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Quests, community and faith: Online gaming with a mission

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The Rev. Dr. Adam Sowder believes, if Wesley were alive today, the founder of Methodism definitely would be gaming on Twitch, chatting on Discord and streaming his sermons across social media. Sowder shares how church is happening at Methodist Gaming and how we also can find connection in these digital spaces.

Guest: The Rev. Dr. Adam Sowder

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This episode posted on September 1, 2023.

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Sharing our faith where people commonly gather is a concept as old as John Wesley. The Rev. Dr. Adam Sowder believes, if Wesley were alive today, the founder of Methodism definitely would be gaming on Twitch, chatting on Discord and streaming his sermons across social media. Methodist Gaming, which Adam started, is an online community found on  streaming platforms like Twitch. Adam shares how church is happening at Methodist Gaming and how we also can find connection in these digital spaces..


Crystal Caviness, host: Adam, welcome to “Get Your Spirit in Shape.”

Adam: Thank you so much

Crystal: Adam, you are an elder in the Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church, and we're going to talk about where that ministry path has led you. But before we do, can you tell us just a little bit about yourself, how you came to The United Methodist Church and found your place and way into ministry?

I would love to. I grew up in The United Methodist Church. I think I did what a lot of people might consider would be normal for a child to do and if everything from youth choir to Youth Usher and Youth Sunday and sometimes having to go to church when I didn't want to. Certainly when I was a high schooler and got into college, I got away from the church for a little bit. But that isn't to say that I still didn't have a strong belief. My grandfather was an elder in the Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church and then I had an experience, it's a much longer conversation, but I had a heartwarming experience kind of like Wesley did as a young adult after I got my undergraduate degree in a time when I really needed that in my life, had a lot of sadness and disconnection and other things like that.

And that kind of brought me back to The UMC and it was the sacrament of holy communion where I had that experience kind of a very much a means of grace, heartwarming experience through the sacrament, kind of understanding myself and that transition from just a servant of God doing things. I had to kind of like when I had to go to church, I had to as a kid to wanting to understanding myself to be a child of God. And that led to a whole other process of transitioning away from a work that I had just started to go into Wesley Theological Seminary to do my MDiv. I was licensed local pastor while I was in seminary to a provisional elder, to an elder. I went back and got my doctorate at Wesley. So I've got a doctorate in transformational leadership in a Wesleyan perspective, and I did my coursework in Cambridge, England for that. So I just love Wesleyan history and doctrine and innovation and that kind of led me to, that's how I got into The  UMC and into ministry specifically, was just to serve the local church.

Crystal: I love that story, and as you were telling it, it occurs to me that one, you're definitely in transformational ministry. The topic we're going to talk about is definitely transformational, but I would go as far to say it's also a very historical time in our church and in our denomination. And you're a part of that in your expression of what your ministry looks like.

Adam: Absolutely. So I would say 100% in the experience of our beautiful connection and denomination, and as we get into our topic, I think you'll see as we talk, it's really built on that identity. But also it's in so many ways. If you listen to p research studies and everything else, the whole church capital C is in a very transformational place. It's very much people are open to good news and faith, and yet there's not a lot of expressions on how we connect with them. So it's very much a harvest as plentiful labors are few first century, but also 17th and 18th century with the advent of a renewal movement within the Church of England going to where people are and saying, well, we've going to have to try to do something different.

Crystal: Absolutely. John Wesley said, I'm in my boldness, in my vileness, I'm going to do something different and transformed people's faith experiences in that way. And so we're going to just fast forward. Some people might say what you're doing is vile.

Adam: 100%

Crystal: And in a very positive way because of you and this expression of church, which you call Methodist Gaming, is going to where people are. And you're part of a real movement in faith communities where there is an intersection of digital expression and faith, and in this case specifically gaming and faith.

Adam: And I believe it has to be that way. If Covid did anything, it sped up a set of processes that love at Weems had been talking about as far as the timeline and everything else. And it's forced our hand with regard to the intersection of technology and faith. And so as I think about that, I do think about John Wesley in England. So many of those little villages had a market cross, a place where people gathered specifically on the weekend to buy and sell. And I like to joke and to talk about the choir and the preacher and what's going on in church and everything like that. And here comes John Wesley and these circuit writers and Methodists standing in the midst of the people sharing something different and saying, if you heard something that is transformative, come and join us at this class meeting tonight in this location.

