During this challenging time, as we face a pandemic, ministry has been difficult. But we have used technology to help connect with people by streaming our services on Facebook and YouTube and meeting in groups through apps like Zoom. Churches have set up prayer times, bible studies, and even game nights via tech in an attempt to stay connected, fellowship, study God’s Word, and minister to their congregation.
One potentially overlooked avenue of ministry is gaming. For years games have been places to connect online with friends. Whether the platform is console, mobile, or PC, gaming can provide an incredible means to connect with others for ministry. Rather than trying to create new places to meet and set up yet more zoom calls, why not tap into the place many people already are? Your first response might be, “Aren’t games for kids?” You might be surprised at the gamer demographic:
- There are more than 2.5 billion video gamers around the world
- The average gamer is 34 years old
- 70% of gamers are age 18 or older
- 60% of Americans play video games daily
- 45% of US gamers are women
- 70% of parents believe video games have a positive influence on their children’s lives
These stats are pretty eye-opening, even for a life-long gamer like me! But the opportunity is incredible. If we take time to invest in connecting through gaming, we can go where people already are for the sake of the gospel.
Here are four ways to minister through gaming:
Create Some Intentional Gaming Squads
You may already have a game of choice that you enjoy playing. If so, grab some friends and discuss how you can form some squads to be intentional about connecting with others to share the gospel or have gospel-centered conversations. Be careful not to create a Christian hit squad focused on sharing without context. The best way to be effective is to build relationships and then take opportunities to share and minister as opportunities arise. Treat it like connecting in person. Just because you are connecting online doesn’t mean you should use less tact.
Conversely, find some people who game in your church and join their squad. Help them see the opportunities in front of them as they game. The key word is intentionality. Yes, you’re still playing to have fun, but be sensitive to conversations and opportunities to infuse the gospel.
Set Up a Discord Channel
Discord is an excellent platform for communication. It is an online communications hub. People can join your channel and talk via their gaming headset, phone, or tablet. You can control your channel by creating rules about who can join and what people in the channel can share. This level of control over your channel is a way to avoid the challenge of the often toxic online community. When I game, I log into my Discord channel that is the meeting place for me and my group of gaming friends. It is always there as a place to connect. Discord can help you connect while playing the same game or even when you are playing different games, or even if you aren’t playing at all and just want to chat. It’s a free and easy way to provide a place to connect.
Coordinate Some Play Times
Throw an event on the calendar for others to join you. Pick a game that’s popular or free to play so as many people can participate as possible. Plan it like you would any event. Use Facebook or some other app to allow people to sign up and get in on the fun. If you want, encourage people to invite a friend. Make it a regularly scheduled thing to build momentum and create some consistency.
Stream through Twitch or Mixer
There is already a place (or several places) where people converge to connect through gaming: Twitch. Twitch is the market leader in broadcasting game streams from players all over the world. For the uninitiated, Twitch is like television, but instead of shows, the channels feature gamers playing through various games. Even as a life-long gamer, I struggled with understanding Twitch when it first launched. Why would anyone want to watch someone else play a game? But after finding a few channels that I enjoyed, I began to understand the platform. Whether you like Twitch or not, it is an excellent way for you to broadcast yourself playing games. People can join your channel and chat with you as you play. The benefits of streaming are numerous, but a few that stand out for ministry are:
It provides an easy way for anyone to access you and your content. Whether they are in your ministry or not, people can join the channel and observe and/or ask questions.
You control what game is played and how it is played. There are plenty of games that are inappropriate. Additionally, some games are fine for all audiences, but due to in-game VOIP (voice over IP communication), they can become toxic quickly. When you stream, you pick the game and adjust the settings, so you are able to keep things family-friendly.
Chat is the key feature on Twitch that helps people connect. While you play, viewers can comment or ask questions in real-time. Chat is an incredible opportunity to help people and encourage them. Additionally, you can have someone operate the chat to drive the conversation and help answer questions while you play.
I’ll mention that there are other streaming platforms such as Mixer. But Twitch is by far the most popular platform. Streaming is one of the more complicated options on this list, so be aware that a little tech-savvy will be required as well as purchasing some equipment if you want to do it well. With help on that, you can find a start-up guide here: https://www.tomsguide.com/us/twitch-streaming-guide,review-3009.html
Some of these ideas or more challenging to set up than others, but at the very least, you can connect with people already in your ministry who game. Just ask what they are playing and get connected with them in game. Playing games is a source of fun and entertainment, but it’s also a community that longs for the same things every community longs for: connection. Be creative, have fun, and be ready to have gospel-centered conversations as you connect in the gamer community.