A recent pew survey on cell phone ettiequte revealed that 96% of people think it’s generally “not ok” to use your cell phone during church. As a pastor, I’m thinking this has to be a case “do as I say, not as I do” because I see far more than 4% of people whipping out their phones in church. Yes, you could be meditating deeply on Psalm 23 but let’s be real, you’re more likely rejoicing over your new high score at Subway Surfer.
As a pastor it would be easy to look out over the congregation and rebuke everyone for being more interested in Words with Friends than in the Word of God; for spending time on Facebook when you could be having FaceTime with your Heavenly Father. But there’s a reason we pastors haven't got together and unilaterally banned cell phones in church complete with a signal jammer. The reason is that your smartphone, used with wisdom, can actually help you get more out of church. So here’s four pastor approved tips for using for smartphone in church.
1. The New Pocket Bible
This is the obvious one and while I still prefer the Bible in printed form, I think it’s awesome that we can have God’s Word complete with a million different translations at the touch of an app. Having scripture projected on the screen is great but there’s something about looking it up for yourself. By all means bring your printed Bible to church and actually flip through the pages to find that scripture your pastor is referencing. But for those days you forget, use your favorite Bible app to look up that verse. And if you use an app like Blue Letter Bible you can even see if your pastor is parsing that Greek verb correctly.
I can’t imagine what the church fathers would have given to have the entirety of scripture tucked in their pocket. Sure would’ve have beat lugging around giant scrolls (a Torah scroll can weigh up to 20lbs).
2. Start Typing
It’s been proven by multiple studies that the best way to retain information is taking hand-written notes. There’s no substitute for a notebook and a good pen, but for those times you don’t have one, use your smartphone. There’s hundreds of note-taking apps, so choose one and type away. My personal favorite is Evernote where you can actually record what's being said and it will attach the audio to your notes.
Don’t try and write down everything, but rather, capture the main points and scriptures. Then as the message concludes write down some action points for yourself in the coming week and what the Holy Spirit is saying specifically to you through the message.
Some churches (including mine) even put notes and ways to interact with the service in You Version Bible app.
3. Share the Love
You’re already telling your friends and followers about that awesome restaurant or that amazing movie you saw last night. So why not also use your phone and online influence to share about the great things God is doing at your church.
Share what God spoke to you, how worship ministered to you, or a picture that captures what God was doing that morning. It may just be your posts about church that break someone’s preconceived notion of church and cause them to check it out for themselves.
Just don’t spend your time crafting the perfect post when you should be listening to the sermon. There’s plenty of time to share after church is over.
4. Airplane Mode Is Your Friend
The biggest problem with using your smartphone to look up Bible verses or to take notes is that distractions are only a tap away. In a matter of a second you can go from checking out John 3:16 to checking out how many “likes” your coffee pic from this morning has garnered.
No matter how hard you try there’s always something ready to distract you and take your attention away from what’s happening in church. If you’re going to use your phone in church, turn on airplane mode when you arrive and this will eliminate most of the distractions that your phone could cause, but allow you to still look up Scripture and take notes.
My final suggestion is this; if you know your phone is a distraction to you during church, just go cold turkey. Leave it in the car or turn it completely off until church is over. Nothing’s worse than missing what God has for you or how God wants you to minister to someone else that Sunday because you can’t keep your face out of your phone.
Do you use your smartphone in church? If so, comment and share you use it without letting it become a distraction.