And so for me, digital media, online presence, that is the market cross. It is the intersection. Where are people today? They're online. And as we think about platforms that every church, in my humble opinion needs to be on from Facebook to Instagram to something very vile, TikTok, and you'll find me in all of those spaces, Twitch is one of those. So it's called Twitch tv, and that is a place where people play video games. Historically, it's known for video games, but it's also where people play music and talk. And just to give you an idea, I've got the actual live numbers up right now. So as we are recording this, there's a game called Fortnite. That's a game that I play at this moment. There are 50,700 people watching people play Fortnite in this very moment. There's another very popular game, maybe you've heard of a game called Minecraft that's very popular from the youngest to the oldest. There are 61,700 people watching people play Minecraft in this very moment. And the largest channel is a channel called Just Chatting. And that could be any of those things. There are 371,800 people watching people just on that channel alone on Twitch right now. And so where are people? Well, they're everywhere, but they're certainly in digital spaces. And I believe United Methodist Circuit writers of today need to go into those spaces with some different perspective and modeling something new.

Crystal: Adam, I work for United Methodist Communications. We strive to maximize all of the communication methods to connect with people. I have colleagues who I hear them talk about digital church, about these digital spaces. I've been hearing this for years and yet I don't understand it. And I realize maybe I'm not the only person who doesn't understand. And so my hope for our conversation today is to maybe close some of that gap of where I stand, where I don't know, you've just explained Twitch to me in a way that it's never been explained. I've heard it, but I didn't know. I had no idea what it was. So going from a place of where I don't understand it, so maybe I am possibly fearful of it,

Adam: Totally 100%.

Crystal: Or maybe not accepting of it to a place where, oh yeah, so I see how this is effective. I see why The United Methodist Church and other faith, how people of faith need to be in these spaces.

Adam: So I'm really excited about this conversation, but can we maybe start there? How Methodist Gaming, which is your faith expression, how that's interacting with the 300, possibly interacting with the 300,000 people who were on Twitch watching or in this chat space, and that's just that one channel. So all together there's so many more and that fluctuates in its people all over the world. So let me say this, I am an elder in The United Methodist Church. I am a lead pastor. I am the lead pastor of Discovery United Methodist Church in the suburb of Short Pump. It's a shopping district, kind of a trendy restaurant area of Richmond, Virginia. So I have a beautiful congregation where we have two services and food pantries and refugee work and small groups and a farmer's market and wonderful things like that. But I believe that this is so important that above and beyond all of that and my other connectional responsibilities as a provisional mentor and licensed local pastor, mentor and a cluster leader and everything else for my geographic area, that this is valid and important enough to sacrifice time and personal resources and energy into doing.

And so as we think about that, I think you used the word and the explanation from Wesley saying he resigned himself to be more vile and his vileness was just leaving the local church to go preach outside. And I say that we are vile with a gleam in my eye, but you're right, there are others that would say that it is truly vile. Maybe it's not only vile, it's fearful. Maybe there's an element of violence in there or things that we don't understand. And all those things are true. It's true from a regular life expression. It's true. As we read our scriptural texts from Genesis to Revelation, the fullness of humanity is laid before us and the importance of God's presence and grace that is guiding through prevenient grace and leading away to something different. And so as we think about this, it's just really a different expression of small group in a digital space.

Maybe we've gotten used to the fact that some of our churches now, and I believe all churches should have a presence on Facebook to do a livestream, have a presence on YouTube, to do a livestream to various capacities. We do a multistream. So we multistream on YouTube and Facebook and have online greeters. And it's been a beautiful expression for how people can still be connected in community and with a church. Not only people who couldn't get there because of Covid, but now they can't get there because of their physical health and their older octogenarians and others. But they know how to get onto YouTube on their phone. And now they're connected not only with their church, but they're talking to their church in a chat way so that you can see that they're there. You can see what their prayer is, you can talk to them and text.

And we have online greeters. I want people's phones in their hands during our services. So you'll see my phone in my hand taking time to talk to the people at home. Also because these are valid expressions of church. Now we have people that are vacationing and they still go to church, which is something that never would've happened. And I think even every local little church will find that they have people in different states that are watching there that feel a part of their community. All Methodist gaming is doing is it's taking that kind of digital connection and ministry of presence and it's putting it in a location where we historically haven't been because it's so new. But you have all of these people there, just like the early circuit writers where people can talk to us, where they lift up their prayer requests, where we're in ministry with them through life-changing situations, whether it's a death in a family, cancer treatment, looking for a job, depression and anxiety.

