In our Mission, Methods, and Values document it states that Young Life accomplishes its mission by “going where kids are and building personal relationships with them.” But, what if “where kids are” is on their screens, online playing video games? Do we go there?
We do if the values we list on our website are correct. We say that we value “the next kid - developing innovative approaches to reach the uncommitted, disinterested young people around the world.”
According to Common Sense Media, teens spend an average of 9 hours a day online and much of that time is dedicated to gaming. Ask any staff person what keeps kids from coming to club and you’ll be very likely to hear the word, “Fortnite.” And they’re not just skipping club. According to a recent survey by LendEDU, 35 percent of high school and college Fortnite players admit to having skipped school to play.
So if that’s where kids today are, why wouldn’t we try to find a way to meet them there?
Some might argue that video games are not relational. You might picture a kid alone in his room staring at a screen with a headset on. While that may be true in many instances, significant investors in the US are betting on that dynamic changing. Arlington, Texas is home to the Dallas Cowboys AT&T Stadium and the Texas Rangers Globe Life Park. Not satisfied with that, this year the city announced it's getting yet another new stadium -- one that will home to one of the fastest growing sectors in the sports entertainment world, eSports. Arlington is partnering with Esports Venues to open a new 100,000-square-foot, 1,000-seat eSports Stadium right between the Cowboys and Rangers. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones himself has purchased his own eSports franchise to compete there.
The point? It’s not just a single kid in his own bedroom anymore.
Hong Kong Young Life Metro Director Josh Powell sees great potential in reaching kids through gaming. “We were considering opening a gaming house storefront and staffing it with YL leaders as a business to meet and engage kids that we'd never otherwise meet and to practice hospitality, and have a venue for gatherings and ministry events,” says Powell.
This idea came to him when he saw the places where kids were hanging out. “Most of these gaming places in Hong Kong are dark dens of nothing good. They're packed with kids, mostly boys,” continued Powell. “I was imagining us opening up something similar but with a twist and adding an element of YL hospitality into the mix to see if we might build a profitable and unique ministry opportunity.” If you are wondering what YL Founder, Jim Rayburn might say about all of this, I think it might be good to go back and look at what he said in the original Young Life training manual.
“Why not seize on new methods and different ways, especially when the old have largely lost their hold on young people? Why not seek the MOST EFFECTIVE way of getting a hearing for the gospel? Are you sold on trying to find the most effective way?”
“I am never going to be satisfied with what HAS BEEN done; the job must be DONE BETTER than before.”
“The Campaign is committed to getting the Gospel to young people by ANY, AND EVERY means that God may direct.”
I think Rayburn would say it’s worth a shot to meet kids where they are. Do you currently have some type of “Gamer” outreach ministry in your area? If so, would you email me, Brian Summerall, at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me about it? You could be on the ground floor of something new.
Written by Josh Powell & Brian Summerall, email@example.com