Church Groups Using Halo 3 to Attract Youth

Church Groups Using Halo 3 to Attract Youth


Churches across the U.S. are reaching out to youth with a new, unusual and heavily-armed tool: Halo 3.

Minsters and pastors, increasingly anxious to boost youth attendance in their congregations, are holding "Halo nights" in which teenagers can get together and shoot each other in the face. While the game seemingly violates at least a few of the Church's tenets, particularly the one about not killing stuff, some church leaders are praising the game's effectiveness in reaching the vital but elusive demographic of boys and young men. In a letter to parents in his church, Gregg Barbour, youth minister at Colorado Community Church in Denver, wrote, "We want to make it hard for teenagers to go to hell."

Not everyone agrees the idea is a good one. James Tonkowich, president of the non-profit Institute on Religion and Democracy, said, "If you want to connect with young teenage boys and drag them into church, free alcohol and pornographic movies would do it. My own take is you can do better than that." And Lisa Anderson, spokewoman for the evangelical group Focus on the Family, said her organization was still considering its stance on the game in light of its use in churches despite the violent content. "Internally, we're still trying to figure out what is our official view on it," she said.

Perhaps most controversially, the churches are making the game available to young teenagers despite the game's Mature rating, meaning it should not be sold to anyone under the age of 17. According to the ESRB, Halo 3 received the M stamp as a result of "blood and gore, mild language [and] violence." 12-year-old Tim Foster, who played the game at Barbour's church, said, "It's just fun blowing people up," while Austin Brown, 16, who plays the game at Sweetwater Baptist Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia, explained, "We play Halo, take a break and have something to eat, and have a lesson," adding that the pastor tries to draw parallels "between God and the devil."

Elders at the Colorado Community Church who complained about the game's violence led to a meeting between the church pastor and Barbour, who was able to successful argue the game's merits as a recruiting tool. God calls ministers to be "fishers of men," Barbour wrote in a letter to parents. "Teens are our 'fish,'" he said, "so we've become creative in baiting our hooks."


Nothing that surprising, yes its true normal church's do not hate modern culture.

When I was younger my church used have "all night movie nights" and if I remember correctly there was no shortage of violence in some of those. This isnt a big deal.

When I was younger my church used have "all night movie nights" and if I remember correctly there was no shortage of violence in some of those. This isnt a big deal.

Too true we rented some R based action flicks a few times I brought my NES out to this was 15ish years ago BTW.

Kind of funny if you stop to think about it but this is nothing new. Church youth groups use all sorts of bait that is uncorrelated with their core message. If anything, this is typical.

But isn't it also a little hypocritical?

Depnds on the chruch if they are hardline brain washing group that is anal to the point of hating then yes its hypocritical, if they don't sweat the small stuff and enjoy their bible with their Rambo then no, its all about pratcial enjoyment I think.

Not all church's are overtly anal over every little last thing, and I think most church's are not, perspection may make it look off, but tis not worse than gamers being called a bunch of so and so's by entertainment news groups.

"Teens are our 'fish,'" he said, "so we've become creative in baiting our hooks."

I have a complete understanding of the analogy, but the idea of "baiting" just makes it all seem manipulative. :/

The fact of the matter is, while pulling people in with Halo isn't going to be converting anyone, a Church with an open enough mind actually has a chance. Now, whether you find that as a good or bad thing seriously depends on who you are.

To me, though, it would be better to try and take elements of the campaign and story to show where things are good and where they go wrong. The Covenant, after all, is built on religion. Their blind faith should be a representation of where you go if you simply follow something without research, which would be encouragement for reading the Bible. Then, refer to the Gravemind in Halo 2 as a sort of devil figure. He is manipulative of both sides in order to consume everything.

Of course, that's kind of weak, really, but any sort of parallel will be.

I wonder if there's a godmode in Halo...

More seriously, this would be relevant if the church people would also hold some kind of debriefing after the game, and start debates about society, politics, war, this and that.

Just to make the convention more... useful. Besides, the church must surely become a very filthy place, after hosting a LAN.

In the end, it looks like they're simply reaching for ways to find an audience.

Kudos for Christ in a Mjolnir suit. I wonder what he'd have done back then if he had it.

Well, the Prophets founded the Covenant, who come to Earth -- a place their Creators named Eden -- in search of an Ark. And the Master Chief is a heroic figure who is willing to sacrifice himself for the salvation of humanity (being deliberately vague about whether he actually does so, so as to avoid spoilers).


On another forum I read, someone mentioned that in a youth group a relative of hers runs, he has the kids play Halo in teams (changing the teams around each time) to get everyone participating and talking and help them get to know one another a bit. It wouldn't be unlike organized sports in that respect.

We play Halo at our Church. About 45 people show up each time. The majority of the guys have come to play before, most are not members of our church. We talk about life and death. We play a lot of Halo. We eat pizza. Nothing wierd happens, we have a great time. We don't play much FFA's, mostly Team play. I think it's a great place to play, hang out, and have discussion. The "M" rating is funny. We play in multi-player modes, and play as teams. Like cowboys and indians. All this "M" for mature talk is from people who have never played in a multi-player type setup, and who just hate video game in general. Besides, all these religious types forget how violent the bible is, have you read some of the stuff that's in there. Fire from heaven, plagues, two-edged swords, and I could go on and on. If a church uses halo to reach out to folks, build relationships to where they can have a productive relationships and talk about God (rather than a holier than thou condemning attititude), then I say when can we play next.

I was going to bring up that same point,cc. I think it's a good idea to discuss zealotry and how faith should be what you fall back on when you don't have any clear logical path to follow,not something you adhere to in all circumstances. In the end,we need faith to keep us going when things are hard and confusing. But we also must recognize when circumstances decree that we have to go off the precharted course and try new ways of doing things. In other words,a good religeon knows the best way to go is to provide a *basic* guidence for behavior,not become an iron clad dictation of what is absolute right and absolute wrong.

Once you realize faith is something that goes at the back of the mind and helps guide your decisions,but does not make you inflexible and domineering,then you start to get what good religeon can do. It's when you become bound to the past,that all that was is all that should be,that's when you have a problem. And the Convenant are a fine example of this. They don't want to study the Halo devices,they just want to turn them on and let faith do the rest.

Frankly,the Halo devices themselves are rather an odd way to deal with the Flood. They wipe out all life EXCEPT the Flood,apparently. And they seem to be all over. That's just a dumb way to fight. The whole point of stopping the Flood would be to protect sentiant life. All the Halos seem to do is cut out the middle man. So there has to be a "safe zone" or else all you've done is cut off your nose to spite your face. Wouldn't it be better to find a weapon that kills just the Flood? Something to think about.


Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
Register for a free account here