We do check-ins. It's all very Wesley. And think about an online small group. That's what Methodist gaming is. It's just, it's got gaming in the title. And sometimes we have fun and play a game when we do it, sometimes maybe we're just doing talking about the sermon and a different topic that we are doing, but it's just the fact that one thing that these people have in common is they're in digital spaces. So just like Jesus talked to the disciples and he was talking to a group of fishermen, people who that was their work and they're passionate about it and they understood it. And here comes this guy and he says, follow me and I'll help you fish for people. He's using an expression that they know to help transform them and teach them and invite them into something else. And so we do that both from people who are church members and our church to a lot of clergy all over, not over only the United States to we have followers all over the world as we talk about the world as our stream, we talk about the connection of Methodist gaming that's digitally all over the world, all over social media.

And it's saying, you might enjoy this. Let's use that as a catalyst to talk about something different. Let's do something that you're passionate about to also share life and ministry with you.

Crystal: It's very Wesleyan, it's so Wesleyan, but I'm not a gamer, so I don't even know.

Adam: You should play with me sometime.

Crystal: Yes, I should. I don't even know what that means. I'll get through it. It sounds like I'd have to. Yes. But my son is, I have an 18 year old nephew who spends a lot of time gaming. And one night at dinner he made the comment that he has some friends in California and a friend in England. And I kind of chuckled because I didn't understand, but those are true relationships, those are true connections that he has. And because that seemed, how could you have these friends that you've never even really met them. But that isn't his reality, and I apologize to him for not valuing that. So tell me how that works. I love it. You're playing the games and you're having conversations just kind of as if we were in the living room together

Adam: 100% as if we're just spending time together. So tell us real quick, you told me how old your son is, but you tell everybody at home if that's okay, how old your son is.

Crystal: Sure. He's 31 and he is an attorney, and this is how he unwinds from his very stressful, busy days. And when I'm visiting him and his family, a lot of times to spend time with him, I'm sitting on the couch watching him with his gaming.

Adam: So it's exactly, but you're in a ministry of presence in that moment. He knows that you're there, that you love him, that you're supporting him. And it's the same thing. So people might hear Methodist gaming and they think, well, maybe it's just a bunch of youth. And that's wonderful. And we did just get back from the youth 2023, United Methodist, bold being ourselves, living differently conference. And we had packed rooms. And I'm so thankful for everybody that put that on and all the people that participated. And so it's true, there are a lot of young people in those spaces. But I got to tell you, our biggest, whatever you want to call it, congregation, audience followers, our people my age, I'm 43 years old, I have a doctorate. I'm credentialed. I've been playing games since games were invented and I'm not the only one. So there's a lot of middle aged and young adult people in those spaces.

And so when we talk about that, so we have people in Australia, everybody has an alias. My online name is Circuit Writer, very intentional, but there's Mr. Soda in Australia, there's Master Clunk in Denmark. There's several people in the United Kingdom like Dreamcast, I'm actually part of it. A Church of England and British Methodist and United Methodist digital clergy group that meets and talks about all these things. We've got people in Canada, British Columbia, California, Washington State, all over the United States, and you get to know people because we're just there for them. There's an anonymity I think that starts online where you might be more willing to tell a stranger online because you have an alias, what's actually going on in your life, what you really need prayer for. You might have something to celebrate, but you don't have anybody to tell. And that's what we create space.

We ask, what's your high? What's your low? We ask them, the old, I say, how is it with your soul? The old Wesleyan question? And I say, maybe you don't even understand what that means, but reflect on it. What does it mean to you in this moment? We've got a bot called John Wesley bot on there too, that helps to moderate everything. But we had these other platforms that we use. So Methodist gaming's, not only on Twitch, it's all over social media, Instagram, Facebook. Now it's starting to be on YouTube, TikTok, something called Discord. And these are places that allow us to take prayer requests to check in with people even when we're not online. We've done things, everything from outfitting classrooms of school supplies for teachers that need the help. We've fixed cars, we've provided financial means to direct individuals that have needed it.

We've done Game-a-thons for United Methodist Family Services. We've partnered with other new United Methodist streaming services that are out there. Everybody from actual appointed churches that are sanctioned specifically by their conference nerd, pastor Nate over at Checkpoint Church, and then the guys over at Crossfire podcast and there's several others. I often get an email from other conferences that are saying, we want to try to do this. Help us to think about how to do that. And that's actually one of our vision or ministry pieces also is to help give clergy and perspective clergy a language and a theology and an expression and a best practices on how to live, connect in a digital age,

Crystal: And how do we live connection in a digital age? How can I live, connect in a digital age?

