Digital Parish: Methodist Gaming and local going digital

We’re struggling right now to describe how digital ministry links together with the local, analog church. Are they separate campuses? Does one exist to serve the other? Is the digital ministry a kind of sub-ministry like youth ministry or is it a support system for all ministries?

Methodist Gaming is an online gathering and ministry of presence within the Twitch community and throughout social media. That sounds like a ministry independent of the local church right? Well, the really curious thing about Methodist Gaming is that it’s run by two pastors serving the same church–the senior pastor and an associate.

There’s a lot we can learn about using digital space to get the local church to think evangelistically and how it can benefit a movement of discipleship in the local parish.

Revs. Adam Sowder and Hannah Bryn are both on the pastoral staff at Discovery UMC in Richmond, VA and utilize the aliases of CircuitRider and DeaconHavoc in their digital ministry: Methodist Gaming.

The Episode

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Ryan Dunn (00:00):

This is pastoring in the Digital Parish, your resource and point of connection for success in digital and online ministry. My name is Ryan Dunn. I host and produce this podcast as well as serve as the minister of Online Engagement for United Methodist Communications, and I serve as the director of digital ministry for my local church.

Ryan Dunn (00:21):

We're struggling right now to describe how digital ministry links together with the local analog church. Are they like separate campuses? Does one exist to serve the other? Is the digital ministry a kind of sub ministry, like youth ministry, or is it a support system for all ministries? These questions are unanswered for a lot of us. So I went in search of some perspective and I ran across Methodist Gaming and online gathering and Ministry of presence within the Twitch community and throughout social media. So that sounds like a ministry independent of the local church. Right? Well, the really curious thing about Methodist gaming is that it's run by two pastors serving the same church, the senior pastor and an associate. I think there's a lot that we can learn about using digital space to get the local church to think evangelistically and how it can benefit a movement of discipleship in the local parish. So we're gonna hear the story of Methodist Gaming from Deacon Havoc and Circuit Rider, our adjunct professors in this session of pastoring in the digital parish

Ryan Dunn (01:46):

Reverends Adam Sowder and Hannah Bryn are both on the pastoral staff at Discovery United Methodist Church in Richmond, Virginia. And both of you have alternate aliases and a and a whole other ministry going on. Reverend Adam is known online as Circuit Rider. Reverend Hannah goes by Deacon Havoc. I have a little jealousy over that name. And you use those aliases to spread, I guess, scriptural hos across the innerwebs, one stream at a time through an entity called Methodist Gaming. So let's start with the macro. What is Methodist gaming?

Adam Sowder (02:19):

Absolutely. So I guess Methodist Gaming, it's a, it's a, a digital ministry of presence throughout social media. It's a, a, I think a beautiful expression of, of early Wesleyan Methodism that we started I guess it was 2021 at the beginning of the year. We just come outta Christmas season here at Discovery and we had our clergy team we're in a meeting kind of talking about Lin and what were we gonna do for Lin. And you know, the pandemic was, was certainly going on during those days. And we, we talked about this idea of healing and, and what is healing and and how we're looking for healing. You know, oftentimes not only physically, but, but physically and, and emotionally and, and spiritually. And so we kind of, I came up with this idea that if we did a sermon series called LF Heels, Heels with a Z I used to play a game called World of Warcraft.

Adam Sowder (03:19):

I was a, a field master and a a raid, progression raid healer in that. And so if anybody was looking for, for healing in the chat, they'd put LF heels. And that's, that's an opportunity for us to do that. So we, we made this looking for heels sermon series, and then we got the idea, well, if we're gonna do that, then let's do a an Easter sermon called Victory Royal, which is a based on the idea of Fortnite, a very popular video game. And I, I am a gamer. I've always been a gamer since since the original Nintendo. And I think Hannah and I, we just took a chance and we just said, Well, we've always kind of thought about it. Let's just go ahead and launch on, on Twitch. There's a lot more to it than that that we'd love to, to share about. But I think that's, that, that's kind of the, the beginning.

Ryan Dunn (04:10):

And Hannah, did you have a gaming background as well?

Hannah Bryn (04:14):

No, not at all. <Laugh>

Ryan Dunn (04:15):


Hannah Bryn (04:17):

So it was, it was all new whole new World for me. But just being able to kind of jump in the, the youth ministry program here at Discovery, it's a lot of wonderful young, young people and they all love video games. And when I joined the staff and, and was appointed here, it was very apparent that I needed to kind of brush up on my video game knowledge. Sorry. And, sorry, hold on one second.

