This article originally appeared on Leadership Network.
The mental health implications of the metaverse are untested and scary. Virtual reality (VR) thrives on lack of control, and vices are flaunted with little to no consequences. The virtual can even push to the physical, leading to alcoholism, drug use, and prostitution. Plus, VR in itself is an addictive medium.
The mental health implications of the metaverse are untested and scary.
Yet we are sending pastors and ministers into virtual spaces. Are they prepared to handle the dark areas of VR? Here are some of the obstacles ministers and volunteers are facing in doing ministry in these virtual reality spaces.
ARE WE WILLING?
Churches are looking for tools, expertise, and viable solutions. However, not all Christ-centered recovery groups will go into the metaverse because it is an untested area. Healing voices willing to take on the VR world are desperately needed.
ARE WE PREPARED?
Initial data show that, compared to the general population, virtual reality has a higher percentage of depression. These results may be due to the addictive nature of virtual reality and how quickly the conversations go deep. Therefore, we ought to run to these spaces, not fromthem.
However, are pastors, leaders, and volunteers equipped to handle depression or suicidal situations in virtual reality? And, what will it take to prepare these people for the challenges they could face?
ARE WE PROTECTED?
How do we protect those trying to help? Simply hearing about the trauma of another can cause emotional stress (secondary trauma) in the person offering aid. Pastors, ministers, and volunteers have already reported secondary trauma in virtual reality. What does the armor of God look like in the metaverse? Beyond the biblical armor of Ephesians 6, we must find ways to protect those doing ministry with hurt people.
OVERCOMING THE OBSTACLES
The mental health complexities and challenges of virtual reality can feel overwhelming. Is virtual reality unsalvageable? Are the skeptics right that the virtual realm is beyond grace? Yet, God did lead Jonah into Nineveh. Paul did go to Rome. And God is calling many of us to reach a different type of person found in the metaverse.
The opportunity is not to run from the fire but to run into the fire. As firefighters, we must go where the need is, where God is calling us. Let’s ensure everyone has the right equipment and is prepared for the dangers.
We must go where the need is. Let’s ensure everyone has the right equipment and is prepared for the dangers.
We would love to hear from you. Share what you have experienced with VR and some other mental health obstacles there. Make sure you tag Jeff Reed to keep the conversation going.
Through the Digital Church Network we are helping physical and digital churches better understand the discipleship process, and helping churches and church planters understand this and other decentralized mindset shifts. Joining the DCN is free and be encouraged!