Cell Phone Use at Youth Group

In our current THE SOURCE podcast (Episode #13) I promised I’d blog about it. It’s something youth leaders all deal with. We’ve heard it countless times: Every kid in our youth room has a cell phone in their pocket!
  –
How do I communicate to kids to stop texting during worship?
  – Can I say “no cell phones” on our trips?
  –
What if parents WANT their kids to have cell phones with them?

These are great questions. And, as we said in our podcast, we WANT YOU to help us answer. Here’s the situation:

In the HELP ME section of our most recent podcast, youth worker Matt from Longview, TX asked us:

Our small youth group (25-30) has taken to text-messaging on their cell phones. I’m not against cell phone use, but it has become a distraction. Have you got any ideas for boundaries/limits to cell phone use during youth group activities? Secondly, have you got any clever ideas on how to address the youth with these boundaries? Do you know of successful ways of dealing with this issue? -Matt Longview, TX, USA

In the podcast David and I shared some funny “cell phone” experiences and provided our 2 cents on the matter. The most difficult situation to figure out was what to do on trips. After all, many parents want their kids to have their cell phones so they can be reached (have you read about the epidemic of helicopter parents?). David suggested that we don’t circumvent parents’ authority on the matter, and allow cell phones. Just tell kids to not use cell phones EXCEPT to communicate with their parents.

This, of course, brought a skeptical laugh out of me. So I asked David, “How the heck do you monitor that?!!”

It’s not an easy answer. And there probably isn’t ONE answer. So… we want to hear from you.

  • How do you control cell phone use at youth group?

  • Do you allow cell phones on trips?

  • Should we put the foot down and say, “no cell phones” on trips?

  • If we allow cell phones on trips, how can we control use?

Share your 2 cents by commenting below. (and if you’re not yet a subscriber to this blog, just click on the red word “Subscribe” on the left side bar and sign up. It’s free and it will keep you current)

About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over twenty books including the brand new If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; Sex Matters; The Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket; and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers; Connect; and the 10-Minute Talks series. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.
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91 Responses to Cell Phone Use at Youth Group

  1. Ken says:

    Become friends with Jack Bauer, and borrow a scrambler from him. Shut ’em all down!

  2. Deron Henry says:

    I agree that there is probably no one answer or way to handle cell phone use. Most parents I know do want their kids to have them…especially on trips. I allow cell phone use on trips as long as once we get to our destination, I don’t see it out. For example at camp, they must keep their phone in their room at all times. If I see it I take it for the day. I know…not very creative. But it seems to work well for me.

  3. Joe says:

    I agree this is a growing issue amongst my kids too. Even when we tell them not to bring their phones on trips, they still do. And more and more parents are going against our wishes and sending phones with kids anyway!
    I’ve tried to assure parents that in this day and age, all adults have cell phones, and if their kids needed to get in touch with them, they can use any one of our phones. Also, if they need to get in touch with their child, they can call my cell phone.
    Not sure what to do about the youth group one. I don’t have kids texting in the middle of worship, but talking on them before and after youth group while they’re standing around a group of kids. I call them “anti-social devices!” So, I’ve just made it a rule that cell phones aren’t allowed during youth group.

  4. Ree says:

    We travel every year to the US and we have a policy of not allowing cell phones at all on our trips. The exceptions have been for those who will stay behind in the US after we leave. In that case we hold onto their cell phone until the end of the trip and we part ways. This no cell phone policy is stated before we leave on our trip and we as leaders provide our numbers in the case of emergency for parents. Kids are not excited about it and complain about surviving for two weeks without their precious phones. We have been blessed so far that we have not received any complaints from parents. Probably because of the joy of having a cell bill with two weeks less of calls 🙂

  5. Paul says:

    I don’t allow cell phones on trips and made the punishment pretty severe that if they brought them they would be sent home. the first year it was hard, but it has not been an issue since then. parents know all the adults have phones and are understanding, and the teens know now not bring them. Its just too big of a distraction on retreats and mission trips and conferences when you want the teens to get away and really hear God.

    Its not an issue for us during youth group, but if someone had it out we’d just ask them to put it away. They are allowed to bring them to youth group, just not on an overnight trip.

  6. Larry Nelson says:

    I have a power point announcement that clearly states “TURN OFF ALL CELL PHONES AND ALL LISTENING DEVICES. IF I HEAR THEM I WILL CONFESCATE THEM FOR DURATION OF THIS GATHERING” When we are traveling in the van or on a bus the same rule is in effect for the cell phone and I discourage use of listening devices by telling them to interact with their friends. I have had no problems with the students or their parents.

  7. Darin from Minnesota says:

    one idea that i have not used yet is to place a table out in the hall labeled “Cell Phone Parking lot” and have kids “park” there cell there. Not sure it would fly, but you never said these thoughts had to be good ones.

    the other one i do for trips is to sent a letter as i always do for trips with our contact info, arrival, departure, etc. and then say that we would like the parents to not contact their son or daughter (set specific times if you would like) but can call any one of our staff at any time during the trip to talk with their son or daughter and then i list all of our willing staff and their #’s

    db

  8. In the services they are not to be out at all.
    Only on our retreats they are all collected and given back to the youth on our return, all the parents are given the Youth Pastors #’s if needed to contact any of they’er kids. Parents have always respected and encourage us to do so. It’s been working so far…

  9. Steve says:

    During our youth program of teaching I have asked them to turn them off while I am teaching. The President of the United States is more important than they are and he shuts his off during important meetings. They will be fine. IF I see it on during the meeting, I tend to stand near them or move into their space as I teach. They get the picutre and shut it down.

    On trips, I have tried to ban them to no avail. So the other side of the equation is to take them but not to be used outside during teaching time, game time, or bonding time etc. If caught outside the boundaires that we have set then we confiscate for the day. However, we do not try to ‘beat them up over it’.

    I actually have more trouble with MP3 players on trips, which I don’t like at all. These tend to build a barrier around the students and they cannot bond with the other students. But that’s another blog issue.

  10. Josh Yates says:

    I ban cell phones on retreats…and workcamps…missions trips, etc. Any time that I’m getting my students “away” to hear from God…they are banned. If I see one, I confiscate it. Parents took a bit of time to get used to that, but they are fine with it now as they have all of the cell numbers of my youth staff…and can get in touch with their student if need be. I allow iPods on the trip up & back…but not at the retreat. I want to try to limit the secular influence as much as possible, but I don’t want to be a TYRANT! 🙂 I’ve had a couple of parents force the issue, and I deal with each situation on a case-by-case basis.
    For texting in youth group…if it’s a small group night, I put a box in the middle of the room, ask all of the students to turn off their cell phones and place them in the box. They don’t leave the box. If it’s a Sunday…I’ve got 90% of the student’s phone numbers in my phone, so I just stop teaching for a second and text the student that’s texting! Something like, “Hey…getting good texts this morning, huh?” That way…it’s a bit funny and they aren’t totally put on the spot. I will deal with it publicly if I have too, but attempt not to.

  11. Jeff Spuler says:

    Yeah I have a limited issue here with that. A few years ago I would be much more strict on the whole deal but now I just don’t let them use them during service & ministry time. That gives the freedom to have them and that helps them feel more freedom. I have found they respopnd much better to that. It still happens but not as much.

