The game Pokemon Go is a phenomenon like we've never before seen! People of all ages are taking to their communities to play by “catching” Pokemon on their smartphones. Most local churches are part of the game as “PokeStops” or “Gyms” (or both), in other words, a destination for players.
The assignment of “PokeStops” is made by the game maker, rather than the church or business, but there are ways local churches can take advantage of the opportunity to meet the neighbors.
The game is played outdoors, so neighbors are likely to walk by or stop in the parking lot.
Why it Matters
”As the local church, this phenomenon presents us with both challenges and opportunities to be the the incarnate presence of Jesus Christ,” said Rev. Herzen Andone, Director of the Conference Office of Connectional Ministries.
Covenant UMC in Smyrna is considering ways to welcome Pokemon Go players including offering water and snacks.
“From my desk I can see the church parking lot and we have no fewer than 5 cars an hour stop by -- and we are on a side street,” said staff member Sarah Lyons.
An article from Ministry Matters, "What to do if your church is a hub for Pokemon Go," gives practical tips for how to reach out to strangers wandering around your church parking lot.
Connexion UMC in Covington is already doing “Ministry Matters” first two suggestions:
Connectional Ministries staff also have suggestions:
"If your church does a Pokémon event, do it out front in the churchyard and advertise what you're doing," explained Rev. Sam Halverson. “That's where the stop will be - outside the church building and usually close to the parking lot.”
Plus your church could:
In addition to outreach and hospitality ideas, we have heard concerns about Pokemon Go. Some questions we have heard are:
WIll there be an increase in distracted drivers in our area?
(The game is played on foot, but many drive to Pokéstops. It is always wise to be mindful of distracted drivers.)
How does this fit in with our Safe Sanctuaries policy?
(It’s certainly not necessary to open the church for Pokémon players because the game is played outside, but if you do, consider who will provide supervision.
There are ways to opt out of being a Pokéstop or Gym, but Halverson encourages churches to think very carefully before opting out. First ask, What message would that give the community? Why wouldn’t your church want people from the community walking by?
A second article from Ministry Matters, "The Gospel of Pokemon Go," gives some insight into the advantages of welcoming players and some of the potential downsides.
The game is certainly a fad and interest will likely fade over time, but mission specialist Rev. Scott Parrish encourages churches to "aim for a spirit of hospitality, eager to know folks in your community, showing we can have fun too. That will transfer to the next fad or opportunity."