How Does Halo Inform Our Youth Ministry?

Now, before I get too deep into this, let me say just one thing. I’ve played Halo twice. And I really suck at it. Like really, really suck. I’m pretty sure I’ve killed myself more times than I’ve killed anyone else. That being said, I think it has an incredible capacity to teach youth directors and pastors (who may be as awesome at it as me) a lot about the connection of narratives.

I heard Pepperdine professor Craig Detweiler give a talk this weekend on how video games can and do impact the lives of the millions (even tens of millions) of kids who play these games on a daily basis. First-person gaming is so significant because it not only allows youth to participate in a narrative, but it allows people to create the narratives that play out in front of them. Kids can create avatars and characters that look exactly like they do, but the adventure narratives playing out on the screen are drastically different than their everyday life. The connection of these narratives is what drives the desire to keep playing video games for hours and hours (and hours) on end.

Believe it or not, this is a lot like the Bible, particularly the end of the Gospel of John. Even more particularly, with the character of Thomas. Thomas refused to engage in the preaching of the resurrection until he could see the connection between what he saw on Friday, and what the disciples were telling him now three days later. He refused to engage in the hope of the resurrection until the two narratives connected for him. This is why it’s so important that the Jesus in the Gospel of John is wounded.

The resurrected Christ appeared to Thomas with the wounds from his earthly life. The narratives of heaven and earth were connected in Jesus. Thomas stayed disengaged and skeptical until he could see those connections. Once Jesus appeared and Thomas was confronted with these connections, he made one of the most profound confessions of the early church.

So what if… as a confirmation or Sunday school exercise, we asked kids to imagine Biblical stories as video games. What would it look like if Mario and Luigi were Moses and Aaron running from Pharaoh Bowser? What if we took the narrative of our personal experience, the narrative of the Bible, and the narrative of video games and saw the intersections? What would a video game faith look like? What are its advantages? Disadvantages?

If a youth ministry is going to thrive in the future, it will have to connect the variety of narratives that we experience in culture on a daily basis. We either do this, or risk kids abandoning youth group to stay home… and play Halo.

Cheers,
Eric

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