We are continuing our discussion on the intersection between the Church and the world of video games. To catch up visit Part One (introduction), Part Two (Negative Side), and Part Three (Positive Side) to stay up to date.
Just for let’s say I want to start a new pickleball ministry at my church. This new activity is sweeping the nation and teenagers to celebrities are now playing pickleball. So as a church, I want to set up leagues on Saturdays where people can come sign up for a court for 30 minutes, and over lunch, we’ll have a short devotional and a free meal for all players. Then I want them to create teams and we’ll have tournaments once a month for prizes of gift cards and will advertise all over town to sign up your team. This would get people on our church property who normally wouldn’t be there, it provides opportunities for our church people to interact with others, and maybe even grow our church.
Would anyone question my motive? Would anyone say that is too worldly and we should avoid any hint of the pickleball world in our church?
Probably not. No one would question my motive, maybe my method, but never my motive. They might choose a different sport or hobby but very few people would be against a pickleball league at a church. Many churches already have a pickleball league. But what if I changed pickleball to video games? Would that change everything? Would that make you pause, have a concern, or be against it? Let me challenge you, check your own motives and viewpoint of this issue. For many particularly the younger generations (under 40), video games is more of a hobby or sport than anything else. It doesn’t have the negative baggage that the older generations have for video games.
I already share the negative aspects of video games in part two of this series (see above) so I am not blind to that aspect of the video game world. But I bet I could come up with negative aspects of pickleball, as strange as it sounds. The question is NOT why should we play video games at church? The question should be with 75% of teenagers and 70% of adults aged 20-40 playing video games, why isn’t the church utilizing this very popular activity for God’s glory? Or putting it a different way, why can the church redeem the video game world and utilize video games like the Church has begun utilizing YouTube?
Why are we, the Church, so concerned about admitting video games can be a ministry opportunity?
I have said from the beginning that video games are an uncharted mission field. And it’s a big one. There are around 2.8 billion gamers worldwide, with 200 million (more than half the country) in the US alone. One of the best ways to reach the next generation is to start understanding what fills their hearts and minds. And video games are an open door if the church just utilizes them.
Think of yourself as a missionary entering a new country…
You have very little knowledge of this country, you can’t speak the language, but you know you are called there. What do you do? Do you go straight to the streets and start preaching the Gospel in English? Or do you open up your basement and start a church there with a big sign (using Google Translate) inviting people to it? Any missionary knows that won’t work it makes things worse. So what do you do?
You start but understanding that if you are going to make an impact you have to have trust. Trust in God each day, as you struggle, but also build trust with the locals. You start dressing like them, you start learning their language before you ever expect them to learn yours, and you start being kind and generous to your neighbors. You show you are not scary. Maybe you sign up to join the local community center and have your kids play together with other locals while you try to listen and talk to your fellow parents. You try to build any kind of connection you can without judgment or disapproval of their lifestyles. Because you know good missionaries are all about trust. What if video games can be thought of in a similar way?
What if playing video games with others, they learn more about you and you learn about them? What if gamers can connect with you outside of church and see how you react while you are in their world (online)? What if gamers thought of church as a place that’s fun and open to them? What if gamers sought you out to ask life’s biggest questions about purpose, doubt, faith, and everything in between because you are the only person they can think of who might have those answers?
Video games are not just a form of entertainment, but they can also be a powerful tool for ministry in the church. Embracing this digital platform can help connect with the next generation in a language they understand. Several churches have started utilizing video games for evangelization and community building, offering services with worship and teachings through gaming platforms (SEE HERE). This innovative approach allows for storytelling and problem-solving exercises that can enhance religious teachings and more.
Before we can learn how to effectively use video games as a ministry tool, we must first have a new mindset.
Just like any hobby or activity we need discernment on what we should and shouldn’t get involved in. But we also need to have faith knowing that video games is an untapped mission field and it’s growing bigger every year. The church is already having conversations on lack of growth, struggle with reaching the next generation, and navigating this new online world with social media and more. Video games can be an easy connecting point if we open our minds to a new possibility. The next blog posts about The Church and Video Games will start to deal with this new mindset and start giving practical advice on how your church can use video games for God’s glory.