"Pokémon Go's" "Gotta catch 'em all!" slogan has just translated to Christians finding new ways to reach the unchurched gamers as churches become designated PokéStops or gyms.
The viral video game that's poised to become a global phenomenon upon its official release on July 6 took America by storm and treated hooked gamers with a huge surprise as virtual Pokémon characters keep appearing in neighborhood churches.
"Pokémon Go" makes use of the Global Positioning System (GPS) and augmented reality (AR) platform to send out unsuspecting gamers to neighborhood landmarks, such as parks, museums and churches as they follow a map guide in their quest to hunt and train the virtual Pokémon.
Soon after, gamers and Christians alike took to social media to share surprised experiences of finding themselves on church grounds. Christian leaders, on the other hand, quickly saw the opportunity as they found fixated gamers on the steps of their churches.
"Pokémon Go is providing churches with an opportunity to meet new, unchurched people from their neighborhood," wrote blogger Aaron Earls of The Wardrobe Door in an article stating how churches can – and should – capitalize on the cultural phenomenon.
Earls espoused that Christians can take on St. Paul's advice and turn Christians to "a gamer to reach the gamers for the sake of the Gospel."
His tips include engaging gamers by assigning a church member, also an aspiring Pokémaster, at the church PokéStop. Churches could also place welcoming signs on their door, just like what a church from Birmingham in the U.K. did.
Aside from offering tea and biscuits to gamers, City Road Methodist Church has also held posters that read "Pokemon Go Gym, you are welcome - Jesus Cares About Pokemon Gamers." This happened after the British found a way to access the game that's momentarily available only to the U.S., Australia and New Zealand.
A Presbyterian church in San Diego also invited its "Pokémon GOers" at a "lure" event with free lunch and "even take control of our Pokemon Gym (Sanctuary)."
"God does work in mysterious ways," said church warden David Hallam, as quoted by Oxford Mail.
"We don't want to thrust it down their throat but we want to know they've come to a place of Christian worship and they'll be welcome and hope that they do worship with us at some point."