Pokemon Go was released while I was on vacation, and during my family’s various day trips I quickly noticed how many people were playing 1. Central Baptist is a Pokestop, as are many churches, so as I strolled our neighborhood I met several people who were checking in there.
This made me think it would be a neat idea to spend some time out by the church building after my vacation was over. That way I could meet our neighbors who also happen to be playing the game. This idea also seemed to cross the mind of the Lutheran pastor in town, as I saw him handing out water to players every day last week.
So today I figured I’d go and pick up some water and see who I might meet if I sat out in front of the church building for a couple of hours. We are situated on a side street, so I wasn’t expecting a whole lot of traffic, but I was surprised by the number of people who did stop to chat.
I met a neighbor, who lives in a nearby apartment, as he walked his dog. He thought offering water to people was a wonderful idea.
Another gentleman stopped while we was walking his dog and said, “You look familiar, do I know you?” It turns out he works at a Chipotle I frequent 2. We chatted about his experiences at Chipotle and his future dreams. Turns out he wants to study to be a nurse. He also showed me how to set up a lure at the church.
A second young man watched me curiously and seemed shocked when I offered him water. “I don’t have to sign anything?” When I assured him he didn’t he smiled and said, “Wow, thanks.” I offered him God’s blessing he walked off with a smile on his face.
A dad bicycled by with his son. Turns out they’d been told I’d be out with water by one of my friends. They didn’t want to chat at all, but I got to smile and say hello.
A friend drove by and I tossed him a water bottle. We got to chat a bit about how Summer has been going.
In-between my chats with folks I finished typing my sermon for Sunday. It was a great way to spend an afternoon. Next time I may go out in the evening, when more people are likely to be wandering the neighborhood. My experience has also led me to ponder the best ways to spend time spend out meeting people.
First, I didn’t have an agenda. I had our invite cards and Summer youth group schedule out on a table, but they were there only if people asked about these things. I was there to meet people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. Of course, if people had asked questions about the church, or faith in general, I would have been happy to chat about those topics as well.
Second, most people actually turned down the free water the first time I offered it. If they chatted for a while I made sure to offer it again. A number of these people then happily accepted it. People seem to accept gifts more readily from those they feel they know. This would be a good thing to remember when we Christians try to share the gift of Jesus with others. Not only do we need to let people get to know us. If they are to consider Jesus’ offer of love and forgiveness, we also need to allow room for folks to get to know Jesus.
Third, it’s a relatively cheap to purchase Poke lures,” which attract Pokemon to a specific landmark. When a lure is active at a landmark it shows up on the game map, encouraging players to come and visit. In the future, when trading and battling are added to the game, these lures will wind up being community gathering places for players. Of course, a great side effect of activating a lure is you get to capture Pokemon as well 3!
If you haven’t checked out the game yet, I really encourage you to do so. Be safe, but walk your neighborhood and see who you can meet! If you’re near a landmark, hang out there and see who shows up. It’s certainly an idea worth exploring.