I have a confession to make: I am a sucker for Dungeons and Dragons. I have all the dice, a few handbooks, my first character from college (which survived ALL FOUR YEARS!), and miniatures just ready to be placed on my tabletop for an adventure. I had a consistent group in college, and played a few times in seminary and had a lot of fun along the way.
I heard stories in my early years of preparing to be a pastor that Dungeons and Dragons (DND) was a potential tool for ministry. In theory it made sense: you learn a lot about how your players think and react to situations, you witness how the players work together and what opens them up to one another, you get to introduce ethical decisions that are more complex than they seem as a part of a storyline. There are many ways DND should be a gift for a youth group, especially.
For whatever reason, however, I didn’t feel good about using it as a tool in this way until very recently. Maybe it was because I didn’t feel confident leading a game in general as a Game Master. Maybe it was that I didn’t have a good story to lead. But, I bet, it was because it can be tough, sometimes to incorporate fun into ministry.
I’m not sure why this is so. Martin Luther was a big fan of laughing (especially if someone farted) if for no other reason than because the devil doesn’t like laughter or merriment (further justification for his beer intake as well). And while it is possible to really see joy in ministry in some contexts, I found it hard for myself to dig through the often serious situations, the strong feelings around how things should be, the issues, programs, meetings, services, and sermon preparations to make time and energy for something like DND, or jamming to music, or playing tennis, or whatever else gets to bring joy out of the many ministry opportunities before us.
Paul speaks often about joy, especially in his letter to the Philippians. Admittedly, it’s not a book we’d expect to be very joyful. Being one of his last correspondences, Paul is imprisoned. He is chained to two guards and adopts a posture of reviewing his life-likely before it is taken from him. In the midst of his situation he writes to the Christ-followers at Philippi that he is praying for them with joy (1:25), they can participate in his joy (2:2, 2:17, 4:10), they embody his joy (4:1), and-perhaps most notably-that when Christ is proclaimed in every way, with or without good intentions, it is worth rejoicing (1:18).
In Greek, the word for joy is closely related to the word for grace. They are so close, in fact, that they share the same Greek root: char (pronounced “khar”). When joy happens to us, grace is likely nearby. When ministry happens, joy and grace are likely a part of it. Joy and grace help us point to God’s goodness, hope, and involvement in the world.
So yes, DND can be a tool, among many other opportunities, for ministry, and a very fulfilling one at that. We had our first session two weeks ago. There was so much needed laughter, thoughtfulness, communication, and growth after only the one session together. I am excited to see where we go next and how Christ will be proclaimed in a spirit of joy together.
Read: Philippians 1:18
When has joy happened to you?
Has joy ever surprised you?
Where might God be leading you into something joyful?
Note: A special thank you and a shout out to Kronk, Arrow, Anarack the All Knowing, Fish, Skyin, Rosie, and Bloodchill for fostering joy in ministry. Let’s roll!