“Our church is a PokeStop? What?!”
Before we go any further, let me be upfront and tell you that I know next to nothing about Pokémon. I never traded Pokémon cards, played the game or watched the show…nothing. Until now.
So as I’ve been running around town the past couple days, throwing Poké Balls at Pokémon and trying to CATCH THEM ALL, walking to PokeStops and losing badly at Gyms…I’ve had no idea what I was doing.
If you haven’t heard of Pokémon GO, I’m honestly not sure what to say to you. Perhaps you’ve been off the grid for the past week or two, but things have gotten a little crazy. Pokémon GO is a free-to-play location-based augmented reality mobile game; you play on your iPhone or Android mobile phone. While you’re running around town (because you gotta catch ’em all – seriously, watch that video), you may run into others playing the game, stop at Pokéstops and Gyms (to train and engage in battles) and otherwise look somewhat ridiculous.
Case in point: I stopped in front of the Winnetka Congregational Church (which is a Gym in the Pokémon GO world) and realized that I had no idea how to fight in the battles. And yet, there I was – standing on the front steps of the church building, phone pointed up in the air, voraciously swiping at invisible (to others) Pokémon, when one of the custodians came out of the building. I can only imagine what he thought I was doing.
If you want to read up a bit more on Pokémon GO and what to do if your church is a PokeStop, check out these helpful posts:
- How Pokémon is luring millennials to the church (parking lot)
- Pokémon GO Is Sending its Users to Churches and Mosques
- 8 Ways Churches can Capitalize on Pokémon GO
- What To Do If Your Church Is A Hub For Pokémon GO
- Pokémon Go: Sending People to Your Church
- Pokémon Go… and make disciples
- Church Attendance Spikes Nationwide Due To Influx Of Pokémon GO Players (humor article)
Regardless of whether you think Pokémon GO is a ridiculous trend or a silly game or the greatest thing since cat videos on YouTube, churches need to be paying attention. As I’ve been playing the past couple days, literally every church I’ve walked or driven past is a PokeStop, and many of them are gyms. And what that means, is that you’re going to have lots of random people stopping by your church to collect Poké Balls, catch Pokémon and hang out.
Our Church is a PokeStop. Now what?
Now that you know at least a little more about Pokémon GO than you did a few minutes ago, here is a list of the top 10 do’s and don’ts when you realize your church is a PokeStop in Pokémon GO.
1. Make sure everyone on your church staff knows about Pokémon GO, knows that your church is a PokeStop and knows what to expect.
Now that Pokémon GO is a nationwide phenomenon, people are most likely going to be walking around your church grounds more than normal. I’ve been to a few churches that are PokeStop and Gyms, and I’ve found myself walking up to the steps and around the back of one church building because the location was a bit off for the PokeStop. I don’t know those churches or the pastors, and yet…I really wanted those Poké Balls.
Talk to your administrators, custodians and staff – they need to know why there may suddenly be random people showing up on the church grounds. And please make sure your youth pastors and children’s ministry pastors know about Pokémon GO. It’s part of their job to be culturally literate, and this is definitely part of the children, youth (and adult) culture right now.
2. Please don’t kick people off your church grounds.
Please figure out how you’re going to engage these people and make a plan.
Please do not tell them to get lost, or ask them to leave, or call the police or chase them away.
I’m just guessing, but I bet that’s not the image you want people to have of your church. Do you claim to be a welcoming church? Well – this would be a good time to test that out.
3. Offer a way for those playing to charge their cell phones AND/OR get water & Snacks.
I’ve only played Pokémon GO for a few days, but one thing I know is that it really drains your phone’s battery (even with their battery saving feature). Having a few power cords plugged in and ready for your Pokémon adventurers would be awesome (and easy).
A few nights ago, I took our dog Sadie for a walk and thought I’d only be gone about 15-20 minutes. An hour later, I got home. I just wanted to keep exploring and finally get up to Level 5 so I could start going to Gyms. Luckily, it was in the evening – but imagine a bunch of kids out in the middle of the heat, I can imagine they’d love a bottle of water and some snacks.
4. Please don’t use a “bait and switch” tactic and require Pokémon gamers to say a prayer or join a Bible study first.
Please, for the love of all things holy, do not make them do something to get their phones charged or get a drink or snack. I know, I know. YOU wouldn’t do this, but I know plenty of ministries that make homeless folk sit through a Bible study before they will give them a hot meal or let them get toiletries or clothes.
This is not the time for coercing people into doing something.
Give them a power cable and a cold one (a cold water bottle, that is).
5. Have someone be around during the day to greet people and be a welcoming presence.
Have a youth pastor or a youth intern who just spends all day in the office on Facebook? I’m just kidding (I used to be a youth pastor – and actually, I did spend most of my day on Facebook).
But seriously – get some of your youth or adult volunteers to sign up for times to be greeters for those who come to your PokeStop.
Why not? Show the players a friendly face and let them know that your church is in on the fun.
Have your pastors have “office hours” somewhere close to the PokeStop so they can see when people come by.
6. Please don’t hand out tracts (or other religious materials). Please. Seriously. Don’t.
See #4 above.
7. Encourage people in your congregation to play Pokémon GO and join in on the fun.
If your church is a Gym, there will be a Gym Leader, and that person may frequent your church (grounds/parking lot) more often than others.
Encourage people in your church to join in on the fun. Offer incentives for becoming the Gym Leader – your youth will love it.
Maybe even place a lure and advertise a time when people can come and try to catch all the Pokémon.
8. Please don’t try to convince people that games like Pokémon GO will turn their children into devil-worshipers.
This shouldn’t even need to be included in this list, but I’ve already seen a few posts on the interwebs and on social media where people are decrying the evils of Pokémon and the game.
We have much more important things to be spending our time thinking about and debating. Pokémon GO is NOT one of those things.
And I say this as someone who used to think that reading Harry Potter books was something that Christians just should not do or they had some issues (what was I thinking?).
9. Have fun with it! Because you gotta catch ’em all!
Have fun with this! Decorate your churches. Don’t take yourselves too seriously. Have a family Pokémon night at your church, place a lure and go wild! Have your youth group get together and do some Pokémon-related activities & games. Yes, this is all the rage right now, and it will probably pass sometime in the near future (or not), but why not get in on the fun for now?
10. Finally, please, PLEASE don’t think this is going to increase your church attendance. If you’re thinking that – you’re missing the point.
Are you excited about Pokémon GO? Awesome.
Can’t wait to find ways for your church to engage the broader Pokémon GO community? Even better.
Do you think this is going to save your church or increase your church’s weekly attendance? Okay – sorry. You’re missing the point.
You’re not engaging with Pokémon GO players because you hope to snag them into your church’s community and add some new “giving units” to your membership rolls. You’re not engaging with them because you hope you’ll be able to save some of them. Hopefully, you’re doing so because it’s something fun and your church is aware of the world and the culture that it finds itself in.
What has your church done to get ready for all of the Pokémon GO players stopping by?
And now…may the force be with you! (or whatever the corresponding saying might be in the world of Pokémon). Go catch ’em all!