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The Great Cell Phone Debate

 —  November 8, 2013 — 7 Comments

cell phones

I’ve been on both sides of this debate:

To allow or not allow students to use technology during programming?

Before the age of the smart phones, & tablets it honestly used to be an easier answer.  If they had a phone or handheld gaming system in hand, they were distracted.  Leave it home or hand it over.

The heart of the matter is that we want students fully engaged.  In a world that is so driven by being “plugged in,” it’s actually nice to teach them how to disconnect and focus for a period of time.

Up until very recently my total answer was NO to allowing any tech use during our time together. Smartphone, tablet, computer- nope.

I went the “bucket” method of asking them to hand them over the moment they walked in the door.  I tried the “If I see it, I keep it method.”  Then I realized that even though I put verses on a screen, passed out printed copies of the passages or went the *GASP* “Old- School” route of actually passing out Bibles, many of my students weren’t reading or studying at home.  Good or bad, whether I agree or not, pulling out a “book” at home felt like school to them.  Many tried and if they didn’t understand something they just gave up.  They felt embarassed it didn’ make sense to them.   What I realized was that I wanted them to start READING their Bible daily ON THEIR OWN, beyond their time with me.   This meant for our group, for this time, changing strategy and meeting them in “their world.”

I realized how in my own life my children see me reading my Bible on an app more often than in a hardbound copy.  So I allowed them “in.”

Here is what we did:

  • Clear Guidelines

 No headphones ever. They come out of the ears the moment they walk through the door.  Cell phones and tablets are away during non-small group times.  If we see them, they use a handout during discussion times.  We ask them to “turn off” all “push notifications” during study time.  This way we can ensure they are “just” in the Bible app, we still ask them to take notes by hand.

  • Create Interaction:

This has been a great way to teach student’s how to find answers to questions.  I’m working on using this time as a way to find verses, commentaries and ideas.  They want to know the “why” of something? Don’t take my word  or the leaders word for it,  let’s take  a look at the commentaries, dictionaries, and studies.

  • Go One Step Further

I work with a mix of churched and unchurched students.  This can create a gap in who knows where what is in the Bible.   The techno method creates an inclusive environment to all participating.  Then I am giving them ways to look through things at home.  They can’t tell me they “lost it,” unless they deleted it.  I use “text-otions.”  Each day they get a thought and a link to a scripture to check out.

Is this a work in progress?  Absolutely.  I may have a group that can’t handle it in the future and they may have to go away.  Does everyone even HAVE a phone?  Nope.  So we have to have handouts still and other methods so students can engage.  On trips I do remove the distraction except for pictures and once a day to check in at home.

For me I realized I was living in fear of the one that would “take advantage.”  It’s not perfect- but I decided to try.

What about you?  What side do you land on this one.



Leneita Fix

Leneita Fix


Leneita Fix is the Director of Ministry Development for Aslan Youth Ministries, a family focused urban ministry serving Monmouth County New Jersey and Haiti. She has been working in some form of youth and family ministry for almost 22 years. In addition she has launched the coaching and resource organization, Front Line Urban Resources with Jeffrey Wallace serving those who work with families living in survival mode. The early years were spent in camp ministry, suburban and rural youth groups. With the Lord’s moving the last 17 of those years have been spent ministering in three different urban areas to primarily unchurched families (New Jersey, Virginia, Florida back to New Jersey). Her responsibilities have included Bible based program direction for children ages 5-18, curriculum writing, staff training and recruiting, discipleship, resource creation and speaking to national audiences. Her passion is to raise up workers in practical, relationship-driven methods while remaining in the trenches with the youth and families she loves. Her goal is to help others understand every student living in a survival mindset can and will be transformed in Christ. One of her greatest joys is serving in ministry as a family with her husband three wonderful children, and her niece. Simply she resides among her friends in the city just living life as a family that loves being there. You can contact her at leneitafix@aslanyouth.org.

7 responses to The Great Cell Phone Debate

  1. Currently I’m in the ‘bucket’ stage. The youth in our group are just entering into the early junior high years so many don’t have cell phones yet, however they do have iPods. This has been working well so far for us but I can see how it can be distracting.
    I do agree in your point about going into ‘their world’. I recently heard that we are actually living in their world as we speak and we need to learn how to live there if we want to reach them and empower them.

    • Leneita Fix

      Believe me Dale I get it. It’s a hard call. We have several kids who have ipods or tablets but no phone as well. This is a great experiment and we are trying to see how it will work!!

  2. Those are some great ideas! I have a prob with taking up phones, esp in high school, they should learn to control themselves. But I can def see using technology in the class setting

  3. I have always used technology in an interactive way. ‘Everybody pull out your phones and do…’ Usually it’s a survey, sign up for text messaging blast, or give them my number or a particular number they need. I also keep the wifi on and unlocked for them to use, this way they can choose to be responsible or not, and if I see one student having a problem with it, then I pull them aside and ask them to no use there technology during youth anymore. I’m quickly learning if I keep them engaged, interested and entertained on what’s happening during service, the phones and tablets don’t have as much influence. I have even texted students to put there phones away during worship, small group, etc. They usually smile, and quietly slip there phone into there pocket.

    • Leneita Fix


      LOVE IT!! Pulling them aside is great as you figure out how to teach them to use this in a way that will work with them!

  4. Christianprincess November 12, 2013 at 10:54 pm

    It is a toss up. I used to be the bucket, especially on Sunday morning, but I am starting to waver. Several times i have said put the phone away only to see one of them using their Bible app on their phone to keep up with the message or the lesson during Bible Study. By the same token, I have seen just as many playing games or texting during the worship hour. I am not sure where I stand, but I do know that technology will be a part of the evolution of our churches for generations to come. It may be time to adjust to this fact in and outside of the worship hour.

    • Leneita Fix

      I know it’s so hard. I waver as well. I am “trying” it right now because I feel like it’s time, but we’ll see. Then I know for myself when I get bored in church, I can be just as guilty of the desire to answer emails or surf FB.

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