Last week, I had the absolute privilege of attending the Nerd Culture Ministry Summit, the first event of its kind, where leaders in the sphere of nerd ministry networked with and gave insights about their experiences to attendees who are also involved or interested in the field. It was a great opportunity to meet missionaries, pastors, and others—particularly those involved in gaming ministry—and learn from them.
In just a few days, I learned so much from these brothers and sisters in Christ. I want to share five of the key points I took away from the conference in hopes that you’ll be an encouraged as I was by all that God is doing!
Gaming Ministry is All Grown Up
I’d heard about the impact gaming ministry was having but had no real concept of its depth and breadth until the summit, of the community of missionaries, pastors, and others who have entered both the digital and physical realms to reach nerds for Christ. Many are connected to and support one another as they use their passion for and talent in gaming and streaming to knock down walls and build relationships.
Many are doing the ministry on their own or together with a spouse, but others have formed teams or even non-profits, like Love Thy Nerd. Digital churches have developed as well, including Lux Digital Church and Godsquad Church, which minister to geeks with all manner of nerdy interests. As Pastor Mark of Lux explained on the NCMU (Nerd Culture Ministry Underground) podcast, “The gaming church is the fastest growing digital expression of church on the planet right now.” This isn’t just a pocket of gamers joining together to do something small and funky—it is a vibrant, growing ministry.
Going Live Doesn’t Mean Your Stream is Alive
If live streaming is reaching millions of people, surely we could reach many thousands by streaming our church service on Twitch, right?
Those of you who frequent the platform immediately know the answer to that question. But you don’t have to be a gamer to understand why a church wouldn’t be successful in that sphere. After all, your church wouldn’t go into an immigrant community without understanding the culture or knowing the language, right? (At least I hope it wouldn’t!) If you think of Twitch as a similar but digital space, you’d comprehend why a church wouldn’t be successful if it invaded the platform without knowing and respecting it.
Further, churches should consider the question, What is it that we can give the audience? Digital missionary Souzy, in his “State of the Union: Welcome to the Quantum Realm” address, explained that “churches need to add value to live streams.” Pastor Mark later added that intentionality and consistency are key, as is authenticity. And in his breakout session entitled “Everything Speaks,” Zachary Miller of PlainJoe Studios discussed the concept of “table setting,” creating a story of participation and actions as opposed to the one-way “stage setting” that a typical church livestream would conduct.
Gamers need God as much as anyone, but going in with the same old service just beamed to their desktops is not going to work. If you’re entering their world, you have to understand and engage gamers in a way that makes sense for them.
Trust and Obey (For There’s No Other Way)
Based on the last point, it feels like you can put together a formula for success, right? Do your research, get on Twitch, be cool, blow up, and save souls. Not so fast, friends. If it were that easy, Beneath the Tangles would have subscribers numbering in the millions. I know as well as anyone that God’s pace and timing may not match my expectations.
That idea—that we move at God’s pace and not the other way around—was one of six introduced by Pastor Skar in his “International Ministry” breakout session. It was encouraging to hear him explain that, because I’ve been in that spot where you’ve invested so much effort and so many resources into a ministry, and then begin to feel down in the dumps when all of it doesn’t translate into likes, views, and (as if it’s a metric), conversions.
But as Mike Erre reminded the attendees in his talk, “Genuine Love. Sincere Interest,” it’s “more important to be faithful than effective.” Amen! After all, God cares about your heart most of all. Your faithfulness is what matters. Prayer and relationship matter. And we must remember that we can’t change hearts anyway—that work is for the Holy Spirit.
They Are the Gift
Another thought that Mike Erre emphasized to the attendees is that the ministry is not about us. Huh. What a simple truth, but that one that’s so easily overlooked when you’re on mission, and especially when you’re on a platform where attention is naturally focused on you. But as Erre emphasized, “[you’re] not the center of interaction.” You have to make it about others if the goal is to build those relationships with them; after all, who wants to be friends with someone who always puts themselves first? That’s just as true for digital ministry as it is being in person.
One way to flip that script is to remember that the audience is the gift and not the other way around. In this manner, digital ministry is no different from traditional missions, where going into a community that you don’t understand and aren’t a part of will get you nowhere when done in a spirit of pride. Humility will go a long way. Go figure!
Part of Your World
I’ve now mentioned a couple of times the necessity of really understanding the culture you’re ministering to. But what does that look like when it comes to the gaming and broader nerd community? Well, as Pastor Skar noted, it’s very much like a Disney song: you have to “go where the people are.”
We’re doing this in a variety of ways here on Beneath the Tangles already, but there are other opportunities that I’m now considering after hearing this advice. As Bubba of Love Thy Nerd explained in his keynote, “Next Gen: 3D (Developing Digital Disciples),” “When you love people in their spaces, they know you care about them.” A church can say it loves its neighborhood but if it isn’t learning about it, dwelling in it, and serving it, that neighborhood won’t feel that love. And similarly, if you’re into gaming ministry, you need to be on Twitch and other gaming platforms. If anime ministry, you need to be on Twitter and the other social media platforms otaku use. You may not like these apps, you may not even understand them, but you’ll have to work on overcoming these barriers to love the people you’re trying to reach.
Okay, one more (unofficial) point. I can’t end this article without expressing my thankfulness to the people who organized the event, spoke at it, and participated in it. I learned that the gaming ministry community is incredibly open, kind, and humble. People who have attained a level of celebrity in the influencer world and are incredibly busy with ministry, work, and families, made time to have intimate and meaningful conversations with me. They care about people and love Jesus, and it was abundantly clear by how they interacted with this anime nerd. I was cared for by many of those I mentioned above and others like MmamaLllamaFace. There is genuine love in this community.
I encourage you all to follow these wonderful folks and do as I did, gathering bits of wisdom from them as you interact with them and their content. And if you’re interested in participating in digital ministry, I also encourage you to attend the summit in the future if it returns! In the meantime, visit Lux Digital Church’s live streams to watch the sessions described above and others. And be sure to plug into our community on Discord and on all our other platforms!
- Fanart Friday: JJK x CSM x Christmas - 12.01.2023
- Contest: Rascal Does Not Dream of a Christmas Bunny Girl Figure Giveaway! - 11.30.2023
- Giving to Beneath the Tangles on This Giving Tuesday - 11.28.2023