A person playing Pokémon Go in a church

The popularity of Pokémon Go has raised interesting questions regarding the ethics of church outreach.

If you own a smartphone, watch the news, or are active on social media, then you have undoubtedly heard about the new craze that’s sweeping the nation: Pokémon Go. The popular franchise’s latest release takes the form of an augmented-reality mobile game. Launched only several weeks ago, it set the record for the fastest mobile game to reach 10 million downloads worldwide. Many people attribute the fantastic success of the game to its wide appeal – introverts and extroverts, old and young, male and female, the game has something to offer everyone.

How the Game Works

Basically, players walk around in search of Pokémon, which pop up periodically as their location is tracked by GPS. When a Pokémon appears, players try to capture it using their smartphone’s camera. The game has been praised by many for encouraging people to get out of the house and be more active (even if they are staring at a phone screen). You may have seen groups of Pokémon players congregating in certain places around your neighborhood.

These places, known as PokeStops, are designated areas at which players can restock on important virtual items necessary for success in the game. PokeStops are typically located at landmarks such as businesses, parks, and frequently, churches. In fact, so many players have begun gathering in these areas that some churches are now using the game to attract new worshipers.

Pokémon for Jesus?A church sign promoting the pokemon game

In an America which is witnessing steady declines in church attendance – especially among young people – officials have decided they may as well take advantage of Pokémon Go’s enthusiastic following. Popular methods of outreach include displaying amusing messages on church signboards, or offering snacks to gamers who stop by to play. Some church leaders are even downloading the game themselves in order to attract more players to the church. Pastors say they are eager to show that the church can keep up with popular trends while still staying true to religious principles. This of course means that playing the game is prohibited during worship. However, churches are betting that at least some of the new visitors will stick around for Sunday services after roaming the grounds looking for Pokémon.

Instant Criticism

Secular critics have been quick to attack this as a simple bait-and-switch tactic. They argue that church leaders are slyly capitalizing on the game’s popularity in order to lure unsuspecting young people to their houses of worship. Once inside, they are vulnerable to influence from existing members. This, critics insist, is a deceitful and dishonest way to boost membership. But church officials appear indifferent to these concerns – to them, the Pokémon Go craze is a blessing. Potentially the most cost-effective marketing campaign they’ve ever undertaken simply showed up at their doorstep one day. In all fairness, an organization would be insane not to take advantage of the game in some way.

Westboro Baptist Church Conflict

Perhaps the strangest virtual Pokémon battle is being fought at the headquarters of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. The church is marked as a “gym” in the game, which means players can battle with their captured Pokémon to control the area. Famous for its strong anti-gay views, the Westboro Baptist Church gym was taken over by pro-LGBT Pokémon players battling with a Pokémon which they named “LoveIsLove”. Infuriated, WBC officials retaliated with several Pokémon-themed homophobic Twitter posts. The conflict quickly made headlines.

A minister driving a van marked 'free candy'.Takeaways

No matter how long the game’s popularity lasts, it has certainly raised interesting questions regarding the ethics of church outreach. Intuitive church leaders have decided to capitalize on Pokémon Go in an effort to attract new members. While some view these tactics as disingenuous, others see them as a brilliant and innovative way to connect with the community. What do you think? Are these attempts to entice young people completely ethical, or, as critics suggest, could they be compared to offering candy to a child from the window of a sketchy van?



  1. Alvin Ronald jones says:

    What Ever Works to reel ’em in(within moral reasons and methods of course)!!! (Smile)

  2. Rev.Dr.Yanel J. Laroche Jr. and Priscilla the Chastity says:

    Rev.Dr.Yanel J. Laroche Jr.: What are games in a world so plain? And playing Pokemon Go has no religious name. Religious obligations always come first with no shame of playing games after religious hours that I still proclaim.Amen.

    Priscilla the Chastity:I,Priscilla the Chastity, and my hubby only like role-playing games you see.And in our role-playing game, we use the Holy Bible really as the manual actually.We summon spirits daily and tell other spirits in reality that liars and those carrying out a lie are against the Holy Scriptures in actuality.(Revelation 21:8,Revelation 22:15). There should be times for Go Pokemon and more time for Religious activities says I,Priscilla the Chastity,so saintly.

  3. Jake Reynolds says:

    Leave the phones alone, everything I see and do people are stuck to their phones, I can see phones for communication, and I don’t mean Facebook or twitter, and if saying this makes me a fogey so be it, but how many people are killed everyday because people can’t be without telling the world there eating dinner or getting rid of last nights.

  4. pastorrichard13 says:

    This game is leading people into sacred burial grounds looking for their prize. They are also being led to the middle of a subway track line, walking off the curb into traffic etc,etc… The CEO of Niantic Corp. is playing on the weak minded and easily led. It would seem that once again the almighty dollar has replaced common sense.

    1. Jake Reynolds says:

      Common sense ain’t that anymore, good points though.

