So by now, unless you live under a rock at the bottom of the ocean, you've undoubtedly heard of Pokemon Go and the vast majority of you are full fledged Pokemon trainers or you've "just downloaded it to see what it's all about..." Here in Canada, we've had Pokemon Go (The official version at least) for about a week as I write this. In this short time, the game has become something of a cultural phenomenon, getting people outside, walking around and exploring their towns and cities. On the second day, I went out myself in the evening to walk around my own neighbourhood and see what was going on (I also just wanted to hit level five...)
There are four Pokestops in this part of town, all within range of each other, it's a prime location and in the evenings there are usually a few lure modules active all night.
This is a serious nightly poke-party. Complete with lawn chairs, delivery pizza, and even roving groups in cars circling downtown. It's a great atmosphere, people talking, laughing, exchanging tips, and getting to know one another.
Why This Is Important For Churches.
Pokemon Go, is a game that is essentially a Google maps skin and the various stops and gyms are automatically generated, usually around landmarks. Most churches fall into this category. Most churches at minimum have a pokestop, and some even have gyms. If you're a pastor reading this post and you don't know what I'm talking about, you need to go to your app store and download the game. Play it a bit, if it's not your thing, that's fine, but you need a working knowledge of the game; here's why.
That crowd above? full of mostly people my age and younger. Gen-Xers and Millennials. This is the same group that churches and church leaders are lamenting constantly about how they don't come to churches. Now they are coming, on their own terms for their own reasons to our front doors. We owe it to them and to the Gospel itself to make an effort to get to know them and their stories. The raging popularity of Pokemon Go is most likely temporary; the current fervor, at least, is unsustainable. Our window is now.
[bctt tweet="So Your Church Is A Pokestop, does your church have a plan?" username="thekevinseguin"]
How We Respond
Churches have three options when it comes to responding to Pokemon Go. These are the same three options we always have when dealing with cultural happenings. We can either reject it, receive it, or we can redeem it.
Many churches and Christians are jumping on this game as a chance to denounce any number of things the game "represents" or sin it "encourages". I won't link to them because I refuse to give this kind of anti-gospel Christianity any more of a soapbox, but a quick google search turns up plenty.
Pokemon Go is, like almost any other video game, value neutral. That being said, there is a balance that Believers must hold. For example, spending all your time away from your family and children while spending the rent money on lure modules would be a sin, obviously. So like many neutral things, we must test our own hearts and motives when we engage in things like this. Isaac Trevino does a good job with this question.
Now, I'm not suggesting that we actually redeem the game itself, nor am I suggesting some enterprising young believers come up with come sort of "Evangelism Go" where you have to catch, say...martyrs and Apostles... (seriously, don't do this.) But there are many things we can do as believers to try and reach people for the Gospel. It starts with relationship, and there's no better way right now to start a conversation and a relationship right now than Pokemon Go.