  12. Robin says:

    We made a very simple rule after texting and talking got out of control… fast.
    If I see you using your cell phone for texting or talking or if it rings… you get one warning (per meeting). On the second offense… I take it. Since I have a smaller group who all live fairly close, I usually will take the cell phone to the parents after Youth Group. It give me a chance to reinforce the rule so parents understand too. Also, I do leave the phone on… so if parents need to contact their kids.. they can… but they have to go through me first.

    On trips: yes, we had this problem. But I have found that parents usually mean well, they just have what I call “Columbine” thinking… if something bad happens, they want to be able to get in touch with their kids. So at the Mission Trip meetings, I make a big issue out of this so it is clear: Cell Phones are a HUGE distraction to what we are trying to do. I explain that I would GREATLY prefer their kids don’t even bring the phones because a Mission Trip is about getting away from it all and doing something outside of your comfort zone. I also give the parents MY cell number as well as the numbers of all other chaperones on the trip. I have been amazed by how many parents are happy with that. As long as you explain it well… they usually are very understanding. As long as they have SOMEONE they can reach at all times… they are fine with (and even encouraging of) their kids leaving the phones at home. I also tell them at the meeting that if they have a problem with that policy, they can come see me. Since then, I have only had two parents ever approached me with concerns. We were able to work something out where their child called to check in at a certain time or they were able to bring their phones with the understanding that it would be OFF except for very specific times.

  13. Gina says:

    This became a big issue for me- having one row texting another during worship and the lesson. So now right after we close up the snack-shack I pass a box around- they get turned off and put in the box, It gets stored in the office till after service and then I hand them back out. It has become a group thing- if someone won’t put theirs in-the group tends to give them a bad time about it till they do.
    On trips I ask they don’t bring their phones- I give the parents my cell phone # and all the leaders #’s but they still tend to bring them. So, we don’t let them use them for much more than talking to parents. For a week at camp, they get locked in the car so they are there for the emergency use but not available for lots of use.
    MP3’s are the big thing for me. You are trying to create this enviorment where everyone feels safe and included and having fun–and they tend to make for small groups that are on their own.
    I do have parents who insist that their teen have the phone but over time when they see that it is unnecessary they tend to back off. I did have one boy misplace his expensive Iphone on a snow trip and my only comment was- well, you were not supposed to have it anyways. He found it.

  14. Glenn Crumpton says:

    During youth group we have a cell box (neatly decorated) and we ask the students to put their cell phones on vibrate and then place their phones in the box when entering the room. We then cover the box with two or three pillows. At the end of youth group we hand out the phones and for those who do not show any missed calls or text messages we give them a free soda.
    Before trips I go over the itinerary with the parents and tell them “PLEASE DON’T CALL YOUR YOUTH DURING WORSHIP OR DURING SESSIONS.” I encourage them to call during free time only. We also take the “cell box” with us.

  15. Great comments so far. It’s alwasy good to hear from you all. When David and I brought this up in the podcast, we knew you all would have some great ideas.

    I’m loving the variety of ideas we’re hearing so far! Keep em’ coming.

    I’ll highlight the results of the feedback in a later blog… so make sure you all subscribe to the blog (use the red subscribe button on the left side bar) so you can stay updated.

    Thanks!

  16. Ajibade Jegede says:

    At the beginning of every school season we have the youth create a rules covenant. The youth leaders place some mandatory ones on the list and then we narrowed down to the 10 most important ones. Of course, one of them was no cell phone use during the activity and lesson. That gives them a little flexibility to use it during the mingle time in the beginning. They sign the covenant and reinforce it themselves…mostly(positive peer pressure). We also help them with the reinforcement part.

  17. Art Stafford says:

    For youth group on Wednesday nights, we have some fellowship time before the worship and study starts where they can hang out all they want. When it’s time to start I tell them they need to shut off their cell phones. If I hear one ring or see one take it out of their pocket during the session, I keep teaching while I (or another adult) walks up and stick out a hand for them to put their phone in. I don’t usually have to do this. One note of warning: if you tell the kids to turn off their cells, make sure you turn yours off, too. Nothing more embarrassing than teaching a serious point and your own pocket emits the Imperial March (Darth Vader theme), invoking laughs and “Oooohs” from the youth and adults.

    As far as trips go, we don’t let them take phones on retreats and conferences where they need to be free from distractions. They and the parents know that phones are not allowed and they will be taken away until the trip’s over. Day trips and service projects I’m not too concerned about. I always ask the chaperones if it’s okay for their phones to be used. We give out my cell phone number for emergencies and I haven’t had any complaints so far. Most parents are actually appreciative. (By the way, they aren’t allowed to have mp3 players either because they create isolation and it takes away from the students using their phone as an ipod).

  18. We have a pretty rigid policy of no cell phones on trips and we will confiscate them if we see them. To make parents feel better, we give them a postcard with every adult leader’s cell phone number and allow the youth to use our phones if contact is necessary. We end up taking phones on every trip, but it works for the most part and parents seem fine with it.

  19. • How do you control cell phone use at youth group?
    -youth coaches control this is it warrents it they take batteries.

    • Do you allow cell phones on trips?
    Yes

    • Should we put the foot down and say, “no cell phones” on trips?
    No, its good for the “shelterd” kids to have access to parents. Its a waste of resources with a gorup our size 400+ to track it.

    • If we allow cell phones on trips, how can we control use?
    Tell them if we see it its a warning if we hear it during a meeting time its ours for the week.

  20. Tony Martin says:

    My friends… I think you fight a losing battle that can in fact turn towards a victory for Christ. I have tested numerous times how much a teen retains and could do while on the phone talking or texting. I incorporate it into the lesson and do speed texts in regards to verses or answers to the lesson for that week. Kids respect you more when you are using there form of communication. Take it away and you have built a wall that is far harder to tear down. So utilize the text messaging. Have them text you a verse, have them answer a question with text, advertise your upcoming events on text. It is also a great way to get all of there numbers. They will utilize your number more than you even know when they need a helping hand out of situation.

    Onward and Upward
    Sweet T

  21. Robert Rickard says:

    We are going to try and use cell phones in our weekends next fall. We plan to have the teen call thier parents as set times as an way to bring the parents into the retreats. For example, before we gather for prayer we will have the teens call home to get prayer requests from Mom and Dad or put a questions that thier parents can answer in a scavengar hunt. If we set up times with parents in advance we hope to bring them into the weekend and calm thier fears about thier child being ok since they will have a chance to speak to them.

  22. Melissa says:

    For youth group, students can bring their phones, but they must be silenced or turned off. If we see them out once the student gets a warning, after that if we see it again a leader takes it for the rest of the evening. From time to time I make a reminder annoucement about phones and tell them they can make it through a 2 hour movie at the theater with out it they can make it through 2 hours of youth group. If there is an emergency parents can call the church or me directly. I have only had one ring once, and I didn’t have to say anything to the student because the other kids gave him a hard time about having it on.

    As far as trips go, no electronic devices are allowed becasus they distract from the group dynamic. Before students can sign up for a mission trip they must come to an information meeting and bring their parents. It is made clear at that meeting that phones will not be allowed on the trip. We talk to them about the distractions they can cause and how even in some cases contact with home causes kids to become homesick. Parents are given the number of the trip leader(s) so they can call in case of an emergency. We allow students to call home on a leaders phone if it is their birthday or a parents birthday, or if they get sick or injured, other than that students aren’t on the phone. We create a phone tree to keep parents updated when we arrive at our destination or if we need to give any other trip information. I have never had a problem (other than the occasional whining from a student) as long as I let everyone know up front what the policy is and why.

