Last week a popular new app was released and it’s probably affecting your church. Countless churches and communities have been trying to figure out how to respond to visitors/players of the new Pokemon Go app. What do I do if my church is Pokemon Go Gym or a Pokestop?
A new app isn’t normally something we’d cover on our Rose blog, but it’s affecting many Christian communities and churches AND it’s a perfect way to reach out to new visitors and extend kindness. But wait– passing out tracts might not be the best idea. Your visitors aren’t Pokemon and you don’t “gotta catch ’em all!” Keep reading for some helpful advice!
What is Pokemon Go?
After the popular Japanese animated franchise Pokémon (pronounced “POH-kay-mahn,” short for “pocket-monster”), Pokemon Go is a free app game for smartphones that allows players to catch virtual creatures and interact in “battles” in real locations.
Using GPS signals and Google Maps, players of all ages can advance in the game by visiting select locations with their smartphones. In other words, people that would normally stay plugged in to their gaming computers at home will probably start going outside and getting some sun…
Oh, and some of them are now going to church.
Why is my church a “Pokemon Go Gym” or “Pokestop?”
We’re not entirely sure why many churches across the country have been selected to be Pokemon Go gyms, but it seems developers have chosen places of “cultural, historic, or religious importance” (like murals, memorials, and parks) to be areas for players to visit and collect items or train their Pokemon in “gym battles.” Let’s get to a couple common questions:
- What is a Pokemon Go gym? — A place where trainers/players can battle other Pokemon, helping their team capture gyms, level their Pokemon up, etc.
- What is a Pokestop? — A location where players can gather and collect items like pokeballs (used to catch Pokemon), eggs (to hatch Pokemon), and various healing or recovery items for wounded Pokemon. Every 5 minutes the Pokestop refreshes and a player can return to the same stop to gather more items.
The stops and gyms are speculated to be chosen based off another location-based game called “Ingress” that shares it’s location data with Google. Keep reading, this can be a good thing…
What do I do if my church is having lots of Pokemon Go visitors?
Treat your new visitors with kindness. They most likely won’t try to disturb your service or church activities. They just need to be near your church’s geographic location — more often than not, players are concentrating on the game and probably would remain fairly quiet. Also, don’t be surprised if you have younger ones in your congregation already playing the game! They might even start bringing their friends to your church.
Want to extend hospitality to your new visitors? Here are some tips:
- During services, place polite notices welcoming visitors, and asking for silence if need be
- Offer power outlets for free charging (the app drains phone batteries quickly)
- Offer water or snacks to visitors
- Make conversation with them, but don’t try to preach to them — they are on church property, but treat them like any other passerby
- Understand and learn as much as you can about the game itself — you never know what positive relationships in your community can be built
- Drop a “lure” (a time-sensitive item in the app that can be purchased or earned) at peak traffic times to draw Pokemon to your location — this will invite more players to your stop
It’s likely that your new visitors live in your community/area. If they’re showing up anyways, wouldn’t it do some good to be hospitable? It wouldn’t do any good to get angry or put walls or fences up. Being hospitable is an excellent way to make connections with people in the community that wouldn’t otherwise come to church or experience the gospel.
In addition, your church is a safe place for young people to hang out in, providing a good alternative to other locations or more dubious activities.
Can I remove the “Pokestop?”
It hasn’t been confirmed to work, but at this moment in game development, you can try to remove your church as a Pokestop by contacting the developers.
How can I request to make my church a “Pokestop?”
There’s no confirmed answer for this question either, but for now, it doesn’t look like you can submit locations to become stops or gyms. You can always try using the contact form on the developer site to make a suggestion. However do NOT ever pay to make your church a Pokestop or gym. There are a lot of scams out there, so please be mindful!
Hope this blog post helps you and your church prepare for the upcoming week and the Sundays to come!