Why Your Students Shouldn't Have Their Cell Phones During Youth Group

in compare on May 13, 2013

Jeremy and I decided to write articles today about the two options Youth Groups face when it comes to cell phones at church.  I loved writing my article after his so that I could read what he said and formulate my argument based on his post. I count myself as one who loves phones; my iPhone’s charge never lasts a full day because I use my phone just that much. I’m borderline-addicted to my phone: to taking and editing pictures, to reading tweets, to just holding it in my hand and staring at it. So when my volunteers and I had the discussion of getting rid of phones during Middle School Ministry, I had a tough time because I knew that meant I had to get rid of mine during that time as well. But I’m a big fan of it. I think cell phones are a great thing; I love technology, and if I could leverage the phones that my students possess during Youth Group to further the kingdom of God, I would. I would love to have our students on their phones at Youth Group doing good. But right now, we’re not there. We’re in a place where we don’t allow phones, and I love this season, too. What led us to this decision was one clear thought: that of course phones could be leveraged for good; and of course, if students are mature and trustworthy and we know they aren’t being distracted by their phones, we’d have no problem with them having them. We’d love to know that our students were Instagramming spiritual quotes from the message and not “running with friends.” But our students aren’t at that place, especially in Middle School.

So, although our students having phones during youth group is something we want to work at, if your students aren’t ready, then the inverse is true: it is too easy for phones to distract students. 

We also noticed that only about 10% of our students were bringing their Bible with them to middle school services.  And although I’m a huge fan of Youversion and their reading plans, we want to build into students the commitment to their physical Bibles.

We realized that with students (and us as adults): There’s just something about holding a physical Bible in your hands.

Beyond literally holding it, it takes a certain level of commitment to remember to bring your Bible every week. And though we don’t equate bringing your Bible every week with spiritual maturity, it is a small victory for our Student Ministry to see a 7th grader go from never bringing their Bible to bringing it every week; it shows it’s becoming more important to them.

The third thing that helped us start this rule and enforce the no cell phone policy at Youth Group was that it alienated many in our group. We have a few students that come from very blessed families and love technology, so they come in with their iPhone 5’s and iPad mini’s. I, as a tech geek, love that. I know that a few of these students totally would be ready to take over the Youth group Instagram account if I asked them, and on a lesser scale, could totally do a lot of the sweet stuff Jeremy talked about in his post.

However, we also have a whole crop of 6th graders that aren’t allowed to have phones, or even iPod’s yet, and many students that, rightfully so, would never get an iPhone for their first phone that they are going to lose or damage.

So although it would be great to have the few who could handle technology at Youth Group and excel with it, it would also create two distinct groups within our group and alienate those without.

And so that is why, for our Middle School Ministry in this season, we don’t allow cell phones, iPods, or iPads. We have a volunteer collect them all at the beginning and students can get them back at the end. Should every Youth Group get rid of cell phones? I don’t believe so. But at the same time, I do believe more Youth Groups could set a few more realistic goals with their students’ cell phone use. We’d like to believe the best in all of our students, but they can’t all be “Jarrid Wilson-ing” it at Youth Group.
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seventy8Productions at 7:31 pm

I think that anything in middle school is a tough sell because of the stage of life they are in and so phones in youth group is a difficult thing to approach too. You are wise to be hesitant and this might be a point where only volunteers have the iPads/iPhones or student leaders during training, Bible studies, and/or discipleship should be used. I hate to completely eliminate it when it can be an amazing tool for a teen to grow spiritually, but a leader must be wise. Great article!

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seventy8Productions at 7:31 pm

I think that anything in middle school is a tough sell because of the stage of life they are in and so phones in youth group is a difficult thing to approach too. You are wise to be hesitant and this might be a point where only volunteers have the iPads/iPhones or student leaders during training, Bible studies, and/or discipleship should be used. I hate to completely eliminate it when it can be an amazing tool for a teen to grow spiritually, but a leader must be wise. Great article!

Reply
David Porath at 2:08 pm

Use it as a tool but don’t use it as the foundation. When it is time to dig into scripture, it is time to let God have the time. There is something about reading and marking up your Bible that is so much better than an app. Not to mention the eye contact…

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