Hannah Bryn (04:53):

And so our, our church actually went through a a program called Next Level Innovations. And it was just kind of overarching look at the, the vision of the church and how it's being lived out and the different ministries and programs that are going on. And so part of that experience was asking the youth group, the students kind of like, if you could have a magic wand and, and do anything at the church, what would you do? And a lot of 'em said, Make a video game, small group ministry. So that was, that was probably in 2019. And so just kind of having that in the back of our minds of this is something that is interesting and something that has potential for how we, how we look at ministry and how we do ministry differently, especially coming out of a pandemic.

Ryan Dunn (05:44):

So noting that this is now a part of your, your church life part of your professional responsibility, Hannah, do you have to spend some time in the office doing kind of market research and playing some games and brushing up?

Hannah Bryn (06:01):

I think early on it was definitely a lot more of kind of in my own time playing Fortnite and, and just getting eliminated over and over and over again.

Hannah Bryn (06:16):

But, but I think it's really what I've valued about Methodist gaming is the partnership. That's kind of helped me to feel comfortable owning that I'm new to video games and also start to step into the fact of saying, yeah, I like, I like video games and, and being able to own that and, and having a community around us with Methodist gaming that knows that we are not pro gamers by any sense of the word. And just they just like to be in community with us and, and are very graceful towards me.

Adam Sowder (06:55):

Even with that though, I think sometimes people, you know, we always invite people to play with us from the, what we call the connection. And sometimes people are nervous to, because they, you know, cuz we're streamers and so they feel like they're not good enough. And then the reality, there's so many people that want or need someone to play games with, and, and that's part of, that's part of why we're there, you know, win, win or lose. That's something that's one of those different things we're trying to show. You know, we're not, we're not rage quitting, you know, we, we, we accept the loss and we, we talk about it

Ryan Dunn (07:27):

In, in part, this came out of a need for the youth group and connecting with students. What inspired you then to really expand beyond that, to make this a stream for the entire world, so to speak?

Adam Sowder (07:40):

Well, I I, I love that. Well, I think my, my doctorate is in transformational leadership and Wesleyan perspective specifically. And so, I mean, I, I'd always looked at Wesley and innovation and, and what was it all about? And, and to get to be in England and stand at market crosses and, and think about how you know, those early Methodist clergy or Wesley would go and stand in those places and make an invitation to a, a later small group. It was, it was an obvious thing to do. And that, and that's why we really started crafting it. Like we didn't launch this until we're very intentional about what's our name, you know, Cause I've al my gamer tag's always been circuit writer, you know, for, for well over a decade. I'm, I'm sure on the Xbox platforms and, and other places like that.

Adam Sowder (08:26):

And, and we played with that. We played with Discovery Gaming, but then it became very apparent that if we're gonna do this, this is for everybody. This is a, a global di digital ministry is global. And, and so we went ahead with the, the Methodist gaming is kind of a double ent, both from our, our real tradition, but also, you know, some of the method to beat some of these games that you have to have strategy. So it, it was really crafted from the name Methodist Gaming to our logos with a, an updated circuit writer over a globe to you know, we use the phrase all the time, The world is our stream, you know you know, we were asked, why isn't it the stream is our parish? But, you know, I don't think that's that that's tougher language for people.

Adam Sowder (09:10):

I think people don't, don't understand even maybe what a parish is even that are in churches. So it's, you know, the world is our stream. These are things people can, can understand. And and then we took that you know, out in, in our identity. So it was very methodical and, and crafted with what we presented. And, and it became very clear it was gonna be for, for everybody. So it, it, even though the youth were a big proponent of something that they would like, the intentionality behind it was, was global. Cuz that's, that's the reality that we live in right now.

Ryan Dunn (09:43):

Well, ministry teaches us that just because we start something, it doesn't mean that people engage with it. So how did you, in starting your stream, how did you get your quote unquote first followers? How did you begin to invite people to engage with Methodist gaming?