  23. i have two approaches. i have a large sign in my youth room that says, “no cell phones! or jonathan will answer it! :)” that worked at my last church, but not here. at my last church, the thought of me answering their phone horrified them and the few times that i did it (in a very funny way of course) deterred cell phone use. presently, after attempting the answering technique, i just began to collect cell phones before youth group begins. this has worked wonders!

  24. We do not allow any electronic devices on any Student Ministry trip for over five years now. That includes CD players, Ipods, hand held video games, headsets or cell phones. They are all methods of isolation that we want to break free of. We ask our parents to honor that request to not send phones. It can work if you enforce it, but will meet resistance. We also do not allow calls home during a trip, but all parents have our leaders cell phones to reach someone 24 hours a day if needed.

  25. Brad says:

    This is never a fun thing to deal with because the cell phone has become an extension of who these students are. But in our ministry we have put the foot down and do not allow cell phones at camp or on retreats. We have made it apart of our rules/waiver form that both the parents and the students have to sign. If we find a cell phone we crush it with a sledge hammer on stage….just kidding…we take it away and give it back at the end of the event. We have also begun to hold parents accountable for not knowing if their student is bringing their cell phones or not…most parents side with us and want their student to spend a distration free time with their friends and God so we have begun to get more support from them on this issue.

  26. Joe Collazo says:

    this was a big issue with our group. We just had a meeting with all the parents and disscused it with them. we gave the parents all of the leaders numbers and asked if they needed to get a hold of the kids that we all had phones with us the whole time. we explained to the parents that on trip or at youth group that this is an important part of this ministry and that this is a time that these kids have time to get to know each other. it doesn’t work if they are constantly trying to text someone, or playing video games. if we go on a trip we have a bascket and all the kids drop their phones ipod, or games in, when we started this we had to ask for all the phones , now the kids give up the phone without us asking. sounds a little controlling but the youth group really understands where e’re coming from.

  27. Todd says:

    Honestly it’s not a huge issue for me on Wednesday Nights. The way I see it some kids are going to be distracted no matter what you do or don’t do. Not that the students are perfect but they usually do a good job of not using them during worship times. I have actually set texts to students letting them know “I can see you…STOP TEXTING”. I’ve also had a few students text me during a message…my pocket vibrating

    As far as our retreats/trips go, we do allow the students to take them. Again for the most part our students don’t use them during the worship times, but the camp where we have our winter retreats does not have reception. I LOVE IT!!

  28. James Ball says:

    It seems as if there is a general consensus here regarding cellphones. I am quite adamant that none of the youth brings a cellphone or mp3 player on any type of trip, retreat, sleepover, etc. Without fail, at least one or two will attempt to smuggle theirs with them but usually they are found out before we make it out of the parking lot.It is rather short sighted on their part to assume that they will be able to use it in any manner whatsoever that they will not be seen with it anyway. I too supply parents with a variety of cell numbers that leaders can be contacted on if need be and that has always seems sufficient to placate any worried parents. I have stressed to them many times that these very devices which they believe keep them so connected are in very essence making them disconnected personally. Youth group time in my opinion is all about the bonding and relationships that are formed from spending time together in fun and teaching times and when any student is wrapped up in a game, music, or texting they are unable to share in that bonding process. Oh…by the way, I also do not allow dvd players in the vehicles on trips either…there is plenty of time to watch movies in their lives than while interacting with the group. Another aspect of having strict rules about these types of things is that it teaches youth that there are times when they will have to be obedient to their leaders even though they may not agree with the rules. A lesson that seems to be lost on many youth even in their own families.

  29. Jeff says:

    We have a small youth group and in church it doesn’t seem to be a problem right now.

    BUT we just got back from Ascension Convention 2008 and before we left we made it clear anyone caught using their phones during the meetings would lose them for the rest of the convention. They didnt like it but obeyed.

    Then the last day the speaker had everyone pull out their phones and text a unsaved friend that when they get home they would have something important to share with them.
    All the youth must of loved that one.

  30. Joe says:

    Thats easy. Only take trips to such remote locations that the students cannot get a signal.

    Other wise include such wild activities that every cell phone brought is sure to get destroyed. If you can be consistent with this, overtime, it will surely discourage parents from wanting their students’ phone brought.

  31. I agree that it is hard to control the texting during services and the cell phone use. What we do is ask everyone to turn their cell phones off during service. If you are caught with it on and and text messaging or talking it is confiscated and your parents have to come and retrieve it from us. As far as cell phones on trips, I believe that they should be able to have them however you may want to have certain times when the cell must be off or it will be confiscated until it is time for you to use it again. These are just a couple of suggestions however young people always seem to find a way, we can’t police them all but we can set a standard and enforce the standard.

    Minister Michael Owens
    Youth Pastor World Changers Church International, College Park GA.

  32. Jay says:

    Just like Moses…choose your battles wisely. Some trips cell phones are off limits, oyjers are okay. I just make clear expectations and consequences. The consequences thing is easier when you have an older phone and do the ole Gallagher-hammer smash unbeknownst to the students.

    At worship I started saying, “If it ain’t Jesus…hang up,” and now the students themselves police each other.

    One thing to remember…my students have seen me and still se me regularly ignore my phone ringing to be sure to give them all of my attention, so they really want to pay me the same respect. So YOUTHLEADERS…be the example.

  33. rex samples says:

    During youth group we tell them to turn it off. if it’s an emergency they will call the church or my cell phone. and that the only person they need to talk to during youth group is God.. and he doesn’t need the phones on to get through..

    and as far as outings, over nighters , retreats,, every parent knows my cell number..

    rexieman..

    remember to pray ALLways….

  34. Todd Pounds says:

    As we go into worship or Bible study time I ask that all phones be turned to silent or off. It is understood that a phone taken out during these times will be taken up and returned when they leave. It has gotten to the point where the students remind me to make the announcement and they monitor themselves. Some don’t even bring their phones in anymore so they aren’t tempted/distacted by them. In big church we ask them to turn them off. A phone went off in big church some time ago and the students were really happy that it didn’t come from them!
    Yes we allow cell phones on trips
    No we shouldn’t put our foot down
    We establish guidelines for when cell phones may be used/not used and usually consequence for inappropriate use is to have it taken up for a couple of days. Parents are informed of guidelines and consequence before we leave so we tell them it might be an adult who answers their students phone. If so, they have a good idea of why.

  35. Kathy says:

    We didn’t allow cell phones during last year’s youth camp, although most everyone else at the camp had theirs. We explained to the parents that my husband and myself would have ours and that they could contact us should they need to speak with their child.

    During services, we ask that the kids turn their cell phones off and place them on the platform. That way, we adults can see them (they won’t be stolen) and the kids can get them after service is over.

    We have yet to have a parent complain. It is important that the kids come to camp to be ministered to and not to text their friends back home. The cell phone is a deterrent to the whole purpose of camp … and services. Their attention needs to be on what is going on where they are. We are always available should the kids need to call home.

  36. Wes Rainey says:

    I haven’t had as much troubl with calls as I have texting. I try not to let any of the teens get away with using thier phones during any event, whether it’s a mid week thing or at camp or a retreat. If I see it, I will call them out immediately, this is about the only thing I will call them on publicly though. As far as trips, they can bring them and use them while we are traveling, but not once we arrive.
    The Ipods and Mp3’s are not allowed at all, becasue I have no way to monitor the music they have stored on them.
    I have appriciated all the other thoughts on this topic, thanks!

