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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Getting Into the Gaming Community (Part One)

I get asked a lot: "How do churches get involved in the gaming community?" It's a valid question and one that is of paramount importance if the video game community is ever going to be reached with the Gospel. There are multiple entry-level ways a church can get involved, starting with one that I think comes with a paradigm shift:

Game stores.

Game stores are very often the hub of the local gaming community. It's where gamers gather not only to buy their games, but also for special events like tournaments and midnight release parties. They're staffed with men and women who speak the language and know their gaming better than anybody. If anybody wants to get involved in a local gaming community, the local game store should be their first stop. But how does a church get involved?

It's going to vary of course and there will be varying degrees of difficulty in building a relationship, but it first starts with opening the lanes of communication with the staff. Let them know who you are ("Hi, I am the pastor at First Baptist ____") and that your church is looking to become more involved with the gaming community.

Once they've recovered (chances are they just had their mind blown), it's absolutely critical to clarify one thing: there are no strings attached. This is going to require sacrifice on the church's part and that in itself can be a major paradigm change for a church, but if your church is serious about getting involved in this community, it is going to take some sacrifice. Let them know that you are interested in being a part of the community, and that that involvement comes with no expectations: no kickbacks of any sort. No expectations of having our ten minutes with the mic or stage.

So what do we mean when we say we want to "get involved"? Well the game stores are already involved in the community like we said, the key is for the church to become a partner in that. As the pastor, ask the staff one question: "How can we help make what you're offering to the community better?" Again, this is going to come with sacrifice. You have to expect that the answer to that question is going to cost you something to provide it. Answering it, however, will speak volumes about your church's commitment to being involved and the love you have for the gaming community. They could use someone to provide Mountain Dew for their midnight release party? Done. They could use an extra television for their upcoming tournament? Done. They need a larger venue for their tournament? Done.

Yes some of those things sound expensive. You're own experience is going to vary. Each community and store will have it's own ideas and needs. Come prepared to sacrifice and to meet those needs. Don't make promises you can't keep though. Be honest about your church's abilities and resources. Partner with other churches if that's feasible and necessary.

The question may become "But how does this help spread the Gospel?" That's a valid question. The answer is that that partnership with that store is the key to building relationships with gamers. Chances are, gamers aren't busting down the door of your church (If they are? Great!), so the church has to go to them. Those very events you are helping to sponsor is a great way for church staff and members to get to know gamers in their community and those relationships are where the evangelism and discipleship come in.

It may be difficult and it for sure is going to cost you something, but building partnerships with game stores and venues is an important first step to building bridges between the church and the local gaming community.

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