by Stan Fetting
Everyone is going mad about Pokémon Go. If you see people – adults and kids – wondering around town these days, eyes cast downwards and fixed to their smartphones, the chances are they are not texting or looking at emails but searching for Pokémon characters. How does the church respond to this?
The uptake of the game and the growing phenomenon is hard to ignore. Nintendo has doubled the price of its shares and sent the app to the top of the App store rankings. It is the first time Nintendo has enjoyed a market value above Sony (which makes the PlayStation 4 and became a direct rival when it released the original PlayStation in 1994) since July 2014.
The game is the first global success story of the mass use of augmented reality technology where the digital world blends with the real world. Geo-caching is the nearest phenomenon which is seen by many as a forerunner to this digital game – which adds another layer to the built environment around us, albeit a digital one.
So how can the church benefit from this social craze? Here’re 5 tips on how to ride the wave and use it for missional purposes:
1. Quit tut-tutting about people wasting their time on augmented reality games and recognise that people are having fun, getting out doors and meeting new people. This is a good thing and can be used for great purposes – like communicating the Gospel. Why not be part of the force that is using it for good?
2. Organise your own Pokémon Go hunts. Gather large groups of people and hit your local neighbourhood. You’ll meet more people along the way. Turn perceptions on their head by being the fun people in your town rather than the fellowship of folded arms and furrowed brows.
3. Purchase ‘Lures’ from within the game and set them off on your property at crucial times when you want to attract people. Create opportunities to connect with people who are ‘lured’. Set up a bbq and give away snags and drinks to keep the Pokémon army fed and watered. You’ll meet people you’ve never met before and who knows where it will lead to?
4. Offer people recharge facilities for their phones during hunts. The game is notorious for draining batteries, be popular for charging them. For free!
5. Don’t just let the youth group play the game, get involved yourself. All things to all people…
Here’s my tip: if you as a church jump into this social phenomenon and use it as an opportunity to connect with people in your community you’ll see the benefit and sense of being a ‘go to them’ kind of church rather than just ‘come to us and our stuff’ kind of church. This will get you thinking about other opportunities around you that you can use to connect with people in your neighbourhood.