  37. Tim Nelson St. Mark UMC says:

    In youth group, I’ve tried several methods but none has worked better than simply telling them they will get booted if they text or if one of the leaders can even see a phone. It may sound harsh, but it works. We warned students for about a month before we started the new policy and we told them to warn their friends when they brought them to church. For a couple weeks, they complained but after we kicked a couple of students out (And followed up that same night to let them know we still loved them), they got the message not to get the message during youth(haha – I’m a real dork)

    If they are texting during church, I send out a mass text to each student I have in my phone who is conspicuously texting stating:

    “This is the Lord your God. Stop your texting and pay attention to the sermon. Don’t make me come down there.”

  38. Chuck says:

    I take a group on a wilderness backpacking trip whose purpose is listening to God and cell phones fly in the face of that purpose. We don’t let kids have them.

    We also take an outreach camping trip with tons of kids – and again we don’t allow them. There’s been no problems with it if kids are told well in advance and why. When it comes to communicating with parents – let the kid have the week without parental intervention unless it’s an emergency. Then there’s the phone in the office.

  39. Michelle says:

    Generally, we don’t have a problem with kids using their cell phones during youth group time. On occasion, when it does happen, the adult leader simply asks that it be put away.

    When we go away on youth trips or conferences, the rule is that all cell phones are to be turned in to the youth leader in charge. There are specific time periods when they are permitted to use their cell phones. Other than that, they belong in (usually) my possession. Parents are okay with that rule because if they need to get in touch with their child, they can always call my cell phone or one of the other adult leaders. Before every youth trip, we design a covenant (code of ethics) that each student and adult leader must sign. In it, there is always the paragraph about cell phone use. In addition, we do not allow ANY personal electronics on the trip (except cell phones which will be turned over to the adult leaders). We explain in this paragraph that this is done so that the students can spend time communicating with each other and growing together. It also says that anyone who violates this rule will be sent home–AS WELL AS any students who know of the violation but do not report it. It seems to work for us!

  40. Allen says:

    Trips?- Cell phones are not allowed on some trips & not recommended on others. Trips not allowed are weekend retreats or camps where removing distractions is of high importance.
    Allowed or Not Recommended is spelled out in the details for each trip prior to signing up. If it is a trip where they are simply not recommended it is usually followed with a comment on what happens if it disappears. Tell us your phone or ipod disappears & my comment to you will be, “wished you wouldn’t have brought it sorry now we are moving on!” Actually have stolen a leaders phone & used him as an example. We gave him his phone back later the same day.
    Parents are all given my cell & they have other leaders cell #’s. If phones are brought on a trip that they are banned, the phone is confiscated & given back when we return & the student comes to me to discuss why they thought the rules didn’t apply to them. 🙂

  41. Chris says:

    As for youth group – we used to allow kids to carry their phones but to turn them to silent. Eventually this led to youth texting and even answering calls during youth group. Now they have the option – leave the phone at home or in your car – or we have a nice collection tub on our main table as youth enter. At first they used to complain a bit – but now we don’t even have to ask for them…they drop them in the tub on their way in the door.

    Trips, a different story all together. We have made a pretty clear statment to the youth and parents that phones are NOT allowed on any of our trips. Our main leaders always carry a cell phone for parents to rech us in an emergency. This past summer as we were returning from our Mission Trip we actually had the youth thank us for not allowing phones on the trip. They had seen how it took other youth (from other groups) “away from the experience” and they appreciated that in the long run we had their best interest in mind.

  42. John Gruber says:

    I like the idea further up of using cell phones during some lessons.
    On longer trips I make sure I have stuff for the students to do if we don’t allow electronics. Electronics are a big part of students’ lives and if we just take them away, there is a void that we should help fill.

    I have a “one and done” rule. One warning and I get it for the rest of the event. On mission trips or camp they can’t bring them. I had a blog or updated my voice mail at the church with updates on what was happening on the trip for “helicopter” parents.

  43. steve says:

    I have a cell phone myself, as a leader.
    Personally, I think it’s a non-issue.
    Really, if the parents want to get ahold of thier kid, they will have the leaders going on our trips/youth nights phone numbers. And if it’s a youth night, then they know where the building is. If it’s a small grup thing, then the parents have the house phone number, and mine (mine goes on vibrate during all events).

    I have no problem telling them to turn it off because I’ve never had a youth want to talk to thier parents when on trips. They usually want to keep in contact with their boyfriends/girlfriends and so yeah… I just say no. And if that is not respected, they know full well that both thier parents will recieve a phone call from me (unless I have an opportunity to talk to them) or if it’s a youth event, then I just get to hold onto about 500 dollars worth of phones for one weekend.
    Works well. Parents usually respect it if you give them your number and ways to get ahold of thier kid/you in case of an emergency.

  44. Michelle B says:

    We have instituted a “cell phone ceremony” at every meeting: a basket is passed around and we ask kids to turn their phones “off” before dropping them into the basket (vibrating phones can be really irritating and distracting during quiet prayer time…) At first we got complaints, but now teens even ask us about the cell phone ceremony before we start each week.
    We ask that teens not bring phones or electronic equipment with them on trips – providing a leaders’ number with the understanding that even the leaders’ phones will not be on all the time. .. .

  45. Susan says:

    We had a big texting problem in worship. So now we pass a bucket and take the phones up at the beginning of the service. We pass them back out at the end. The kids complained the first week, but they got over it. It has made worship much more pleasant and less distracting.

    We do allow them on trips, but only during free time. Each participant signs a covenant agreeing to this. If they break the covenant, they get their phone removed from them. They know what is expected of them, and the consequences for breaking the rules.

  46. David R. Smith says:

    Wow! I think this is the most responses we have ever received for a blog! When Jonathan and I attempted to answer “one guy’s” question about this subject, neither of us expected this large of a response base. I guess everybody has dealt with the question/dilemma of cell phone use during youth ministry programs and events.

    Let me quickly share two ideas as it pertains to our posted question. First, read several (if not all) of the posts in this blog. There are some really good answers offered by veterans who have dealt with cell phones for a long time. Plus, the situations that are described are quite varied, and more than likely, one of those situations parallels your own. There is nothing like standing on the shoulders of giants….

    Secondly, I would share this simple “common sense” approach to dealing with the usage of cell phones by teens during the important moments of “youth group” time. Be proactive in clearly outlining the expectations and the consequences of not meeting them. Then lead accordingly.

    We’ve had a lot of fun tackling this issue over the years. We’ve done games using cell phones, then asked students to turn them off. We’ve shown funny video clips about the subject up front in our programming. We’ve done skits about this topic. We’ve even staged actual cell phone “executions” (involving a disgruntled adult leader, an old/unused cell phone, and a sledge hammer). Regardless of the tactic we use, we do it BEFORE we get started. That way, everyone knows the rules at the outset.

    I hope that this blog, and the myriad of answers posted here, will help you offer and even better ministry to your students in some way.

    Thanks for doing what you do!

  47. Josh says:

    Well heres what i did, i recently purchused a new phone so i gave my old one to one of the more trusted members of ther group and told him i want him to pull out just after i said its time to turn cell phones off. He did and i took it and threw into a wall, kicked it, crushed,smashed, and crashed it. It was in pieces (note this was all planned)

    He loved it, all the youth have there phones off at youth group now. But woth trips we let them have them and have them on, mainly for parents to connact them if they need to also if they get lost from the group.

