A few weeks ago my 14-year old son Ethan asked to go outside in our neighborhood to find some Pokemon. It was 11pm at night. I thought that was a strange request so late. I also was curious what the heck he meant by looking for Pokemon.
This was my first introduction to Pokemon Go, and since then I’ve joined the Pokemon Go madness.
Like many of you, I’ve heard the stories in my neighborhood of spots where 50-100 teenagers are gathered together all looking at their phones. I’ve also seen this happen on social media. Pretty crazy.
I see many of my youth ministry friends using Pokemon Go to reach out to students in their community and to build relationships with students in their youth group.
I thought it would be cool if we wrote a lesson around Pokemon Go. Something that would serve as a reminder of an important truth every time students play.
So, we did.
Enjoy the lesson!
Nick Diliberto, Ministry to Youth
LESSON’S BOTTOM LINE:
Students will be inspired by the Pokemon Go game/app to go out into the world and find those who are labeled by others as the “nobodies, rejected, outcasts”, and to share the love of Christ with them.
If you are one of the very few people on the planet not playing Pokemon Go, or if you aren’t familiar with the Pokemon phenomenon, here are a couple of articles to explain it to you (warning, the Vox article has a few obscenities):
BIBLE VERSE: MATTHEW 28:18-20
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Lots of chocolate bars or packs of candy
Copies of the Bible verse sheet (download it here)
Cans of silly string
Prizes for the winning team
OPENING ACTIVITY: “GOTTA CATCH ‘EM ALL!”
You can play outdoors, which will require a lot of space, or indoors. If you play indoors, it is best that you have use of a good portion of the church in addition to the youth room. It’s best played indoors if you have access to multiple rooms. The more space, the better. Feel free to also use the church parking lot.
Print out the this Bible Verse Sheet and make enough copies for about two pages per team (plan for teams of three to five students).
Beforehand, cut along the lines, then put each card in a separate envelope.
Number the envelopes so that the first card (“Then Jesus came”) is number 1, and on down.
Numbers 1-23 constitute a complete set of cards.
This will allow students to know when they have all the pieces they need to complete the verse.
Before students arrive, hide the envelopes throughout the play area and place a piece of candy or chocolate on top of each one.
Make some very easy to find and others more difficult to find.
Lastly, arm each of the leaders (or older students, if you choose) with several cans of silly string and have them hide throughout the play area.
TWO GOALS OF THE GAME
Feel free to do your own version of this game.
Break up students into teams of 3-5.
The game has two main goals.
Goal #1 – Teams capture as many Pokemon as possible in the time allowed.
Instruct students to pull out their phones and look for Poekemon using the Pokemon Go app. If they don’t have the app, give them a few minutes to download it (it’s free).
The goal is to be the team that captures the most Pokemon in the time allowed.
Goal #2 – Teams will scour the play area for the candy on top of the hidden envelopes that contain the words of the Bible verse.
Some students in each team will search for Pokemon while others search for the candy on top of the envelopes. This will be perfect for those that either don’t have a phone or aren’t that interested in Pokemon Go.
They must also avoid the youth leaders (no more than five), who are trying to hit them with silly string and steal their envelopes.
Once a team finds one of each envelope, they must put the words together to complete the Bible verse. And of course they can eat the candy.
The first team to put the verse together correctly wins.
Give out a prize to the team with the most Pokemon and the first to get all the Bible verses and put them in order.
HOW TO PLAY
Divide the group into teams of three to five students (more or less depending on your group size). On “Go,” teams go out into the play area and try to find one of each of the numbered envelopes.
Teams must stay together; they may not split up to “divide and conquer”.
While teams are looking for the envelopes and playing Pokemon Go, the leaders (or older students) are on the hunt for teams.
When a leader encounters a team, they try to spray the team with silly string. If anyone on the team gets hit with silly string, then the team must surrender one of their envelopes.
The leader should re-hide the envelope once the team is gone.
Once a team has found one of each envelope, they go to a “safe area” (perhaps a classroom or meeting room inside the church, or perhaps the picnic area of the park).
Teams can be attacked by a leader while on their way to the safe area, but not while in the safe area.
In the safe area, the teams open the envelopes (they may not open them beforehand) and put the words together to spell out the memory verse.
The first team to do so that also has the most Pokemon captured wins a prize.
Hope you enjoyed the game!
As fun as the game is, it’s even more fun to watch the crazy things people do while playing Pokemon Go.
People walk into poles and fences, stumble off of curbs, and find themselves in embarrassing situations. Here are some video clips showing some of the insanity:
In our game today, you went out on a Pokemon Go-like scavenger hunt, except that – in addition to hunting for Pokemon – you were looking for Christ’s words instead.
And those words gave Jesus’ disciples – and us – a command: Go into all the world, share the good news of God’s love, and make disciples.
One way to look at today’s Bible verse, known as the “Great Commission,” is to see it as something similar to Pokemon Go. In the game, you’re looking for Pokemon. In this Bible verse, Jesus teaches us to look for people.
