If you’re anything like me, you’re probably of two minds when it comes to the subject of cell phones in youth ministry.
Your first mind is telling you that Millennials are an ever more connected generation and that cell phones are a reality of life. We ignore them at our own risk! We should be harnessing the power of texting to keep our kids informed! We should have them use their cell phones to play games! You probably roll your eyes when older people complain about teenagers and their texting and tell you about how back in their day if you wanted to tell someone something you got your lazy butt up, hitched a ride on the back of a triceratops, went to their cave, and told them yourself. Or something like that… you’re really not paying attention to them while you check your Facebook messages on your iPhone.
Your second mind is telling you that you would like to get through ONE STINKING BIBLE STUDY without someone trying to hide their cell phone under the couch pillow and multitask! Dude, I know what you’re doing! No one looks down and smiles at their crotch that much! For the love of God… FOCUS!
Let me suggest something that will put both of your minds at ease: a cell phone box. Be totally cool with kids bringing their cell phones to youth group or on the retreat (since they’re going to whether you’re cool with it or not) and save yourself the headache of constantly having to police a no cell phone policy and having to deal with the objections of your students and their parents (The parents are the worst about this! “What if something were to happen?”, they say ominously, imagining some doomsday scenario inwhich your entire group is stranded in a post-apocalyptic hellscape where every form of communication has been knocked out by the terminators except for their child’s cell phone). You could even use them to play games with, but when it’s serious time or together time… have everyone, yourself included, put their cell phones in a box until that time has passed.
This strategy has been VERY effective for my ministry. Here are some pros for the box strategy:
- You don’t come off as anti-cell phone. If anything, you’re showing kids that you are totally cool with their “precious” by accepting them during other times. Students are fine when they know they will get their phones back in twenty minutes.
- You’re leading by example! When students see you relinquishing your cell phone, they understand that this is a value to you. You are giving them your undivided attention so they should return the courtesy.
- The box can mark a clear transition between fun time and serious time. We pass the box like an offering plate. It’s amazing how the group just naturally settles down when they relinquish control of their screens.
- The students like it! The same kids that were hesitant at first are the ones that remind me if we forget to pass the box. The kids are so used to having the divided attention of people in their lives, even adults, because of the new world we live in that it is refreshing to have the undivided attention of their peers for a short time.
- You can avoid being THAT group at the big youth conference. You know the one I’m talking about. The speaker is making this big life changing point and they’re all playing Fruit Ninja! I like to bring the box along on conferences and let the parents know ahead of time when their kids will be “going dark”!
There you have it, my fool-proof plan for welcoming cell phones into your ministry! Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to stop blogging. My senior pastor has been talking to me for longer than usual and I’m starting to think it may be important.
Do you use a cell phone box in YOUR ministry? How do you incorporate this new technology into your programs?