I want to describe Minecraft in a Box as one simple way to enable you to run a Minecraft church by bringing all the bits with you in a box to wherever you want to do it; adding people and having a lot of fun together.
Minecraft has been a multiplayer game for years now. It is great fun and there are myriads of ways people interact on different servers. In one sense Minecraft Church is another form of multi-player Minecraft. There are vast resources out on the internet and on YouTube that explain how to run servers. But there is much that is completely out of date and some which are really unhelpful!
I will keep it simple and describe one way to do it. I will use the Bedrock edition of Minecraft, which is the cheapest and the most portable too I will put some FAQ at the end to help with explaining any difficult points.
What's in the Box?
- An extension cable - you will need electric power!
- A laptop, which has the Bedrock server installed on it (more later). Windows or Linux only. Not Apple.
- Minecraft game on a laptop (or tablet) that can be linked to a big screen TV or video projector. A long HDMI lead is really useful to have as the TV will be some meters from the device. A long audio lead may be required to patch the audio into some sort of sound system (this is optional)
- A mobile phone with a 4G internet connection and a reasonable amount of data (which is only for authentication and updating the game)
- A USB lead/charger so the phone stays on!
- Some mobile phones or tablets with the latest Minecraft PE version (Bedrock) game on them. This costs about £6.99 from Google Play or Apple iStore. This part is a little optional as people may bring their own devices too but it may help to have a few to avoid any exclusion issues. The latest device is not needed - Minecraft is not so resource-demanding, but do test! We have had great results with the £60 Amazon Fire 7 Tablets (without ads version). We have also used some Dragon Touch Max 10 (which is larger) for around £120
- Chargers for the tablets and phone. Perhaps another extension lead - you will need a few! The tablets can also be paired with Bluetooth keyboards and Bluetooth mice too. Some people have found this easier to use.
- Paper and pens
- Lego - really helpful for those who are not comfortable with using a tablet or Minecraft (younger siblings and older relatives in our experience!)
- Printed and laminated prayers.
- A sign with the wifi connection data on it, password etc. and also the server IP address.
- Hopefully, this will all fit in a box!
Setting up the Wifi
Place the phone and charger in a place that gets a good 4G signal. Then set up the phone to be a wifi hotspot. You might like to give it a friendly name and password such as "Minecraft church wifi" and "Minecraft".
Startup the device that your server will be on. I use a laptop but you could have a desktop. From the network settings on your device find the IP address of this device. It will be something like 192.168.43.93
This number can change by the way! So do check each time just in case. However, I have found it to be stable in use. There are some more sophisticated ways to set up your wifi but this will work for now!
Place the details on a PowerPoint slide, a whiteboard or sheet you can take around to the folks who come so you can set up your devices and help them set up their devices too. Like the box below.
Wifi hotspot: Minecraft church wifi
Server name: Minecraft church (This can be anything - it is just a friendly name)
Server address: 192.168.43.93 (this will depend on whatever your server IP address is!)
Setting up the Minecraft Server
Download the Minecraft bedrock server from the Minecraft website.
Unzip (Free software for this) the download into a folder you want to use for Minecraft. Check carefully the version number of the server. This changes frequently and you will want to download the latest server the day you run an event!
You will get a list of files and folders like the following:
There are 3 key files here:
- server.properties (there are a number of key settings here to customise your server. You can use notepad for this or something more sophisticated like Notepad++)
- bedrock_server.exe (double click this to start - it will bring a command window up. Type stop to close down.)
- bedrock_server_how_to.html (this tells you how to run the software - especially if you want to use the same laptop for the display and also the server at the same time. I do this and have no problems and you may want to also. Check the notes if using Windows though)
You will need to update the server regularly. This is as simple as copying one or two new files over (such as the bedrock_server.exe file). Don't overwrite the server.properties file! As with all computer software - backup before your update the software!)
The server.properties file:
There are a number of lines to change here. The key ones are:
server-name=Amazing Minecraft Church Server # put your name for the server above gamemode=creative # Sets the game mode for new players. You probably want creative allow-cheats=true # This sounds bad but will give players more options to build and move around the world max-players=40 # Raise this limit from the default 10. level-name=MinecraftChurchWorld # give your world a name. MinecraftChurchWorld is fine level-seed=-1465919862 # Use to randomize the world. This is the seed I am currently using with 1.18 versions.
