Christian Video Games for Kids
I recently watched a sermon where the pastor was speaking to a room full of christian young people, the main focus of his sermon was video games. No, he was not advocating for the use of video games, no, he wasn’t focused on how immersive technology can help us get closer to God. He was doing the complete opposite, he was yelling (literally yelling), that video games are vain, a waste of time and evil. He did this in a loud, confrontational, I’ll say intimidating manner. I was shocked. But, I then remembered going to a digital theology conference in Singapore, and in the East, gaming culture is huge, and its been huge for alot longer than it has been in the US or UK. They spoke about gaming, but they did something similar to what the pastor was doing, it was a mostly negative perspective. They mostly talked bout recovering from video game addiction, which is a very real and very serious thing (check out my blog on addiction for more info and help on this issue). But again, as I reflect on these two events, Im even more aware that the general posture of Christians towards video games is negative.
(Pastor against video games)
As a Christian who loves playing video games, I couldn’t disagree more. As a christian involved in youth ministry and having used video games effectively to teach biblical fundamentals, I know these negative perceptions are wrong.
How do people end up on two completely opposite ends of the ‘video games are good’ or ‘video games are evil’?
During my first year at bible college at Nazarene Theological College in Manchester, England. I was fortunate enough to attend a spirituality in video games conference. It was there that my now friend Jonathan Stubbs spoke about a theology of video games. I learned that video games can point us towards God. Video games create sacred spaces and meaning making moments through narratives that are immersive, engaging, and fun. These spaces and places affect the way we view God, ourselves, others, and the world.
I then began to incorporate video games in my ministry with young people and witnessed the young people wanting to engage, they were excited to participate and actually fostered a new understanding of Jesus and the Gospel.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world. The digital revolution began and forced the Church to re-think and look at digital resources as a necessity, rather than as a luxury. Now, digital or hybrid models of Church have been largely accepted and embraced. Along with these new models of Church, so have digital resources. There is a general consensus among Church leaders and organisations that there is a trend in Church-goers. People are in general are steering away from preaching and are moving more towards experiences, such as; Gospel music, bible study groups, prayer, meditation and bible apps, this includes Christian video games for children as well.
There is a plethora of great kids apps and games, such as my friend Joanne Gilchrist’s God For Kids app that teach the bible to young children, through theological teaching. Christian video games for kids have tens of thousands of downloads, some have millions. These new forms of introducing children to Jesus, through gaming apps is going to be a common feature in the Christian household. These games will be part of the Church’s discipleship plan and model and will be used to reinforce Christian belief’s at home, an ally for Parents worried about ‘wasteful’ or ‘negative’ screen time. They are already having a positive significant impact on our Children. My two year old son enjoys the interactive digital storybook ‘Bible App for Kids’, which has over 50 Million Downloads! This is serious evangelism, and discipleship going on. But there is a catch, there has not been an app or game with significant impact for teenagers and young people. Discover God aims to eventually step into this new mission field and create games for ages 12 and up.
My point being is this, video games are the biggest entertainment industry in the world. The video games industry has a bigger revenue yearly than the music and movies industry combined. The video games industry also is the most consumed form of entertainment media on the planet. Video Games are a major player in culture, life, and it is steady growing. They are significant for children, young people and its biggest demographic is adults. This very simply highlights how important Video Games are and why Christians should engage embrace video games. Not simply as they are, but our mission is to adjust these technologies and features of culture and point them towards Christ.
I understand how beneficial video games can be to Christians because I’ve been very fortunate and blessed and have been exposed to these teachings, experiences, through prayer and research and theological reflection. Ive come to the concrete belief and understanding that video games have the potential to be used for Gods glory. Its these unique insights and experience in this field that Discover God wants to share and spread with the wider Church. Christians need to adjust the lens through which they view video games, in order to see their usefulness and uniqueness. This requires nothing less than a revolution of the mind, but it can happen through teaching and learning, as well as through practical experiences, only then will we begin to use video games effectively for gods glory.