Hannah Bryn (10:02):

I think the big thing for us, at least as we were kind of being intentional with our language and our name and all of that, was also to be really intentional about having a low barrier for engagement. So that's really why we started with Fortnite. And it's, I mean, it's a free game. It's a game that many people are already playing, whether they're young or, or older. And it's not only that, but it's, it's a fun game and it's quick and kind of keeps you on your toes. So for us it was the low barrier of making sure that it's something that's accessible for people. And not only that, but being able to be a part of the community and the connection on Twitch specifically, where Twitch is a platform that you don't have to have an account to even watch. You can just go onto the website and see it. And so just the idea of keeping it very intentionally accessible, low barrier and with that, sending out invites and saying, Hey, do you guys wanna play with us on Sunday? And we'd love to ask you some questions, get to know you better. And just starting, starting that and, and just kind of growing from there.

Adam Sowder (11:17):

The, the, the intentionality behind the, the invitation piece too is really big. We, we still do that every stream. You know, we, we, we have kind of like station breaks, if you will. You know, this is, I'm Adam and this is Hannah. We're two pastors that stream together. And you know, if if you're enjoying, you know, what, what what you're experiencing, leave a follow, you know, follow us, follow us, you know, not only here, but throughout social media, we always plug these sorts of things and we, we ask them for it. And I think the other way we got engagement is through authenticity. You know, the internet brings anonymity. So, so in a way that, there's an element I think that the, the Adam and Hannah people see on On Stream are a little different from the Adam and Hannah. They engage with on a Sunday morning.

Adam Sowder (12:00):

Even though, like, at, at, I'd say at our regular, regular calling, you know, we have all the social media platforms and TikTok and, and all that stuff, but it's still different. It's different situations. So to be authentic and and, and to play what you enjoy, like, if you're not enjoying stuff, people are gonna know and they're not gonna stick around. You gotta keep talking to 'em, you gotta, you know, a ask questions. And and I think that was one of our, a cool moment from that was when somebody was engaging with us and then that kind of, that, that, hey, we're two pastors that stream together. It was for his country, I guess he's more priest language is, is what he was most familiar with. And he just said, Wow, you're priests, you know, and, and couldn't believe it. And yet you know, left to follow, stuck around and comes back and is, is very engaged. So that, that's, so I think it's actually really cool the fact that people are surprised that we're clergy and they're not thrown off by that and run from it. And if they don't wanna engage, then they can just hit the next stream.

Ryan Dunn (13:04):

So you both get online you decide a, a game that you're gonna play, you invite people to come and play alongside you and join in the Twitch stream. You have your moments of pause and reflection. I, is there a next step beyond that in terms of a ministry model?

Hannah Bryn (13:23):

Yeah, I think for us it's really being available and kind of having that, that air of pastoral care to our ministry on Twitch and saying, Join our discord and, and reach out if you'd ever need anything. We have Discord has been something that we've been a little slower to creep into. But we've been blessed with a couple different people in our connection that have shared their gifts for Discord and teaching us all about it and how to use it. So we have fun things like post pictures of your pets or post what you're eating today or what games are you playing, or what do you recommend, Trend,

Adam Sowder (14:04):

Trend Methodist connection names on, on those.

Hannah Bryn (14:09):

So, so we've got and this is credit where credit is due to one of our product. These are

Adam Sowder (14:16):

All we have from the people. Yeah,

Hannah Bryn (14:18):

Yeah. So we've got PET that is gaming for posting pet, we've got Connects Yum for posting your food and recipes, things like that. Gosh, what's the other one?

Adam Sowder (14:35):

Well, there, there's a, I think there, there's one that's a hobby lobby because in this, they're lobbies. Yeah. We've got people that do crafts and, and wanna share, share different stuff like that. And then there's really the, I think, the most important piece, which is prayer needed. So it's our prayer needed area. I think Hannah, you've had some, I think, some powerful experiences with with that specifically.

Hannah Bryn (14:57):

Definitely. Yeah. I think it's, so really the next step is if you wanna continue to be engaged, join the Discord hang out in there, send us messages. If you need prayer, let us know. And you can always send it privately to, to Adam or you can send it in the larger channel for everyone to see. But it's just the ability to, to say at the end of the stream, when we're logging off, we are always here for you. You can always reach out to us. And being very intentional with that and living into that through our Discord presence.

Adam Sowder (15:37):

Yeah. That someone sends a message that can get it. I get that response.

Ryan Dunn (15:43):

Hmm. That's great. Yeah. And that's one of the amazing parts of digital ministry is that it does allow for an asynchronous kind of presence, right? We are always with people and I in, in responding to some of those prayers, are you responding or interacting with people in, in real time? Or is it a little more asynchronous than that?

