Today many churches who want to embrace technology face the anti-tech side-eye. Parishioners who think devices are a distraction will often offer dirty looks. Sometimes pastors are even doing the device shaming.
It’s too bad, especially since many younger people see devices as a natural part of their everyday lives. They don’t see it as disrespectful or distracting. Instead, it’s a way for them to better engage with the service. They’re sharing what touches them on social media. They’re texting friends who need an encouraging word. They’re looking up Bible passages, comparing translations and taking notes.
Churches face a digital divide, and if they want to welcome tech-friendly visitors, they need to close that gap and welcome devices in church.
We’ve talked before about welcoming devices if you want to encourage texting in church. If you want to be a place that welcomes digital natives, you need to do some work to create a friendly atmosphere. You need to discourage the dirty looks and actually encourage proper use.
- Model proper use – One of the best ways to make a change in your church’s atmosphere is simply to model how you want people to do it. Have your pastor or church leadership use their own devices. It might be a pastor preaching from a tablet or church leaders among the congregation taking notes on their phones. Sometimes it’s as simple as seeing devices being used well.
- Set expectations – Another good practice is to directly state your expectations. Maybe your pastor reminds people to silence their phones before the sermon, but still encourages them to tweet. You could do the same thing with a worship slide or note in the bulletin. Or when asking the congregation to pull out their Bibles, mention devices and Bible apps.
- No judging – Sometimes you might need to remind people, gently, not to judge. Who knows if someone hunched over their phone is texting a friend and ignoring the service, or if they’re taking notes or reading a Bible app. Sometimes that distraction might be important—their friend might be in crisis and responding right now is more important than the sermon.
- Marketing campaign – It might even require a marketing campaign to change minds. The United Methodist Church created a video showcasing how texting in church works. Morning Star Church in O’Fallon, Mo., uses texting during the service to take questions, and it creates a more engaging atmosphere, especially for younger people.
“Texting, honestly, is an incredible opportunity to do pastoral care,” says Morning Star’s Rev. Mike Schreiner.
You just need to help your congregation accept new methods and new approaches.
To learn more about using text messaging for churches? Contact TextMarks at 800-696-1393 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.