Pokémon Go is here, and churches across America have found themselves in a unique predicament – they are seeing a large number of visitors around the church building. Pokémon Go uses real maps of our cities and towns, and it has denoted certain buildings or points of interest as places to visit for Pokémon Trainers (the preferred title of people playing the game). Because of this, many churches are now Pokéstops and Pokémon Gyms which means Pokémon Trainers will be stopping by consistently for some time. So with this influx of visitors, the majority of whom do not have a home church, here are some ways your church can offer hospitality and reach out in love:
- Post Welcome Signs: Many Pokémon Trainers probably feel uneasy venturing onto church property, especially if they have never been to a church before. Why not change your marquee or make a sign that clearly states “Pokémon Trainers Welcome!”
- Refreshments for Hot Summer Days: While it is impossible to offer refreshments 24/7, Pokémon Trainers are usually the most active in the evenings (after work) and during the afternoon on weekends. The summer weather is brutally hot; why not have someone offer ice cold bottles of water? They will be thankful, and will likely remember your kindness in the future.
- Have Business Cards and Event Calendars Ready (but Don’t be Pushy): A growing number of Americans have no connections to a church whatsoever; however, there are moments in life where most people are drawn to church – particularly weddings and funerals. By offering the church’s basic information, you may establish a connection that later grows into a deeper relationship when a spiritual need arises in their life. It is also good to have a schedule of upcoming activities for those that show interest in the church on a deeper level, but be subtle and conscious of their level of interest, giving out unwanted information is usually off-putting and leads to unnecessary trash.
- Find a Pokémon Expert to Host: If you have a few millennials in your congregation, chances are at least one of them is ecstatic about Pokémon Go, and even if you don’t have young adults in your congregation, at least one church member is bound to have a family member that is excited about it. Ask this person to help host trainers during peak times, handing out the refreshments, etc. The great part about excitement is that it is contagious, so a Pokémon fan is the perfect host and will help guests feel even more at home. Also, be sure to have multiple unrelated adults present to host, as we must be conscious of Child Protection policies.
- Lure Modules: Usually Pokémon Trainers have to walk all over to find what they are looking for, but a Lure Module is an item in the game that attracts Pokémon to a specific Pokéstop. These Lure Modules cost about a dollar for every thirty minutes. This means that for approximately five dollars, you can host a two and a half hour event where Pokémon Trainers will be intentionally flocking to your church because you are offering them exactly what they are looking for: Pokémon!
- Host a Pokémon party! Even if your church is not a Pokéstop, we are in the midst of Pokémon’s 20th anniversary and there are tons of special items and events all year round – why not host a Pokémon party to mark the occasion? Give away packs of Pokémon cards or have a door prize drawing for the upcoming Pokémon Sun/Moon. You can pre-order the game, and they can pick it up November 18th when it comes out (or you could schedule the party for November 18th). There are a number of various Pokémon goodies on Amazon, such as inexpensive cupcake toppers. You can also invite people to bring their Nintendo 3DS and trade/battle Pokémon with one another. Be sure to check with your Pokémon expert, they are likely to have a number of great ideas for the party.
While these ideas are far from exhaustive (and some may not fit your context), these provides a starting point to reach new people where they are and offer a small bit of God’s grace. While we may want to jump straight into sharing the good news with them, it is necessary for us to first build relationships and trust, and Pokémon Go is offering us an unprecedented opportunity to begin forming those relationships. May God bless you in your Pokévangelism endeavors!