Hannah Bryn (16:04):

It's, it's really up to the situation. Some people they'll send a message and, and we'll see it. Maybe we're in a meeting or working on a sermon or something completely off subject, and we'll see it an hour or two later and just say, Hey, I, I just saw this, but I want you to know that I am praying for you and thinking about you, and how can we be helpful? Or it is it's a Saturday and I'm sitting at home watching TV and I see my phone go off and see that a prayer is needed and have the ability to respond to it pretty quickly. There have been a couple people that have reached out to us to do an actual voice channel and voice chat with us and actually talk to us through that. But a lot of it is, is messages and just kind of depends on the situation and the context,

Adam Sowder (17:00):

But there, there, there have been absolute yeah. Crisis moments where you do see, you know, so and so is typing a message and you're, you're going back and forth. I think that the sole care piece is what's, what's really been very special I think experienced because it happens through, through Discord, through the other platforms, but also it happens in the moment on Twitch, you know, as well. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>, you know, I'm driving, you know, someone says, you know, I'm driving back from this moment the Al Day shootings, for instance you know, one of our people close family friend, it was one of the teachers there, you know, so it's, it's in the moment Soul Care that's going on through Twitch and, and sharing of news globally with things that, that are going on. And, and so tho those are other things that we ask.

Adam Sowder (17:46):

You know, we talk about highs and lows. So again, these are the low barrier questions. What's good that's going on in your life, what's, what could be better? And you have the anonymity to share because we may or may not know who you are. And, and you can do that. And then we always go the extra credit question how is it with your soul? So I say, you know, extra credit, you know, highs, lows John Wesley bought one of our bots on the channels. John Wesley bot, you know, John Wesley bot wants to know. And then, you know, extra credit, house it with your soul. And, and people take a stab at that. We all say answer that however you understand it. And, and people do take a, take a stab at that on occasion and, and look at evaluation and, and self examination. And, and that, and, and, you know, you can do all of these things while you're, you're playing games and supporting each other.

Ryan Dunn (18:30):

Well, now that you've been doing this for a little while, are you finding that a lot of your participants are coming from beyond the congregation? Or is there a core from the congregation who are participating?

Hannah Bryn (18:40):

It's been a really interesting shift that we've noticed over the past, probably even in the past six months or so. I think when we began, it was very much a younger group of, of people and a lot of people from the Richmond area and from the church here at Discovery. And then we started seeing pretty quickly actually. We started seeing people internationally checking in and just saying, Hey, I, I was looking for a method of stream and your name popped up, so I'm hopping on and, and saying, Hi, we've taken that. And that's kind of shifted over the past six months and moved into more of the majority are people that aren't part of the congregation here at Discovery. And the majority are young adults at this point. So they're, they're kind of in this life stage of maybe they have their own church and they just want more community in a digital space. And there's even people that have started to tune in to discovery things like worship on Sunday mornings because of how they know us through Methodist gaming.

Adam Sowder (19:53):

It's, it's really fascinating. We took the time and made a map one time of, of, you know, cause we say the world is our stream. And to get to see people in Australia and Denmark and all over England and, and the US and everything else is, it's a gift. I mean, we're not talking about, you know, huge numbers here. You know, we're, it's like a small group, you know, But, but it, it's incredible to see those, those connections and, and everything and, and to get to, to actually not only meet, but to get, to truly know, I think, know people in different and what's going on in their lives. And so you can do a check in when they come to the stream and they say, Hi, you know what's, it's just like being a, a pastor at a local congregation. You know who they are, what's going on with their life how to check in with them and, and those, it's very, very wonderfully relational.

Ryan Dunn (20:38):

Has your local congregation been supportive? Are they, are they participating?

Adam Sowder (20:45):

Yeah, I think I, I think they're very excited and, and somewhat proud of, of what we're doing. We're from an innovative church and, and we try to keep a, a culture of of of risk going here at, at Discovery. And yeah, absolutely. I've never heard anything negative from our people. I, I think they're very excited about what we're trying to do. But, but the reason they're excited about what we're talk, trying to do is cuz we talk about it, right? We don't hide it. We're very public about it. We own it. We own that identity. Because, you know, I I I really kind of hang my hat on when the Bishop says, Take Val authority, you know, and, and all these other questions of, of what we're ordained to, of, of, it's a, it's a real thing. And so you know, we, we've got wonderful things that have happened that they're, that, that they love.

