This whole cell phone in church thing… bigger than just distractions

cellphone-3.gifI wanted to do a whole post dedicated to this idea of what our community worship experience might be like in regards to distractions like cell phones and kids. I know people may feel strongly about this and I wonder if we thought about our understanding of God and how he is present to us, whether it might inform our feelings about noise in our “service.” My thoughts on this have been greatly effected by my experiences at Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis, where we say, leave your cell phones on… God might have an important message for you from someone who is calling, and please be sure to answer it if it rings. Also, if a child is crying, we will stop and listen because every voice is valued in our community. Every voice. The idea is that if we are going to come together and bring our lives together, celebrating who we are and what is happening in the far corners of our city, we don’t want to put all that life aside and pretend that it doesn’t have a significant effect on how we worship together.

cellphone-6.gifIt seems that if we think of our worship time as something where information is imparted on us (scripture, the pastor’s insight, music, drama, whatever…), than any distraction from that process is a bad thing. Our “services” really are geared up for this sort of interaction. The voices that are valued are the people who have the microphone. Everyone is facing one person. We are sitting in chairs and in a way that is made for receiving. At Solomon’s Porch, our setting was more like a living room. Lots of couches, everyone sitting in the round. We were forced to see each other. Every voice is valued because we believe that God speaks through us all and through each other’s lives. Because of this cell phones and kids are not a big deal. Granted there is an element of respect that is needed… but we hope to not negate the life that each person brings to our gathering.

cellphone-11.gifBeyond it being a matter of how we view our weekly worship times and what we think about community values, this idea of God speaking to us is very important. I wonder if our weekly worship times are the best places for us to learn how to worship God in silence. First, I think that the silence through which we experience God is often times more an internal silence and peace than an external state of being. This is something that should perhaps be considered and practiced in a much more intentional setting than a hustle and bustle worship gathering. Also, God’s speaking to us is not something that we get to tailor and manipulate into our own comfortable preference… Think about it. What is the first thing that comes to our minds when we are in the middle of a prayer and someone’s phone goes off? Do we think, “Ugh… turn that off! How dare they forget to set it to vibrate!!” Or can we warmly smile and let them know that that’s okay… go ahead and answer it. I mean what if someone really needs them to answer it?

cellphone-9.gifMy main point here is that there are a lot of reasons why we insist on people putting their phones off. There are a lot of reasons why we want kids to shut up. Many of these reasons are unconscious, but when we think about it, perhaps we find it to be very revealing of how we think about God God’s-self. I am very interested in others’ thoughts about all this. Maybe one question that may help is to think about it is that we are afraid of when it comes to cell phones, kids, etc. What’s at risk?


7 thoughts on “This whole cell phone in church thing… bigger than just distractions

  1. Good stuff. Definitely wasn’t thinking about it that way with your original post. I can honestly say the Lord HAS used a cell phone to speak to me in the past (though not in church), so maybe I should have thought about that before writing my previous comments.

    Obviously the Bible couldn’t deal with cell phones as they are modern inventions, but the passage that still sticks out to me is the one where Paul talks about people speaking in tongues waiting their turn and not speaking unless it edified the body.


  2. Well, I actually would prefer to find church that is communal in feeling rather than ‘wisdom being imparted by the man behind the mike”.

    And while I don’t mind a crying baby or a child who interjects, I was speaking more for the child who runs up to every person and basically does the “look at me! look at me! routine”.

    I STILL believe that all of us (children and parents) need to learn that there’s a time and a place and an order for many things. I think though, that I am probably comparing this to the children you see running around their table and standing at the edge of your table, staring at you while you eat breakfast at the Original Pancake House. This is NOT the time and place… thank you sweetheart, now back to your own table and perhaps your mommy might take some time out of her busy conversation to remind you that there are public manners which should be minded.

    Yeah. I’m mean. But only because we taught our kids about “inside voice”, “please don’t stare” and “say please and thank you”. So I’m jaded. 😉

    I don’t want a church that’s mean or stilted, but good heavens, your darling coughing down the back of my neck while you “enjoy the service” could perhaps be avoided.

    And maybe that’s the problem.. not the child, but the parent (often older) who feels that everyone is as enamored with their darling as they are. Like the friend who allowed her children to stand on the arm of my couch and jump because they’re allowed to do that at home. Not cool.

    Have I rambled on enough? 🙂 And I leave my cell phone on in church by the way.


  3. Funny that you posted this today. We had our small group tonight and had the kids running around and making noise. It gave me a fresh perspective on things. Thanks Nate!


  4. Hey, no problem, Andy. I’m glad that things looked a little different after thinking about this.

    And thanks for all the feedback. I love hearing the process that people go through as we consider the notion that God may speak to us in bigger ways than we have ever considered before.


  5. For the record: small group + running kids = whole different story

    Like I said, it’s the whole “there’s a time and a place”


  6. I think that the church, particularly the conservative, right wing, evangelical, what-have-you type church, has been notoriously synomous with punitive parenting. Authoritarian, reactive, punishing parenting. Now I think that “kids programming” definitely has it’s place, I think that much of it comes from a lack of desire to have families worshiping & learning together. “Keep the kids out of the service so I’m not distracted and so they’re not bored.”

    But yah. I am conflicted. And I’m definitely not a ‘one rule applies to all situations & people.’ But I do know that if I’m sitting down to have a conversation with someone, I won’t answer my phone (if I’m possibly expecting a call fr my kids, that is my exception). It’s because I value you and respect you and want to hear what you’re saying. If the person calling needs to get word to me, they can leave a voicemail.

    That probably is contradictory, though … you’ve been in my house multiple times and my kids are usually going all ape and crazy, aren’t they? Living (or parenting) with the end in mind, though, one of my goals is to help them learn how to treat others respectfully, whether it’s setting the distractions aside for a time, or not wrestling them down. My two older kids used to go all crazy when people came over. It’s been a while since either of them started wrestling in the living room with strangers. 😉


  7. Howdy this is kinda of off topic but I was wanting to know if blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually code with HTML. I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding expertise so I wanted to get guidance from someone with experience. Any help would be enormously appreciated!


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