International (MNN) — Teen Second
Life is an online 3D virtual world. It's
a universe brimming with people and possibilities. Youth For Christ's Scott
Arnold agrees. "We felt, as Youth
For Christ, it's our calling to be where the kids are."
Although YFC has been following the social
trends through Instant Messaging, blogging, and the Social Networking phenomena,
the ministry team felt the communication platforms were unwieldy and slow.
Then, about eight months ago, YFC
launched an online club that grew into one of the most popular areas in that virtual
Today, Arnold says, there are nearly
500 kids regularly coming to Bible study that wouldn't otherwise. "The
vast majority, I think, we're tracking somewhere between 75-80-percent of those
teens are not Christian kids."
It's not the first foray into
virtual community. Three years ago, YFC created an evangelism handbook for Christians
who are already members of Second Life. It was designed to help Christians speak the"‘lingo" or
understand how to talk to another avatar in a very friendly way, bringing up
the things of Christ, living out life in that Second Life as a Christian.
The handbook is the Luke 10 model of
how to share the Gospel. It teaches readers how to transform virtual
relationships into real relationships.
However, for those who are already familiar with the
protocols of Teen Second Life, there's still
a lot of ground to cover. Fortunately, establishing trust doesn't seem to be
holding their team back.
Meeting "face-to-face" in Teen
Second Life means that the Gospel is coming into contact with young people from
all walks of life. Arnold says real-time
online chat in virtual reality, along with the anonymity, creates close
relationships without masks.
As a result, "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."
There is one problem: "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." They're looking for believers
to mentor these kids, really, becoming virtual missionaries. Click
here for details if you want to help.