Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Texting in Church

Context here. I'm not on LJ, and have no desire to create an account just to comment.

So, texting in church?

Not surprisingly, the immediate reaction is a collective gasp of shock and horror.

Permit me to disagree.

Why? Well...

First, an experience--real one--where a member used her phone to text her husband (who'd stayed home to watch golf, I believe) to tell him to GO GET CLEANED UP AND COME TO THE SECOND SERVICE because he would really, really, really want to hear it. It was nearly the end of the first service and if she'd waited to leave after the service, turn on the phone and call... he'd never have made it.

When a sick teen stays home, this is a way of being able to be "there" for them.

One can't be sure what's being texted, or why. How is this any different--or more distracting--than someone whipping out a pen and scribbling notes? Maybe they're catching words that are incredibly important--or scribbling furious refutations.

Key concerns (in each case, and anything related): it needs to be discreet and quiet. As someone who's been in the pulpit preaching about race issues when a person of color, in the front row, closed her eyes and lay her head down*, there are vastly worse distractions than someone discreetly texting. Trust me, anyone who's feeling "disrespected" because someone is doing something that MIGHT imply distraction is simply too full of concern about the import and significance of what they're saying.

A sermon is a conversation of sorts--in which the preacher is invited in... and doesn't hear the other half (the critical part!) of what goes on. You've worked like hell to organize the message you're preaching and you have to assume that people will hear that... in their own ways. Sometimes, something triggers in the mind that you could never imagine--like the fact that someone forgot to get cat food, or pick up milk--or medicine--and being able to text that to someone else to deal with means that it's dealt with and the listener, now unburdened, can come back to attend to what's being spoken about.

If people are coming to church and texting--and keep coming back--I'll assume that they're getting what they need. I'm really not hung up about whether it looks respectful to someone who isn't paying attention to what I'm saying because they're worrying about whether that person texting is being disrespectful. I'd rather that people attend as best they can, as they need to for themselves. But then, I'd rather have people there, even if not dressed "for church," too.

* -- As it turns out, she finds watching a sermon highly distracting; caught up in that, she doesn't hear it as well. So, caught by what I was saying--and agreeing--she shut the world out to be able to focus.


Chalicechick said...

Also, for those of us with iphones and Blackberries, it's not impossible that we're googling the author you just mention or buying the book you talked about from Amazon Mobile.

ogre said...

Or sending the office manager an email asking for a copy of the CD of the service, or a copy of the text--for the retro.

goodwolve said...

I think the key is not to be rude. If you are madly texting and being loud or obviously distracting then that probably creates a disturbance for your congregation. Otherwise go for it. Scribble in notebooks, text, listen, whatever... it is your experience too and if you are engaged in the words and the moment do what you need to do.

uumomma said...

Here's an example: the day of the Knoxville shooting, someone received a text in the midst of the service and we were able to make an announcement and have a special moment of silence. I don't allow my daughters to text in church, but I do allow them to read or draw. Weird. Just a weird prejudice of mine.

Cynthia Landrum said...

I've often handed my daughter my phone or PDA for her to scribble on the notepad in order to keep her quiet in other venues, so having the phone out in church doesn't seem any more problematic to me than coloring sheets. I've had people do crossword puzzles, take notes, knit... one even used the TV guide marking what he wanted to watch for the week. All of these people would say that these activities helped them to focus or concentrate. So if the texting is either interactive with the sermon or focusing your attention, I think that's fine. When it distracts yourself, or others, not so great. The worst, however, would be if it's to keep yourself from boredom! I think that's the preacher's real fear when one of us sees the person doing any of these! :)