Save this file and start your server. It will create a folder called worlds (and many more folders) with one called MinecraftChurchWorld inside.
Startup your Minecraft game and log into the new server. You will see your gamertag appear on the server console as you log in.
Type op <your gamertag> into the console to give yourself all the admin powers.
Type stop to finish the server when done.
Setting up the devices you bring and others bring
Using the sheet you have prepared above (or PowerPoint slide etc) you can set each client up. Different tablets have differing methods, but most owners will know how to get them connected to the wifi settings.
For the game the setup is fairly similar.
- Click on the PLAY button. Then the SERVERS tab.
- Scroll down to the bottom left till you see a button with ADD SERVER and click it.
- Enter the details from the sheet and then click PLAY.
If all goes well you will be in the game!
(If the IP address of the server changes in the future you can come back here and edit the server to the new IP address)
Do note that on the FRIENDS tab you may see the server available too. Don't use this. The correct way (reliable way) is to join via the SERVERS tab!
Is it possible to use the Nintento Switch in Minecraft church? It is possible but it is HARD to set up. I think this is Nintendo adding an extra level of parental controls. We have made a HOWTO, especially for this: Minecraft Bedrock on Switch.
Multiplayer gaming is blocked because of Parental Permissions. What do I do? Microsoft's gaming network has parental controls that intertwine in mysterious ways with Minecraft. It is fiddly to sort out but possible! Refer to this document: XBox Settings for Minecraft Church.
Can I use other WIFI setups such as the one in my building/house? Of course, this is possible. There are many different ways to accomplish this and some common gotcha's too.
Some business or church wifi setups have restrictions to limit which internet services are allowable. Do a trial set-up with your Bedrock server. If the wifi blocks certain internal ports or services then you will need to contact your IT guru to see if it can be circumnavigated. It is possible.
You might ask to see if the device your server is on can be allocated the same IP address or given a friendly URL address. Your IT guru can advise! Certainly, if you find the IP address changes every time you will need to request a 'statically' allocated IP address.
You will need the wifi to connect to the internet. You do not need much bandwidth as the VAST majority of the Minecraft data will flow (and flow quickly!) around the wifi network. All Minecraft needs is a way to connect to the authentication servers at the beginning of a game to check you have an official purchase and retrieve your gamertag, skins and other data.
Where can I find more about running a Minecraft Server? There is a ton of articles and youtube video's out there. Beware there is much out of date information and confusing articles about the Java version too!
This is a good source: https://minecraft.fandom.com/wiki/Minecraft_Wiki
Should I get Realm instead of downloading my own server? You will quickly run into the maximum number of players at the same time. This is around 10 players. It does not offer much more flexibility than renting your own Minecraft server in the cloud?
Should I rent a Minecraft server in the cloud? You can do this. The advantage is that all your players can get on at any time, from home etc. You can also plan and prepare in the server before sessions more easily like this. However, if you want to use an online server in your session then you will need a MUCH better broadband to support all the data each of the players back and forth from the server.
You can of course download the world from your online server and put it on another server in the session with you just for your session. It is straightforward but a little extra work.
Can I use a different server than the official Minecraft one? Yes! there are other servers. See a list here: https://wiki.vg/Bedrock_Edition_Program_List. I have tried out Cloudburst Nukkit and also Pocketmine-MP. Both are good and have a number of plugins that the standard bedrock server does not. The plugins allow some helpful extensions such as /warp, enabling multiple worlds (wonderful) and other niceties.
However, there are a few caveats.
- They support older versions of Minecraft. Minecraft changes quickly and when the game and server are not on the same version number it can prevent players from playing! It is harder to go back versions on Bedrock than Java.
- Their scenery generation is sometimes more limited than the latest and greatest version of the game (which is getting REALLY amazing).
- They do not support all the features of the game. For example, minecarts may be missing or a certain creature. This can frustrate players.
You will need to try it out and weigh the pros and cons for yourself.