Pokémon Go: Sending People to Your Church

Pokémon Go: Sending People to Your Church

July 11, 2016 by

I’ve been blogging here at Church Marketing Sucks since 2004, and I know I’m getting old—but never more so than the release of Pokémon Go and this actual headline in USA Today:

Westboro Baptist Church recruits Jigglypuff, a Pokémon, against LGBT community on Pokémon Go

Wait, what?!

This isn’t the Onion (though they have their take), this is real life.

People with potentially no other reason to care about your church are beating on the door, thanks to Pokémon Go.

Here’s what happened: Nintendo launched Pokémon Go, a smartphone app last Thursday. The app is an augmented reality game that uses GPS to make Pokémon characters appear in real-world locations. The game became a viral phenomenon over the weekend, gaining more active users than Twitter and adding $9 billion in market value to Nintendo. Also, it’s wracking up stories of injuries, armed robberies and other calamities.

Here’s how it works: So real-world locations like buildings are designated as PokéStops in the game. This is where you can catch Pokémon characters. Other locations are “gyms” where you can have a Pokémon throwdowns. Or something. Is that right? Probably not, I’m old. (Here’s a great article that provides an introduction and overview to both the game play and how people are reacting.)

Here’s Why Churches Care About Pokémon Go

OK, aside from Westboro picking fights as usual, why should churches care?

Because apparently tons of churches are already set up as PokéStops or gyms in the game, sending tons of people to churches over the weekend (even prompting a Babylon Bee article, the Onion for the Christian world).

Yes, people with potentially no other reason to care about your church are beating on the door, thanks to Pokémon Go.


And churches are responding. There’s a healthy buzz in Facebook groups and church staff are trying to figure out what to do, from adding “Welcome Pokémon Gamers” signs to offering Pokémon coloring sheets or collectibles. One church put out a cooler with bottles of water bearing labels inviting gamers back to church.

For more tips, including how to get started, check out 8 Ways Churches Can Capitalize on Pokémon Go:

“Pastors and church leaders can make fun of Pokémon Go and the players walking right outside their doors. Or they can take Paul’s advice and become a gamer to reach the gamers for the sake of the gospel.”


Seriously, go read Aaron Earls’ post for some great Pokémon Go tips and ideas for your church. He’s not nearly the curmudgeon I am. Steve Fogg has a few more ideas. As does Joe Gallant. The Diocese of Green Bay put together a Parish Primer. And Kenny Jahng shared some Pokemon Go graphics you can use.

Cranky Old Man Addendum

The Pokémon Go app isn’t even a week old. Aren’t we jumping the gun?

Maybe. Probably. Who knows?

This may be a fad that burns out and crashes and we’ll remember it like Friendster and MySpace. But right now, it’s huge. The sudden explosion in popularity is unprecedented, and that’s worth taking a closer look. It’s probably a little early to ditch your communication plan and do a Pokémon battle during the sermon, but handing out water and asking passersby how their Pokémon hunt is going? That’s just being nice.

Pokémon Go & Church Examples

Here’s how some churches are responding to Pokémon Go:

Free coffee coupon for Pokemon fans

First Christian Church in Decatur, Ill., put a slide on their digital sign and put out a ziplock bag with coupons for a free coffee.

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
Read more posts by | Want to write for us?

4 Responses to “Pokémon Go: Sending People to Your Church”

  • Meredith Gould
    July 11, 2016

    I’m kindasorta fascinated by how verklempt some church folk seem to be about how to “handle” all these visitors. Your suggestion about “just being nice” is a good one to which I’ll add that if a sudden influx of visitors actually wandering around/through your church is a challenge, probably time to have a conversation about what hospitality might look like if people just…drop in!

     | Permalink
    • Adam Walker Cleaveland
      July 14, 2016

      Yup. It really is all about hospitality.

      Although, I can already see some churches who are just OUT of it starting to chase around junior high kids from their church grounds…

       | Permalink
  • Will M
    July 12, 2016

    We’re a Pokestop – I just tweeted it out. Gonna make up some pitchers of Lemonaide in the morning! The downside, the Catholic Church just across the intersection from us is a gym so they’ll get more of the “hanging out” traffic than we will.


     | Permalink
  • Charla Wilkerson
    July 18, 2016

    Thank you for the ideas! We made the Relevant post http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/13-pokemon-go-church-signs-now-exist-0

     | Permalink