It’s common for people to dismiss as wrong something they are unfamiliar with and do not fully understand, for many Christians, this describes a common view on what our society has labeled “gamers” and the gamer community. A “gamer” is someone who has adopted interactive gaming, such as online games, role-playing games, and board games, as a predominant activity in their lifestyle. The gamer community is the subculture that has developed around gaming.
In this day and age, the gaming industry is growing tremendously. Although many people incorporate some form of games into their leisure activity, there is a distinction between the person who casually plays games, and those who consider themselves as belonging to the gaming community. There is also some distinction as to the type of games played and the game formats, that separate a “gamer” from the large population of people playing the most popular console games today.
While transitioning from high school to college, a large amount of young adults nationwide who were brought up in a Christian church, stop attending church services and begin to form new connections with various groups. These communities can lead them further away from the Christian beliefs and standards of morality they were introduced to as children. To help address this phenomenon, Quest Church, led by the vision of Pastor James Kruppa, has taken steps to bring Christ and game controller together.
What many people may find interesting is that Pastor Kruppa identifies himself as a “gamer”. His vision for Quest Church evolved out of his own life experience. James was raised in a Christian church and also loved playing games such as the popular role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons. At the time, there was a lot of controversy within the Christian community regarding such games and many Christians struggled with the tension between their identity as both a Christian and a gamer. The local churches also struggled in understanding how gaming and Christianity could coexist.
James went on to become a computer science teacher at Woodcrest Christian School in Riverside and it was there that he and fellow teacher Shane Ludwig began connecting with like-minded students through gaming. James recognized that these students were at a pivotal point in their life when it came to continuing the development of their Christian faith. He did not want to see these students, self identified as gamers, to fall away from Christianity.
As a response to the concern, the two teachers gave their time and energy connecting with these students through gaming. Meeting up in the classroom or computer lab to play games such as Age of Empires, helped to facilitate a bond between Christian students who enjoyed gaming. But, it wasn’t just about playing games. Although the meet up was very organic in its inception, there was always the intention of being a ministry for Christ.
“The gamer community is a community that in a large part has been ignored by the local church,” stated Josh Cords, one of the former students of Woodcrest Christian School who took part in gaming activities with teachers Krupp and Ludwig.
In 2006, the group that had formed at Woodcrest Christian School, began meeting together as a house church. The emphasis was to create an environment that would encourage high school and college gamers to remain connected to the Christian community. Kruppa left his role at Woodcrest Christian School so that he could devote his time and energy to earning a Master of Divinity degree. While at seminary, Krupp began to embrace his gaming identity and recognized it as part of God’s unique design in the creation of his personality. Quest Church is the outcome Kruppa’s own journey.
Most of the people fellowshipping at Quest Church are in their early twenties. A lot of those currently involved are coming out of Norco City College which has a recognized computer gaming curriculum.
Like many other subcultures, the gaming community has its own language. It is by being able to convey Christian ideas and beliefs using the unique language of the gaming community that validates Quest Church’s ability to be effective in its focused outreach. It is common to hear gaming terms as references and metaphors to help explain Christianity to those in the gaming community that have no knowledge of Christianity in their background.
A new component to the outreach efforts of Quest Church is the establishment of a gaming center and store in Norco. Located at 2395 Hamner St. Unit D, the store is only walking distance from Norco City College. The vision for such a location has existed for some time, and thanks to the support and sponsorship of First Southern Baptist of Anaheim, it is now a reality. The hope is to cultivate a place where people from the gaming community can get together to play games, develop relationships with Christians, and come to acquire a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
The gaming center and store opened August and Quest Church hopes to see it become a gathering place for those in the local gaming community. “For a lot of us older gamers, being a gamer meant the rest of the school rejected you,” stated Cords. Quest Church opens its doors to be a place of refuge and acceptance for local gamers.
The outreach model that Quest Church is following isn’t unique to only the gaming community. There has been a rise over the recent years of ministries forming that are very specific in their own congregational composition and the people groups that they are focusing their outreach efforts toward. There is an effectiveness found in this type of model for reaching nonbelievers and it is especially effective in penetrating the barriers of strong subcultures, usually not receptive to traditional evangelistic methods. This does not mean that there is no need for the traditional methods, but it does highlight the possibilities for more opportunities in reaching people with the Gospel message.