Identity and Expression, Second Life

Religious Groups Claim Space in Virtual Worlds

One of the main objectives of any religious group is expanding its flock. Whether this has been achieved through the non-violent approach of missionary work or through more violent recruitment, the ultimate goal is outreach.

The Bridge Church, a small outfit in Jacksonville, Florida, believes that a virtual world can help to reach new members. It will use space in the larger Universe of Faith (UOF) virtual environment in order to connect with people in South Africa, Africa and the Caribbean while supporting relief efforts and training church leaders. At the same time, the ministry will try to broaden its local ministry through UOF.

While UOF has yet to launch its software-free product, “UOF has equipped me with a virtual pulpit that I can use to launch ministry efforts to those worldwide that are in desperate need of support, insight and comfort,” said Pastor Campbell, in a statement.

Elsewhere, a Colorado-based church group called Youth for Christ USA developed its Teen Second Life presence about eight months ago and now counts upwards of 500 young people who attend Bible study, according to the Mission Network News, many of whom are not Christian.

The YFC SL site follows on the group’s evangelism handbook distributed three years ago for users already signed up in SL that helped users’ avatars speak to one another in a friendly, religious way.

“We’ve had a sizeable number of kids make first-time decisions to become followers of Jesus. We’ve had kids make decisions to get off of drugs, get out of gang life, get out of very difficult circumstances,” said Scott Arnold of Youth for Christ.

However, Arnold notes that his group has hit the technological threshold.

“We’re looking at the technology side trying to figure out how to scale this and how to be able to engage more people. We’ve got something that’s working, and the technology has become the upper limit,” he told Mission Network News.


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