  48. Rita says:

    I try to come from the respect angle with my teenagers and tell them from 5:30 to 7 on Sunday, they have made a committment to grow their relationship with God and fellowship with their peers. Surely for 1.5 hours once a week, they can give that much respect. They’re pretty good kids, so they feel it’s fair. Occasionally though, I’ll hear the buzz of a text message coming in. When I do, I stop teaching and confiscate the phone and remind them of the respect factor. Additionally, I’ve challenged them to invite whomever is texting them to attend youth group, then they can see them face to face!

  49. Jim Condit says:

    Like many comments here, texting has been the biggest problem when we meet on Wednesday nights. The students know its a rule to not pull their phones out but they still do. If I catch them out (I’m only the police during the service) I confiscate them and just to jokingly jack with the students I change their set-up language to Spanish!!! As for trips, we typically take enough adults who have phones and do not allow students taking theirs period. All of the parents have the adults phone numbers and we’ve never had a problem with this.

    As far as a small group gathering, are you kidding?? My students know good and well not to even think about using them here. We are focused and in discussions and I don’t even have to tell them not to use them in this setting.

    Put your foot down and lay down the ground rules and I think you’ll find that this is not an uncommon rule nor a rule that’s not practical.

  50. Kim says:

    All of us need to find the boundries for cell phone use! It can be too much accessability. Jesus stole away often to be alone with God. We need to have those times as well. Teen struggle with the same issues and distracted even more with the uproar of hormones, thier bodies are propelling them to find a mate and grow up and out of parental control. This is a healthy God given dinamic of life. We need to give the teens tools to figure out what is healthy boundries. God is desiring to speak to them and if they want to know what is in the way of a close walk with God, He will tell them. The job of a youth leader is to teach them to listen. Sometimes it’s a matter just saying it. Do a skit, make it funny but to the point. Something about sharing your heart and having someone so uninterested that they keep pulling out there cell and pretending to listen. This will hit home. They want to be heard and to hear and to be loved and excepted. We will do well to identify with them. I have felt my cell phone to be an idol at times, my computor as well even work. They are not evil things, it’s just that we need to set limits on what we give our attention to apart from God.
    Blessings, Kim

  51. Susan Eaton says:

    Okay, so I’m like the 4,001st youth leader to comment on this, but… A year ago I asked our youth not to take their cell phones on a mission trip. When I announced that at one of our pre-trip meetings, there was a collective gasp in the room. I mean, all the oxygen left at once. You would have thought that I asked them to gnaw off their right arm–really. However, all but ONE left their cell phones. The one who brought hers was because her dad told her to take it. I spoke to him about it and said he could contact any of the adults but he insisted. I didnt’ press it. It turned out that this girl didn’t pull hers out b/c nobody else had theirs. Other trips I don’t make a big deal about it. I just ask them to leave it in their rooms at our camp.

    At youth group, we make a general request that they turn off their cell phones–or at least put it on silent and then not use it. If a cell phones rings during youth group time (at least where I am with the senior highs) I simply humiliate them publicly. 🙂 Actually, we’re all pretty light-hearted and it’s funny. I’ve answered their phones before, though, and had a conversation with whoever is calling. Yep…that’s pretty embarrassing.

  52. Trazy says:

    We start our meetings at 7:17 for HS and 7p for MS and we tell them from 7:17-9:01 or 7-8:30, there aren’t any texting/calls or ipods, etc. what they choose to do up until that time is their business. We haven’t taken cell phones away, but we read the rules every week to make sure everyone is on board.

    I didn’t allow them in the past, but this last year was our first long distance trip and I allowed them. I actually found this to be the best way to communicate with the students. Our high school students were allowed to explore NYC on their own in groups of no less than three, as long as at least two of them had a cell phone. This way I could text/call at any point and check on them, but it also allowed them to have some independence for a couple hours. We didn’t find them to be a distraction at all. This year, cell phones will not be allowed because we won’t have that free time. Also, this last year, we traveled 16 hours to our destination, so I allowed ipods, dvd players, etc for my own sake. 16 hours in a 15 passenger van with 14 people was tough with the distractions.

    This year, like I said, I will be putting my foot down and saying “no cell phones, ipods or electronic equipment.” At our parent meeting, we always talk about what’s allowed and not allowed and make sure everyone’s on the same page.

    I really like all the ideas. The cell phone ‘play area’ (box) sounds like an interesting idea. Also, the text answers sounds cool.

  53. We have found a way to keep everyone happy, with the exception of the kids that want to talk to their boyfriend or girlfriend the whole trip. About a year ago, we started assigning kids to chaperones (instead of our traditional everybody look out for everybody). When we did this, we realized we could get a grip on the cell phone issue by providing our chaperones with padded “Celly Bags”. So at the beginning of each trip, the kids turn in their cell phone (with their picture as their home screen), charger and cell number to their designated chaperone who keep all of their groups cell phones in the “Celly Bag”. This has made it easy for us to monitor usage and times of usage, and also conforts the parents because in the event of an emergency, they know that they can still get in contact with their child.
    I must say, it is hilarious to walk into a chaperone’s room and see all of the multi-plugs and cell phones charging at the end of each day.
    Hope this helps! God bless

  54. Barb says:

    I allow cell phones for emergency use only. Our last camping trip we had a tornado, the kids got separated and it was great that kids had phones to contact me. We also just completed a 30 hour famine and I think that if kids can go without eating that long they can go with out their phones for an hour or two for worship and youth group. Do a skit/role play involving things that are distracting. Explain that there are situations and times where you need to focus and be in the moment.
    Sometimes I think we baby and cater to our kids a little too much.

  55. Ken Todd says:

    Cell (aptly named due to the studnts being locked to them 25/7)phones. I love’em I hate’em, you are at the heart of your message, your take away and then a kid jumps pulls out his cell and starts texting, or worse yet answers it! Frustrating. I like to put them in a bucket (no water) or whatever is around.
    I tell my kids it is extrememly disrespectful during our teaching / message time to use their phone. If they cannot go for a short time without texting they have an addiction.
    Hope we all have some success

  56. Troy Doubman says:

    I do not allow phones on most trips. I simply give all the parents my cell phone number. If there is an emergency, call me.

  57. Tonya Berry says:

    Cell phone texting during worship is not only a distraction but is downright blasphemous. However how many of us, back in the day, drew pictures, whispered to our friends or even used worship time as a chance to hold hands with that cute so and so for the first time? We have to be honest with ourselves, teenagers are going to be teenagers. But at some point, they have to grow up. Having a cell phone is a privelege and an adult responsibility. Most adults do not text or take phone calls during church, at all, and if they do, they leave the room. I would ban cell phone use during worship unless the phone call or text is an emergency from one’s parents. I also think the best way to communicate this, is through the parents! If they know first, and know when worship time is going to be, then most of them won’t call unless it IS an emergency. The best way to communicate with the parents would probably be to send out a letter, email blast, and/or include it as an article in your newsletter. Newsletters are a great way to communicate with parents, especially if you keep them interesting and include funny pics of their kids. Make it the headline article and it will get their attention, and explain how and why it is distracting during worship.

