texting in church

textingSome of the volunteers in my high school ministry have recently expressed their concerns about students who are texting during our gatherings. When I’m up front teaching I can easily see their glowing faces in the dark room. I’d like to think that it’s some sort of Jesus-esque transfiguration glow going on but… probably not.

Here’s the tricky part for me: I do think that texting in church is a bit uncouth. It sometimes comes across as rude, and even a little bit offensive at times. It usually means that the person isn’t paying attention.

I have a confession though: I’m a church-texter too.

Not only that, but I texted all day long in my classes at ASU, and I fully intend to text during my classes at Fuller Seminary (where I start next month!!!).

If you go to an online service at LifeChurch or NewSpring you are encouraged to join in the ongoing chat room. Is that the same? It can be if the students are texting about what’s going on in the room. I think that sometimes the students might NEED to text (moms and dads might be texting them).

I would rather my students didn’t text, but I understand that sometimes they might need to.

The bottom line for me: I’m absolutely thrilled that my students choose to come to hang out with us every week. Texting, while it can be a distraction, is probably the least of my worries.

So… do YOU text in church? Do church-texters make you angry? Do you imagine yourself running across the room, snatching the phone out of the texters hand and smashing it on the ground? Do you need counseling?

24 thoughts on “texting in church”

  1. I believe that, in that kind of setting, texting is a problem. About 95% of those kids are texting their friends and not their parents.

    Now I will admit that I too am guilty of texting with my friends in church every now and then. However, it doesn’t pull my attention from whoever is speaking. I can still concentrate on the message while having a disjointed conversation with a friend. Talking I doubt this is the case with those high schoolers but I could be wrong. I’d say talking with the person sitting right next to them would be a more pressing issue.

    If you are really concerned about it, buy a couple of these: http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.13233 and have a couple of your interns sit spread throughout the room or stick them on the bottom of a chair with them on. Then no one can text (or receive calls for that matter); problem solved!

  2. i think texting in church is a rude thing to do. I don’t think its to much for God to ask for your undivided attention for an hour a week and plus its distracting to people around you. I understand that things come up and need a quick answer but I believe 95 percent or more of the text messages received in church or at least high school group do not need immediate responses.

    just my thoughts.

  3. Chris, I’m sure you deserved it. 😉

    Paul, I knew that those devices existed but I hadn’t seen one yet. Brilliant!

    Sean, I totally agree buddy.

  4. I think texting is totally rude in church. It is just like passing notes was back in the day! It distracts those around them as well. I’m glad students come either way but I think they have the ability to pay attention as least two hours a week without being distracted and we should encourage them that direction. Multitasking in every area of life does not need to happen… sometimes we need to be still and know He is God. I don’t text in church but I did get on email during my grad classes and do work when the prof was terrible. So I’m a little bit hypocritical but I think church space is more sacred than school. Cell jammers are cool, but if there was a real emergency, it could be a problem if people couldn’t dial out.

  5. usually i don’t bring my phone or i turn it off. the one time a week that i do. i find it easier just to focus on that hour and a half.

  6. Mike, ya that safety issue is exactly why nobody uses them (well, that’s why none of the youth pastors I know don’t use them). I’m with ya on the sacredness and how it can be a distraction.

    Tyler, they have electricity in Oregon?

  7. I too have been guilty of church-texting. But it was kind of a strange circumstance–and I felt really bad afterward. I feel I’ve repented since… I think the right thing to do would be to excuse oneself from the worship area if texting needs to be done. Though I’m not sure all students can discern when that’s proper/improper.

    There are ways of putting texting to use IN church. Sites like pollanywhere.com allow people to text in questions/comments. I had been a part of a worship service where people texted in joys they wanted to share and the texts were displayed. Kinda cool.

  8. First, you asked, I’m going to answer. Honestly, why don’t we ask kids to turn off their phones? Because we don’t want to be the bad guy? Maybe we think that kids won’t like us if we put some sort of restriction on their actions. Kids need boundaries. We shouldn’t be afraid to give them boundaries. They may look like they they’re mini-adults, but left on their own, very few act appropriately. Part of our job, in youth ministry, is to help them learn to discern. Texting in church is rude. I don’t want to do it, I don’t want my kids to do it, and really, I would appreciate it if they would get that message from the leadership.

    “The bottom line for me: I’m absolutely thrilled that my students choose to come to hang out with us every week. Texting, while it can be a distraction, is probably the least of my worries.”

    Asking kids not to text is not going to make a kid decide he’s not coming to church anymore. There needs to be a level of respect for God, church, and you, the leader. If they don’t respect you, they’re not coming. When a kid can do whatever they want, when the boundaries are blurry, they tend to not respect you.

    Plus, there are kids who really want to learn, and to listen, and those texting kids are getting in their way. Who should we cater to? Those kids who want to really be there mentally? or the ones who want to check out mentally?

    I’ve sat with those kids who are frustrated because of the texting or talking. They’re the ones you’re in danger of loosing if you don’t address the situation.

    I don’t even think Melissa was at Calvary when this happened, but I have seen kids get up in the middle of a Wednesday night, and tell kids to stop talking and to show some respect, on more than one occasion.

    Why are we there? It’s not a just a social event. Don’t treat it like that’s all it is. Ask kids to be responsible and respectful and turn off their phones.

    There. I said it.

  9. Cathy,

    I like what you’re saying, and i agree.

    And so we’re all on the same page: Just because it is one of the least of my concerns doesn’t mean it should go unaddressed.

    Thanks for chiming in. Well, 7 paragraphs is more than a “chime” I suppose.

