The Third Wesley

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While few may doubt my inestimable authority in the field of Wesley studies, I am yet not content to rest on my laurels. Meticulous research- involving countless hours of pouring over the slightest scrap of correspondence, genealogical records, ship manifests, etc.- has uncovered what may be the crowning achievement of my already luminous career: there was a third Wesley. Not Susanna, not Samuel, not one of the other 13 Wesley children who get no historical recognition. Rather, I am referring to a (to date) lesser luminary whose name will soon be on the lips and in the memory of Wesleyans and Methodists from this day forward: Dave MaGee. He is the third Wesley.

Kidding aside, (or am I…) rezlife is starting up a new series for high school: 3 Methodists Walk Into A… The title was essentially accidental- we were getting some promotional material prepared for the fall kick-off, and in it we were listing the upcoming message series. Dave was lined up to do a two-week series in November, and knew it was going to be on Methodism, but hadn’t come up with a title yet. So I put some dummy text in to figure out the layout, but instead of using Lorem Ipsum I randomly put in the title 3 Methodists Walk Into A Bar… This text stayed there until the day before we were set to print. We were double-checking everything and I noticed this and sort of laughed out loud. I then remembered how it got to be there. Well, we decided that using ‘Bar’ in a print piece probably wouldn’t be the best approach, so we struck that but kept the rest of it. However, I got the go-ahead to use the full title in the video.

So the challenge is this: how do you make a subject like Methodism interesting, especially for high-schoolers? I remember taking a Wesleyan History and Polity class in college. Although it was reasonably interesting, I can’t say it was the most memorable course I ever completed. (The fact that we had it at 8 am probably didn’t help either…)

Anyway, Dave is a great speaker, and always is able to present lots of information in an interesting way. But it’s not that he wants to just pass along some information- the point is to find out what Methodism is, (for those who don’t know, which I suspect will be a somewhat high percentage) how it started and how students today can find their place within it. So my challenge was to make some visuals and videos that communicate that, but that are also hopefully interesting and engaging.

Whenever I approach a subject like this that doesn’t have immediate grabbing power in and of itself, (as interesting as Methodism is to study, it’s not readily apparent to high schoolers- or even adults for that matter- how it might be meaningful or relevant to them…) I generally aim to try and be clever. The great thing about humor is that it has a way of equalizing things- even if you don’t have any background to something, if it is presented in a clever and humorous way, you can still be engaged in spite of yourself.

Well, we already had an amusing title- I think it works because it’s not obvious, it’s pretty clever and it gives you a lot of room to work with conceptually, visually, etc. So I began to think about what would happen if three Methodists walked into a bar. I decided that if we’re going to talk about Methodism, John and Charles Wesley are good places to start, as in some way they both sort of represent the spirit of Methodism. John, being the circuit riding preacher, would often preach in places other ministers wouldn’t- open fields, near mining facilities, etc. Thus, it seemed to me that if he were going to walk into a bar, he might just start preaching. Charles was the musician, and wrote quite a few hymns, many of which are still sung today. (and many that you would recognize, even if you didn’t know he wrote them.) So if he walked into a bar, he might start playing piano. That left the third Methodist. At first I was going to try and use another prominent Methodist, but as I started thinking about it, it seemed to me that this could really use a personal touch. Since Dave MaGee was going to be giving the messages, and is a familiar face to his audience, it seemed to me that it might be clever to throw him into the mix.

At this point, the clincher in the video is Dave’s action. John and Charles already do something they would normally do. Thus, as one is watching it, there is a subconscious curiosity about what Dave will do. Since the other two have done something within character, the expectation is that Dave will too. That’s when you throw the curveball- having Dave dance. And not only having him dance, but having him doing it suddenly. This unexpected twist, even if you suspected something different is going to happen, is the pivot point of the video. What’s the point of it? Nothing. Well, that’s not completely true. The idea of having something completely ridiculous to make you laugh (or at least chuckle) is to orient the viewer favorably to whatever comes next.

You’ll notice immediately following that I go into some sort of (relatively) boring information- how we’re going to talk about Methodism- what it is, how it started, how one can find one’s place in it. If I tried to do this without the build-up beforehand, you have probably already tuned out. I then immediately sandwich this information with another slice of ridiculousness- it’s actually the same animation of him dancing, but this is intentional. If you have already had a good experience with seeing Dave dance before, then this re-affirmation of that feeling creates an overall positive impression towards the information. This is true even if you are not that interested in it in the first place. The overall impression created is hopefully that Methodism, even though it doesn’t sound that interesting in and of itself, at least isn’t just going to be a dry presentation of information. In fact, you maybe even be somewhat interested to find out more. The fact that it involves someone that the students already know is definitely a bonus, in that there is already a rapport between them.

The rest of it is just finishing strong- you don’t want to have too much of a finale, since this is meant to be a trailer of sorts. Rather, I tried to kind of leave the viewer hanging a little- maybe he’ll dance, maybe he won’t. The point isn’t about the actuality of dancing or not- instead, the goal is to have you leave with a bit of a smile. Leaving with a positive impression towards a subject that most of your audience has probably not thought a whole lot about is always a good thing, if you can pull it off. Hopefully I succeeded.

Anyway, that’s kind of some of the thought that went into this video.

Enjoy!

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