The Cell Phone Monster

Cell phones are becoming more of a nuisance in youth ministry.  It is not that I am against having a cell phone, nor do I think they are inherently evil.  What bothers me is how they seem to take precedence over anything that is going on right in front of people.  I have been in meetings with students, that they set up with me, and they will stop and answer their cell phone when it rings.   Where does this need for constant outside connection come in when there are people present with whom to interact?

There are a lot of opinions as to how to handle it in a youth group setting.  In my youth group we have, at times, left it up to the students to police themselves on it.  That has proven to work sometimes, but not all the time.  We have always banned them during sessions on retreats and at conferences.  Too many times I have been behind teens from other groups that were texting the entire time someone was speaking.  I know they claim they can multitask, but the reality is that if you are texting, you will miss something.   Besides, can anyone really multitask?  I guess that is a question for another post.  In my experience, just having them put the on vibrate does not solve the problem either.  If the phone is vibrating, it seems that they are compelled to at least look at it.

What is especially amusing to me is how many times I hear, “oh, it might be my mom.”  Really?!  Your mom is calling you during youth group?  I don’t know how many teenagers really would want to admit that.  The newest thing is the Bible App on their phone that they want to use.  I have hesitantly allowed it with the stipulation that if this App leads them to texting or Facebook, then we need to turn it off.  In general, it appears having the phone in hand is too great a temptation for many.

In response to the increasing distraction, we have set up a basket for cell phones during youth group.  This was communicated to parents and has gone well so far.  I read another blog and was amazed at the negative reaction they experienced with it.  As one student in our group put it, “it is only like an hour, you will live,”  I couldn’t have said it better myself.   We only had a few people that were really against it, but with positive peer pressure, have become open to it.    The message for them is not that we want to take away their phones because we are mean.   What we want is for them to be completely engaged in what God might want them to hear right in front of them.

And, adults, the same goes for us too!  We must know when to disconnect and do it.



  1. Derek,
    My oldest son is 21, however he’s a little behind. For this reason, he routinely attended youth services at one of the large churches in town. One Sunday, the leadership started using a basket as you stated. My son got mad because he felt they were being mean to him, after all, he’s an adult. For almost 1 month he didn’t go back. 2 weeks ago he returned, and to his dismay, was asked to leave the youth service, because they had “age appropriate services” that he could attend. He came to me, then to our pastor and then to our associate pastor hoping to get sympathy, however all he got was a resounding ” It’s time to grow up!” Sad, but true, and time. as for my phone and Bible Study, it stays in the vehicle. No temptation there. God Bless You, Grant

    1. I could see how taking a cell phone away could be seen as mean. We communicate it to them that this is a way to help them, not baby them. I don’t want to belittle them, but I also want to help remove temptation. This is about making disciples of Jesus Christ and self control is certainly an important piece of that. It is tricky, though, especially if there are visitors. I wouldn’t take a visitor’s phone away, but would make the announcement about turning them off.

  2. He had been attending this group for 4 years, so he wasn’t a visitor. And his parents, US, had instructed all 4 children on the proper use and respect of phones and computers. Call me over-bearing if you must, but at my house these 2 items spend the night on the dining room table. If not, they would be on all night.

  3. I believe that we need to encourage one another to treat the other with honour and respect.

    Honouring one another is turning the tv off to talk (not glancing at it all the time), turning the phone off when we have a planned get together, not answering the home phone during dinner or when you have guests, making choices to control one’s time … it is the only resource that is non-renewable … time … and in choosing not to answer the phone when I have someone over is confirming to them that “this time is for you … you are important”.

    More importantly I believe is doing it for your spouse and children … I have offended people when I have not texted back immediately because I have been giving my 4 year old uninterupted time … multitasking is not possible … in fact your mind flicks between the two things not resting and absorbing either thing … and if the King of Kings and Lord of lords turns off … I sure want to receive as much as I possibly can … great leadership choices – your youth group are fortunate to have you… just wish adults had to put their phones away too 🙂 …

    1. You are right. I have been at a business and they have been interrupted by a phone call. I think the person standing right in front of them should take precedence over the phone. We also need to be willing to disconnect. I have a day off during the week and I don’t answer my cell phone on that day. Dinner is a time that we don’t answer the phone because we have voice mail and it can wait.

      By the way, the adults that help with the youth group, at least, put their phones away as well. At other times, I can’t police it. Thanks for your input.

  4. I’ve had my staff playing with their cellmphones during meetings! They’re way old enough to know better. I finally told them if it happened again their phones would have to stay at their desks. I was appalled at their lack of respect.

    1. I think what gets to me is how acceptable this has become. I have a follow-up post coming on this one because I see a lot of it. The concern I have is that people are getting so involved with their gadgets that they are missing out on the world around them.

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