In recent weeks, a community of geeks has taken the country by storm: players of Pokémon Go. This development illustrates that people want and seek community. We are designed to be social, as God intended. Everyone (Geeks included) is seeking a group of people who are like them and share their interests, morals and values.
So, yes, these people running around your neighborhood, workplace and church are looking for Pokémon. More importantly, they’re looking for community.
This leads us to the final part of the Geek Contextualization:
Step 3: Build New Communities
Everyone is seeking community. That’s where life happens. So why not build community around something that some of your church members are already engaged in? Your church may already have Geeks, but the next step is to join with them to go into the world and find more Geeks. The love of all things Geek (Sci-Fi, Fantasy, comic books, video games, etc.) brings the Geeks together and opens the door for we believers to talk about what we are passionate about as well, just in a new context. God created us to be social, to be in communion with one another, and creating community in preexisting subcultures where we can share life with believers and non-believers is key to moving the gospel forward today.
As we discussed in a previous post (Finding the Geeks), our discussion on building community will be broken down into communities within the church and communities external to the church. In other words, there are two different communities to consider when you want to engage the geek community:
- The geeks already within your church who need a safe place within their faith community to gather.
- The geeks outside your church who either already gather or are in search of such a place.
The people in your neighborhood are looking for Pokémon. More importantly, they’re looking for community.
Community Within the Church
We already discussed geek communities within the church in part two, but it needs to be repeated. One of the difficulties for many Geeks within the church is that the church has often labeled their hobbies “counter-Christian.” In its worst extremes, many church leaders have condemned something before they even understand it. In more mild examples, many church leaders simply see Geeks’ actions as childish.
As a result, Christian Geeks could benefit from the creation of a safe place for Geeks to gather and hang out. This would create an environment where the geeks of your church could gather and share in their combined community of church and all things geek, but also serve as a place of discipleship. Do not lose the chance to train your geeks up in the kingdom.
So once you identify the existing geeks in your church, consider how you could provide a place for them to gather. Churches often do this well with other types of communities; why not apply the same level of energy and dedication to one of the largest cultures in America?
Community Outside of the Church
In this section, we’ll look at identifying existing Geek communities and identifying new communities.
Existing Communities. These are the places that geeks already gather in secular society, as we discussed in Finding the Geeks:
- Local comic book shops (Comic Shop Locator Service)
- Movie theaters
- GameStop/Gaming Stores
- Local conventions (comics, video games, etc.).
- Check out Meetup to find Geek-themed meetups in your area.
When we engage these existing communities, we’ll want to meet them where they are. This isn’t a snatch and drag approach, like some of the tactics the church has used in the past. Meet with these people, minister to them, and share the gospel if the opportunity arises. As discussed in part three, we’ll want to provide something that these groups enjoy, want or need. Whether that means providing services or creating art, podcasts or events that weave our faith into that community, there are many options to show the light of Christ into existing geek communities.
New Communities. First, a word of caution: Our initial attempts to engage any secular culture should be within the confines of their existing community. This is where people already are. We also don’t want to inadvertently create a community or gathering place when one already exists. This innocent mistake would create tension, distrust and division.
With this in mind, the best approach in creating new communities outside of the church is first to know which ones exist in our area. In doing this, you may learn where there are needs that could be filled by your church. Instead of competing with pre-existing Geek communities, you would actually be meeting a need. Then consider whether you would host these new communities at your church location or if you should seek a more neutral location.
Specifically, here are a few things your area may need that would attract geeks:
- A place to gather (a physical space to play games, host discussions, work on costumes, create art, etc.)
- Online communities (a digital space for when the group is apart)
- A place to shop (a comic book store, a gaming store, etc.)
In contextualizing and bringing the geeks together, we should never be so overly driven that we discourage those already within the church or scare away those outside of the church. In creating community, we should have the best of all possibilities: a safe place for Christian geeks inside of the church to grow in faith and spiritual maturity and be commissioned to go out and engage their localities. To do this, first seek out existing geek community, as it reveals where the gathering already takes place and can illuminate any needs in the community. If needs do exist, our second goal should be to provide for those needs and to gather with our brothers and sisters in geekdom where they are. However, if no place truly exists, then the church could provide a safe place for people to gather and enjoy their hobby together in community.
People seek community. And instead of turning up our noses at a given community because it seems “odd,” we shouldn’t assume that God is not working in that community. It takes a Christian witness to help bring the light to the forefront and to demonstrate Christ as we live our lives. This should be no different than any other mission field we step on to. The goal is the same, but the approach may look and feel different to those who have not been a part of this growing culture.
So take a chance. Engage the geeks for the gospel.