Adam: Well, and I think there's an intentionality that has to be a part of that. I think there's an intentionality and a vulnerability that has to be a part of it. I think some of us have to be willing to be vile and have some of these conversations in order to help get us there. But I think an element is it's risking yourself to put yourself out there. So just like somebody might, I don't know, church is really hard these days, especially for mainline denominations across denominations and pew. Research studies are suggesting people are coming to church maybe 1.75 to two times a month and considering so active. So when you think about guests, I mean just to drive to a church on a Sunday morning, to risk yourself, to drive maybe even to a new church, to step inside it, to introduce yourself and then to come back.

I mean these really putting yourself out there, it's maybe slightly easier in a digital space because they only see a name and it's whatever name that you put out there and choose to put out there. So it's easier like that, but it's harder in the commitment to show up to either on the stream. So when I say stream, I mean when we're live on Twitch to show up in a post, maybe on Instagram, to show up on a channel on Discord that says, Hey, I really do need prayer. Hey dad really is sick. So one, it's to risk yourself to put yourself out there. The second is that the leader, I think this is a servant leadership question for all the clergy maybe that are out there or lay people that want to start something like that. Then the earnestness falls back that if we are going to enter these spaces and say that we are here for you and praying for you, we need to be on the lookout for these messages.

Be on the lookout for these posts through notifications or different stuff like that and follow up. So Methodist gaming has been addiction that we end every stream with. And we say this, we say, we're always there for you, we're always here for you. And we can be right. We can be through all these programs and my alerts are on my phone. Alright, so I'll see if something comes through. We're always here for you. You can make a difference. We can make a difference together because the world is our stream. Just like Leslie said, the world is our parish. And so it's about the intentionality of relationship. And that's the same whether it's online or in a small group after worship or your food pantry group or anything else. It's the risk, the vulnerability and the intentionality. I think behind it, I'm just waxing poetic and thinking out loud.

Crystal: I love what you're saying, Adam, and it's just got my mind just kind of swirling because well, one I'm thinking, do you work 24/7? This is kind of what


I can answer that too. I think that's a different, I'm going to come back when you talk about boundaries, self-care and workaholic.

Crystal: Okay, that's fair.

Adam: I like to work. I do like to work. And my church that I'm blessed to lead here at Discovery, we are a very innovative church and we celebrate what we're trying to do online also. So if there's language like that, it's my baby and everything else like that. And I had some great help through a streaming partner that helped me launch the Reverend Hannah Bryn, she's now, she was my associate pastor. Now she's a awesome leader at the Virginia Conference Center in Congregational Excellence and Discipleship. But it was all very intentional, super intentional, just like I think any church leadership is intentional, but I work all the time, but I also have great passion. And for me, I had a person ask me one time, what's my definition of love? And unfortunately, my definition of love is sacrifice. And my number one spiritual gift is I have a lot of leadership gifts, but my number one spiritual gift is compassion and to just be there for people. And I think that's what it means to be a United Methodist clergy person. Go where people are, be there for people, never too busy for people.

Crystal: And I hear the compassion and I hear the love that you have for your community. And that's the thing about a church family that because I was raised in the church and I've been so blessed to be in really special church communities and church families, but it's that I can count on those people to be there for me when I'm going through a tough time. Tell me what that looks like in a digital space, to be there for other people.

Adam: I think one it is to know that again, it's the risk to put out a message and know someone's going to see it. Nothing's worse. I would imagine nothing's worse than being ghosted. So if you don't know what ghosted means, it's like being left on red or something like that. It makes you question do you even mad and do you even have value? And that could be the same whether someone calls a church and leaves a message, sends an email, and they don't get a response back whether it's due to busyness, intentionality or intentionality. So I think that's got a piece of it to get started with. And I'm sorry, I'm getting a little sidetracked in my head. It's going like a whiteboard and in every direction as I think about that. But I think one, it's how do you be there for people? I think it's the trust that someone's going to see your message.

