The phenomena of Pokémon GO started about six weeks ago when the game launched its first batch of mobile phones in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. Since then, it has taken the world by storm, and rightly so. It is a simple game that almost anyone can enjoy.
The game centers around the Nintendo property of Pokémon, which originally popped up as a video game, card game, and anime back in the mid 90’s. The basic premise is loosely based on the video games. You are a Pokémon trainer, and your job is to collect Pokémon. Though, instead of walking around in a video game, you will walk around in real life.
In my last post, I talked a lot about the pros and cons of the game. This time, however, I’d like to chat about some ways we can use it in our churches. Many of these are ideas I have heard churches doing, and some of them are from my own ideas. Because of that, some ideas are clearly better than others. Still yet, some ideas might work in your context but not someone else’s. The main purpose of this article is to get you thinking creatively about using the game to reach out to others, connect with them, and show them Jesus.
- Use lure modules. Most churches are Pokéstops. Not only can you collect in-game items, but Pokéstops also tend to spawn more Pokémon. If you drop a lure on your church’s Pokéstop, it will attract even more Pokémon for people to catch for 30 minutes. These do cost money, but you can probably find a few extra dollars in your marketing budget to draw in people that might not normally come to your church.
- Host a Pokémon Day. Since your church is most likely a Pokéstop, feel free to advertise it as such. Pick a date when you plan on throwing on several lures in a row, make some images and posters, and get the word out. Most likely, you will have even more people stop by your church to catch some Pokémon. While they are there, offer them some snacks and get to know them. You could even have Pokémon shows and/or music playing in the background. When trading comes into play eventually, this could be huge!
- Make a Pokéstop Box. Following the ongoing theme, some of your churches will become a regular stop for Pokémon trainers. If that is the case, consider making a box with treats, prizes, and even a place for players to write down prayer requests. Just make sure it is waterproof and clearly marked. Also, know that not all players will obey the “just take one” rule, so be careful about what you put in there as prizes.
- Staff your Pokéstop. If you are in a populated area, you may want to consider hanging out at your church’s Pokéstop on a regular basis. People will be passing by to collect items and try to catch Pokémon. If you have someone there who offers players a nice hello, a water, and some genuine conversation, that person might keep coming back and eventually check out your church or ministry. At the very least, you’ve just done your job to reach out and love on your neighbor.
- Use social media. Due the game’s popularity, many websites and services have popped up to help players find Pokémon. The game’s developers, however, are taking those sites down due to server strain. As a church, you can help, though. If you have Pokémon in your area, especially rare ones, post about it on social media with a screenshot and location tag. In more populated areas, people will start flocking to your church. And when they do, refer to the above suggestions.
- Go Pokémon hunting together. Just last week, I took a few of our high school guys down to Boston to hang out and catch Pokémon. They even brought a friend, who does not go to church. This was a great time to pour into them, do life together, and hear a lot from them and their friend. So, grab a couple students you want to invest in, tell them to bring a friend, and go catch some Pokémon together. While you’re at it, you will probably find some cool places that you never would have found before.
- Work it into your illustrations. Every once in a while, a certain show, movie, book, or game will come along that is so popular, almost everyone knows something about it. Pokémon GO is one of those things, so use it in your teachings, small groups, etc. Sure, there will be some who don’t know what you’re talking about, but they will be the exception. Feel free to even take a poll: “Who here plays Pokémon GO?” I bet most of your students/kids will say yes, and probably most of your adults too (at least those in the 18-40 age range).
- Create a series around it. If you want to go beyond using it as an illustration, consider making an entire series around it. Maybe you could talk about what mystic, instinct, and valor (the game’s three teams) actually mean. Perhaps you could teach on how Jesus called the disciples to catch people instead of catching fish, similar to catching Pokémon. You could even split your groups into three colored teams, creating ongoing games throughout the series.
- Create a game around it. Yes, Pokémon GO is a great game in and of itself, but there are probably games you can build around it. For example, I’m planning on using it in our annual high school photo scavenger hunt. In addition to other items they must find and photograph, I could give extra points to those who also have a Pokémon in their picture. Another example could just be going out in a hunting party and giving a prize to the team who catches the most in the allotted time. Feel free to get even more creative!
- Meet people. There are a ton of people who play this game. If you’re in an urban or suburban environment, you probably see people walking around glued to their phones a lot more than usual lately. That’s because more people are out and about playing this game. Get to know them, talk about your favorite Pokémon, and share life with them. This game has the ability to open up conversations with people you never would have met before. So, let God use you as you play and meet others.
Bonus idea: If your church is one of the few to be a Pokémon GO Gym, consider giving gym leaders a prize. Currently the game itself offers little incentives to being a gym leader, but your church could change that!
Do you have any other ways you have used Pokémon GO in your church or ministry? Has this list given you another idea that I didn’t mention? Let me know in the comments! And if you’ve done any of these, let me know that too!