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Is ‘Halo 3’ a tool for outreach or a bad influence?

The television fills the room with sounds of gunfire and bloody images. Teens yell and frantically press the buttons on their plastic controllers, totally engrossed by the graphic video game.
It’s a normal scene in living rooms across the nation, but it’s becoming common in church youth rooms too.
“Halo 3,” an epic, space-age game made for the Xbox console, earned a record-breaking $170 million for Microsoft in its first 24 hours on the shelves.
The game allows players to enter a futuristic wasteland and fight aliens. Multiple players can participate, helping or competing against each other. Groups of youths gather for “LAN parties,” creating local area networks with their consoles and playing simultaneously.
Some church members see the game’s popularity as a means of outreach. Dennis Jamison, youth minister at the Meadow View church in Mesquite, Texas, uses “Halo 3” with his youth group, and doesn’t believe the game is damaging to the teens who play it.
“It’s very clear to see that there’s aliens and monsters and things that we don’t have in our lives,” Jamison said. “There is a definite line between fiction and non-fiction.”
Other church members who work with youths call for caution, citing the game’s “mature” rating. Purchasers of “Halo 3” must be 17 years or older.
Dudley Chancey, associate professor of youth ministry at Oklahoma Christian University in Oklahoma City, said that, “if nothing else, as a Christian it desensitizes (us) to killing people.
“Everything we do has some influence on us for good or bad, or Philippians 4:8 is a lie,” Chancey said.
That verse reads: Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.
Brandon Price, a missionary in the Eastern European nation of Ukraine, has been to several video game gatherings. Instead of providing a venue for Christian outreach, he fears that such gatherings may encourage players to suppress Christian principles.
“Every LAN party I’ve ever been to — which has always been in Christian gatherings — has certain principles you must accept,” Price said. “If you accidentally walk in front of the screen, you get yelled at. If you attempt to talk to someone playing, don’t expect an intelligible response from that person.”
“Halo 3’s” outreach potential is hard to measure, said Patrick Doherty, youth minister for the Woodbury, Minn., church. “Our entertainment choices are extremely subjective,” Doherty said. While some non-Christians might view church-sponsored Halo parties as a dynamic outreach, others might see such parties as evidence of Christian hypocrisy.
“It’s a question not so much of the game’s appropriateness, because we can’t make that decision for every family, but it’s simply a question of where we draw the line in using something for outreach,” Doherty said, adding that “the benefits of ‘Halo’ don’t really outweigh the risks.”
Jeff Smith, college minister for the Sunset church in Lubbock, Texas, said he’s no expert on “Halo,” but he and his 21-year-old son both play the game. So do many of the students in his ministry, Cross Campus, an outreach to Texas Tech and Lubbock Christian universities.
“I can understand some of the concern,” Smith said, referring to discussion of the game as an outreach tool. “But it seems to me to be another ‘Harry Potter’ scenario that the church helps create.”
Three years ago Smith used the popularity of the game’s predecessor, “Halo 2,” as a motif for a Bible class series on spiritual warfare.
“Our students responded well to the series,” he said, “and with the release and buzz of ‘Halo 3,’ I intend to dust this class off in the upcoming spring semester.”
Jamison said he’s sensitive to the possibility that some parents may not want their teens playing “Halo 3” and works to keep church leaders and parents informed of the activities. He also is ready to provide other activities for teens who can’t participate.
As for the game itself, “I’ve just used it mainly as an activity,” he said. “I don’t try … comparing Master Chief (the protagonist in ‘Halo 3’) to Jesus. I just try to use video games to get in touch with (youth) and get on their level. If they’re comfortable … that can open the doors to deeper discussion about religion, and about their faith.”
Chancey disagrees: “The whole idea (is), if we have ‘Halo’ in our youth room, the kids will come, and the fact is, they don’t. If you want to reach people you have legitimate, authentic relationships. You don’t need ‘Halo.’”
That’s been the case for Price. Despite their popularity, video games aren’t necessary for ministering to youths, he said.
“Guys from the youth group are always in shock when they come over and find out that I don’t have any video games,” Price said. “After I explain that I’m not into them, the weirdest thing happens — we talk.”

  • Feedback
    If the game is used in a Bible lesson to teach about Spiritual Warfare, do we TRULY BELIEVE THE KIDS ARE GOING TO BE THINKING ABOUT THEIR SPIRITUAL RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS CHRIST AS THEY CONTINUE PLAYING IT? As they become addicted? THINK!!! PRAY!!!
    Sandra D.
    Grace Bible Church
    Graysville, TN
    November, 7 2012

    I am a teenager and I didn’t want give out to much info. Any ways I believe that everyone that comes to these halo nights should have a note (unless they are an adult) from their parents saying that they can play halo. Also I like how we are doing this. Let’s say someone only wants to come because of halo. then in mini lesson he gets saved! If he saw Christainity as a good thing, fun and that he wanted to go to heaven with his friends. I don’t even play halo. But I know from a little research that halo does swear little (if you join the army they swear there to( I’m pretty sure(I didn’t research that 🙂 ))). Swearing is the only thing god would object to. But teachers could use this oporutinity to teach. I could say more but only 750 chara-
    Dr. Doolittle
    Somewhere, Ny
    March, 11 2012

    I can’t imagine using this game in church youth groups. What a breakdown in the witness of our churches. 1 Corinthians 6:12 NIV says, “Everything is permissible for me but not everything is beneficial.” or as The Message puts it “Just because something is technically legal doesn’t mean that it’s spiritually appropriate.” These both show us that we are not to do something just because it is permitted. It doesn’t not mean that it will in anyway benefit our spiritual lives. I have seen the damage that this game can cause. I have children in my classroom who are 7 and playing it and you would not believe the things they have heard and are repeating from this game. Please think long and hard about sharing a game like this with the children that will decided the future moral compass for our country.
    April, 27 2009

    My youth minister would never use the game in replace of a devo, or during class or something like that. But since XBOX 360 lets people to play the game even when they’re at different locations, he sometimes plays the game that way with youth members, it’s pretty cool because they’re playing a game and talking at the same time, and may be 40 miles away from each other. We just need to watch how we use it, and make sure it helps things with God, and doesn’t distract us.
    December, 15 2008

Filed under: Culture Staff Reports

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