The Good Game – Reaching Gamers
by Justin Bowers
Minecraft. Destiny. 2K. League of Legends. D&D. Bioshock. Overwatch. Call of Duty. Half-Life 2. Mario Kart. Skyrim. FIFA. World of Warcraft. Magic the Gathering. Zelda. Pokémon. E3. Team Liquid. Furries. Overcooked 2. Smash Ultimate. Banjo Kazooie. For the youth ministers who have no clue what they just read, don’t worry, this blog is designed to give you some helpful hints for reaching the Gamer(s) in your youth group. For all the other Challenger Level youth ministers, think of this blog as a strategy guide.
The Bible teaches us to love God and to love people. Gamers are people. Therefore, the Bible teaches us to love God and to love Gamers. The ever growing culture of nerds and gamers can be a dark place, and it is desperately in need of Jesus. We’ve got to stop thinking, “I hope someone reaches that kid because all he/ she does is play video games all day.” What if I told you that YOU are the one being called to reach that student? Are you required to beat Mike Tyson’s Punch Out, or to know the difference between the Johto and Kanto regions in the world of Pokemon? No, but it might help. However, as a youth pastor, are you required to step out of your comfort zone from time to time? Absolutely. Plus, students will usually show grace if you go out of your way to show them that you are genuinely interested in what they do, and that you want to give it a shot. If you are a n00b at video games, THAT’S OKAY because it’s the love of Christ that counts. Now that we are comfortable with Christianity being uncomfortable, here are some ways to connect or pursue these students.
One great way to spend time with the gamers in your youth group is by hosting a video game tournament. Ask your students what are the most popular competitive video games and consider investing in a compatible gaming console and full set of controllers. There may be someone at the church, or a student who has a console and maybe they would be interested in helping you host the tournament by bringing their system to the event. You could even hold a grand prize to the person who accumulates to greatest stats throughout the event.
Another great way to reach these students is by playing a game online with them. Start by creating an online gaming account and then invite the students to be your online friends. From there you can invite to join in on a game you start, and if you use a headset, then you can talk with them while hanging out online. Being able to create memories with your students through video games can be an incredible thing. Student gamers can be very lonely and discouraged people because they naturally escape to a virtual world where encouraging words are unfortunately rare and shallow threats and aggressive language is plenty. Telling these students that you want to spend time with them via video games can be the way out of some really dark thoughts they might be going through.
Maybe even meeting up at the local arcade would be a fun event, however, for each other suggestions be sure to know where your church policies stand when it comes to hanging out with the students. You don’t want to be in a situation where you and a student where the only two playing video games online, so it’s best to be above reproach. Try to keep these events as non-exclusive as possible by announcing to your youth group the details of the event, and maybe even show them the title belt or trophy to be won. If you are hosting a video game tournament at your church, be sure to encourage the students to invite their friends, and have some fun extra table top games in case of a larger crowd.
If your youth group gamers are all about Jesus then you could assign them a Side Quest (The Great Commission type of stuff). Think of these Side Quests as challenges for the gamers in your youth group. You could give them the task of inviting a friend from school to join an online event, or maybe to invite them to a tournament you are hosting in the youth room at some point that week. Side Quests can be considered the missional side of this part of the ministry. Give your group of gamers a cool name, like, The Gamers Guild, or something. Have them fill out a general information card with some basic questions (name; phone number; grade; birthday; school; email; gamertag, etc.) and other fun inquiries like, “what is your nerd weapon of choice?” or, “What is your favorite video game of all time?” Have fun with it.
Here are some links and sources for you to consider to get things started. Love Thy Nerd (lovethynerd. com) is a nonprofit organization all about bridging the gap between the gospel and the gamer. They have some really practical and interesting methods for bringing the message of Jesus’ love, hope, and acceptance into the culture of videogamers, anime enthusiasts, comic book collectors, and nerds alike. For videogame reviews and videogame news, check out these sites: gamespot.com, ign.com, gameinformer.com, go.twitch. tv. I also suggest making a trip to your local gaming store for more information about games, systems, or other trending gamer topics. Jesus loves gamers, and he wants to use you to bring his light into their world.