Adam Sowder (21:39):

And, and we've got incredible opportunities I'm sure Hannah would share about that are coming up. And, and I think they, they're, they're proud of, of risk, of taking a risk. And I know that's not, wouldn't be true for all. I think we we're actually in, in small groups with other streamers and and some of them receive such pushback that they stopped doing these sorts of things. But so I do think there's an element of, Hannah and I were fairly tenacious. I think individuals with, with, I think we're, we're strong enough in our identity to, to persevere.

Hannah Bryn (22:15):

And I think it's also, I think what you said about the, the context of where we are is our congregation, I think from, from its roots has always been an innovative church and they enjoy trying new things and trying to do ministry in church differently. And I think one of the things that I've been most excited about recently is this idea of what does it look like to kind of take the Methodist gaming kind of world of gaming and move that into a more physical space, like a game room at the church. And so we've, our congregation has kind of jumped right on board and we've created this, this gaming space for students to come and, and play video games with each other. And I think the, the future hope and vision is that it can be open to the community and on a Saturday morning when we've got a farmer's market on one side of the church and the kids that are coming for that, they can run into the game room and get a couple games in with people that they might not have ever met before.

Hannah Bryn (23:21):

And, and just kind of build that connection there. So the, the hope of that is really like providing a space for people to have community in video games in an, an area that they already enjoy and maybe they don't have anybody to play with or they don't have the equipment to, to play the games they wanna play. So that's, that's been really exciting for us over the last year is kind of developing that game room and that vision. And then even like looking, looking towards the future of how do we share more about Methodist gaming with our congregation, with other congregations. It's through, through kind of sharing and, and leading youth. We got invited to the, the Bold Youth Conference in 2023 in Daytona. So we're very excited about being able to kind of talk about ministry more with students from other churches too.

Ryan Dunn (24:18):

And what is your capacity at that or responsibility at that conference?

Hannah Bryn (24:24):

So we've been invited to to lead different breakout sessions and kind of teach what is digital ministry, what's the theology behind it? How do we be ourselves in this space of digital ministry, but also be different and set apart and kind of exploring what that looks like on social media and on Twitch and through video games and, and kind of taking that ownership of, yes, we play video games, Yes, we're Christian and this is what it looks like. Well cause

Adam Sowder (24:55):

Good news, right? Cause we play video games cuz everybody else does too, right? And I think, I think that's, that's the reality is once you start talking about gaming and games there, there's a lot of people and maybe the only reason they stopped playing games is cuz someone told them that, that they should, you know, cause you know, I don't play games anymore, you know, that, that kind of stuff. But they want to. And and so that, so we'll be doing I think, yeah, the four four workshops and I think we're talking with them about maybe even doing some exhibitions and then, you know, we've got some great, you know, we've got, we wanna have fun with it too. We've got some great merch that we're gonna be giving away. Just a lot of it. And, and, and just being present and, and I it's called, you know, bold being ourselves and living differently and just owning, owning that and having some fun with it while also really communicating, you know, this is some of the theological underpinnings, especially from a we, the Wesleyan tradition.

Adam Sowder (25:45):

We've got a website methodist Underneath that there's a theology, How did we get here section. And it's a beginning of a conversation for anyone, whether you're a clergy person or, or you're seeking ordination or candidacy or, or, or, or talking points if you get challenged is these are some things that, that can help start a conversation. And then with that, we make an invitation to anybody that wants to go deeper, wants that get on Zoom or something and have a, a conversation about the theology and history. You know, we would love the opportunity to talk with anybody that that's exploring, exploring that.

Ryan Dunn (26:24):

Is there kind of a pathway or model of discipleship that you utilize in Methodist gaming? Like in your mind's eye is there we meet person in the, in the stream we invite them to Discord and then we plug them into some kind of small group. Is that at work?

Adam Sowder (26:39):

I think, I think the intentionality behind Methodist gaming is cuz we, we, we've got a, a big white board in my office and it's, it's two thirds discovery vision cuz our vision is worship, relationships and community, and it's got digital components of all that. And then it's a third Methodist gaming, and we take time throughout the week to, to work on that. And part of the intentionality at the very top of it, it says, Methodist gaming is not a church, it's a market cross. With that. And so I think the quick answer is yes, you, you've got some of things that we've talked about. You've got you know, if a Wesleyan, Christians always supposed to be growing in the knowledge and love of God, then there's plenty of little bits of nutrients that's kind of like the oatmeal, the, the milk or meat Christians, we, you know, we are, we are a milk to oatmeal gathering for people who are just getting started and want to grow or who have it.

