I recently returned from a summer mission trip where we made the unfathomable decision to collect cell phones for an entire week. A few students needed us to help them through the night sweats and uncontrollable shaking, but for the most part, by day two, all was well in the world.

We ended up having a week of deepened relationships, focused conversation, and focused service to others. Students could call their parents from the adult leaders’ cell phones but other than that, they were free…so to speak.

Three days after our trip I found myself in our local college/ young adult ministry setting. We meet in a local coffee bistro with live music and awesome discussion. My husband is the leader, so I love the ministry, 30 Below is something I look forward to every week. However, one thing was really obvious to me after having a week free of technological interruption, everyone around me (dozens of people sitting around tables) sat in this all too familiar conversation with eyes darting every few minutes to their lit up phones. Even if it was to simply “check the time”, we were all there…but not really. I started to wonder if I too, if our phones have become our safety, our fall-out plan.

I put my phone in my purse and tried my best not to look at it during the discussion. I’m already distracted enough. How do we get to know people when we are constantly holding, typing, looking, messing, and obsessing over our phones?

There’s plenty of good reasons to have constant contact with our cell phone appendage, however, when should we take a break, if only for a few minutes to connect face to face?

I would love to know what other youth leaders and people think about phones, texting, etc. in the youth setting. Restricting them can mean a loss of relationships in a program setting. How do we find a good balance? How do we convince students that there is something really cool to enter into (life) when we set them down for a little while, when it’s very hard to do ourselves?

Just thinking…as my cell phone ironically buzzes my desk.

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