Last week, I interviewed two kidmin experts who shared their knowledge of Minecraft and whether or not it is safe for your kids, and if there is potential for us to use Minecraft in ministry. The experts who joined me for the interview are Trisha Gail Peach and Bill Gunter.
In general, is Minecraft safe for children? Why or why not?
TP: I allow my own children to play Minecraft within reason. I have done some study on the game (read an instruction book on it). I like the positive feel of the game, the encouragement of creativity and critical thinking/problem solving skills. As the name implies, it is essentially a virtual lego game, and the object of the game is to mine materials, and craft items with those materials.
BG: I began playing Minecraft PE (the mobile version) about a month ago and from what I have seen, it is safe for children to play. There is the typical conflict between good and evil while the player works to gain items to construct items in their world. The graphics are fairly basic.
Are there any dangers that parents should know about concerning Minecraft?
TP: Just like anything else in this life, there is always the danger of obsession – which can lead to addiction. But banning your child from all games doesn’t teach them anything about a critical skill that is often neglected – TIME MANAGEMENT. And of course, this is a GREAT teaching opportunity to show our kids that ANYTHING that matters more to us than God, that takes up more time than we are giving to God, that we think about more than God, is an idol. Bottom line, we need to teach our kids to be obsessed with God, and balanced in the other areas of their lives.
BG: The only dangers I can think of is that the game can become “addictive.” By that I mean that a child can end up playing for extended periods of time, losing track of time as they play. They do kill zombies and creepers and so a parent should make sure that the child does not become too obsessive about killing.
What are the benefits of children playing Minecraft?
TP: It sharpens creativity and problem solving skills. My 8 year old daughter just said, “Mom, playing Minecraft let’s me work with other kids online to design and build castles and such. We kids like to connect. We’re kids. It’s what we DO, Mom.” I agree, and compared to most other games out there – this one is a MUCH better option.
BG: The general benefits that I see are that it can inspire a child’s imagination in what they can build. It can teach a child that in life they need to acquire items to be able to build, or get other things. They can learn that they must work for things. With the crafting table, they can learn different items required to make items.
What are the negatives of children playing Minecraft?
TP: Although in creative mode there is not violence or danger of your character dying, if your child plays it in the survival mode there are creatures made of lego-like blocks that attack them at night, and they have to build buildings to survive. It may not be very realistic (block like), but for younger children who are more easily frightened, you may want to limit them to the creative mode. Also, Minecraft can be a very exciting, enthralling game – and can become an addiction. Last but NOT least – the largest danger here is one you may not have thought of yet: Minecraft is an online game. It has the option to play “multi-player” with other players from all around the world, meaning you may not know who will be playing with your child.
BG: As mentioned before, the game can consume a lot of time if one is not careful and I can see younger children possibly getting irritated if they end up “dying” frequently.
If you were going to give advice to a parent about how their child should use Minecraft (or not use it), what would you say?
TP: 1. Limit the amount of time your child is on the game 2. Know what your child is playing/watching at all times (check back through their internet usage periodically or invest in a Christian internet monitoring system that will send you reports). MY HUSBAND who is an I.T. coordinator plays WITH our kids 3. Talk to your child about never EVER giving out personal information online 4. If you are somewhat tech-savvy, you can always run your own Minecraft server, which will give you more control over who plays with your child(ren).
BG: I would advise parents to watch the time a child plays the game. I would recommend that they learn about the game, even if it is just the basics. That will allow the parent to engage the child and use the game to teach them “life lessons,” to encourage them to be creative to show things they’ve learned by building things in their world.
Is there any ministry application for this game?
TP: Definitely! 1. You can do messages with a Minecraft connection: “building your house on the rock, not the sand,” messages on putting God first, messages on “building blocks of our faith,” etc. 2. Minecraft blocks could be easily made BIG for the stage from refrigerator boxes….. 3. A children’s or youth pastor with enough Minecraft fans in their group may find this is a great way to connect with the kids and could even organize a Minecraft event, and I bet all their friends would come to it. Final Thought: Jesus used COMMON, well known, EVERY day events to teach amazing spiritual principals (parables). More than likely, Minecraft is a daily activity for the kids you are trying to reach. Make it a parable: give them spiritual truth!
BG: There are several ministry applications. Various things in the game re-inforce spiritual Truths, like the need for light to keep evil (zombies) from spawning can teach that Jesus is the Light of the world and we need to stay in the Light. The game can be used to teach the child the things of God, but the parent, or teacher, needs to understand the game to share these truths with the child. If we can share these spiritual Truths with the child, then the game can be a tool to teach them and draw them closer to an understanding of God.
Steven: That’s it, thank you both! Kidmin friends and parents, I hope you found a few good nuggets in here that were helpful for you (I know I did!). I encourage you to research the topic more and make informed decisions regarding your children and Minecraft, and if this is a tool you can use to disciple your children.
Resource: A great resource from Bill Gunter relating to Minecraft: Minecraft Bible Lessons
Trisha Peach is the author of the book “Your Children’s Ministry From Scratch,” and has been a children’s pastor for sixteen years. You can find check out her blog at peacht.wordpress.com or find her on Facebook or Twitter.
Bill Gunter, aka Commander Bill, has been involved in children’s ministry for over 25 years, serving as an Associate Pastor of Children & Youth, an Awana Commander, teacher, Conference/retreat speaker and trainer. He is known for his website/blog with children’s ministry and Awana resources at commanderbill.net.