Adam Sowder (27:31):

And, and there's room for, for a lot of clergy that come and, and visit us also on that. But, but we give people what they need that are curious, that are inquiring just like the early days to get them plugged in. And when we do that, you know, we move them to the discord, but then we also own it. You know, if you want something else, if you want the rest of it, go to Discovery United, you know, dot org if you wanna plug into those small groups or those those different worship services. Now what I will say, and I'll, I'll let Hannah talk about maybe our, our, our community outreach aspects of Methodist gaming, which are something that people can make a difference and live into that, that ben addiction that, that she often talks about. But I guess there was a, but but it doesn't, it doesn't preclude us.

Adam Sowder (28:20):

We're, we're always exploring the idea of doing actual small groups. That's absolutely on the table to do that. And actually I think we, we pulled our people and they're excited about that, that prospect. It's just something that we haven't done yet because we do have a, which is I think very interesting maybe to some of your listeners, it's because we are appointed to the local church, there's always gonna be a little bit of a calendaring give and take with, with, I can't always put as much energy into one thing as, as I would like, because we also have something very big over here that we're also responsible. Mm. So very much a both of both and situation.

Hannah Bryn (29:04):

And I think one of the important things for me as we started to look at Methodist gaming and look at the intentionality behind it is this is all great, but how do we take this and do something good with it? Other, of course, we're doing something good with the ministry and with being present with people, but how do we bring everyone together and how do we do some type of mission in this digital space? What does that look like? And so for us, that's Game Aons. And we've done, I don't even know how many at this point, probably three or four game Aons over the past year or so where we just, we promoted and we say, Hey, we're gonna be playing video games all night and hope you guys can join us and if you buy merch, the proceeds will go to this specific nonprofit.

Hannah Bryn (29:57):

We worked with United Methodist Family Services and Pinnacle Living. So a bunch of different non-profits. Core. Yeah. And core That's true. Yeah. so for us it's, it's Join the Connection is kind of the language we use and the, the way you join the connection is just leaving a follow and it doesn't cost you anything to join. So we're not charging anybody to be a part of this ministry. But then the step further is you can always join the Discord and you can always participate in the game Aons and help to raise money and make a difference. And also I think what I've appreciated about our stream is that when we first started streaming, we always had a really interesting time trying to figure out how to log off and how to say goodbye

Ryan Dunn (30:46):


Hannah Bryn (30:47):

And so it was just always an awkward kind of ending. And so Adam and I talked about it and we were like, you know what? We should actually kind of work in a, a bin addiction like you would in church and make it sounds like it belongs and sound like it, it's part of this space in Twitch. So use the language that is accessible, like we've talked about in low barrier. And so that Ben addiction that we say every time we log off and it, it could sound like we're just reading a line over and over again, but it is very intentional and very authentic and we always say that we're always here for you, that you can make a difference and that we can make a difference together because the world is our stream. And so it's holding ourselves to that standard of we are always here for you. We do believe that you can make a difference. We really believe that we can make a difference together as a community. So here's how we do it.

Ryan Dunn (31:46):

Cool. Well, you give other people such a easy point of access for those of us who are, are looking to lead ministry in the digital space, One of the barriers often comes down to technology. And Hannah, I would really like this from your perspective being a a little fresher to the gaming realm, was there a high barrier of technology? Did you need a lot of setup? Did, was there a big investment in terms of buying stuff to get started in doing this?

Hannah Bryn (32:17):

Sure. I think for me, so we started out with just Xbox and I think Adam had one camera set up and one mic for himself. And I was just on the other end where I was at playing Xbox and communicating. So it was really just his video and his game and then my voice. Okay. And my husband is very much a, a gamer, so it kind of was easy for us to get that set up going. But as we started to really own it and started to see the possibilities of the ministry is when we decided that we should make the investment and kind of like if we're, if we're gonna do it, let's do it and let's do it. Right. and I'll let Adam speak to some of that too.

Adam Sowder (33:02):

That's very much also our, our personality. So like in, in the early days we, we are a jump in and, and do it and fail fast and fail forward and and, and always a debrief and improve type of type of a team. And so, you know, at the beginning the, the audio didn't even match the video, right? So, so it, it's live and there's a delay and, and all that. And it's, it's kind of, it's, it's unique and, and interesting to look at. But then we started to go ahead and invest and, and then we started to go from Xbox to computers. So now we're running on gaming computers for all that stuff. And we have true stream setups with headphones and, and good mics and, and all of those sorts of things. And, and it's also, you know, the aesthetic is the l e d lights and, and and how do you set it up?