Jesus wants us to go out into the world to find those who are lost and broken and in need of God’s love. And when we find them, we need to love them and share the Gospel with them.
Our lesson today focuses on a parable that Jesus told that illustrates this “Great Commission Scavenger Hunt” idea.
Let’s read Luke 14: 7-24:
When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. 9 If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
The Parable of the Great Banquet
When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”
Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’
“But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’
“Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’
“Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’
“The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’
“‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’
“Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’”
Let’s set the stage for Jesus’ story:
Jesus is enjoying a Sabbath meal at the house of an important Pharisee Remember, Pharisees were the religious elite in Jesus’ day. In the eyes of ordinary people, they were the models of true religion.
The Pharisees had a rather complex relationship with Jesus.
They feared Him because He challenged their authority and was very popular with the people.
But they were also fascinated by Jesus and His teachings. So despite this sometimes hostile relationship, Jesus was sometimes a guest at a Pharisee’s house.
As the guests are taking their seats for dinner, they are all jockeying for position around the table.
They all want to sit in the places of honor near the head of the table to show they are more important than everyone else.
If you think about it, is this much different from the school yard today? At lunchtime or after school, doesn’t everyone want to sit with the “cool kids”?
Doesn’t everyone want to be seen hanging out with the “right” people?
Or on social media, doesn’t everyone compete for the most “likes” and “retweets”?
And to think, these big, important religious leaders back in Jesus’ day were not much different from middle schoolers and high schoolers today.
Jesus sees all this social maneuvering and decides to turn it into an object lesson. He first gives them a little lecture about their seating arrangements.
He says it’s better to pick a humble seat and then be invited to the head of the table than it is to choose a prominent seat and be asked to move down to make room for someone more important than you. This is an important lesson for us, too.
It is better to choose to be humble than to be humbled by others. True humility is attractive; others are drawn to it. Instead of trying to make ourselves look good in front of others, we should be humble and allow others to raise us up if they choose to do so.
After this brief lesson, Jesus launches into the Parable of the Great Banquet, the the primary focus of our lesson. The parable goes that this guy decides to throw a huge party.
Not just pizza and video games; we’re talking “Great Gatsby”-style party. He invites all his friends, but when the time for the party finally comes, no one shows up.
Everyone is full of excuses. Some have business to attend to; others have personal matters to take care of. Regardless of the reason, everyone has more important things to do.
How do you think the host of the party felt? How would you feel if you had planned and prepared to throw the party of the year; you had bought all the food, cleaned the house, and gotten everything ready; only to have nobody show up? What would you do? (field responses from students)
Maybe you’d get really mad. Maybe you’d leave an angry rant on Facebook or Twitter, or post an angry selfie on Instagram. But would you do what the guy in our story did?
Sure, he gets angry. No one can blame him for that. But he decided to turn this unfortunate situation into something positive.
There is certainly a lesson to be learned in this. We’re going to get angry every now and then. It’s a perfectly natural emotion, but the Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians not to sin in our anger.
It’s ok to be angry; anger in and of itself is not wrong. But it’s what we do with our anger that matters. Rather than doing something vengeful or destructive, we ought to turn our anger into something positive.
We should take action in our anger – it’s not healthy to keep our anger bottled up – but we must find positive, constructive ways to express that anger. Let your anger motivate you to do good.
Back to our story. Instead of throwing a temper tantrum or a pity party, our guy decides to go ahead with the party.
He’s not going to let him flaky friends spoil his fun. But who’s going to eat all the food? Who is going to dance and enjoy the fun? The host sends his servants out one more time – on a scavenger hunt, if you will.
This time, instead of the dignified and important guests who were once invited, the servants were told to go fetch the “poor, crippled, blind, and lame.” The host wanted to treat the mistreated and the marginalized to a great meal and a great evening.
Sound outlandish? Unbelievable? Well, it’s not too farfetched.
Not long ago, a jilted bride from northern California did the same thing.
Her fiance’ backed out of the wedding at the last minute. It was too late to cancel the venue and the caterer for the reception, so this woman threw a big party, inviting local homeless people to enjoy a first-class meal. Here is the story and a short news clip:
How cool is that? On what was sure to be an incredibly difficult, heartbreaking day, this woman turned her pain into a joyous meal for a lot of people. She did exactly what the host in Jesus’ parable did.
But this story is not just about bringing something good out of a bad situation. This is not simply a “make lemonade outta lemons” fable.
Jesus is talking about more than being a good host or about being generous with your leftovers.
Matthew records a similar story to this one in chapter 22 of his Gospel.
There are a few differences, like it’s a king throwing the party as a wedding banquet for his son and the guests are a little more violent in their rejection of their invitation. But there is an important phrase that Jesus uses in Matthew that Luke doesn’t use.
In Matthew’s account, Jesus begins the story with the phrase “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…” This is a phrase that Jesus uses often to begin a parable.
