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.