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PLANO (1080 KRLD) – Initially, it was a shock for the staff at Christ United Methodist Church to see crowds wandering the halls and across the grounds with phones held up to their faces.

One of the kids told executive pastor Denise Peckham that the church was a Pokéstop.

“I wasn’t even sure what he was talking about, to be honest,” says Peckham. “I had to call several people and ask if they’d heard what this is.”

At Pokéstops, Pokémon Go players can collect the creatures and battle each other.

“I was surprised when he explained it to me,” says Peckham. “We certainly didn’t ask for this, it just kind of showed up.”

Once the surprise wore off, Peckham was quick to realize the unique opportunity being a Pokéstop affords. Crowds of the young and young-at-heart show up to these areas. While playing Pokémon Go, many often learn more about the location they’re at or the area they’re in.

“We decided it would be good for us to open our doors to everyone playing the game,” Peckham says. “Just give them a place to hang out, be comfortable, have some water if it’s hot outside.”

At other historic landmarks or transportation hubs that are designated Pokéstops, people can get in trouble or in danger as they wander around looking for an elusive Pokémon. But Christ United Methodist is perfectly safe, both for players and for others at church.

“We have security all over, and our preschool and other places with young children are blocked off,” says Peckham. “We’re confident that our church is a safe zone for everyone here.”

It’s too early for church staff to tell whether these kids and families playing Pokémon Go could become future members of Christ United Methodist. Peckham says as they wander around, they’ll see the opportunities for service, fellowship and youth group. She wants them to remember the church as a fun and welcoming place.

“Our biggest hope is that when they’re ready to find a church, or if they’re in a crisis and have some need, that they know that we welcome them and are here for them.”

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