Meagan Ranson on How Your Church Can Use Pokémon GO to Serve Your Community
Today we’re doing a special Monday edition of the unSeminary Podcast and we’re talking with Meagan Ranson from 2|42 Community Church in Michigan about how they are leveraging Pokémon GO game as a community service tool. We’re doing this episode today to bring you up to speed on what the game is and explain how you could use it to reach out to people coming to your church.
Pokémon Go is a free-to-play location-based augmented reality mobile game developed by Niantic and released in July 2016 for iOS and Android devices. It’s spread like wildfire and churches across the country are experiencing players coming to their locations in the real world. It represents a unique community serve and outreach opportunity for your church to leverage. Here are just a few stats about the game to give you a sense of how popular it is:
- Pokémon GO surpassed Candy Crush Saga’s rumored peak US smartphone audience of 20 million.
- Pokémon GO is up-to-date the biggest mobile game in US history (SurveyMonkey)
- Pokémon GO Android could surpass Google Maps itself as the largest user of Alphabet’s mapping data. (SimilarWeb)
- Pokémon GO attracted more users than Twitter (Gizmodo)
Need more statistics to convince you? Check out this article: 20 HIGH-VELOCITY POKÉMON GO STATS THAT WILL MAKE YOU PAY ATTENTION
In this episode you’ll learn more about:
- What Pokémon GO is and why people are so excited about it.
- How to leverage “Arenas” and “PokeStops” to reach your community.
- A strategy for using “Lures” to drive attendance at a community outreach event.
- Hear how 2|42 is serving the game players that are coming by their locations.
- See an example of church embracing a cultural trend to make a difference.
- Give you some ideas on how you could get started today with your Pokémon Go strategy!
- Hear how the church talked about the game on Facebook to invite people to participate!
FREE Pokémon GO GRAPHICS FOR YOUR CHURCH
- 2|42 Community Church // Signage
- Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian Church // Youth Event Banner
- Church of the Open Door // Lawn Sign
- Crowd Control Games // On Screen Game
- St. Luke Luthern, Ann Arbor // Waterbottle Labels
Other Pokémon GO Related Links
- West Ridge’s Fun “Public Safety” Warning Video
- Pokemon Go Is Driving Insane Amounts of Sales at Small Local Businesses. Here’s How It Works
- 14 REASONS WHY YOU MUST NOT IGNORE POKÉMON GO
- Example of one church advertising it’s “Lures”.
- Come for Jigglypuff, stay for Jesus: Church in the age of Pokémon GO [Washington Post]
- As some tell Pokemon Go players to stay away, Greenfield church encourages ‘trainers’ to come play! [Fox6 – Great Example of Local News Coverage!]
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01:14 // Rich introduces Meagan Ranson and welcomes her to the show.
01:45 // Meagan introduces herself and tells us about 242 Community Church.
02:58 // Rich explains Pokemon Go.
04:59 // Meagan talks about interacting with Pokemon players.
06:21 // Rich and Meagan explain the relevance of certain locations.
07:48 // Meagan tells us how they engaged the volunteers.
08:31 // Meagan highlights the power of Facebook.
08:59 // Meagan explains Poke Stops.
09:20 // Meagan highlights a benefit of “dropping a lure”.
10:55 // Rich and Meagan encourage church leaders to use Pokemon Go as an opportunity to connect with the community.
12:56 // Meagan offers her contact information.
Rich – Well hey everybody, welcome to a very special edition of the unSeminary podcast. It’s Monday, why are we posting on Monday, we normally post on Thursdays? But you know, there’s something kind of cool going on that I want to make sure your church takes advantage of.
You maybe have heard about Pokemon Go, it’s this incredible free game, it’s a location based, augmented reality mobile game, that’s a lot to say, that a bunch of churches have been taking advantage of and I want to give you exposure to one that I think is doing something particularly cool. So, I want to welcome to the show Meagan Ranson from 242 Community Church in Michigan, welcome to the show Meagan.
Meagan – Hi Rich, thanks for having me.
Rich – I just love this church, this is a great church. Bob Smith was on a while ago, that was a few months ago now and this is just a fantastic church that I want you to learn from, particularly today with what they’re doing with Pokemon Go.
So Meagan, why don’t you tell us a little bit about the church? If people were to show up yesterday when they came, or if they were to come this coming weekend, what would they experience and what’s your role there?
Meagan – Yeah, so I’m the Communications Director here at 242. We are one church in multiple locations, we’ve got campuses in Brighton, Ann Arbor and Lansing, Michigan. Most of our campuses act as community centers, so we are open to the public all week long. We’ve got an indoor basketball court and an indoor soccer field. At our Brighton campus we’ve got a café, so super interactive, very open to the public. We’re pretty laid back, pretty, I guess, modern services, we’re pretty casual. We just like to have fun, make people laugh, make them feel welcome, give them high-5s when they come and expect to just feel super welcome and loved when you get here.
