Starry Sky” is no one-hit-wonder. “The Upside of Down” is both catchy and lyrically weighty. Even the album’s title is a reference to the benefits of partaking in Christ’s sufferings.
ec‘s grade: B+

ARTIST: Capital Kings
LABEL: Gotee
PROS: Dubstep and Electronica are grossly under-represented in Christian music
CONS: Only 3 songs plus one remix? Come on guys.
TOP SONGS: “Be There,” “I Feel So Alive”
THOUGHTS: Lyrically, the album isn’t much more than a Christian pep rally, which isn’t always a bad thing, but the impossibly short EP feels underwhelming.
ec‘s grade: B-

These reviews were written for ec by Randy Williams. Get your copy of the current issue Subscribe at .

March Read Through the Bible

Earlier this year, we invited you to join us on a yearlong journey through God’s Word. This month, you’ll finish reading Numbers and Deuteronomy and begin reading in Joshua in the Old Testament. For your NT readings, you’ll dig into the Gospel of Mark.

The Plan

photo credit: iStock//07-04-08 © Aldo Murillo

photo credit: iStock//07-04-08 © Aldo Murillo

March 1: Numbers 22–24; Mark 5:1-20
March 2: Numbers 25–26; Mark 5:21-43
March 3: Numbers 27–29; Mark 6:1-13
March 4: Numbers 30–31; Mark 6:14-31
March 5: Numbers 32–33; Mark 6:32-56
March 6: Numbers 34–36; Mark 7:1-23
March 7: Deuteronomy 1–2; Mark 7:24-37
March 8: Deuteronomy 3–4; Mark 8:1-10
March 9: Deuteronomy 5–6; Mark 8:11-26
March 10: Deuteronomy 7–9; Mark 8:27-38
March 11: Deuteronomy 10–11; Mark 9:1-13
March 12: Deuteronomy 12–14; Mark 9:14-29
March 13: Deuteronomy 15–17; Mark 9:30-50
March 14: Deuteronomy 18–20; Mark 10:1-16
March 15: Deuteronomy 21–23; Mark 10:17-31
March 16: Deuteronomy 24–26; Mark 10:32-52
March 17: Deuteronomy 27–28; Mark 11:1-11
March 18: Deuteronomy 29–30; Mark 11:12-33
March 19: Deuteronomy 31–32; Mark 12:1-12
March 20: Deuteronomy 33–34; Mark 12:13-27
March 21: Joshua 1–2; Mark 12:28-44
March 22: Joshua 3–4; Mark 13:1-13
March 23: Joshua 5–6; Mark 13:14-37
March 24: Joshua 7–8; Mark 14:1-11
March 25: Joshua 9–10; Mark 14:12-31
March 26: Joshua 11–12; Mark 14:32-52
March 27: Joshua 13–15; Mark 14:53-72
March 28: Joshua 16–18; Mark 15:1-15
March 29: Joshua 19–20; Mark 15:16-39
March 30: Joshua 21–22; Mark 15:40-47
March 31: Joshua 23–24; Mark 16

Background info you need to know

Author: Moses
Section: Pentateuch (law)
Number of Chapters: 36
Written: Around 1445-1406 B.C.
Theme/Message: The sovereignty of God, the fulfillment of His promises, and His unending grace.

Author: Moses
Section: Pentateuch (law)
Number of Chapters: 34
Written: Around 1406 B.C.
Theme/Message:  Covenant relationship between God & His people, call for total commitment to God.

Author: Joshua, although Phinehas might have written the last chapter. Some references in the book point to a final formation after Joshua’s death.
Section: History
Number of Chapters: 24
Written: After the conquest of Canaan (around 1406-1380 B.C.)
Theme/Message: “Be strong and courageous” (1:9). Joshua’s battle plan was to confront, conquer and cultivate.

Author: John Mark
Section: Gospels
Number of Chapters: 15
Written: Around 55-65 A.D.
Theme/Message: Jesus’ ministry and miracles. We serve a miracle-working God and our lives and words should point others to Him.

Need a reading plan you can print? Click here!


A note from the editor: March 2013

March_2013_coverThe most devastating moments  of my life have often had to do with unmet expectations. The friend who didn’t respond the way I thought she would to a significant change in our relationship. The guy I liked who I expected to like me back, but he didn’t. The expectation that God would stop the pain and regret I felt during a dark time of my faith—and He didn’t.

When grief over the loss of a loved one, fear, and devastation over a deeper recognition of the depth of my sin overwhelmed me, I was forced to examine my expectations of God. I had expected Him to rescue me from painful times and make me happy—and when those things didn’t happen, I began to see God for who He really is, rather than the idea of Him I’d created in my own mind.

We all have expectations of God, the people in our lives, and the way our lives will go. And when those expectations aren’t met, the fallout can be devastating.

That’s why this issue of essential connection is focused on expectations. In Erin Davis’ cover story, “Great Expectations,” she’ll challenge you to take a hard look at your long-held expectations of God and compare them to the God of Scripture. Jennifer McCaman will challenge you to expect more of your spiritual life and invest in a growing relationship with Jesus in her article on page 23. Have you ever felt the heavy expectations of living in your brother or sister’s shadow? Gretchen Williams invites you to blaze your own trail on page 18. And throughout this month’s devotions, you’ll be challenged to commit whole-heartedly to following Christ, rather than just being good enough. Expect more this month!

