Youth Ministry, Video Games, and Violence

Ben Witherington has a post about Youth Ministers using the popular video game Halo 3 to recruit teens to their youth groups.  He’s pretty adamant about his disagreement with the practice, and ends up calling it a ‘debacle’ but the comments that follow the post are interesting to read.  Everyone should check it out.

My personal feelings are that I don’t believe we should rely on gimmicks of any sort to attract people to Jesus, whether child or adult.  But in terms of violent video games I don’t see any real problems with them.  In the comments section Ben asks a series of questions which I will reproduce here.

Ask yourself these questions: 1) could this game encourage me to be a more compassionate person,; 2) a more loving or forgiving person; 3) a less individualistic and more community oriented person; 4) a person less prone to anger, less prone to resort to certain inappropriate ways of resolving conflict? These are the sorts of questions one needs to be asking when evaluating such games.

My initial reaction is that we can ask these questions regarding any and everything, and the vast majority of things that we ask them of will yield the same results… ‘not really’.  If I asked those questions when evaluating the foods I eat, the television programs I watch, the clothes I wear, my answer will in most cases be, ‘not really’ — but so what?  I don’t think anyone would argue that video games (violent or otherwise) are meant to serve such a purpose.  I just can’t see any actual problems with violent video games.  I played them for years, so did my friends, and not a single one of us ended up murdering anyone or even fighting as a result of playing them.  This really seems more of a generational thing than anything else but maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe some of our youth feel the same way.  Who knows?

In the end I say that we should save the games for home and proclaim the gospel to teens in public.  Ministry is about service, not entertainment.  If we’re to be fishers of men then we need to cast nets, not dangle bait. 


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