Everyone is jumping on the Pokémon Go craze… the most viral fad since the Harlem Shake. Every news channel has given their take on it, explaining it play by play, analyzing it’s effect on the work place, even providing tips how to play it at work without getting fired.
And that’s the thing. Pokémon fever isn’t just for kids. Go to the park near your house. You’ll see mostly Millennials walking around like zombies staring at their devices.
One word: nostalgia
My kids are 18, 20, and 23, so they were in early elementary school when Pokémon first gained popularity on their handheld Gameboys. I remember them wanting the “Red” and then the “Blue” version (Nintendo was smart, releasing new versions frequently, like pellets in a rat cage), and choosing Pikachu or Jigglypuff in our Super Smash Bros. brawls. (They even nicknamed me Jigglypuff during my overweight years!)
Many of these Pokémon fans are grown, in college or in the workplace now. That nostalgia, combined with the augmented reality element—all as a free download— was the perfect recipe for Pokémon fever to catch once again. (And believe me, we will be seeing many more augmented reality games to come. Everybody wants some of this market.)
If you’re a Gen Xer and you don’t understand the attraction, just pretend that the app store on your phone released a Pac Man app that would merge with your GPS so that you could eat dots and run from ghosts as you navigated around your home town. Maybe Pac Man Waze? (An awesome idea by the way—if any of you run with that and make millions, please remember to show our ministry some love!)
So can all this Pokémon hype be used for good?
Absolutely. Here’s 3 ways you can use Pokémon Go to help engage in meaningful conversations with those infected with Pokémon fever—both for parents AND for youth workers.
1. Can I try?
In the last 30 days I’ve done a couple dozen radio interview for my new book, 52 Ways to Connect with My Smartphone Obsessed Kid: How to Engage with Kids Who Can’t Seem to Pry Their Eyes from Their Devices! Rather timely, since Pokémon Go has become an epoxy of sorts, gluing the eyes of young people to their screens even more so. In several of the interviews I’ve been asked, “So what do you do when your kids are obsessed with this new Pokémon game?”
The answer is what I call Two Player Mode. If you are a parent who constantly finds yourself barking, “Would you turn off that stupid game…” try something different. Sit down next to them and simply ask, “Can I try?”
My friend Bill just did it with his son playing Pokémon Go. Bill asked, “Can I play too?” His son showed him how to download the app and the two of them went around the neighborhood tossing Poke Balls and trying to capture rare Pokémon.
Guess what the product of this kind of interaction is?
Conversation…. laughing… bonding… and a little bit of exercise in the mix.
2. Youth Ministry Connections
Youth workers are always looking for culturally relevant tools helping them connect with young people. This brand new Pokémon craze is no exception. It’s simple. If young people are captivated with Pokémon, then use Pokémon as a springboard for interaction.
Youth groups all over the world have been incorporating the Pokémon theme into their games, their camps… even their talks. Download Youth Ministry did a nice job packaging my Pokémon Go talk (with slides and small group questions)… As You Are Going, a message helping kids live out the great commission in true Pokémon Go fashion.
If kids are talking about it, use it.
3. Random Acts of Love
Many of your churches are Poké Stops. You probably know this because you’ve seen Poké zombies wandering around the church lawn, staring at the church sign.
Use this. My friend Adam McLane posted some amazing ideas on his blog. Make a welcoming message on the church sign. Better yet, offer a cooler with cold waters. Some of these Pokémon addicts have walked miles. Start a conversation with them. Even better, download the app, play it a bit, and when someone comes by playing the game, ask them for advice. See where the conversation leads. Who knows… it could lead to the Gospel (some help).
Many of today’s Millennials haven’t grown up in the church and their view of Christianity is only what TV shows them. So don’t be surprised if they’re skeptical. Prove them wrong by smothering them with love and not pushing any agenda.
What about you?
How have you used the Pokémon craze?