    2. Pastor Pete says:

      Absolutely! The world is in the state it is, and people are rushing around to look for imaginary monsters, sorry, this is frankly a non-subject in my opinion, all about the cash and the sedation of the young, nothing more. Poppycock!

    3. Minister J says:

      Niantic Corp = CIA Front

      Pokemon Go = CIA Spyware

      Pokemon Go User = CIA SPY (Albeit Unsuspecting and / or Unwittingly!)

      Perform your own Due Diligence and you will surely prove it to yourself!

      Don’t trust ME! I’m just ‘POK’ing you in the EYES to see if you can see it coming!

      Be AWAKE! The time is near!

      1. Minister Jesse says:

        You sound slightly paranoid, Pastor J.
        But you are correct the GPS in your phone lets the gov. track your movments

      2. Parson Golden says:

        Do you actually have a credible source for amy of that claim?

        1. ourmountaingrowers says:

          Google it yourself and YOU decide… Better Yet, try this link… http://www.naturalnews.com/SearchResults.asp?query=Pokemon&pr=NN Remember, it’s up to you to decide and to protect yourself and your family… Do your own due diligence!

      3. Jessela says:

        niantic corp is a subset of Google. basically it is a free game that tracks major places people go in remote areas so google maps and such can get free info on fun places to visit. like museums, good food. and the like. All of the “Poke stops” are in popular places people go (ie parks) or things like art and memorials…this is just a great way for them to get that info.
        now when you look something up on google in a new town you have a weath of information they might not have had before.

    4. Michael Young says:

      As a minister and a Pokemon go player. the game has built in functions to prevent people from getting hurt, like the vibration function, that activates when a Pokemon pops up. And several warnings in the game that tell you be aware of your surroundings, don’t play while driving etc. The only ones getting hurt are the ones whom don’t follow the advice given

  5. Pastor Pete says:

    The world is in the state it is, and people are walking around chasing imaginary monsters? For goodness sake, what are we doing to our children?

    1. Richard Ang Wee Hian says:

      If we cut our priority of prime time with the Lord Jesus and lose our relationship with Him, we are like lost sheep who don’t know and therefore don’t listen to His voice so cut off from Him we wander in confusion and chaos. No wonder the world’s in a bad state.

    2. Parson Golden says:

      For goodness sake, really? Children should not be playing games that involve imaginary opponents? Seriously?

      1. Michael Young says:

        Like growing up and imagining that their a cop catching invisible bad guys? Or firefighters putting out invisible fires?

  6. Kyle williams says:

    If you want to get somebody to know who Jesus is you tell them about Jesus but you tell them with an excitement that they would just have to want to know him if you attract somebody with juice but then you give them water that’s deceitful you get the picture?

  7. Johnny J Hildebrand says:

    This article states that the secular critics point out that this brings these players into the churches and they are vulnerable to influence. What I find interesting is they fail to critique their handiwork of creating these vulnerable minds and empty hearts who then wander off into terrorist groups in order to find some form of spiritual fulfillment. But then, the motto “if it feels good, do it” does not cover the depths of a person’s being. Knowing the Most High, answering His call, and following the Way is our true purpose in life, and vulnerable secularism cannot fulfill those depths of a person.

  8. Restrepo says:

    I worry about the kids… This game draws young children inside churches where pedo priests could be waiting to “help” them play the game. Either way, I think kids should stay out of church until they’re old enough to make religious decisions for themselves.

    1. Renee de Winnaar says:

      “Either way, I think kids should stay out of church until they’re old enough to make religious decisions for themselves”.
      Well said!

      1. Michael Young says:

        As an ordained minister I actually agree

  9. Alvin Ronald jones says:

    Good analogy Minister J !

  10. Parson Golden says:

    It’s a Game, nothing more, nothing less. As in all games there is good and there is potential for harm. While it is easy for some to denigrate young people for their phones, and online games. If the Church can make use of the tool to bring young people in, then good for them. I am pretty sure it won’t work, not for more than a couple of weeks anyway. I would offer that the reason that young people stay out of Church is directly proportional to the number of Catholic Priests that have been hauled off in handcuffs, and the number of Evangelical Christians getting involved in conservative politics. Young people are not stupid, and are more sophisticated than they often get credit for.

  11. Rev, J, Wintermute says:

    all this pokemon go app is a population control target the weak minded people to stop socializing with others and being totally in the game no matter where u are at i think that there shouldnt be any phone activity durning church service cause you are there to hear the word of GOD not to catch a ” monster” . Ive read online and seen on tv that the “gyms” that they fight there things with are colored like gangs and there have been kids and grown people getting beat up cause they gym is not the same gym a john doe’s. we are all stuck on technology weather its to catch up with an old friend or looking up the news now its go to the point to it seems if i want to get someone attation in the same room have to txt or facebook or what ever you are using.Im waiting for the big fall of our elecrtonics shut down what will we do then??

    1. Parson Golden says:

      Rev. Wintermute, you perception of the game is based on a few narrow reports and misconceptions. There are many people who are enhanced socially because of this and other internet games. Whole crowds of people meet up in parks and other public places to play, and share.

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