iPhones in Church: How Smartphones Can Help Us Give 100% of Our Attention to God in Worship


I remember when reading the scripture from my iPhone in church was considered weird … off-putting … even gauche. Today most everyone brings a smart phone to worship. This morning in worship the pastor made an announcement that included instructions to text to a notification service in order to allow the church to text you if and when there was an emergency or weather need to cancel the worship service. He said, “go ahead, text it now, but then put your phones away, because God deserves 100% of our attention.” He got me thinking … Popular opinion tends to favor no smart phone use in church … do a search on “texting in church” and see how many, “please turn off your cell phone” images and videos there are. Most imply or say outright the same thing this pastor said … God deserves 100%.

Certainly beeps, rings, and clicks are distracting to others … I get that. But I challenge the 100% attention premise … For minds that have been shaped by “screen in screen” HDTVs and quick moving video images, for the majority of us that are just a little ADD most worship services are … how do I say this nicely? … Well, if you’ve ever counted the rafters in the ceiling at church, you know what I mean.

Most of the visual imagery of Presbyterian worship is static. Most of the worship service is non-participative. 100% of our attention? That’s not a reasonable expectation. Most of us listen to a sermon only long enough for it to trigger a thought, a memory, or a question …

What if the smart phone becomes one way of interaction in worship? What if it becomes the tool, not to distract us from God, but to attract more of our attention to worship?

Here are some of my ideas …

  • Encourage non-flash photos or videos to be taken and shared via Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Vine or a photo journal app like Blipfoto.
  • Publicize a Twitter #hashtag for the church for live tweeting of worship. You’ll have to allow the users to self-monitor their snarky-ism
  • Ask worshippers to read the scripture on their phones and share the phrase that speaks to them on Facebook or Twitter.
  • Upload notes (or sidebars) of the sermon, factoids about the hymns, etc. to your congregations website or Facebook page for worshippers to access during worship or after.
  • Share apps that encourage meditative activities like a finger labyrinth, or drawing, doodling, art applications that worshippers could use to guide their own worship expression.
  • Encourage members to text or post their prayers when others are praying silently

I guess I can imagine a time when worship attenders will access the order of worship, scripture texts, worship preparation, prayer requests, videos, photographs, announcements, calendar and interactive blogging on your church’s mobile app. In the meantime … Let’s promote faithful smartphone use in worship …

In general, I think that means we …

  • Don’t call our friends, or make lunch reservations during worship.
  • Don’t check the latest Facebook meme, recipes, headlines or sports scores.
  • Don’t play Solitaire, Farmville or Candy Crush.
  • Remember to turn off all sound, and try not to disturb those worshipping with us.

Any other ideas?

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