The Nintendo Switch Just Reinvented Gaming

Today’s reveal of the new Nintendo Switch gaming system brings into focus five lessons every church leader needs to know to connect with millennial and iKids generations.  The new system, which will be available in March 2017, features a video of people in their twenties using the new gaming system to interact in multiple ways with their friends.  Here are five things we can learn about the thinking behind the system:

  1. Gaming is not just for children and teenagers.
    The gamers in the video reveal of the new system are people in their twenties who show how the versatility the Nintendo Switch fits into their on-the-go, in-the-moment lifestyle. While Nintendo’s previous systems were marketed to children and families, the Switch is clearly targeted to youth and young adults.
  2. Flexibility is a core value.
    The Switch is a hybrid of the traditional gaming systems like PlayStation or Xbox and a portable module, like the widely successful Nintendo DS system. First, it can be played like a traditional gaming system as it is hooked up to a TV. Second, its controllers can seamlessly be connected to a tablet with what looks like an 8-inch screen, which turns it into a portable gaming system that can be played anywhere.  Third, the two controllers can be removed to allow two players to play the same game as they look at the tablet. Fourth, it can be linked to other switches to allow multiple player gaming.
  3. The Switch fosters relationships.
    The Switch explodes the myth that gamers are lonely misfits who waste their time playing video games in the confines of their parents’ basements. Instead, its portability and the configuration of the controllers fits into a different narrative – gaming is about connecting with friends.
  4. The game doesn’t stop.
    In one section of the video, a gamer continues to play the same game as he moves through a variety of locations. With the Switch, you don’t have to pause.  The game continues from a ride in an airplane, a ride in a car, to your TV at your home.
  5. Its about the experience.
    While people may fixate on the release of a revolutionary gaming system, the goal of the gaming system is to create immersive experiences through which stories of valor, of overcoming, and finding hope give people meaning and purpose.

Questions for church leaders:

  1. What does Nintendo’s focus on creating a system for youth and young adults tell you of the importance of connecting with this generation?
  2. How flexible is your programing for youth and youth adults? Do you offer multiple options and places where people can connect with your ministry?
  3. How are you fostering the creation of meaningful and healthy relationships?
  4. How do you help people discover that their relationship with Jesus is an ongoing process that is active no matter where they are? How do you teach people to have daily and ongoing prayer, to read the Scripture in a way that informs everything they do, and to see each encounter with another person as an opportunity to share God’s love and grace?
  5. How are you turning your worship services into transformational experiences and creating multiple small groups and outreach group experiences where people can integrate their spirituality with their daily living?



Craig Kennet Miller is the author of iKids: Parenting in the Digital Age and Director of Congregational Development at Discipleship Ministries with the United Methodist Church

Our Experiences Make Us Who We Are

Sebastian Seung, Professor of Computational Neuroscience at MIT, coined a term and wrote a book on the connectome. He is in the process of using the technology of the MRI to map the brain, which has millions of more connections than a person’s genome has letters.

His research has led to a novel idea, your personal identity is encoded in the pattern of connections between your neurons – in short, the sum of all the experiences you have had up to this very millisecond makes you who you are. He calls this the connectome.

Even more profoundly, the relationships we have with others – our families, colleagues, teachers, fellow believers, and even the barista at Starbucks, creates the experiences that form our identity.

Taken this a step further, in our digital world, these relationships even extend to our relationships to cultural leaders like sports stars, TV personalities, politicians, and musicians.  Witness the out pouring of grief over the death of Prince, who at 57 died well before his time.  People flocked to his home and left flowers.  Cities lit up buildings and bridges in the color purple.  Saturday Night Live dedicated its whole show to showing highlights of Prince’s performances as Jimmy Fallon hosted the tribute.

Why are we so deeply moved by the loss of people to who we have never met?  Because through the experiences of listening to their music, or rooting for them to win a game, or voting for them, or following their tweets, our brains have incorporated these experiences into our very being.

