We have gone all-virtual in our household. My husband is using his medical degree to take care of patients virtually via a cutting edge app. I recruit and edit written resources for church leaders with a team that runs online courses, spread out geographically from Tennessee to Texas to Utah. Both of our kids are learning through the Ohio Virtual Academy this year (which is in its 20th year) since the public schools here are eschewing basic protocols against COVID. I’ll not say it’s exactly easy, to work and learn and live all together all the time. But do you know what is easy? The parts that feel like games.
Games are assigned as part of the attendance time logged (by me) for both of our kids. Math games for all! And a spelling app for the 11-year-old, and reading app where the nearly-7-year-old can earn accessories for an avatar with each book she reads. Her teacher can monitor her progress and adjust the reading level accordingly. They are both starting on typing.com today, on a Saturday, because they want to.
My spouse’s work interface is slick, a bit like a video game, and he feels motivated by watching his rate-per-hour of patients helped. I was describing this to a friend who works in tech, who gave us a name for it: “It sounds like they’ve figured out how to game-ify that pretty well.”
My work might be the least game-ified of all of us, but still I enjoy fitting the puzzle pieces together on the color-coded calendar for The Faith+Leader blog, and the spreadsheets for Working Preacher commentaries. Where are the gaps? With whom might I fill them in, according to monthly themes or biblical areas of focus, attending to the backgrounds and identity markers of particular authors to make sure we are getting a variety of perspectives? Why is this so satisfying?
Part of the satisfaction – at least for the adults – is probably the contrast to the ways we used to work. Caring for patients with chronic health conditions and facilitating processes for building relationships between people and between people and God are much more open-ended, never-quite-accomplished responsibilities. Mondays and Sundays just keep coming. This is different. Our weariness from the previous work makes this kind of work seem fun. The time boundaries around them also break the tasks into manageable chunks.
As I look towards the October theme on The Faith+Leader of “Platforms for Ministry,” I wonder how certain processes in ministry might be game-ified to make them less onerous. Relationship-building is not a game, and there are things that cannot and should not be put in that frame. However, there are possibilities, if we recognized the power of games.
- What if we tried a process akin to “speed-dating” for getting to know other members of the congregation, instead of expecting people to just go forth and build relationships on their own?
- How are congregations already using the satisfaction of a self-sign-up volunteer spreadsheets, with a minimum of participants everyone can see, to make an event happen?
- My extended family greatly enjoyed a Zoom “family trivia” game earlier in 2021, to which we each brought multiple-choice questions about ourselves for others to recall and hear our unique memories. It seems like that ought to be applicable to congregational life.
It is worth a brainstorming session, or even a game, to consider the possibilities of game-ifying the tasks that feel like work even in ministry.