Maybe it's not immediate, but someone's going to reply to that message. Just like the trust. If you tell somebody on a Sunday morning that you're going to be in prayer for them, then they're entrusting that you're going to do that. I think the other piece of it though is that we cross over into the real world also. And so there's been plenty of times where a digital message turns into a real life phone call when there's a crisis of faith or family and people at that moment, they need a pastor. And that's why I think we own our pastoral identity. I am the Reverend Doctor, Adam Souder. I'm also just Adam. I'm also just circuit writer in the game. But to be saying, okay, well do you need a phone call? Or they'll say, I need a phone call. And there's a mutuality of it also.

So maybe that's another how do you be with people? There's a mutuality of it. So it's not so that I get served out of it, but there's plenty of times where I've got my own stuff going on. I've got a family and kids and a church and digital ministry and all this other stuff. And life happens. And I think all of us have questions of life and faith. And to have a community even where we can take it to not for maybe public therapy, but to know that we're not alone in life. And I would have to believe that's a big ministry of Jesus. So I think that's some of the ways that you can do that. And like I said, we've done it also through physical financial gifts and this is so cool. Can I tell you about this? This just came to mind.

So we are in Richmond, Virginia on the east coast. We have had now twice people from different parts of the world. They have been brought to the East coast for various reasons, and they come by Discovery United Methodist Church, and I give them a tour of Richmond and show them the church and meet them in person, take them to lunch and get to maybe meet family members and that kind of thing. That's happened a couple of times and I'm planning a trip in March that's going to take me across the country and I'm going to get to see some of these people also in person. And there's the joke, if I can get back to England, whether it's for study or anything else, there's people there. And so it does bleed over into the face-to-face.

Crystal: I love that so much. That's exciting. You've mentioned a word that kind of popped out on me. You said trust. Yeah, and I think that there's maybe some of our audiences listening, they want to make sure that their kids are in a safe space. Can you just give us what should we be looking for so that we can make sure we want to encourage these kinds of connections, but we also want to keep and ourselves, not all of us safe as we go out there because the world,

Adam: It is the world. And so if you go to, you can find out a lot more about us, you'll find a page that has a basic that we've put together for you to think about that. But one of the scriptures up there as I scroll through is looking at the gospel of John chapter 17, where I'm going to paraphrase poorly, but Jesus is talking about himself and his disciples. He's calling into the ministry that they're in the world, not of the world. And there's a lot of stuff in this world. There's stuff even it's trust to send your child to school today, isn't it? I mean, it's trust to send them to a civic organization, to kiss them goodbye and to put them, it's a stewardship question really with God and faith and everything else. But when it comes to digital spaces, there's a lot of stuff here, just like what we used to say about the internet.

One, if a church is not on the internet, I'm kind of banging my pin on my piece of paper right now because I'm really passionate about all of this stuff and best practices, not just from a digital standpoint, but from a clergy standpoint. One of the number one places, someone's going to check out your local church, whoever's listening to this right now, is online. They need to know that your website is current, accurate and is portraying who you are and what is the value. And that's a terrible word, but what is the value of them giving up an hour on a Sunday morning when life is so busy to come there? But there was a time when we even questioned the internet. Now you don't have a choice. Your church, United Methodist Communications and others can help you get online, if I'm remembering correctly. That's right.

And I bet you've got colleagues that can help you do it. Well, I'll help you do it Well, because the thing, there's no more geography. So we talk about geography and even local churches, but that's kind of disappearing just a little bit with regard to digital spaces and people joining churches from around the world, even just church. So I don't mean to get on that tangent, but when you get to the other platforms, if you get on something like TikTok, it's problematic. There's algorithms, it's going to feed you different things. It's going to see what you like and what you don't like. My kids are not on TikTok. I have a senior in high school, he's not on TikTok, I have a freshman in high school. He's not on TikTok. I am on TikTok, right? Because I believe that we need to have United Methodist clergy people and something different in that space so that when people are getting inundated by everything else, here's an expression of something different, someone that's there for you in the midst of it.

And I say that to say, Sesame Street launched their TikTok account a couple of months ago. So even Sesame Street now is on TikTok. And I think by and large that would be public broadcasting. That would be a program that parents for decades have learned to trust. And so the other thing is the games that people are playing. So I would hypothesize that's very possible that young men and women and others are in these spaces anyway, the numbers suggest certainly that there's hundreds of thousands of people that are in them. They're going to be watching all kinds of people. So then let's give them the opportunity to watch somebody different in a different way that also has a, I'm not saying I'm a good person or anything else, I'm just telling you I'm a Christian and I believe it and I try right with all of that and my authenticity, but also with the games that's being played.

