Fortnite: Building a Better Youth Ministry

The video game Fortnite: Battle Royale, available for free on PC, Mobile, Xbox One, & PS4, has blown up in popularity. It’s a hit. Since the mobile version was released, Epic Games, Fortnite’s developer, is raking in a million dollars a day. In the US, it is the app that has the most amount of money spent on it after Netflix. Fortnite gets so many things right as a game that keeps people coming back. I believe that it should also serve as a model for your ministry. Let me explain.

Fortnite: Battle Royale

Fortnite is a 3rd person shooter where 100 people jump on an airbus flying over an island where they can parachute down. Players then search the map for weapons, shields, ammo, and other items that they can use to protect themselves or eliminate other players. As time passes, a storm closes in on the map forming a circle where the player is safe from the storm. Those caught in the storm lose health until they move to the safe area or are eliminated. (Side note, the game involves cartoon-like people shooting at other cartoon-like people. Should teenagers be playing this game? I’d say it at least merits a discussion with their parents, however, teenagers are playing this game, a lot.) The storm effectively draws all the players closer together that leads to the battles until only one player (or squad of players) remains and earns a “Victory Royale.”

So where does ministry fit in? In a number of ways from start to finish. Let’s break them down.

The Wheels on the Bus

fortnite, battle royale, youth ministry, catholic, ministryFortnite begins with everybody together. You can even make your character dance and interact with other characters in the loading screen. For your ministry, the beginning of the fall semester should have this feel. It should be social. It should provide the opportunity for people to encounter others. And, it should be very, very welcoming.

It’s Time to Move

Then everyone in the game is placed on a bus. The bus literally takes flight over the map. Players have a bird’s eye view of where they are going and can see areas they might want to go explore. For your ministry, there will be a time to move them toward the Gospel message. They should have a bird’s eye view of what that means and how it impacts things. Then, when they are ready, they can make the jump and dive in to explore the areas that they are open to inviting Christ into. This is done most effectively through relational ministry. Often small group leaders fill the role of helping participants jump into the areas of their life, their personal map.

There’s a Storm Coming

As Fortnite continues, a timer and other signals indicate that the storm is coming. Then it’s time to move to safety, often toward the center or the heart of the map. In your ministry, empower your leaders to challenge participants to go deeper. After a leader has earned the right to be heard, they should seek to move people closer to Jesus. Often conversion happens in a ministry first by testing behavior modification, or acting like a Christian, and then opening the heart. Leaders should give indications that there is something deeper that God desires for them and seek to move them toward that reality.

Lost in the Storm

Note that by the time the storm first arrives, about half of the players have already been eliminated. In ministry this is a reality as well. Not every participant is willing to go deeper. Some, especially youth, are not even willing to jump out of the bus and allow the message to land on a personal aspect of their life. Much like the parable of the sower, you will find yourself reaching people at different places in their journey. Your role could simply be to get them on the bus, God has someone else to take them to the heart of the map. In light of this reality, consider having a variety of programming to offer deeper paths for those who are ready to move to the heart of the map. While one’s journey is never over, you should delight in the few with whom you get to experience a Victory Royale. 

Victory Royale

fortnite, battle royale, youth ministry, catholic, ministryThis process continues and the storm will shrink for a bit, then hold and shrink again until the last few players are in tight quarters and have to fight for victory. Many will use resources gathered to build elaborate bases to protect themselves and give themselves a tactical advantage. The pathway to discipleship is met with hardship. You must be prepared to help participants fight off resistance and fortify themselves spiritually. This ministry is extremely personal and demanding. Accountability and encouragement are a must along with dedicated time in prayer for these participants. The fruit, ultimately, is the creation of someone who loves God and is living that love as a disciple.

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