So, like we said, this is not simply a “lemonade” story. Jesus is taking advantage of the situation to teach the people something about the Kingdom of God.
So what is that lesson?
First, Jesus says the Kingdom of Heaven is like a party.
How cool is that? Jesus uses party and meal imagery throughout the Gospels to describe His Kingdom. Even Communion, the sacrament given to us to remember Christ’s gift of salvation, is celebrated in a meal.
But it’s not just about the food. Sharing a meal is a very personal, intimate thing for people to do together.
They not only share food, but fellowship and conversation.
So, God’s Kingdom, both in heaven and on earth, is more than angels sitting on clouds playing their harps.
God’s Kingdom is about relationship; our relationship with God and our relationship with others.
Second, Jesus says that there will be those who are too busy or who think they are too good to join the party.
Did you notice the similarities between the people Jesus is sharing a meal with and the people in the story who turn down the invitation to the banquet?
Both groups are too self-important and too self-absorbed; all they care about is themselves.
They think they don’t need God’s grace; they’ll be just fine on their own.
Do you know people like that? (Don’t name names)
There are plenty of people out there who believe they don’t need God.
They’ll do just fine on their own. Now, their self-importance is no reason not to share God’s love with them, but we need to realize that our attempts to do so may not be well-received.
It’s like offering a drink of water to someone holding a big bottle of soda. The water is so much better for them, but they don’t see their need for it.
Keep on loving them anyway, just don’t get discouraged if you don’t get much of a response.
And then there is the last group in the story: the down and out, the weak and lame, the blind and poor. When the self-absorbed and self-important don’t want to come to the party, the host sends his servants back out to bring in the outcasts and the marginalized.
Jesus seems to have a special place in His heart for those who are rejected by society. The sick and the broken.
The shamed and the shunned. Jesus was often called a “friend of sinners,” and they said it like it was a bad thing.
And His response on more than one occasion was “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have come not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2: 17).
Who are the rejected, the sick and broken, the shamed and shunned today? Who are the outcasts and marginalized? (get responses from students, but ask them not to name names).
Why is that? What makes them the outcasts and the nobodies? (get some answers)
And what does the party’s host in our story do?
He sends his servants out into the streets to find these people and invite them to the party. And what did Jesus Himself do when He was here on earth?
He went out into the streets to find these people and “invite them to the party,” so to speak.
We who are Christ’s servants have a command to follow, the same one given by the man in the story and the same one illustrated by Jesus Himself: go out into the streets and find those who are sick and broken – go find the outcasts – and invite them to the party.
Chances are, you won’t have to look very far to find these people. They might be the ones sitting by themselves in the lunchroom.
They might be the ones who post strange things on social media.
They might be the ones who act out in class.
Chances are these types of behaviors are masking the hurt and pain and brokenness they feel inside. They’re always on the outside looking in.
They’re the ones that no one pays attention to. They’re the ones who need Christ’s love the most.
They are the ones Jesus tells us to go to.
We need to go and share Christ’s love with them.
Not just tell them that Jesus loves them, and not just invite them to church.
But actually love them the way that Christ loves them. And how did Jesus do this? He spent time with them. He got to know them.
He became their friend. Remember, the Pharisees (the ones too good for the party) often accused Jesus of being a “friend of sinners.” May the same thing be said about us.
May we be so filled with Christ’s love for the broken and rejected, that they will seek us out because they want to know and experience the love of God through us.
St. Francis of Assisi once said, “Go into the world and preach the Gospel, and use words if necessary.” And a pastor once paraphrased this to say, “Preach the Gospel [with your actions] until words are necessary.”
In other words, our love and actions should proclaim God’s love so loudly that people start asking us what our deal is.
Why are we so generous and giving and loving? Then we use our words to tell them about the love of God.
The last couple lines of this story are so great. The servant comes back from his “scavenger hunt” of inviting people to the party and he says to the master, “I’ve done what you said, but there is still room at the table.” To which the master replies, “Well, then go get more people! I want this table filled with party-goers.” There is always room at the table for one more.
Whether we are the ones being sent out to find people, or you are one of those waiting to be invited, there is always room at God’s table for one more guest.
And just like the master in the story, God keeps telling His servants to go look for more people to invite. Like those wandering around looking for Pokemon, God sends us out to “catch ‘em all!”
Break into small groups and discuss the following questions:
Whom do you most relate to in the story? The Pharisees trying to get the best spot at the table? The invited guests too busy to attend the party? The servants sent out to invite people? Or the broken and poor who are waiting for an invitation? (Being truly honest with themselves and each other may be very difficult. Be patient and encouraging as they wrestle with this)
What does it mean that Jesus was called a “friend of sinners”? How can you be a friend of sinners without compromising your faith or morals?
Who is someone in your world that needs to be “invited to the party”? How can you show them Christ’s love this week?
Spend time praying for your students that they would have the courage to show God’s love to the marginalized in their world.
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