Pokémon Go… and make disciples [Updated]

Pokémon Go… and make disciples [Updated]

Not to jump on the Pokémon bandwagon, although in fairness it’s a bandwagon I’ve been on for about the last 20 years. Time for a little creative inspiration, courtesy of the Church Communications Facebook Group… and the Texas Department of Transportation!

This Facebook post is a great example of communication from an unlikely source. It’s timely, targeted perfectly for the intended audience and it delivers its message with wit. Humour is easy to get wrong online, and to look like you’re trying too hard, yet a serious message is delivered here with just the right amount of ‘tongue in cheek’.

Pokemon Be Alert Facebook Post - ChurchTrain

Not only this, but the tone of the Texas Department of Transportation in their comments and replies is bang on, meaning that the message of road safety further resonates with its audience.

Oh, and it’s about Pokemon, which helps.

Take inspiration from quality, wherever you may see it! 

If you’re curious about how your church could use Pokémon Go as a witness to your community (when it comes to the UK), I’m certainly not the first to write about it; here’s a brilliant blog post from The Wardrobe Door – 8 Ways Churches can Capitalize on Pokemon Go.

Oh, and it’s not just churches, as this post from inc.com illustrates.

For example…

The following pictures show just a few examples of churches holding Pokemon Go events.

Fair play to Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian Church in San Diego for putting this together so quickly (here’s the link to their Facebook post).

community pokemon event - ChurchTrain

Pokemon Go church event - ChurchTrain

Another great example here from 2|42 Community Church:
Pokemon Go church graphics download | ChurchTrain

Last but not least, the brilliant guys over at CPO (Christian Publishing and Outreach) have got you covered with some customisable Pokémon-themed church posters to promote your Pokéstop!

Customisable Pokemon Go posters from CPO | ChurchTrain


To the naysayers, here is a highlight from the inc.com article linked above:

“The naysayers inside your organization will say the same things people say whenever there’s a big paradigm shift. “This is a fad,” they’ll say. And that could be true. People, of course, said the same thing about the original Pokémon game.

The more salient point here is that no marketing channel is evergreen, but businesses that want to win have to keep one eye open for these big shifts–and they have to capitalize on them when it’s time. With Pokémon Go, businesses have an unprecedented opportunity to create strong emotional bonds with new customers, and for very little money.

Even if Pokémon GO isn’t as powerful a tool for driving sales six months or a year from now, the customers that you delight today are going to remember you tomorrow.”

Pokemon Go Is Driving Insane Amounts of Sales at Small Local Businesses

From my point of view, there seems to be an assumption from some that playing games is childish. Well, they’re entitled to their opinion – and it’s one that gamers, casual and serious, are well used-to.

However, whether or not we personally wish to stay active on the game itself is sort of beside the point – Pokemon Go is hugely popular at the moment, and in the last few days churches have already shown the potential of using the game’s social aspects to engage with their communities – communities that have long walked by their churches without a second glance.

If it’s not for you, fine, but don’t look down on others who are seeking to use whatever methods they can to share the gospel in love… or those who might just enjoy the game for that matter.

Update: You know how I try hard to be positive, whilst encouraging you lot to seek excellence… Sometimes it’s hard. I won’t say too much, but maybe suggest that some of these guys didn’t get the right amount of tongue in cheek…

Relevant – 13 ‘Pokemon Go’ Church Signs That Now Exist


6 Responses

  1. I’m a Presbyterian minister, so it was fun to see you highlighting a Presbyterian church and the way they pretty amazingly put together an event so quickly.

    In our post over at Illustrated Children’s Ministry today, we highlighted 10 Do’s and Don’ts, but almost all of them were just basic common sense that churches who claim to be open and welcoming and inclusive should be doing anyway. Although, I can already picture the churches where the pastor and staff have no idea what Pokémon GO is chasing groups of junior high boys and girls (and adults who are kids at heart) off their church campuses….

    Churches need to embrace the fun and join in.

    • Joe

      Thanks, Adam, yes it’s encouraging to see!

      I’ll certainly take a look at your post, and yes, let’s hope common sense prevails!

      With that said, making a specific, intentional effort won’t be something for every church – as ever, it’s about doing what’s best for your context. If there’s no one playing Pokemon Go in your church locality (which I’d suggest probably isn’t the case given its current Daily Active Users!) then it may not be worth your efforts, which could be focused on other projects!

  2. All interesting, and from a gathering community perspective of church – but what if the church is missional and already active in the spaces – ie through detached youthwork heres my thoughts: http://wp.me/p2Az40-xz

    • Joe

      Thanks for your comment James.

      The satnav analogy is an interesting one. I can’t think of any other leisure-related smartphone technology in recent times that has influenced real-world behaviour as much as Pokémon Go. Satnav and mobile mapping is an obvious example outside of smartphone gaming.

      The only addition I’d make to your example is that Pokémon Go not only causes its users to view the world as a satnav, but that many churches are essentially plumbed in as destinations. In this sense we don’t have to direct people to the churches because that’s already done.

      However, your points about interrupting shouldn’t be ignored, which is why we need to promote the events carefully. This puts a timeframe on the Poké-nav’s destination. By visiting during an event, users are choosing to engage, rather than awkwardly being interrupted.

      I especially appreciate the part of your article that notes how not everyone will have access to the game. This is a very important point, as churches can easily cause those without access to feel isolated.

  3. I agree – good to see churches being “un-serious” and being seen to be un-serious. I did download Pokemon Go but only to “kick the tyres” – see what the fuss is about ….

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