Rich – Nice, yeah the thing I love about 242, the vibe I get is you’re just really community positive like, “Hey, we want to interact with the community, we want to…” you know, obviously just even the way you describe your church is like, “Hey, we’re basically like a community center with lots of stuff going on.” I think, as we continue to progress towards a post-Christian culture, we have to as a church, we can’t just wait until Sundays for people to show up. So that obviously is particularly germane to today’s conversation about Pokemon Go.
So let me just bring everybody up to speed, so what this is is an app, you can get it on your android or on your iPhone. It’s a free app and basically what you’re doing, if you’re a player, which I think they call a trainer right, is that the right term?
Meagan – Yeah, that’s right.
Rich – You’re going to become the Pokemon expert in my life right now, just so you know. What you do is, if you’re a trainer, you’re going around, it shows a map as you’re walking around your neighborhood or your community and various Pokemons will show up and then you actually click on them, once you get close enough, you have to get close enough to these physical areas, you click on it and then it brings up a view in the real world and it’s called augmented reality because as you flash, kind of your phone, looking at the space, you actually see these animated Pokemons and from there you throw a ball at them and you try to catch the Pokemon.
Now, the interesting thing about this is it’s just exploded. There’s 21 million active daily users, within its first week it actually surpassed Twitter, which has been around for 10 plus years, which is incredible. In 4 days, actually 10% of all US internet traffic was Pokemon Go, which is incredible, mobile traffic, which is amazing.
The interesting thing is, there seems to be a community happening around it, so like there’s almost 200 thousand Pokemon themed playlists already on Spotify, so people saying, “Hey, this is great music to listen to,” because maybe the music on Pokemon is not the best, and there’s just all kinds of amazing things happening.
So, the big thing, even if you’re not into Pokemon, the big thing you need to realize is, there are people in your community right now who are wandering around playing this game. In fact you can see them when you go out in any kind of downtown area, that sort of thing.
So what I want to hear Meagan is your story. What have you done, and this is literally as fresh as last week, what have you been doing with Pokemon Go?
Meagan – So, Pokemon Go exploded last weekend and over the weekend I just saw, all of this is everywhere, it’s on Facebook, it’s on Twitter, it’s on Instagram. So we just thought people are showing up to our front doors, because two of our campuses are gyms, one of them is a Poke Stop, people are showing up to our front doors to collect characters, to battle each other and we just wanted to connect with them. We thought, “They’re here, they’re at our church, they would probably never come here any other time, how can we create a connection between us?”
So one of the things that we’ve done is at our two gyms we’ve posted signs that say, “If you’re here to battle, come inside and we’ll give you a free drink.” One of our campuses has a café, that’s super easy, we have fountain drinks. All of our café staff know like, hey if there’s Poke Players that come inside, greet them, love on them, shake their hand, high-5 them, talk about what they caught or if they capture our gym, like congratulate them and then try to beat them. Just don’t be weird about it, just have fun with it, connect with them, let them know like, “This is an awesome opportunity for us to connect with you as a church and let you know it’s a safe place, like we’re cool still, like we’re friendly, come inside and get to know us, we’d love to get to know you.”
Then at our Poke Stop…
Rich – We’ll pause there for a second. So a gym, for folks that don’t know, a gym is, you have to be a certain level to compete, to get the Pokemons that are there and they’re worth more points. So the fact that your church, two of your locations are gyms already, that’s really attracting more of a hardcore player, people who have been playing for a little bit, I know we’re only a week old here, but people who have been playing for a while, right? That’s how that works right?
Meagan – Yeah, you have to be at least level 5 to participate in gyms and each Pokemon comes with like… Do you want me to explain?
Rich – Yeah absolutely.
Meagan – Each Pokemon has certain combat power, so they’re CPs, so the higher the CP, the easier it is to overtake a gym. There’s all kinds of different ways you can get more combat power but yeah, so that’s how that works. They’re there to take over and rule the roost if you will.
Rich – That’s amazing, now how does a church become a gym, did you guys have to apply for it, was it just automatically?
Meagan – No, they just decided that for us and I think I saw something today actually where somebody had posted that you can apply for it now, but it’s just all determined by them, by what you are. So all three of our campuses just happened to be a part of it which is really awesome.
Rich – Yeah that is really cool. Then the thing I love about what you’re saying there about how you’re just being really pro, saying “Hey, come on in, grab a drink, hey that’s fun,” you’re trying to be a part of the culture. What have you done with training with your volunteers, what did you do to bring people up to speed about it?
