by Ben Konuch, Student Public Relations Writer
One year ago, Cedarville University associate professor of communication Jeff Simon was presented with an opportunity to consult on a multi-million dollar media ministry project that could make a difference worldwide and have an immediate impact on his college students.
Simon, who teaches broadcasting and digital media, connected with Dr. Christopher Yuan, a renowned author and speaker on topics including human sexuality and biblical authority.
Simon’s role was to help Yuan from a digital media and broadcasting perspective to adapt his book, “Holy Sexuality and the Gospel,” into a new media project using modern technology. In the process, Simon was able to model the real-life role of digital media in the workplace to his Cedarville students. Yuan first published “Holy Sexuality and the Gospel” in 2018 as a gospel-centered discussion of sex, desire and relationships. Yuan used both his past as an agnostic gay man who put his identity in his sexuality and his current experiences as a Christian theologian with an identity in Christ to construct this resource on sexuality from a biblical perspective.
“The goal was to provide Christians with a resource on the theology of sexuality,” said Yuan. “A lot of what we’ve seen before has been really good for enforcing what the Bible passages tell us not to do, but I wrote ‘Holy Sexuality and the Gospel’ because I felt that there was a gap where Christians really didn’t have a resource that was more than just God’s ‘no’ but also taught what was God’s ‘yes.’”
While “Holy Sexuality and the Gospel” was originally written for adults, Yuan quickly realized the need to combat the tsunami of lies from the world that Christian teenagers find themselves drowning in. “The Holy Sexuality Project" was born out of this concern as a teenage-centered, primarily video- and animation-focused multi-media resource adapting the truth from “Holy Sexuality and the Gospel” to a medium that would allow younger audiences to see it, process it and then discuss it with their families.
“We cannot teach our kids just grace when it comes to sexuality, and neither can we stand for just harshly sharing the truth,” Yuan said. “We needed to make a resource that teaches grace and truth as Jesus did, but one that wouldn't just be another program for a classroom, but a resource for the living room.”
When Cedarville student Claire Xu attended a conference where Yuan was speaking after the release of the book, she heard of his plan to launch the “The Holy Sexuality Project” multimedia series for young adults. Xu shared the concept of this project to Simon knowing of his digital media experience and openness to freelance work, as well as the ways he stresses the importance of the practical approach of learning theory and applying it simultaneously. After an introduction and a long Zoom call with Yuan, Simon decided to join the project as a consultant.
“Christopher was working on something that really speaks to me and many others who have friends or family who have endured this kind of struggle and have seen the hurt that can come from disagreements and ignorance about it,” said Simon. “You never know when the opportunity to make a difference might arise.”
With a clear vision for the project outlined by Yuan, Simon was able to use his knowledge and experience of multimedia and the production process to accomplish the goal.
As Simon began in his consulting role, he helped guide Yuan through the ins and outs of animation, the production pipeline and the details of contracts and hiring in the multimedia industry. Through understanding both Yuan’s vision and the realm of multimedia, Simon served as a bridge between Yuan’s knowledge and practical understanding of how to teach truth with a designer who could animate entertainingly and educationally.
“Jeff really helped us at a time where we really didn’t know anything about the animation process and were asking for a lot of proposals that came with huge price tags,” said Yuan. “Most people we talked with gave us some advice but brought their own motives to have a stake in the project too, so Jeff was able to give us completely unbiased advice through his experience both in the workforce and in ministry.”
Not only was this a great professional opportunity for Simon, but it also proved to be invaluable to his students. Simon has shared multiple examples from this project during class lectures and conversations with his students, giving them an inside look at the industry they may pursue professionally after graduation.
“My goal as a professor is to teach students practical skills that they need to thrive in their workplace after graduation,” explained Simon. “We’re not just teaching theory; we’re teaching them critical thinking skills to become leaders. We serve as mentors, and we want to display our lives and how we’re still impacting our industries by giving our students real-life examples of how that’s happening in our own careers.”
For Simon, this opportunity to demonstrate such valuable real-life experiences to his own students for such an important project was a particular honor given his status as a Cedarville alum.