So I think there's still a lot of earnestness on that parent and grandparent to say, one, what game are you playing? And if you're not sure, you need to go to a website, something called Common Sense Media, go to Common Sense Media or any of the others. And this is not just for video games, this is for television shows and movies, common Sense Media, I believe it's dot org will give you not only from a parent perspective and an expert perspective, but also from a teenager's perspective, reviews on these movies and video games from numerous different categories so that you can make a better decision on what it is that people are watching or playing or interacting with. Now for Methodist gaming, we do try to stick to games that are mostly rated T for teen. And so we try to live in that space, but also there are times where we will play other games, but I have my own line that I'm willing to, or not willing to cross when it comes to playing certain video games or doing that that I think is appropriate because some of it is raw.

I think any digital space or any space where people may feel like they don't have accountability, there's no one to be accountable to. I think sometimes humanity is at their worst and that's not there. It could even be in the comments of a Facebook post or something like that. So I think that's the big thing, is to be engaged. Ask the question, what game are you playing? Don't just, I get it all the time, dad, can I download this game? And I'm a gamer, what game is it? What's it all about? What's it rated? Let me look it up. Lemme see what's actually in it and take a look at it. Yes, you can have that game. No, you can't have that game, dad, can we play this game on stream? Let me look at it. Yes, we'll play that game. No, we won't play that game. There's been a couple times where we played a game. It's like, well, we won't be playing that game anymore. And we own it in the moment.

It's like owning your humanity in the moment saying, I wasn't at my best right there. I want to work on that and let's talk about that. And even how you win or lose, it could be a perfectly wonderful game and a perfectly wonderful community with engagement. But if you rage at the end of losing a game, which is something called rage quitting and stuff like that, sometimes it's very exciting. But how do you lose in a way that is not that? How do you model something different? So I think that's a big piece of the awareness, the trust and awareness that's out there. So we try, we hope to be a place where people can trust. And I say that also in the vulnerability of my humanity as a competitive. So I said my primary spiritual strength is compassion from StrengthFinders. My top two strengths from a strength fighter perspective is strategy and competition, and then achievement. So it's the duality of our humanity that we often find ourselves.

Crystal: In The United Methodist Church, there are these churches called Fresh Expressions. And they've been around. It's a movement. And you find churches happening in Mexican restaurants and dog parks and by the lake and tattoo parlors. It's the same concept where our people, and we'll go there, it feels like what you're doing is a Fresh Expression.

Adam: I believe that it is. And as that I would say, and I like to say small group, it is a small group of people that come in and out, just like any small group where we do the check-ins and the learnings and we play the games and then it leads kind of like that early circuit writer at the market cross, it can lead to something else. So I'm saying, and we are doing a sermon series on Wesleyan, getting back to Wesleyan traits like mercy and perseverance and holiness of heart and life. And if you want to see that, you can go to discovery or into our YouTube and check that out because we have seen just a little bit of crossover of people saying, okay, well I'm going to hang out with you on Monday night eight Eastern time, or something like that. And then maybe I'm curious. And so I'll check out that sermon based on it. So it is a fresh expression of church. But I think we were also super intentional with all of the intentionality of Methodist gaming from its imagery to its language, to its taglines that we are also, we don't claim to be a church specifically. We claim to be representatives of the church in community.

Crystal: Well, as we finish up, first, thank you for, as we've had this conversation, I've noticed your intentionality at giving me definitions when we were coming across words that I might not be familiar with and I just appreciate that so much. But is there anything that you wanted to make sure we talked about with Methodist gaming or with digital spaces, or maybe there's a favorite anecdote that you want to share about this experience and these small groups that have been forming?

Adam: I think one came from, we've gotten comments everything from, wow, you guys are pastors, even though we own it, just because you say again and we say Methodist gaming specific, we don't say United Methodist Gaming. There's not a reason Methodist, it's alliteration, right? And there's a lot of old idea of the method even behind playing a game and all that. So maybe people don't realize it, even though we own it with our tiles, but to say, oh wow, you guys are pastors and they're not scared. And then they come back. This is so good. Okay, let me tell you this one, Crystal. This was really great. So there's a lot of best practices. Also, if anybody wants to learn best practices talk about this, please reach out to me. I would love to do that. But it was a quiet night on the stream. You had some regulars there and we were playing some games and I saw that we had gotten a follow.

