Most parents out there have probably heard of Minecraft, a “sandbox” video game (i.e. a game that allows for a great deal of creative, free-form play) in which participants use blocks of material to build what they need. The game mainly functions in two modes: creative mode, which is purely focused on building and creating, and survival mode, in which participants must maintain health, build shelter, and defend themselves against “mobs” (monsters).
Minecraft is a terrific game — sort of like a virtual Lego world with infinite online possibilities. Players can make anything from basic structures:
…to more elaborate ones.
Educators are already aware of Minecraft’s potential in the classroom, to the extent that Minecraft has created Minecraft: Education Edition to accommodate teachers. But Minecraft can also be useful for both parents and Christian educators in teaching children about both liturgy and the Bible. Here, I outline some ways Minecraft can be used in Christian education.
A few notes before we begin:
- These ideas work best in creative mode so participants don’t have to survive and fight off mobs while building.
- This approach to Chirstian education works best for kids who already like Minecraft and/or games similar to Minecraft. Therefore, these suggestions assume that participants know Minecraft basics:how to get materials in creative mode, how to build basic structures, etc.That said,I will link to some Minecraft basics tutorials at the end of this post.
- Many opportunities to modify the game have been developed, allowing for extensive variations on Minecraft gameplay. The suggestions below do not require enhanced or modified versions of Minecraft.
So here are some ways to use Minecraft in Christian education:
Teaching about the church: When teaching our children about the church, we often talk about what the special objects and places in churches are and how we use them. We show them the baptismal font, the altar, the sanctuary, the choir, etc. Why not show them these parts of a church and then have them build their own Minecraft church building, alone or in teams? Where would they put the pulpit? The altar? The font? Depending on the kids, they could discuss stylistic decisions. Why choose clear glass or stained glass? (Both are options in Minecraft.) Why choose a small font or an immersion font? (You could use anything from a bowl to a fountain inside the church.) What significance would the choices they make have on worship? Kids can consider these questions as they work.
Teaching with structures: Want to teach kids what Noah’s ark looked like? The tabernacle the children of Israel used in the desert? Solomon’s temple? What about structures related to church history? Early churches? The cells where the desert fathers and mothers lived? Talk about what these structures looked like and why, and then have kids build their own versions in Minecraft.
Have kids tell Bible stories on Minecraft: Basic Minecraft creative mode allows players to write on signs or in books that can be opened and read. A Minecraft beginner might set up armor stands as people and create a series of tableaus telling a Bible story. In one image, Joseph, bedecked in fancy armor, could be annoying his brothers near a sign explaining what is happening. In another, the brothers could be standing over Joseph in a pit. Etc. More experienced players can dye leather armor to make it look more like clothing. They can even use command blocks to make characters move and enact the stories.
Other uses:Parents and educators can use Minecraft in all kinds of contexts. It need not be limited to structures and storytelling. For example, our Sunday school class has used it in worship. The kids each created a station for Stations of the Cross using Legos, paintings, videos, and other creative approaches for their stations. We brought in laptops and a couple of kids used Minecraft worlds to create stations. Then we went through and prayed the Stations of the Cross.
When I have used Minecraft to teach my own kids or Sunday School students about Christianity, they have brought incredible creative energy to their projects. Minecraft is a great place to meet many kids where they are and have them bring in their own creative energy into engaging these ancient stories, as well as our day-to-day church life. I hope you enjoy exploring possibilities with them.
Resources for parents (or kids who are interested):
- Minecraft Creative Mode Basics Tutorial (This is old, but the people who made it have updated it since they first published it, and it gives a sense of the basics for those completely unfamiliar with Minecraft.)
- How to Build the Best Starter House for Beginners (This is just to show some of the basics of building in Minecraft.)
- How to Build a Church (This is just one of many examples of Minecraft church designs. You can learn how to make stained glass, etc. from it.)
- The Unofficial Holy Bible for Minecrafters (My kids have enjoyed reading this children’s version of the Bible.)
There are literally thousands of videos like these. You can find tutorials on everything from the basics to building particular structures to making particular elements. Play around on YouTube and you should be able to find what you need.
Also, ChurchNext is building a course on using Minecraft in Christian education. Look for it in winter/spring of 2021. (Full disclosure: I’m a course designer at ChurchNext.)
Have you used Minecraft in interesting ways for Christian education? Please comment below and share them!
Liz Brignac is a freelance writer and the Senior Course Designer at ChurchNext. She lives in Cary, NC and is the mother of two kids, ages 9 and 12. She’s incredibly grateful for her elder son Joseph for creating the Minecraft images used in this post.