Have you earned Gold status using the Starbucks app? Are you one of the 100 million monthly active users on Waze? Do you have a Fitbit or work towards closing your rings on your Apple Watch? Have you tried to learn a language using an app like Duolingo? These apps and wearable tech are growing at an exponential rate because of their use of gamification. Gamification is the application of typical elements of game playing (e.g., point scoring or competition with others) and other areas of activity.
What if you could integrate game mechanics into your youth ministry? I believe if we were to apply typical elements of game playing into our ministries, we could engage students in the church more than ever before.
Early gamification strategies used rewards for students who accomplish desired tasks or certain competition. Some ministries implemented Bible Bucks to reward kids who completed memory work or brought their bibles. I’m not suggesting starting a Bible Bucks program in your youth ministry, but what could you do to reward or encourage the students who are getting it right? What if you gave a shoutout on social media to the students who were bringing friends? What if you randomly gave out a prize to the student with the longest YouVersion streak? What if the only way to attend a special retreat or event was to currently be in a discipling relationship with a peer or to be active in a small group? There are many simple rewards based gamification strategies you could implement in your ministry.
Another approach to gamification is to make existing tasks feel more like games. I know many youth ministers who have attempted to learn guitar but gave up after a few weeks. Apps like Yousician use interactive technology to help make learning fun. You can begin using apps and technology to engage your students in the learning process. Download Youth Ministry (DYM) Sidekick app has ready to go programming elements that you can customize to engage your audience. You could use Emoji Hunt to introduce your bible story or maybe Survey Says as a way to recap a sermon series. Or maybe you use the Crowd Control JeParody GameBoard as a way to introduce the students to the bible story you will be teaching. With a little creativity, you could engage your students in the lesson and make the whole teaching experience feel like a game.
Gamification often includes elements of crowdsourcing to engage participants. Apps like Waze allow individual users to share in the navigation experience of other users. With Snapchat you can create shared stories and, with the maps feature, could see the same event from a variety of perspectives. When your students walk onto campus, are there elements in place for them to engage in the process? Maybe for your next “Question’s” series, you promote an easy-to-use tool like Mentimeter where students can text in their questions and upvote what they want to be addressed in real-time. Maybe you ask students to submit a few game suggestions and see what type of games they enjoy playing. Or consider mobilizing students to be on stage doing announcements, to lead the games, or to preach the message. And if your students lack the confidence to preach, try interviewing the student as a first step. You don’t always need to be the person behind the microphone and you might be surprised at how much students lean in when another student is taking the lead.
What Gamification strategies are you currently using in your ministry? What apps or resources should we check out? Let us know!
Corey Jones is the XP of NextGen at Southern Hills in Carrollton, Georgia. In his spare time, you can find him at a local coffee shop or fighting crime in Gotham. Corey wants to encourage and equip those around him and can be found on social media at @COREYRAYJONES.