Adam Sowder (33:50):

Because one of the, the greatest confluence we got for me was when we were doing a gaiton and, and there was a lot of, a lot of activity and a lot of energy. And then somebody got on and said, Wow, you all look like professional streamers. And, you know, and that, that, that meant a lot because there's a cuz we take it seriously, you know, cuz we do. And, and I think, I think the aesthetic and and your presentation says a lot about that. You know, we at, at Discovery and I think it, it permeates everything we do on both sides. You know, we're all about excellence, authenticity, and innovation. You know, it's kind of very Wesley in the more excellent way, you know, of, of improvement and, and those sorts of things. So don't let anything stop you from doing it.

Adam Sowder (34:36):

But then how can you, how can you, how can you improve while still being very authentic in who you are? Very invitational and, and being innovative and trying. We try dumb things. We try stupid things. We launched, you know, our TikTok some time ago and, and reels and, and all that. And sometimes we play a fool, but sometimes you have to in ministry. That's just my opinion on that. So we, we made the, we made a financial investment and then we also found partners that were interested in what we're doing. It's just like a local church, you know, maybe your local church doesn't have money, but there might be somebody in your community who does. And, and all it takes is being willing to share what you're trying to do and, and, and they might bless you with, with something. It's, it's a hard thing for I think specifically clergy to do. But, but there's value. It's a real thing. And that's part of a I think a, Cause I'm a lead pastor at a church, that's what I do anyway, you know, And it doesn't mean it's easy, but, but it is a skillset any of us can, can learn us to ask, ask for help.

Ryan Dunn (35:39):

Well, what's been one of your fondest ministry memories that you've kind of put in your mental affirmations file that's come out of Methodist gaming?

Adam Sowder (35:52):

Why don't you go Hannah?

Hannah Bryn (35:53):

Sure. I think the fir the first thing I can think of is our very first game athon. We were working to support United Methodist Family Services and we had Jill Gainer on and she was talking with the connection all about the work that they do at United Methodist Family Services and what the funds will go to support and, and all of these wonderful things that are happening over there. And she was speaking a lot about how the volunteers that they have are, are very wonderful and they devote their time and their energy to, to really care for the children that are, that are with them. And one of our, one of our followers members of the connection, he, he jumped in and he shared how incredible it was to hear that there were people out there that cared that much for children. And he kind of shared some, most, some of his own personal story and his, his life and updates. And, and part of that too was sharing prayer requests. And this is somebody who was a, an early follower and we didn't really know anything about them. And they just felt empowered in that moment to share and, and kind of identify with what, what Jill was saying about United Methodist Family Services.

Ryan Dunn (37:13):


Adam Sowder (37:14):

One of the just a funny one though, is like one of our, our international people in the, in the connection got on the stream one time and said you know, cuz it's all very public, I used to think you guys were boring, but now you're my, you're my favorite streamer <laugh>.

Adam Sowder (37:34):

So like, well that's a great, that's a great, that's a great compliment <laugh>, you know, to, to, to receive from that. And I, I think mine is when when family gets involved, So, you know, you'll, we've got members and maybe they're driving and these, these are, you know, we will protect their own I sense of self while sharing something about it. But, you know, maybe someone's driving home with a parent who's coming back from a chemo session, but they're, you know, but they're both in the car and they've got the stream up and, and to get to hear like, moms, moms mom laughed at that, or moms, you know, how's mom doing? To, to get to hear that or to I rl you know, we've, we've had people come through Richmond and with their par with their parents and, and these are all adults, you know, with, with parents.

Adam Sowder (38:23):

And, you know, and to end up at dinner with, with members of the connection and their, and their parents to to my own sons I've got two teenage sons and they, they cringe a little bit at what I do. And yet they respect it enough with it, you know. Cause the thing is, sometimes it's hard because their friends check out the stream and the tos on Instagrams and, and, and stuff like that. And yet my oldest son started streaming. So we do Youth Connection and what's different about Youth Connection and that's all Hannah, but what's different about Youth Connection right now, and we're just relaunched it, is that it's, it's a youth stream hosted by youth.

Ryan Dunn (39:02):

Oh, cool.

