Carolyn P. Simoneaux, Ed.D.
Do you have a Bible app or your phone or tablet? I do, and I love it. My Bible is with me everywhere I go and the search engine is especially useful. Is this a good or bad thing? No inanimate object is bad in itself. It is the user of the object that determines whether it is bad or good. I heard a sermon recently that talked about “the proof is in the pudding”, but went further and said, “the proof is in the eating” (Scott Graham, June 2017). The proof of the benefit or negativity of technology is in the doing – how it is used.
I recently saw a picture containing a group of young people on the front row of church totally engaged in their technology. Behind them was a man engrossed in his phone. When did this become a common practice in church?
I was recently in a church and watched a parent give a tablet to their three-year-old. No, this wasn’t a tablet made of paper, but a sophisticated piece of technology loaded with games, cartoons, and even movies. The child became oblivious to what was going on around him, as he played the game on the tablet. Someone told me that they observed a child in a church service with headphones on as they watched a movie. How did this become acceptable? If a child is old enough to be able to use a tablet, he or she is old enough to benefit from what is happening in church. Parents, or future parents, I urge you to teach your child to sit quietly and listen in the main church service. If you do, they will be singing songs they hear in church rather than “Let it Go.” They will be playing the preacher, or the musician, or the praise singer, rather than a make believe super hero. Their super hero will be Jesus.
You may say that it is too hard. I know, it’s hard. I raised three children on the church pew, often with services every night of the week and twice on Sunday. They didn’t have a color book, much less an iPad. Believe me, it can be done! Those of my children’s generation who were brought up without “distractions” in church will tell you, it can be done. They are the testimony. It will take patience and consistency, but it will be worth it in the long run.
Encourage your children to participate. How young is too young to start worshipping God? Never too young. It is a beautiful thing to watch a child playing “church”. It is a proven fact that children learn from play. If they are engrossed in a screen, rather than what is happening around them in church, they will not know enough about church to role play a church service. What are your children playing?
Parents, you must set the example. Have you been guilty of texting, answering emails, even shopping online during a church service or prayer meeting? It is so convenient to have the Bible on our phone or tablet, but are we allowing ourselves to be drawn into technology use instead of being engaged in worship and active listening to the Word?
While many parents draw the line at using technology in church themselves, they ignore their child or teenager texting, or playing a game, instead of being involved in the service. Standards should be set and enforced. Parents take a stand, be the parent! TURN IT OFF yourself and expect the same from you children! If your teenager does not have the self-discipline to keep her phone off, simply require that she give it to you to keep until after church. She might get upset for a while, but thank you later for helping her build personal discipline and character. A word of caution: if you set the standard, be ready to explain the reasons behind the standard, and enforce it consistently. Setting a standard, then not enforcing it, trains a child or teenager that rules are not important, and can be broken without consequence.
I like a practice that I see in church regularly. An announcement is made on the screen before service, “Remember to turn your phone back on after service.” This is a great way to politely remind parishioners of the rudeness and unacceptable behavior of having a cell phone on in a church service. Let’s keep God’s House a place of communal worship and fellowship for all ages.