    I don’t see a problem with them on trips, unless it is during a worship time on a retreat, or during something else where the kids are supposed to be participating. In fact, on a youth trip – I feel like you can never have enough cell phones! You never know when you’re going to have to call 911, and one person’s may be out of minutes, the next may have forgotten their charger, etc.

  58. Tony G says:

    something we just did at out district youth convention which i thought was clever was to have each student turn there cells up all the way then shut them off. in the case that they would turn them back on they would be so loud everyone around them would know who it was.

    during actual youth meetings, if we see it it becomes our for the night, it’s amazing when you begin to text there friends on their phone how the texting during service stops.

  59. Ben says:

    I read about 2/3 of the responses, so I don’t know if anyone else will get down to mine, but I had an idea after reading the first 3. I kept reading to see if anyone else mentioned it and it was mentioned by Sweet T. Obviously this can’t be done all the time, but you use it as the new Sword Drill. Use the phones as a game – make a cell phone Olympics. “confiscate” all the phones and have them up front – the first one to receive a text from someone outside of the building gets a prize (they can’t answer it of course). I think that if we show we’re not against technology and we can use it for fun, they might be more inclined to obey when we ask them to put them away at other times.

  60. kenneth says:

    i don’t understand what the big deal is about cell phones. i’ve been yp at a church for a couple years now, and the first i did was to change the “no cell phone” rule to “have your cell phone rule.” are the phones really a distraction to you or are they a hit on your pride because you can’t keep their attention?

    unless the phone is making noise everytime they get a text or call, i don’t worry about it. can you see the head pastor calling out a member in the main servie every time a man or woman pulls out their phone?

    as far as trips, if a kid would rather talk or text on his phone at a retreat or camp than listen to me, i let him. when jesus was teaching, i can’t see him always pulling judas back in to listen to him even though judas was more interested in counting the money outside the meeting.

    but for those who need an idea, here’s one that i got from a pastor in washington that works quite well. i have the kids text me any questions that pop into their minds while i teach. when i’m done teaching, i read the questions aloud and answer them. i usually leave around five minutes to answer the texts.

    you do have the occasional “why are you wearing that shirt tonight?” or “why does poop stink?”, but overall it’s a very productive addition to the lesson. most of the the students listen more closely because they want something i say to spark their interest so they can text me a question. this is a great opportunity to enter their world with the message and not make them stay in ours. it also allows me to answer their quesitons about my lesson as soon as i speak it. how many times have we prayed for a response from our kids? i’ve found this to be it. after all, as yp’s, aren’t we all about being as relevant as today’s paper?

    you’d be suprised at how this catches on and the texts start pouring in over the weeks. just remember to put your phone on silent while you teach, or else you’ll have to confiscate your own phone. lol

  61. I have to give Kenneth props for being bold enough to say what he did (see Kenneth’s comments just above mine). I think he brings up some strong points. And I’m sure many of you like his idea about texting questions about the talk to him to answer at the end. And wow… imagine the pressure of knowing that we have to communicate well enough to keep their attention! That might just be a good thing!

    Good stuff Kenneth. I was gonna email you personally but you didn’t fill out your email address. 🙂

  62. Joe L Brown says:

    I don’t allow cell phones or iPods on trips at all. On a recent trip I pulled out an old cell phone and led kids to believe I had confiscated it. I broke and smashed it in front of their shocked mugs. They got the message.

    All parents are given my number and can call me directly. Our drivers pass their phones to all the kids so they can call their parents for pick-up when we arrive home. Seems to work pretty good.

  63. charles says:

    i was going to read a few of these to get a feel for what was going on but wow, to many to try.

    we do allow cell phones in the youth room but the “rule” or thought is “it is disrespectful to the other youth in the group for you to be on your phone when we are here to build relationship with each other and Christ, cant do that very well with your nose stuck in a phone. we tried to put the responsibility back on the youth for being respectful of their peers time and efforts and not so much the leadership/adults. same with i pods. the youth have taken to saying to those texting at youth “hey if you want to talk them so bad maybe you should invite them to church” and a few have and some have even showed up that night. prolly no right or wrong answer every group and youth pastor is different. just like in leadership not every style fits every one.
    chuck

  64. Jody YP NOS Student Ministries says:

    Agreed, we need to sometimes allow cell phones! However I let my Students make the choice, if there responsable enough to take them there the one’s that rule them, ie… if another Student sees a phone used during a Service ANYTIME!! (unless the Speaker tells them to take them out)then there allowed to bring that phone or Student to me and then I make the ruleing, and my parents are fully aware of the things I do with the phones!!! If they can’t respect the Service, The WHOLE YOUTH GROUP PRAY”S FOR THAT STUDENT!!!!

  65. Ron says:

    My team and I have notice this as a growing problem as well. The one thing that I have managed to do is to develop strong partnerships with the parents of my group. (approx.15-20 kids) It’s through these partnerships that alot of my battles have been won and lost over the years. On our trips we do allow them to have phones, but during services and other meeting times we don’t allow any type of electronic devices at all. So far I’ve only had to talk with just a couple of kids since we put this in effect about six months ago. I hope this helps!

  66. Christina - Youth Pastor says:

    Its a growing concern. We don’t have problems with the teens using the cell phones while on an outing, retreat or get together; it is getting annoying dealing with it during services. And the clincher is that its not just the teens, they are emulating what the older youth are doing; which is texting each other during service. Then the issue that needs to be tackled is “I’m a young adult” you can’t take it from me or speak to my parents. I’ve come to the point where I have taken the cellphone away and given it to the parents for discussion.

  67. Kenny says:

    Cell phone box. Have someone at the door welcoming students and then take their phone! Who doesn’t have a phone these days! If everyone’s phone is in the box then there isn’t a problem! Just wait until someone calls the phone in the box! That’s a game in itself.

  68. Annie says:

    Basically, for the first 9 months that i’ve been here, cell phones have been a huge distraction. So i took an idea that another youth leader friend of mine had: whenever a youth enters the room where the youth event (bible class, youth group night, lock-in, whatever) happens, there is a green box that they are to put their electronics in… this means not only cell phones, but ipods, mp3s etc as well. they will be in a safe place and locked up. i will have my cell phone with me at all times ,and all the parents know my number. so if there is an emergency, the parent can call me directly. i just put a notice of this new rule in our youth newsletter this month. we’ll see how parents respond. so far, no one has had a negative reaction to it. youth group is our time to listen to what God says, not the to listen to the voices of the world. we need to be kind and respectful of our leaders and of our peers. most of my kids are pretty good about it, but the select few do ruin it for all in this circumstance here at my church.

  69. Jill says:

    I have always been annoyed by cell phone, too. At one of our events, I was especially perturbed with one individual using her cell phone in church. As I asked who was so important to text, she told me she was trying to convince friends to come join us. I bit my lip and walked away! Maybe there is a plus side to them, too!

    • Renee says:

      @Jill, I had the same thing happen to me when I commented to one of my youth during our Wednesday night youth group. He was texting all his friends to get them to youth. uggh, lol… Now I go with it!

      I have youth who have previously been un-churched who are on their phones during Sunday morning service, playing a game. I struggled with what to do, because I don’t want to push them away. I decided to do nothing, because when I asked them about the sermon, they could tell me what it was about. However, I am going to ask them to refrain during worship, as I feel like it is disrespectful to God.

  70. Linda says:

    We ask teens not to bring phones on any overnight trips – like youth conference and retreats. We make a list of all adults that are going on the trip and their cell phone numbers which we hand out to parents before we go. Any teen can ask any adult to use their phone to call home, and any parent has several phone numbers that they can call if they want to speak to their child.