  10. I agree 100% with Cathy. When you become a parent, your whole view of life changes. Helping to “train up a child in the way they should go” becomes your constant focus. It will change your life and how you view things. Instantly, this will all make sense – setting boundaries for behavior and then enforcing what you say you are going to do. If we let our kids do whatever they wanted, they would never learn respect for other people, or other people’s things.

    For just one hour a week . . . (Ok 75 minutes) . . . on THE most important day of the week — the day we worship God . . . can’t we turn off the distractions and give Him our full attention and the respect that He deserves while the Word is being proclaimed? THAT’s what our high schooler’s need modeled for them and sometimes we have to get out there and say it and tell them why. Without telling them the “why” it comes across as controlling. But when you give them the “why” — maybe even teach a series on worship — we just might see those same cell phones being turned off. It’s worth a try.

    If texting is that important to people, I agree with RyanD; please excuse yourself, especially if it’s an emergency. Most texting is not an emergency. We never had this problem . . . “back when I was in high school.” 🙂

    We love you Ryan G! We appreciate your honesty and the way you listen to the staff.

  11. T’was only a matter of time until you found this post Steve 🙂 I knew you would. I appreciate what you have to say.

    We told the students to knock it off tonight. Right after we played a game that revolved around texting. And then right before we asked them to sign up for our new text-messaging notifications hahaha!

  12. Ok…I gotta get in on this one….:) Text messaging is a major way our students communicate with each other. A lot of them don’t even talk on the phone anymore….they text. Regardless of how detrimental that might be for their communication skills…texting in church today is like talking. Yes, it is rude to talk/text while someone is talking or at a time that is inappropriate. I think we need to address texting in church the same way we address talking in church. It is a constant issue that needs constant reminding. I don’t think students rebelliously text to disrespect the leadership or God. They text because they want to talk. Just like they whisper because they can’t keep their comment inside for another 20 minutes.

    If you say that every time I have to say “shhh” to a kid it means that they don’t have respect for the leadership than we might as well close our high school doors due to disrespect and consider the 5 previous HS pastors disrespected by students.

    I do think it needs to be addressed, but with as much love and intentionality as we address talking. Sometimes we have to get up in front of everyone and tell them that they are being rude, and sometimes (most of the time) we give them a nod and a wink and tell them to be quiet, or we take them aside after and ask them to not talk or be distracting etc. There is not one way to deal with this issue. There are a bunch of ways that are right for a bunch of different times.

    If we choose to let this issue become so incredibly frustrating that we right off all of our kids as altogether rude and disrespectful, and our leadership as timid and only there to pander to the affections of students, then we might need a bit of perspective.

    I am not going to die on this hill with students. We had an incident where a leader got frustrated and confiscated a few phones because they had “enough of the texting”. Well, those phones belonged to students who were there for the very first time. Not a great first impression. I am not going to collect phones at the door or have our welcome slide be a reminder to turn off cell phones.

    We will absolutely address it as a whole group, individually, and when we see it happen. However, this issue needs some perspective. I don’t see anyone getting all steamed over kids passing in church or drawing on the offering envelope. Yes, they need to be reminded to pay attention because what they are missing is something they need…but “there is nothing new under the sun.”

    My conclusion…texting is rude and distracting and should be addressed, like any other rude distracting thing a student does. It is and will continue to be addressed without any fear of “not being liked”.

  13. Melissa, I am there almost every Sunday, and about 25% of Wednesday nights, and I haven’t seen it addressed. I could be missing it…glad you mentioned it on Wednesday. I don’t think it needs to be a big deal, no lecture required, just a quick reminder to turn it off or put it away.

    and don’t roll your eyes at me. 🙂

  14. haha…well I think we address it on an individual basis every single week/twice a week. We can always address it more from the front to help create a culture where it feels uncomfortable to be rude.

    And about the eye rolling that you could sense through the internet :)…it was directly related to the comments about being “afraid of boundaries”. Seriously?

  15. i must admit i text in church. but, recently cardinal edgan in NY wants to ban all cell phones in churchs because too many people are texting or cell phones ringing.

  16. Come on, it’s one hour a week people. FOCUS. It’s God we are talking about here, are you serious? Can we not leave the world and it’s affairs long enough to fellowship and praise without such distractions? (Don’t worry, the world will be there when you get back!) I make my youth check their phones in/out. NO EXCEPTIONS!

  17. It’s idolatry, pure and simple. Paying more attention to electronic devices than God. Throw the things in the trash or at least leave them at home. I don’t even have a cell phone and my spiritual life hasn’t suffered. Another sign that “in the world but not of the world” is just a cliche that Christians don’t take seriously. They see what the world involves itself in, and rush to do the same thing. I’ll spare you my rant on powerpoint presentations in church, but you can imagine how it goes.

  18. EVERYONE ALL TOGETHER NOW! If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands *clap*clap* if you’re happy and you know it clap your hands………

  19. OMG People – get real! I hope that since this article was written you have come to your senses. I am reminded of Johnny Carson’s response to a woman who wrote that his late-night show was ruining her sex life becase of her husband watching the show at bedtime. JC (hmmm funny coincidence) said to her “put on a better show than I do!” If we as chuch leaders put in the time to prepare for excellent worship, we won’t have to worry about our kids. We have to lead by excellence, not by restriction. At this stage of social development, we perhaps should be worried if our kids are NOT texting, even in church. Use smartphones as evengelical tools, not as something to be feared. The only non-sin fear is our fear of God. Let that drive our desire to raise our kids right, not what they might or might not be texting to their friends in church.

  20. Not sure how to respond to this one. I keep deleting everything I want to say. I’m just not a huge fan of blogging any more. These sorts of rebuttals belong face-to-face.

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