So just a notification that a day or so earlier, someone online with their own alias had followed Methodist Gaming. And so it was kind of quiet. And so I said, and I just want to thank some of those people that have liked and subscribed and followed recently. And I would like to thank so-and-so for following Methodist Gaming. Thank you. And all of a sudden the chat lights up and when capital letters it says, that's me. That is me. And then they say this, check this out. They said, I have been thinking about going back to church and there's a United Methodist Church across the street from me, and we got to talk about risking yourself in going back to church and what does it mean to try a church and how to try a church, try it. If it doesn't work for you, try another church.

That's what people come like, you might not like me. I'll help you find a church that you like. It's okay. But I think that's just such a great moment, one of someone being recognized in their personhood and also opening up enough to say, I'm thinking about going back to church and to say, here's a pastor right here that I can maybe identify with a little bit that's being vulnerable and authentic in a way. Sometimes I might be even more vulnerable and authentic on stream than even in the pulpit. So that's a happy, very happy moment. I think another one is just from our friend in Australia. He said one time I used to think you guys were boring, but now maybe you're my favorite streamer. And I think that just meant a lot. Or people that you don't see them for months and then they just light up the chat and they missed you.

And we even got testimonies the other day as our colleague transitioned out of Methodist gaming. These beautiful videos of testimonies of how Methodist gaming and Hannah Brin's specific ministry with us was transformative for people, a real ministry impact. So I think that's what I would want to say is it sounds vile. It's crazy. We are playing video games. Some of them do have eliminations and stuff like that in it. And yet I really believe that transformative Wesleyan work is being done through that. And for me, that is worth the risk and the sacrifice, even if it's just a little tiny pin dot on the internet to try to keep it going.

Crystal: I love all those stories. And I did see those on Methodist Gaming site. Yes, I watched that video and yeah, I mean there was no doubt the impact that Hannah's ministry has had on these folks, on your folks. And when you were telling the story of the person who typed that's me, that person felt seen.

Adam: It's like, I wish people could see my smile. What is better than that? What is truly as a United Methodist, people who talk about grace and the connection then to help people just feel like they're part of something and have value and worth. And I really do believe that despite any challenge that any church or larger church is going through, that that is a place of grace that we can all land together on to see the value of the humanity and of being together in our Wesleyan understanding of who we are.

Crystal: And as we finish up today, I'm going to ask you the question we ask all of our guests on Get your Spirit in shape, and that's how do you keep your own spirit in shape?

Adam: I try to do prayer walks and I try to do prayer walks in my neighborhood. They're overly liturgical in my head, and I start walking and I start with hymns in my head, and then I go to the Gloria and the Doxology and the Apostles Creed, and I go through a process of confession. And then I get into prayer for my own ministry and the church and its people and the staff team and the communities. Sometimes maybe that's getting my spirit in shape on that prayer walk. Sometimes it is pausing in the middle of the street and looking up and saying, I just don't know. But to have that connection time with God and to just try to keep walking and keep praying, even if I get sidetracked in that, pray for my family and for the world. So I think my prayer walks are a way that I try to stay in shape just to reconnect with nature and God and get some fresh air and get the heart moving just a little bit. So that's one of the ways I try to keep in spiritual shape.

Crystal: I love that. Thank you for sharing that. And thank you for this conversation today. At the top of the conversation, I felt so many things I didn't know. There's still a lot of things, I don’t know. But on this topic, I feel that I've minimized that gap. That's awesome. And I hope that that's true for others listening to this, that it doesn't seem like a strange place or an unknown place, but it seems like, yeah, this is exactly the right place where we can be as people of faith and need to be as people of faith.

Adam: I believe that it's pioneering. It's new. We're trying to figure it out. It doesn't mean it's always great or we always do a good job, but I believe that it has great, great value and worth for the kingdom.

Crystal: Absolutely. Well thank you so much.

Adam: Thank you for having me.


That was the Rev. Dr. Adam Sowder talking about Methodist Gaming, a small group community tha lives at the intersection of faith and digital spaces, such as Twitch and throughout social media. To learn more about Adam's ministry, go to and look for this episode where you will find helpful links and a transcript of our conversation. If you have questions or comments, feel free to email me at a special email address just for “Get Your Spirit in Shape” listeners, [email protected].

If you enjoyed today’s episode, we invite you to leave a review on the podcast platform where you listen.

Thank you so much for joining us for “Get Your Spirit in Shape.” I’m Crystal Caviness and I look forward to the next time that we are together.

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