Wayne Yeager

I am a full-time youth minister in Western Kentucky. I have been in youth ministry for 11 years, mainly in rural areas.

I recently learned a valuable lesson from my daughter.

This past Christmas, she received a LeapPad Ultra as a present.  If you don’t know what that is, it’s essentially an iPad for children.  It has apps, games, a search engine, a YouTube like feature and even a camera.  It’s all designed with a kid in mind.

Needless to say, my little girl loves it.  Actually, she loves it too much.

Over the past few weeks, her use of the device has increased.  A few minutes here and there soon became hours of play on the device.  When she started quoting videos from the search engine, we knew it was time to intervene.  So, much to her dismay, we took it away for a few days.  She needed a break, even if she didn’t understand or like the situation.

For the first few days, she complained and begged for the device back.  However, about mid-week, she started playing with her toys.  She asked to go outside.  She engaged in games.  A few days of being “unplugged” has done her some good.  She now has her LeapPad back, but she only gets to play it for a limited amount of time each day.  We also disabled the YouTube like feature.

From that, I learned this:  as a youth pastor, there are times I need to unplug.

We chide our students all the time for cell phone and tablet use.  We restrict use on mission trips and camps.  We ask for them to be put away during youth group or Bible Study.  We encourage students to interact with one another and lament when we see a group with their eyes and thumbs glued to their smartphones.

Yet, aren’t we guilty of the same thing?  We stay attached to our phones to update Facebook or Twitter or Instagram.  We revel in our witty uses of the technology.  Our calendars, e-mails and contact lists are all integrated with our phones, laptops and tablets.  When we go on vacation, we post all of our pictures and interact with our students…while we’re supposed to be away with our families.

Enough is enough.  In order to effectively minister to our students and dedicate our time to our families, we need to unplug.  Put the phone away.  Turn it off for an hour if you have to.  Power down the Kindle and the iPad.  Shut down the computer.  Switch off the television.

When you do, I think you’ll find amazing conversations, fun new games for your family and an interaction you didn’t know you were missing.  It’ll help your family and it’ll help you ministry.

The phone, laptop, tablet and TV will still be there when you’re done.  I promise, you won’t miss a thing.

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