Meagan – Every week we have an all staff meeting, where all of our staff get together. So we just kind of laid out the game plan, “Hey, this is what we’re doing, this is our goal, this is what the game looks like and this is what we would love you to do as you see trainers come and hang out in our areas.” So we just kind of created general awareness around it, for people on our staff who maybe weren’t familiar with the game yet. Also, just making sure that they were aware, “Hey, we’re inviting them in, make sure they feel welcome. Love on them and connect.” So pretty simple.
Rich – Cool, now have you done any kind of real world like PR to kind of let people know, did you talk about it on Facebook, have you done press releases or anything like that around it?
Meagan – No press releases, the only thing that we’ve done so far is Facebook. So we posted a Facebook post yesterday and within 4 hours it had almost 4 thousand views.
Rich – Oh my goodness.
Meagan – Which is insane, so people are loving it. We boosted it today, just because it was doing so well, so we’ll see how that does.
Rich – We’ll link to that in our show notes, so people can get a sense of how you’re talking about it in your community.
Meagan – Yeah, absolutely.
Rich – Now Poke Stops, what’s the different between a gym and a Poke Stop?
Meagan – So Poke Stop is where you go to collect items, so you get more Poke balls and you get different shop items like incense and stuff like that, that will help you train your Pokemon or like lure Pokemon, stuff like that.
Rich – Now there is something around dropping lures as well.
Meagan – Yeah.
Rich – What is that?
Meagan – Well a lure will attract Pokemon to wherever you are.
Rich – Okay.
Meagan – You can pay for them or you can acquire Poke points and we will be paying for them, it’s a dollar for a half an hour. That’s one of the things we’re doing at our Poke Stop, next Tuesday during lunch, we’re going to drop a couple of lures and go outside, give out free broth, give out free water bottles and sodas.
Rich – That’s amazing.
Meagan – Show up at our campus because everybody benefits from a lure, or just hang out.
Rich – Now, any kind of interesting stories, obviously it’s early days, just kind of fun interactions your people have had or anything like that?
Meagan – Well one of our staff members recently overtook our campus at one of our gyms, so we’ve almost made it, like trying to take it back from us kind of thing.
Rich – Right, yeah.
Meagan – That was fun with the community like, “We’re in this with you. You’re not showing up and we’re trying to sneak one on you, no we’re going to fight for this place.”
Rich – Yeah, that’s cool.
Meagan – Yeah, I mean it’s just neat, especially with our student community people, they have high schoolers showing up outside and they’ll just go outside and there’s people just walking around our parking lots collecting Pokemon and they have really great conversations and connect with them and invite them back to our student ministry, students that they might not ever connect with otherwise.
Rich – That’s amazing. Now the thing I don’t want church leaders to miss is this. Okay, we do a lot to get people to come to our churches, I’m sure, I have a special place in my heart for Church Communications Directors, because I know it’s super hard and the cool thing that’s happening here is people are just showing up to our locations.
Meagan – Yeah.
Rich – Let’s not miss that opportunity, don’t look at this and be like, “Gosh, oh my goodness, it’s some video game and it’s a fad.” Yeah it is, but people are there, they’re probably wandering around your community already, let’s just use this opportunity. It’s a fun summertime thing, like you were saying, I love that you’re kind of trying to leverage it for students, that’s a great opportunity for sure.
Anything else you’d love to say to people or church leaders that might be listening in, that are maybe a little bit hesitant, you know, listening in, the lights just went off, “Oh, the Pokemon have taken over,” anything you’ve love to say to people who are maybe a little bit hesitant about, you know, or just wondering like, “I’m not sure I should do anything about this.”
Meagan – I mean, I’ve heard lots of positives and negatives about the game itself. People have thrown out concerns about data information being shared and we’re not promoting the playing of the game per se, we’re just engaging with the people that are already playing and we want, as a church, to connect with the community that’s around us. People are showing up and we want to make sure that they know our doors are open, they know that this is a place that you are welcome, no matter who you are, what you believe, the church is a place that you can always come to and whatever you’re doing, like we’re right there beside you.
This is an awesome opportunity to say that and do that and be a part of it.
Rich – Very cool. Meagan, I really appreciate this. You’ve actually provided us, I mean we’ll have links to them in our show notes, the graphics you guys are using, that you printed for signs on the doors. So if your church is thinking about doing this, we’ll provide links to show you pictures of what it looks like at 242 and we’ll give you those graphics.
If people want to get in touch with the church, learn more about this, how can they do that?
Meagan – Sure, you can go to our website, it’s at 242community.com. You can also email me if you’d like, my email address is, firstname.lastname@example.org and I’d be happy to answer any questions and get you some Photoshop files if you need those, we’re happy to be a resource.
Rich – Perfect, thank you so much.
Meagan – Thank you.