  71. Chuck Ngaira says:

    Kia ora from New Zealand. Wow with all the 2 cents worth being put in we should be millionaires. lol

    Anyway to make it 2million and 2 cents we:

    1. Use to have no cellphone rule cos kids were bullying eachother etc.

    2. We stopped that easily coz we gave them the opportunity to turn it off or give it to us.

    3. It maintains a bit of dignity when they get the option to monitor themselves (Also gives them enough respect to do that)

    4. Now every kid and his dog has a cell phone, so on normal group nights we let them have them and just get them to turn them off while we need/want their attention, Because as much as i want them all to enjoy the latest game (that i prepared for two weeks in advance with pre purchasing, haggling and setup) some kids just wana hang out and txt their mates.

    5. On camps – Same rule, use it until we need you’re full attention.

    6. After all you might miss an important scripture and go to hell all because you were txting a friend about who’s a hottie or a ho.

    7. If we try to monitor who they txt, or what content they txt then we might as well monitor their thoughts too and give them 39 lashes for thinking bad thoughts. Hang on they are teenagers after all and as long as they aren’t committing crimes or behaving really badly then don’t worry.

    8. If you get any attitude from someone just maintain your cool so that you both come out of it with dignity (Nobody respects the youth leader who rules with an iron fist, but you can always say “Can you turn that off for now please?” then give them an opportunity to do that while your attention is on the main topic” Then if they still haven’t done it just ask them to either: Give it to you, go outside, or call on your 7 foot 2 inch tall security guard to pull out his taser and teach them a good lesson.)

    Respect the youth and they will respect you too. Man I wish I had a taser

    Chuck

  72. Dave Buncher says:

    My most common expression at our weekly youth night is “NO CELL PHONES AT YOUTH GROUP!” The students have this one memorized. If I see it I simply walk past them and repeat my catch phrase. In almost every case they quickly apologize and put it away. If I see it out again I take it. It may seem strict or overbearing but if you prove your love to your students then the rules aren’t worth breaking.

    What I mean is… We need to stop being a bunch of sissy youth pastors and teach teenagers to respect boundaries and rules. The biggest struggle I have with individual students are those whose parents simply want to be their buddies instead of their parents. I have actually sat in counselings where students have asked their parents to discipline them or give them rules. How far we have come from a biblical pattern of child rearing. I am sure we all remember the “spare the rod, spoil the child” passage… or do we??? I am not going to preach on spanking but the root of this passage is boundaries, rules, and what true love is!

    I love my teens. My heart beats for every one that enters the youth room door. But if my goal is to make 70 new teenage friends than I need to throw in the towel. Our goal must be to see these young people serving and loving God 10 years down the road. The ones that I have been hardest on are the ones that continually come back and say thanks for pushing me towards Jesus.

    Why are we so afraid to be in charge and set up rules? My standards are clearly laid out for all of the teens. Concerning cell phones:

    1. No Cell Phones at Youth Group.
    2. No Cell Phones on Retreat.

    Now I do get the argument that some parents want their kids to have them. In these RARE situations I explain that they become a distraction and a hindrance to what God may want to accomplish in their child’s life. I freely give out my cell phone number to all parents and teens and invite them to call for any type of emergency. I have never, in over 5 years, had a parent insist on their child having their phone after I have this conversation with them.

    If a student needs to call home during youth group I allow them to use the church phone only after asking.

    In the last five years I’ve only had to confiscate maybe 10 phones. Once youth group is over and they are dismissed they are free to text away.

    I am sure we all love our teens like I do. Let’s keep the main thing the main thing!! Jesus loves them and died for them! Make sure they can hear this through all the phones ringing!!

  73. Chris says:

    Well, Cell phones are definately a distraction. I have the policy at Disciple Nows or Retreats that students are allowed to bring them, but during worship & Bible study or worship services they are to be placed in their bag. I used to say that they were not even allowed to bring them, but should I as a single, 22 year old(obviously no children) tell the parents of my youth that they can not bring their cell phones that they are paying for? No, but we can monitor use and do confiscate them if they in fact become a distration.

    If it is at our mid-week worship service if I see them texting, I stop speaking and ask them to stop politely. I like the idea of texting that student. I like them to be able to keep them on person, but silence them and by doing that it is teaching them how to be responsible for their own behavior. I do have to remind them from to time though.
    There are several great suggestions on here!

  74. Nick O'Donnell says:

    When we are on trips I don’t band cell phones, what I do is this: I tell the teens that you can bring cell phones, I pods, and video games, but then I tell them it is going to take us 7 hours to get to six flags, so that means 4 hours you can use your cell phones, I pods, and game, but 3 hours we use NO! electronics! The teens don’t like it a first they will grip and complan for 15-30 minutes but after that we actually get some go game or convesation going on.

  75. Tommy says:

    Good to know others deal with this issue… I never thought about it until I got a txt message during worship from a student…I was leading worship! Talk about a distraction.

  76. Sam Totman says:

    This is sort of a two fold. One I wanted to find out who had the ability to text because I have found it to be a great way to communicate with students on a regular basis. So I made a game of it. I asked everyone who had the ability to text to put my cellphone number in their phone and in the text box to put their first and last name. On my count they were to all press send at the same time and the first message to get to me won a prize. I instantly had everyone’s text number and name. Now how to prevent them from texting. I teach them about respecting whoever is speaking and for the most part it worked. For few that don’t get it, I suggest having someone with the master list to see who is texting and text that student telling them to put their phone up. It’s a non-distracting, non-embarrassing way to give the student that extra nudge.

  77. Jonathon Mitchell says:

    At our weekly youth service we pass out, by small group, the cell phone basket. Our student leaders actually thought of this and they pass around the basket for their small group. At the end of the evening once their small group has concluded they can pick their phone out of the basket.

    On trips we just pick up the phones at the beginning, and give them back to them about an hour out of our return home. This gives the students the chance to call their parents when we’re arriving home. We also allow them to periodically check their phones to make sure they don’t have any seriously important messages to attend to.

  78. Jack Smithson says:

    At youth group I let them know if I see it it’s mine. I thought about tesxting them durring my message to see if they would pay attention better but I am not that fast at texting. So now I just make sure what I preach is so riveting that they can’t help but pay attention… not sure how that’s working out though.

    On trips I allow them to use it when we are not doing group activities or listening to messages, and then I make sure I follow my own rules…

  79. Kim says:

    One of the best things that has worked for our group on trips is that if they bring it, it is not out except for “down time” or the chaperone assigned to their room keeps it for them until they need to call home. Although parents have my cell phone number and a few other chaperone numbers I think it the security of knowing the cell phone it there (not just for the kid but the parent). It is a battle that is hard to win but we have been consistent in this practice and it is starting to work very well. Another thing that has become common practice for us is that ALL phone numbers of all the places we will be are included on the schedule. For mission trips this may just be the site phone number but for youth choir tour we include hotels, performance locations, and even attractions (theme parks and such). Like I said, the more they know, the more secure they are.

