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 from them.
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.
Mental health issues in virtual reality seem to raise more questions than answers. Stay tuned to Metaverse Church NEXT as we tackle these issues and others in the upcoming months. In the coming weeks, we will interview Nate Graybill from Watermark Church in Dallas to discuss their recovery system’s move into the metaverse and digital realms.
In June 2000, Jeff led his first online Bible study, taking 75 people from around the world through the book of James using a text-based system called Ultimate BB. He was doing digital ministry way before it was cool. Founding THECHURCH.DIGITAL in 2018, Jeff’s passions have evolved into helping churches (and individuals, too!) find their calling through digital discipleship, releasing people on digital mission, and planting multiplying digital churches. This pursuit will expand as Jeff (and others) create the DigitalChurch.Network, an organic, decentralized network for digital expressions of church globally. Jeff also serves as the director of Metaverse Church NEXT for Leadership Network and works closely with Exponential and other globally facing, multiplication-friendly, gospel-centric organizations. Jeff married his high school sweetheart, Amy, and has two kids and a dog. They live in Miami, Florida.