For the last several days I've been teaching at Lead THE Cause, a week-long, high-intensity, training camp to inspire, equip and mobliize youth leaders and their teenagers to make and multiply disciples in their own communities. We equip teenagers to pray and then we spend an afternoon praying. Then we teach them to share the Gospel and take them out to actually do it.
After our afternoon outreaches we capture stories from these trained up (and now fired up) teenagers about what God did while they were out sharing the Gospel on the streets. Mr. Bill and his Legacy Students came back some amazing experiences while using Pokémon Go. To be honest I don't quite understand the phenomenon but I asked him to have his youth group write a summation that I could share with you. Here it is:
"Pokémon Go is undoubtedly occupying the time of millennials all over the world. While there are many hilarious social media posts concerning the frustrations and obsession of this new sensation, we see it as an exciting new evangelism tool; especially after several of our students went to Denver to reach the lost. While on the Denver Community College campus, students built new relationships with fellow Pokémon trainers at local PokéStops.
PokéStops and gyms are a great attraction for strangers to meet with a common interest. To our advantage, most churches are PokéStops, providing an easy way to invite your fellow trainers. Having a common interest with Pokémon Go is an easy conversation starter anywhere for students to begin a Gospel conversation. And if you’re looking for a transition, try a sly question like 'Do you know what's better than catching a Pikachu, having someone believe in Jesus as their Savior.' Or 'What's worse than a Pokémon getting away, is when we get away or avoid telling the Gospel' Our favorite transition is, 'Do you know who the ultimate gym trainer is? Jesus.' And if you’re feeling blunt today, try, 'Do you know what’s worse than running out of poké balls? Hell.'
Jesus told His disciples to fish for men, or in today’s context, gotta catch ‘em all."
Written by Legacy Students: Micaiah Bodiford, Gordon Gouger, Makayla Miller, Caleb Neises, Dustin Wakefield.
One of the best ways to engage someone playing this game is by simply asking, admiring and admitting. Ask them questions about their experiences with the game. Then find a spiritual segue and ask them what they believe spiritually. Try to identify areas about their beliefs that you can admire and, finally, admit the reason you're a Christian is that you're so messed up you need Jesus to save you. Then share the Gospel with them!
Another young leader at Lead THE Cause wrote these words as a reminder for Christian teenagers if they choose to use Pokémon Go for evangelism:
"Everyone wants to fill up their Pokédex, be sure you fill your Spirtualdex too with Scripture to share with unbelievers, and understanding the gifts God has given you. Some of your gifts are going to have higher CP (combat power) than others, but don't give up. It can be hard to be patient on God's timing of revealing some of those gifts and callings. But just like being still in your pulsing ring brings Pokémon out of hiding, being still before God enables us to hear from him. Personal growth is so important as we continue to share and advance the Gospel. Pokemon Go is a game of personal training and interacting with others. Our faith should be the same. We are disciples, fishers of men and we are trainers with an extra edge, because we battle with the CP (combat power) of the Holy Spirit."
Of course we need to always be aware about potential safety issues (as there can be with any kinds of social interactions, especially with strangers.) I would encourage teenagers to exercise wisdom and to consider having an adult leader in proximity and one or two other teenagers with them as they reach out to other Pokémon Go players with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
As the Legacy Students reminded us, let's catch them all...for Christ!