Chris Watts, part of the first intake of missioners for our Gen2 Project, talks about his experience of lockdown – and how gaming has helped his youth group at Christ the King, Kettering to thrive!
As a youth worker at Christ the King, Kettering, I’ve been given amazing opportunities to talk to our young people about the good news of Jesus – exploring some of the amazing things that he has done, is doing and will do in each of their lives. Within discipleship groups I’ve seen young people dive into all the beauty that the Bible has to offer and draw out incredible riches, supporting one another with their words, actions and their love for God. But even while bearing witness to all this incredible work that God is doing within these groups – all of which I love being part of – I couldn’t help but find myself being excited every single week for the chaos of our Friday night community group – 4:12 (named after 1 Timothy 4:12 – “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity).
4:12 hasn’t been revolutionary – providing a big space for games, a smaller space for chatting and a tuck shop for sugar consumption – but every week has offered something different. Whether that is walking in on a new TikTok rehearsal or losing to a young person at table tennis, we have been given these exciting little moments to just be with the young people – not to do anything complicated like a deep theological reflection but to simply be. Getting to just talk to our young people about their days has honestly been one of the highlights of my role and has usually offered the most opportunities to stop and look at where God has been throughout their week. So when lockdown came in, this was definitely one of the harder groups to have to stop.
A few weeks into lockdown and with quite a bit of prayer, we thought about how we could connect with young people without seeing them. We decided to trial engaging with young people using gaming – which was great as video games are one of my long-standing passions! So, armed with an Xbox, a Discord server (Discord is a group-chatting platform originally built for gamers) and lots of parental consent, we decided to set up GamesClub – our digital games space that we run twice a week.
Again, the basics of GamesClub isn’t revolutionary. We have two or three curated games which we play on a Tuesday, where you need an Xbox or PlayStation, and two or three different games that we play on Friday, where all you need is a phone or tablet. What makes this new group special for me is that we’re simply meeting our young people where they already are, not trying to reinvent the wheel but engaging with them in a space that they (mostly) are already well-established in.
This group wasn’t started to facilitate a place of deep theological debate, but was offered as a safe space that hopefully broke up the boredom of lockdown by allowing everyone to hang out with their friends again. What’s been amazing for me to see as a youth leader is that whether winning a Victory Royale in Fortnite, getting creative in Minecraft or just playing silly games from a Jackbox Party Pack, God is still providing those same great opportunities to engage with our young people. He’s just providing them in a slightly different way.