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Is Technology Too Distracting in My Youth Ministry?

The “wired” ministry: when is enough, enough?

by Brandon Early

Shiny, beeping distractions are irresistible. Whether they’re texting, checking social media, taking selfies, or playing games, students will drop everything to take a peek. When teaching, I use this to my advantage—I change things up every five to seven minutes. For example, I screen-share my iPad Bible app, show a video clip, ask kids to text me questions, have them tweet a phrase and add #ilovemychurch, and so on. All this is great for active teenage minds and points directly to Jesus, right? That’s my hope.

In a workshop I taught at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference, someone asked this great question: “How do we know when technology has become a distraction?” I responded, “You’ll know if the message gets lost in all the flash.”

At least I thought it would be obvious. Since then I’ve wondered: Have I let technology become a distraction in my ministry? Am I doing or using things that are so cool the focus gravitates toward them rather than Jesus?

Once, while substitute-preaching for a friend, I used a perfect illustration that connected the Scripture to real life. I’d never made a crowd laugh so hard. Later, when my friend followed up, he said: “That story was so funny. I loved it…maybe too much.” I asked for clarification, and he replied: “A seminary professor warned me not to let an illustration shine brighter than Jesus. I think people may have left church that day remembering your story instead of the point.”

In my attempt to be a funny communicator, I missed the beeline to Jesus. In my weakness, I stood tall in the spotlight and overshadowed him.

Pausing to ponder if technology has become a distraction has forced me to make sure I’m being intentional. Here are a few subtle shifts I’ve made to keep the spotlight on Jesus:

• I teach from my iPad but read passages from my Bible.
• I put teaching points and Scripture verses on screens but provide Bibles for students to use.
• I give students printed sermon notes to fill in so they aren’t buried in their phones “taking notes.”
• Although I still text students, I’m more intentional about having face-to-face conversations.
• Rather than listening to songs on my iPhone, I have a live worship team sing while following me around.

Okay, that last one isn’t true. I’m not advocating getting rid of technology, but I am in favor of losing the distractions to make Jesus known.

BRANDON’S FAVORITES
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Twitter: @YouthGroupBoy
Wish-List Item: DODOcase Folio for iPad Air

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