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“Black Ops” Them to Christ

Black OpsToday’s youth workers are being forced to tackle a huge theological issue in their ministry with young people!

The Doctrine of Hell? No.

Eternal security? No.

Calvinism vs. Arminianism? No.

None of these issues catalyze strife from parents, elders and even senior pastors like the theology of Game-ism, or more specifically, is it or is it not appropriate for the junior high pastor to play “Black Ops” on Xbox 360 with Dillon, Chris and Michael?

If you ever want to heat up the room at a parent meeting, just bring up violent video games, specifically “first-person-shooter” games. Guaranteed you’ll have the following three people in the room:

  • A mom who is horrified by any game where a gun is pointed at another person. These are the games that the Columbine killers played, right?
  • A dad who thinks violent games are okay as long as they don’t have nudity. It’s okay to stab someone in the throat repeatedly, just don’t look at a girl’s boobs while you do it.
  • A set of parents who have no idea what their kids play. Grand Theft Auto is one of those racing games with little cartoon animals dodging mushrooms, right?

Every parent has their own opinion about what is appropriate (which is one reason we just provide a basic description and details that we call “what parents should know” on our new VIDEO GAMES REVIEW page, instead of a solid “yes” or “no” recommendation).

How is a youth worker to approach the subject? Chances are, this Gen Y (20-something) youth worker has an Xbox 360 of his own at home and plays games from the “Call of Duty” and “Halo” series regularly. Is this wrong? Is he biased?

Hmmmm.

This issue begs the question: should we oppose or embrace video games. After all, a ton of our kids are already playing “Black Ops.” Can we join them in these covert missions (that inarguably are violent and allow bad language)? Are we putting our stamp of approval when we do?

I asked a similar question in my blog earlier this week and youth worker Josh commented:

…it is more fun to play with other people than it is to play against the computer. A couple of the parents in my youth group allow their students to only play the multiplayer because the campaign is usually where the game gets its rating from. Black Ops is a perfect example of that, I played through it just to see what the students might have been playing, and it was the part of the game that had the most “graphic” violence and language that it got the M rating for. Now, if you switch over to the multiplayer, the language is not there and the violence isn’t depicted in such a strong way. But it is more fun, in my own opinion. Parents and youth leaders just need to make judgments about what they are going to do with video games and what they are going to allow. And as a Youth Minister, I need to respect what parents have decided for their students. If I know a parent doesn’t let their student play, then I am not going to have playing videos as part of an event where I know that they will be coming. But other times, I’ve had parents host a video game hang out at their home where they would cook and myself with 3 other students would have fun playing against each other. And the thing is, if you can talk to a student about Black Ops, you “earn” some respect in their book. Many times video games was what opened the conversation but it always ended somewhere else, much deeper and meaningful.

Is Josh right?

Is an “M” rated game like “Black Ops” okay when it’s in the “multiplayer” mode?

Do playing these games with teenagers really help us connect?

QUESTION: Here’s my personal two cents on if first-person shooter games are okay, but what do you think? Share your opinion with us in the comments below.


Posted on August 17, 2011

  • David

    I use to work with teens who have been abused. Many of them had an appetite for violence. They were barred from watching violent movies, playing violent games, even music that had violence in it. This appetite spilled over into their daily lives in the way they devalued people. Personally I dont allow violent games in youth ministry. I can't talk about the love of God and our love for people if 5 minutes before I was blowing people up. Videos games do have an effect on our minds, as well as other sources of media do. I think its an area we need to use a whole lot of wisdom.

  • Jacob Revor

    I think video games is a great way to get youth in church. When I was in high school about 7 years ago I invited 8-10 people from my high school to my youth group. At least 3 of them were not Christians at all and did not come from a Christian home. I would bring my game cube and I would play smah bros melee. The main reason they came was to play video games and have fun with me and some of their other friends. Then of course they heard Bible messages from my youth pastor and I am sure they heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. Whether they accepted it or not im still not sure. I dont see Christ through their life style today. But it did get them to a bible believing church once every tuesday night. Consider what Paul says 1 Corinthians 9:22-23 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. So Paul did what he could to present people the gospel. Some churches wont let you put in a ping pong table or a video game in the church because they think its disrespectful. But Paul did whatever he could to lead someone to christ. and im sure paul would play video games with youth in church to lead them to christ if he was still around today. Do have to consider what games are and arent allowed though. I dont think porn is good but I dont think the violence is that bad unless you have a youth there with a mental disorder then I think that could turn bad. but then again who would ever give someone with a mental disorder a gun?

  • Jared

    Video games are a very controversial topic. I, myself, have a young kid who i refuse to play games such as Call of Duty, even though I do in my free time. I think that certain age groups just cannot handle that sort of desensitized violence. They really don't have a proper grip on what is actually happening, but eventually it wears away the part of the brain that says "hey, killing people is bad!". I know myself I can see it as a game, but as a kid, you have a hard time distinguishing fantasy from reality and the games somewhat blur the grittiness that is death. As an adult I can look at a game and say to myself that this is fun, but I could never in a million years consciously kill as many people as I do in the game. My child, however, could not say that to himself, but rather would think it was possible, because he's played a game involving it.
    Using it as a ministry tool? Somewhat shaky, although I do agree that the multiplayer is a very good bonding tool. It helps me and my son coordinate with each other on the "zombies" mode, which is really fun and involves the killing of zombies, which I know my son can consciously make aware that are not real and just part of the game.
    With that being said, I usually have my kid visit a Bible Islands website. http://partners.bibleislands.com/aff_c?offer_id=2
    It's a great way for him to learn about Christian values, have fun, and also learn a variety of topics.
    Plus it allows me to help and engage him if he gets stuck on something hard. :)

    • http://www.studentministry.org Tim Schmoyer

      Yeah, the ability for children of certain ages to differentiate between reality and fantasy is something that's scientifically proven and is why movies and video games use a rating system based on age. Definitely something to consider in this whole debate.

  • http://blog.thesource4ym.com/ Jonathan McKee

    If you read the article I linked in the blog (my personal two cents on if first person shooter games are okay) you'll see a bunch of links to research and articles on the subject. Interesting stuff about how it effects kids.

    • http://www.studentministry.org Tim Schmoyer

      I skimmed your article, but I didn't actually read all of it. Guess I should go do that. :)

  • Spencer

    I have gained some serious rep points in being able to talk about the game at the local middle school. It has been a grea way to relate an open the door. I only play it with a group if everyone is allowed to play the game.

    Im sure I'll get called out by some mom someday. I think its worth the risk.

  • http://www.thediscipleproject.net Paul Turner

    The bible is one of the most violent (and sexual) books on the market. And we encourage kids to read it and without adult supervision. The bible should be rated M . Haven’t we all enjoyed talking about David cutting off tbd head of Goliath? Some preachers glorify the battles of scripture because it’s righteous but decry shoot’em up games. It’s a bit hypocritical. I would say Black Ops is only as righteous as the person playing it. The church is losing our young men in droves. If playing a few video games with them helps me connect with them in the short term, so be it. In addition, I am planning an air soft gun arena night to coordinate with Modern Warfare 3 coming out in November. I will be preaching a series called Modern Spiritual Warfare. Oh P.S., the largest demographic for playing video games is over the age of 30.

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