Boundary Lines

This month, ec‘s cover story, “Rules of the Road” by Jennifer Denning, had to do with the boundary lines God sets in the lives of those who follow Him. Her advice? “Don’t spend your life always pushing against God’s boundaries, convinced there’s something better outside of them than the godly life He’s called you to. There isn’t.”

febfeaturedSo, what are some boundaries we know God has set in our lives?

A Few Boundaries God Has Set
• Don’t love money. (See Heb. 13:5; Matt. 6:24.) God doesn’t tell us not to love money because He wants everyone to be poor or because money is innately evil. Instead, God knows that when money—and getting more of it—is our primary focus, we will not be wholly devoted to Him. Money—and all idols—can be detrimental to our relationship with God.

• We must forgive. (See Col. 3:13 and Luke 17:4.) God hasn’t told us to extend forgiveness because what happened to us is unimportant. He asks us to forgive because He knows the bitterness and ungodliness holding a grudge will bring. He also wants the world to see that His forgiveness is real and the best way to show that is through the lives of His followers.

• Don’t make idols. (See Deut. 5:7-8 and Matt. 6:19-21.) The Old Testament sometimes describes God as a jealous God. That doesn’t mean that He’s envious exactly, but that He wants all of our allegiance and focus. In the Gospels, Jesus told people again and again that He didn’t want half-hearted followers who made family, traditions, or anything other than Him their focus. God doesn’t want to share your allegiance or your affection. He knows how unfulfilling life can be when it’s centered on something other than Him and His purposes.

• Pursue purity. (See Prov. 16:2, Matt. 5:8, 2 Tim. 2:22-23, and 1 John 3:2-3.) God instructs us throughout Scripture to live lives that are characterized by purity. This isn’t just sexual purity, though that is included. God’s Word clearly states that sex is reserved for marriage, which is a lifetime commitment (Gen. 2:24). But God has called us to a lifestyle of purity and integrity. We are to “walk in the light,” letting the new life we have in Christ affect every decision (1 John 1:7). Our lives should line up with God’s standard and His plans and purposes should be our focus.

This article is excerpted from “Rules of the Road: Living within God’s Boundary Lines” by Jennifer Denning, which appears in the February 2013 issue of ec. If you’d like to read more, buy the February issue. Get your monthly subscription here: .

February Reviews: Movies

Chasing Mavericks (2012)
ec‘s grade: B+

Young Jay Moriarty doesn’t have much going for him; his father abandoned him, his self-destructive mother can hardly function on most days, and he sees little in life worth pursuing. That is, until he crosses paths with local surf guru Frosty Hesson and his life is changed forever. A young surfer himself, Jay teaches as much as he learns in his relationship with Frosty, and his surfing interest culminates in his desire to tackle the daunting waves at Mavericks, a big-breaking surf hotspot just down the California coast from Moriarty’s hometown of Santa Cruz. Playing out like The Karate Kid on a longboard, Chasing Mavericks is based on a true story of growth and pursuit of passion. The exhilaration of Moriarty’s sport goes hand-in-hand with danger, and teens should be aware of the risky nature of his endeavors; however, the film is exciting, emotional and clean.

Rated PG for thematic elements and some perilous action.



The Way (2010)

Synopsis: When Tom travels to Spain to bring back the body of his son, he finds himself taking up his son’s incomplete journey on “El Camino de Santiago.”
Pros: Positive messages about family, relationships and reconciliation
Cons: Some language and drinking
Rated PG-13 for some thematic elements, drug use and smoking.
Grade: B


Here Comes the Boom (2012)

Synopsis: Galvanized by the news that budget cuts will be destroying much of his school’s extracurriculars, a schoolteacher seeks to raise money in the unlikeliest of ways: by taking to the MMA ring.
Pros: Great themes of sacrifice and the importance of education; clean, upbeat script
Cons: Script is a little weak and cheesy in spots
Rated PG for bouts of MMA sports violence, some rude humor and language.
Grade: B-


Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)

Synopsis: Deep in the rural Louisiana Delta, six-year-old Hushpuppy finds herself trying to make sense of a magical world when her surroundings – and her family – begin to fall apart.
Pros: Gorgeous, whimsical cinematography; brilliant acting
Cons: Some scary content; language; poor representation of parenting
Rated PG-13 for thematic material including child imperilment, some disturbing images, language and some sensuality.
Grade: B


ParaNorman (2012)

Synopsis: With the help of his friends, young Norman must use his ability to interact with dead people to overcome spooky ghouls and help break a long-lasting curse on his hometown in this stop-motion animated caper.
Pros: Nifty, visually appealing stop-motion animation
Cons: Dark, spooky themes that may frighten younger viewers
Rated PG for scary action and images, thematic elements, some rude humor and language.
Grade: C-


Crooked Arrows (2012)

Synopsis: A man with Native American heritage reluctantly agrees to coach a motley crew of lacrosse players to further his business goals and discovers a part of himself and his history for the first time.
Pros: Unique sports film (it’s about lacrosse!); positive cultural messages
Cons: A little cheesiness; some sports-oriented violence
Rated PG-13 for some suggestive references.
Grade: C+