Adam Sowder (39:03):

Right. So it's a, it's a 16 year old that's starting to ask the, the highs and lows and, and how's it with your soul question. And, and Sunday scaries, that's a big one, you know, to try to start making space. And it's inf it's in its infancy, but I think that it takes a lot for my oldest son to do that. He's a very quiet young man at least publicly. And so for him to put himself and risk himself, I think that's a, a happy little little moment of him growing in his own sense of identity and trying to make space for other young people who may not wanna say, I'm old, right? I'm 42, I'm an old gamer, but who may not wanna share with a 42 year old, what's, what's going on, but might share with a, with a peer. So I'm really, really excited about maybe what, what Youth Connection could do, but all these things are, are little tiny victories and take time to nurture.

Ryan Dunn (39:57):

Final question for you. What is a game that you're looking forward to streaming

Adam Sowder (40:02):

And what are you looking for to

Hannah Bryn (40:03):

That's a great question. Oh, wow.

Adam Sowder (40:07):


Hannah Bryn (40:08):

<Laugh>, I'm,

Hannah Bryn (40:11):

Well, I mean, we did just start <laugh>. We did just start getting into World of Warcraft, so that's been exciting. Brand new world for me. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>, most of the, that we play are completely new for me. So that's been actually pretty, pretty cool to get into and, and stream that. And I've enjoyed that. I can't, I can't really think of one that I'm looking forward to. I think my favorite game that we've done was trying for, it was just very much a cooperative game that Adam and I had to work together and communicate and figure out the puzzles. And people in our, our chat on Twitch were helping us all the time. And finally being able to beat the final boss in that, in that game was really exciting and empowering. And I think I'm looking forward to games that are similar to that, where we get to work together and kind of have the stream to support us through it.

Ryan Dunn (41:10):


Adam Sowder (41:11):

That was like, that was a great, great game. Highly recommend trying for, and that genre, the puzzle game. I, I think you know, I love one of the games I I I'm looking forward to maybe trying to stream is, there's a new Harry Potter kind of legacy game coming out set in the late 18 hundreds. It's a role playing game and, and you get to kind of explore the grounds, it's open world and, and kind of create your own, your own character. And you know, as a, as a proud and diehard slitherin, you know, I identify with, I got, you know, my, my Slitherin mousepad and everything else up in my room. I, I would be excited to to maybe explore that, that open work. It's fall, you know, fall season makes me think of Harry Potter and Fantasy Games, and that's part of why we ended up back in World Warcraft. But to kind of maybe try that out as a, as a Slitherin student and, and see what I could get involved with.

Ryan Dunn (42:05):

Cool. Cool. Well, Deacon Havoc and Circuit Rider, thank you so much for spending this time with us and Game on. We'll get you online.

Adam Sowder (42:14):

It's a gift. Thanks for inviting us.

Ryan Dunn (42:17):

If this podcast is meaningful for you, the best thing you can do is listen to another episode. If you wanna learn more about Twitch, then you need to check out season two's "Understanding and getting started on Twitch." And then season three's "From Passion to Podcast to Faith Community" is relevant here, too, as it tells the story of the creation of Lux Digital Church. I'm Ryan Dunn. I'd like to thank resource, the online destination for leaders throughout the United Methodist Church. They make this podcast possible, and of course, they host our website, pastoring in the digital, where you can find more online resources for ministry. If you want to connect, check out our pastoring in the Digital Parish group on Facebook. You can also send me questions and ideas for future sessions at [email protected] I'll speak with you again in a new episode next week. In the meantime, peace to you.



On this episode

Rev. Dr. Adam Sowder

Adam Sowder, aka CircuitRider is a graduate of Radford University and Wesley Theological Seminary. He also studied in Cambridge, England for his doctorate. He’s also the founder and co-host of Methodist Gaming a ministry of presence on Twitch and throughout social media with the tagline “The World is Our Stream.” His school of thought is the via media. Adam serves as lead pastor at Discovery UMC in Richmond, Virginia.

Hannah Bryn

Hanna Bryn, aka DeaconHavoc, is an ordained deacon who was appointed to Discovery UMC in July of 2020. Hannah graduated from Duke Divinity School in 2019. She seeks to create safe spaces for students to grow in their faith. She also hopes to bridge the church into the local community through mission and service.

Ryan Dunn, co-host and producer of the Compass Podcast

Our proctor/host is the Rev. Ryan Dunn, a Minister of Online Engagement for United Methodist Communications. Ryan manages the digital brand presence of Rethink Church, co-hosts and produces the Compass Podcast, manages his personal brand, and obsesses with finding ways to offer new expression of grace.