  80. LJ Ochoa says:

    Cell phones in Youth Group! … I had issues with this one too (also Ipods and psp etc). I finally started collecting phones 5 min before youth started and putting them in a big bowl telling kids to turn them off or on silent. If the phones rang during the service i told the students I’d answer their phones and explain, to whoever it was, where they were and to call back when it was over! I also collected the phones of all the adult leaders too. (1st, to make it fair. 2nd, they were the worst ones, ALWAYS TXTING!)I’ve only had to answer a few phones! It seems to work great and the parents know when youth is over and the kids can call them then! I would keep my phone on vibrate so parents could call me in case of an emergancy! — Cell phones on trips to camps and mission trips. I let kids take them. (less fighting and a quiter ride) besides if they didn’t have a phone to their ear or in their hand it was an Ipod or psp or some sort of electronic device. But, i would make them turn the phones off during services, quiet times or during the projects we were doing. They could check them at the end of the day or during free time.

  81. Jim Smith says:

    • How do you control cell phone use at youth group?

    At the beginning of our yout service, we ask the students to put their cell phones away, encouraging them to focus on their relationship with the Lord for the next hour. We make it known to them that since they decided to take part in our service, we retain the right to enforce our rules. And one of them is no cell phones during the service. And we enforce our right to confiscate them during a service if we find they are being used.

    • Do you allow cell phones on trips?

    Depends on the trip and duration. Purely social/fun trips (i.e. beach/amusement park… they are fine. Retreats and mission trips: we typically allow them to have their phones in transit, but put them away during the retreat/mission trip.

    • Should we put the foot down and say, “no cell phones” on trips?
    Like I said, depends on the trip. There have been times I allowed phones in transit on retreats that I wish I hadn’t!

    • If we allow cell phones on trips, how can we control use?
    Set boundaries and enforce them. Students feel they will surely die if they can’t text/talk for 20 minutes (let alone a two week mission trip!). But the reality is they CAN survive. If the purpose of the trip is ministry, then I make every effort to keep my kids focused on ministry; that includes preventing that vibrating phone in their pocket from becoming a distraction.

  82. Ashley says:

    We’ve been watching one of the girls in our youth group txt during worship for several weeks now. Wondering how to address this issue, we decided “if you can’t beat em’ join em'” right? So last Sunday, I pulled out my own cel phone (as she was txting away to her friends during the sermon) and I sent her this message: “Less txting, more listening??!!” She looked like she’d seen a ghost when she received the txt message from her leader. It was great. She put her cel phone away, but only after txting back “I’m multi-tasking!!!” It’s worked so far…

  83. Michael Blue says:

    I allow cell phones to go to camp, but the policy is that I do not want to see them during camp. If i see them and it is not there parents then the phone becomes “my phone.” Later on they are allowd to buy the phone back from me. the more annoying they are…the higher the price!

  84. Randy says:

    I guess that I am a little different than most Youth Leaders. We have embraced the texting craze and actually use it to our benefit. as a matter of fact we have set some of Youth Nights to be cell phone orientated. I realized that one day when my son had borrowed a phone during school and texted me, by the time we were done we had spent about 20 min. talking. at that moment I realized that this was a great way to get into their culture. Jesus took ministry to the people, and this is a great way to reach them where they are at. Also we were at a mission/camp retreat when one of the chaperones was complaining about the students texting at night. My comment to them was, at least they are in there own bed by themselves. instead of secretly hooking up like alot of us did. can you say hypocrite? it is amazing to me that so many adults just want control, but will text when telling the kids not to, or talk when expecting the kids not to, or the list goes on and on and on. Our church has about 150 people in it. 2/3 of that is kids. I dont know about you but I want to keep them.
    Randy

  85. WOW! I have never read so many postings that seem irritated or mad… I have been in youth ministry for 15 years and still lovin’ it. Texting is just another form of communication that our youth use… but some view it as evil? This world has so many distractions already “built in”, so why the distress over one more? I loved the comment about using them in the sermon, which btw has proven very effective. If we can’t use all aspects of a youth’s world to influence and reach them, then are we truly reaching our full potential? I just get tired of telling teens “NO” and always look for ways to say, “YES!!” It seems like they hear no from every authority in their life, and one more shuts them down.

    … now for all those who are about to chastise me for not setting rules….

    We do have them. I just choose to teach and live them instead of force them. Most see that your heart and out of respect for you, follow them. When a teen see’s that you care and would fight for them and their rights, then they will fight for you. I would rather lead a generation, not try to force them into any “mold.”

    … come on people, lets do whatever it takes to change this generation, and lead them to Jesus. If we don’t… MTV will!

  86. JustAParent says:

    AMEN!…to Paul Phillips above me and Kenneth further on up in the comments. I’m not a yp, but a parent and I say be effective in reaching the teens where they are. Gain their respect and interest and they will respect you. Put your own cell phones away and stop being the cell phone Nazi. Learn to be creative and turn modern technology to your advantage as in the suggestions from Kenneth. You might find your group growing in numbers if you do! WWJD

  87. Ronald says:

    I strongly agree that you have to choose your battles wisely. While we are giving studies or teaching lessons at church, we break out the offering plate and ask them to give their best to God. Being that 90% of them do not have jobs or a source of income, I then ask them to devote their attention to God – which is the best they have at the moment – by placing all cell phones in the offering plate. I start with mine and pass it around. We place the plate far away from us and retrieve them once we’re done.

    We tried this while traveling in our van or while out socializing but somethings just cannot be controlled. They will soon learn to interact with each other rather than be glued to their phones and this all starts with praying for AND with them.

    I really like Kenneth’s idea of teens texting question to their youth leader/pastor at the end of a discussion. It really embraces their culture and teaches them to use their phones constructively. They should know that they live in a world with tons of instruments that can be harmful but can learn to use them in a positive way to glorify God! This is even a great way to get them to ask questions they might be too shy to ask aloud.

  88. Amy says:

    At the beginning of youth group, we bring out a “cell phone bucket” which is passed around. Everyone puts their phones into it and at the end of the night we draw one phone out of the bucket and that person gets a little prize (such as a can of soft drink, packet of candy, etc). It’s such a hit that now a lot of the youth are putting in their iPods etc as well in hopes of increasing their chance of a prize. Some of your young leaders themselves suggested this as a solution to the cell phone problem. It’s working great for us! 🙂

  89. Sherry says:

    I was looking for some guidance on how to handle cell/smart phones at our annual youth retreat. While initially my thought was just don’t let them have them. We have tried this previously without much success. I can see some good points on both sides. Our committee is kind of split on the issue. My main concern is that with the capabilities of phones these days, they could be used inappropriately. We don’t know all of these kids personally. I as a parent would not want my youth exposed to certain things. I as a youth leader chaperone, would not want to let down our church family by not doing all we can to make sure that doesn’t happen. I am considered the strict one of our group. A term I really dislike, but I feel someone has to balance out the leadership. I am not even sure anyone will still read this, becaues it is an old post. I thought it was worth a try. Thanks!

  90. Troy T says:

    I actually have a question. My wife is currently on a 9 day missions trip. She is in an area that has cell phone signal. Is it normal to tell or maybe strongly suggest to a chaperone or someone involved in helping and showing God’s love to not contact their families during that time period? I am having a hard time with this. I don’t feel as though God would ask for someone spreading his word to not be allowed to have contact with their family. I understand that maybe it should be done away from the youth if it is that type of mission. I guess that I don’t see 15-20 minutes at some point a day to contact your family is much to ask out of a 24 hour day for 9 days. I am looking for men’s and women’s opinion on this. I cant claim to know the bible from front to back but I find scripture that can be interpreted both ways. Thanks