I just finished stocking over fifty gachapon capsules.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, this is my loving colloquialism for the small plastic balls in vending machines that contain small prizes. You can read more on the etymology here.
At the church which I pastor, we stream on Twitch three days a week for a total of nine hours. This is all-at-once too much time and nowhere near enough. In an effort to fill some of that time and also encourage viewer participation, I have a capsule machine behind me on camera that viewers can redeem ‘channel points’ to use. They gather these points via watching the stream itself.
Inside the capsules are a series of silly things - some result in my hosting of a bonus retro-game-based stream, others involve me reading poetry in bad celebrity impressions. Nearly all of the options are devoid of anything you might find in a standard church experience.
Whenever I was serving as an associate youth minister, I recall reading some comments on a collaborative ministry website. The consensus was that gimmicky ministry was distracting and drew people away from a relationship with God. Blending up a McDonalds meal at a youth event wasn’t drawing people closer to God - nonsense like that was a boon to the church.
I couldn’t possibly disagree more.
At its best, this sentiment keeps me humble in remembering the why behind what I’m doing. But at its worst, it can do real damage to the hard work of innovative ministry. Not all innovative ministries are based around entertainment. Some are camp ministries. Some are mission-based and evangelical. Some involve monasticism and seclusion.
All are needed and all are in vital need of graceful discernment.
The hierarchy of what innovative ministry is most synonymous with the gothic architecture of a cathedral is beside the point. Your innovative prayer labyrinth ministry is not more or less innovative than the prayer-requests channel on the Checkpoint Church Discord server.
Silly ministry isn’t dragging down the important work of the ministry itself. Holy play is a vital thing. Jesus went fishing. Leisure and relaxation are integral aspects of a ministerial life - simply because it isn’t the preferred way that some might choose to focus does not make that edgy new innovative ministry objectively opposed to the hard work of the church.
So - thank God for the Twitch pastor; the TikTok reverend; the Camp Director; the Geek Preacher - we should all be in prayer for them like we would be for any other missionary.
April 4th, 2022