Does your congregation have a gymnasium? You may and not even know it. With the arrival of the Pokémon Go, your congregation’s site might be a Pokémon gym. Or if it isn’t a Pokémon gym, it might be a Pokémon stop.
Pokémon Go is a reality game for iOS and Android devices. It uses Google maps to place Pokémon in real world locations. Players catch them. That is, players seek, find and catch Pokémon characters, such as Pikachu and Merowak and a fulsome host of other pocket monsters. Pokémon gyms are where players contest against Pokémons to win the right to claim the gym for their teams. The Pokémon Go algorithm has assigned many public places as gyms. Hence, many congregations are also Pokémon gymnasiums.
Pokémon stops are locations where players can get the tools of the game, including Poke balls, eggs, potions, razz berries and much more.
So, do you know if your congregation building is a Pokémon gym? Is your congregation a Poke stop?
The church where I worship is a gym. I don’t think this was approved by the governing board. In worship on Sunday, I saw at least five people up in the balcony playing Pokémon Go. The players were a variety of ages, including one over 45 I'd guess. I can report that as of Sunday, Team Mystic had control of the building.
A teenager I know was sitting on the front lawn of another church in our neighborhood; a church that will remain unnamed. On a Pokémon quest, he had just swiped Arcanine when a car pulled up. The driver side window came down, and the driver said "I’ve been watching you for the last half hour loiter on the lawn of my church building. It is time for you to scoot.”
Another pastor describes how she saw four youth walking around the church building where she serves. She grabbed her phone and headed outside. She introduced herself to the youth and found out, yes indeed, they were playing Pokémon Go. She asked the guys (they all were guys) to teach her to play. They did so gladly. The next day, the same youth were back, but with three more of their friends. This time the pastor got their names and phone numbers. She’s thinking, “Hmm, I might have reason to call them, even if it is just to help me move the piano next time.”
Are you a Pokémon gym? Are there Pokémon congregating in your parking lot? Are their potions hovering back by the church bus? And if so, what is your response?
I’m interested in hearing from you about your congregation and this cultural moment. Email me your thoughts and responses at firstname.lastname@example.org.