Sunday, May 27, 2012

Why do Christians Play Settlers of Catan?

Instead of hitting the bars or going downtown to bump and grind at the newest clubs, Christians flock to their friends' homes for one of the oddest of rituals. It's something new that most people don't realize happens to Christians when they repent and invite Jesus Christ into their life. But their Friday and Saturday evenings will no longer be spent in the smelly confines of a darkly-lit and overcrowded dance floor. Their nights will be spent in a small circle gathered around an colorful board.

No. This is not a Ouija Board, or anything cultic. We're not even going to sing Kumbaya. We're going to play board games and we're going to love it. No more hangovers, no more heartache, no more strange stains on the shirt. Only 'fellowship' and 'friendship' formed in a tight circle of game players. Yes. That's right. We've gathered here to play Settlers of Catan. We're gathered here for 'Game Night.'

What is it about Christians and their game nights? Sometimes we don't even play Settlers. Sometimes we play Apples to Apples, Monopoly, Game of Things, or even Werewolves, which is more commonly known as Mafia. There's nothing better than playing a game named after criminals who bootleg and push people on the subway tracks. But on a more serious note, aren't cards of the devil? No grandma, they're not. And besides, we're not playing poker. We're playing 'how to build long lasting relationships with our Christian friends.' That's right folks. We're having fun.

More specifically, what is it about Settlers of Catan that has such appeal? Maybe it appeals to us because we can gather wheat in obedience to Matthew 9:37-38. Jesus did say, "The harvest is plenty but the workers are few," but I know it wasn't in reference to a 4-6 player game people all over the world would play thousands of years later. Or maybe it has to do with ore or brick, or more appropriately it has to do with Psalm 118:22-23, "the stone which the builders rejected." Or perhaps we just want to be like King Solomon and use our timber to build a temple for the Lord like in 1 Kings 5:6. But I think it has more to do with sheep with John 10:27, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me." We want to honestly follow Jesus in even the fun things we do together.

Besides, Christians gather around and play board games together because we... like each other. And perhaps, maybe some of us are reaching out to those in need who aren't as comfortable doing their thing with groups or people in general. Part of being in the body of Christ is being in a family. We're brothers and sisters and believe it or not families that play together tend to grow together. Sure, we're not always talking about Christ's atonement for our sins, but perhaps we're living a little more like the kingdom than we imagine. God loves people. And when we do anything that reflects that, we're reflecting an image of God that honors and glorifies Him. That's pretty cool.

So gather up your board games, put out popcorn and chips, bake those brownies, and go to the byways and highways to invite the poor and needy in (Luke 14:15-23). People are tired of the bars and petri-dish clubs. Their looking for hope and something as simple as a non-judgmental night filled with board games and laughter will remind them of that. And besides, how else am I going to win at Settlers unless I invite new people who I can school?
Photo by: Gadl


  1. I've noticed this trend too, although the first time I played settlers I in fact wasn't a Christian, however it was in a close knit community setting.

    However, I might say that the "godless heathens" I played with were in fact more merciful and less competitive in their play than some Christians who love the Lord. For instance, it was unthinkable that when a 7 was rolled, you would move the robber onto someone else's square to hurt them! You would simply move it to an unoccupied space, or if none existed, to a 2 or a 12, or oftentimes someone would offer up their OWN space for the robber to land on. E.g. "Here put him on my 12 and take this wheat of mine." We did this so that nobody ever had to displeasure of willingly hurting someone else. Funny how you can learn more about self-sacrifice from non-Christians than Christians sometimes.

    Moreover, if anyone did aggressively move the robber, then undying vengeance would ensue on behalf of those offended. It was no longer about winning, but about making sure the offender lost. These grudges would often times carry over into the next game until justice was served, i.e. the robbing offender would make restitution by offering gracious trades or letting someone else have a settlement spot. Lesson learned: if you are going to steal, make sure it's worth it.

    Thinking back on it all, I learned a lot about grace, mercy, and justice not because of Christ, but because of this game, Settlers of Catan, and the friends I played it with.

  2. John, this comment is fantastic! I really like the game but never get the time to play it except for the rare occasion when classes are light. I love the angst over the rober, so very good.

  3. "But on a more serious note, aren’t cards of the devil? No grandma, they’re not. And besides, we’re not playing poker."

    I feel like this sentence indicates that you're not okay with poker. Correct me if I'm wrong, and if I'm not, please explain what your beef is! Poker is only gambling if you treat it like gambling and never take the time to learn it as the skill game it is.

    Otherwise, I agree that game nights are grand fun :)

  4. Haha Trofholz, I love playing poker and I personally have no problem just playing for fun. I've actually played for limited amounts of money with some guys, but like all things, it's probably not the wisest use of time or money. Thank you for being so attentive in your reading of my post. I will not judge your mad poker skills.

  5. Awesome as always Jonathan. Miss having game night with ya, was always fun. And great observation about settlers. Its a great way to hang out with friends have a good time and build community.

  6. Miss you too Will! Thanks for dropping in!