Morgan Freeman’s new series on National Geographic on The Story of God explored the topic of “Who is God?” in the third episode of the series.  In one scene he takes an MRI to see if there is an evidence of God’s influence in his brain. Dr. Andy Newberg uses MRIs to see if the brain changes as a result of prayer.  After asking Freeman to meditate on God, Newberg took a scan of his brain and showed the printout to Freeman.  He pointed to before and after pictures, which showed parts of his brain lighting up after Freeman had focused on the divine.  Newberg has done this test with many people of different faiths and found similar results.  The only group that does not have this kind of result are people who have no faith – after they focus their brains, no change happens.

Newberg is convinced that his results show how the brain is affected by faith, in effect, the neurons in our brains are shaped by our faith in God.

Of course to people of faith, this should come as no surprise.  Psalm 1 says happiness is tied to what we focus on.  Those whose “delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night” are like “trees planted by stream of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.”

The connectome, the sum of all you are up to this moment, is deeply influenced by how you focus your time and the nature of your relationships.  These relationships, even if they are virtual, form your identity. The lesson is clear – how you spend your time and the ways you connect with others forms your very being – it makes you who you are.

5 Takeaways From CNN’s Study on 13-Year-Olds


CNN just aired a documentary on #Being13: Inside the Secret World of Teens. The show revealed findings of a study of more than 200 eighth graders and their use of social media. After reviewing more than 150,000 social media posts collected from the students’ social media sites, the study revealed these findings:

1. Teens are on smartphones and tablets constantly.

It’s not unusual for teens to check their devices more than 100 times a day. Whether at school, home, or at an afterschool activity, social media is a constant companion and source of instant access to the online lives of their friends and peers.

2. Social media is a source of anxiety for many teens.

Rather than being on social media to share good things that were going on in their lives, the majority of those in the study said they were checking their social media sites to make sure no one was saying bad things about them and to check their status. Were their posts getting “likes”? Are their friends doing things without them? Are people saying bad things about them?

3. Rather than posting, many teens are lurking.

About 1/3 of those in the study said they spend a large portion of their time studying their friends’ and peers’ social media sites to figure out where they stand in the social pecking order. They look to see who is in and who is out, whose popularity in growing and whose is waning. On the CNN show, many of the teens said one bad post or picture could ruin a person’s reputation.

4. Social media use can be addicting.

The parents and the 13-year-olds on the show all agreed the use of social media is addicting. Before taping the show, the parents were asked to take their children’s phones away. One girl was shown sobbing. A couple of them said they would rather go without food for a week or be grounded than to have their phones taken away.

5. Parents who pay attention to their teens’ online lives erase the negative effects of social media.

Ninety-four percent of parents in the study underestimated the impact that social media was having on their children’s well being. Those parents who were actively engaged in their teens’ online lives were able to help their teens navigate the pluses and minuses of their social media use. When teens knew their parents were monitoring what they were doing, they were far less likely to engage in bullying or sexting or other inappropriate behaviors that are all too common in the social media lives of 13-year-olds.

One other comment from the show stood out. For this generation, their face-to-face lives are the same as their social media lives. There is no distinction.

Beyond the negatives, the study found that teens use social media to show support for one another, to encourage peers when they were going through personal struggles, and to defend one another from people who were saying negative things about their friends.

Questions for Parents and Churches:

1. How are you helping the children and youth in your church engage in face-to-face conversations away from social media?

2. How are you paying attention to the impact of social media on your children or youth?

3. What alternatives to social media do you offer? When do you have children and youth take a break? When do children and youth do an activity without social media?

4.  As an adult, how many of these things are true for you as well? Do you lurk?  Are you constantly comparing your friend’s posting with your real life?  Are you checking your phone over 100 time a day?  Does too much consumption of social media make your anxious?

Craig Kennet Miller is the author of iKids: Parenting in the Digital Age. Go to for study guides for youth groups and parents.