Last night there were a lot of youth and young adults at my church. The problem is that they weren’t inside the doors, but rather in the parking lot. You see, our church is a Pokemon Go Gym and there was an epic battle being fought between the red and blue teams for control of this precious resource.
Have I lost you yet? (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, click here.)
Like millions of other people, I downloaded the alternate reality game because when it comes to pop culture, I like to be in the know. What I initially didn’t realize about Pokemon Go is that it’s a precious tool when it comes to meeting others. Take a walk around your neighborhood, and you’re bound to run into someone else looking for Pokemon (aka “pocket monsters”) to catch. Eavesdrop on a conversation at a local fast food joint and you’ll find out where the biggest and best Pokemon are lurking.
I’ve heard so many complaints about how the game is silly, a waste of time, and childish. I’ve read the stories about how it’s consuming people’s lives and seen funny videos and meme’s about those who take the game a little too seriously. Pokemon Go can and may be all those things. But like all technology—all things really—it’s what you do with it that matters.
As a youth leader, I’m always looking for ways to connect with my youth—whether it’s singing Adele and Taylor Swift songs, watching superhero movies, playing MarioKart, and social media. Any way I can dive into youth culture, I’m willing to give it a try (within reason.) If downloading a game that involves catching little creatures with things that resemble baseballs (pokeballs) is a way to bond with students, then I’m all for it.
My heart echoes what Paul talks about 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. I want to become all things to youth—a mentor, cool adult friend (like an aunt), a karaoke singer, a movie watcher, and a Pokemon Go player. Like Paul says, I want to be all these to different students because I desperately want them to know about the One who made me. I want it to be way to sharing the Gospel and showing how God is alive in my life.
See, last night one of the girls in my small group and I roamed around the perimeter of our church catching Pokemon. Then I was able to talk to another student—a boy who just finished 8th grade—about Pokemon Go. He excitedly answered all my questions and honestly, now I’m a better player. The students and I even talked about the potential for a meet up with their friends to go monster hunting together. I suggested the same thing on my neighborhood Facebook page, which is usually filled with drama about what time we should put out the trash, complaints loud teenagers, and random gossip. Finally, there was something that brought us together; we could go out and play Pokemon Go.
Tomorrow I plan to spend time with another student and hopefully catch a few pocket monsters during our time together. Maybe we’ll even make new friends. In a nation that’s become so divided by politics and race, isn’t it great that there is something that’s bringing us together, even if it is a little silly?
And tonight or tomorrow night, I’m going to head over to my church and sit with the young people littering its parking lot. Since I’m Pokemon Go newbie, I need help from experienced players. No one seems to mind a quirky blond woman in her 30’s asking about Pokeballs and hatching eggs. So, I’ll sit with them on the concrete and as the Holy Spirit leads, perhaps invite them into the church. One day maybe we won’t sit together on concrete, but rather inside the church worshipping God together.
Last night when I looked at the Pokemon players, less than 100 feet from the church doors, it filled me with hope and excitement. Churches aren’t exactly filled with the under-30 crowd these days, but there they are in our parking lot. We could easily dismiss this nonsensical game or we can use this opportunity to minister to the people that are very literally sitting at our doors.
I don’t know about you, but I am definitely joining the PokemonGo Out Into the World movement (#pokenmongointotheworld). Yes, I meant that to be punny, but it fits in with Matthew 28:19 pretty well.
Wanna join me? We gotta catch ‘em all!