My Cell Phone as an Offering

“… and so God gives to Moses… Tim, please put that phone away. You can text with your friend after we’re done here. Thanks… Anyway, God gives Moses these two stone… Mark, I asked you to turn your phone to silent while we have our lesson time. Please, man. Thank you. Alrighty. So God gives… David! Sending pictures of my fly being open to me is not an effective method of communicating within this group! Give me the phone. Now. You can have it back when you leave, not before. Where were we? Oh, right, Moses…”

Does this sound like your small group meeting time? Do you find yourself dealing with constant text messaging, pictures, and ring tones at inconvenient times during discussion? If you do, then you are not alone—far from it, indeed. As leaders of small groups, many of us have to deal with these technological wonders on a weekly basis. It seems that there are very few people left in the United States that don’t have their own lifeline (or leash) to the rest of the world. And many of those people will jump to answer the ringing or buzzing phone no matter what else is going on.

So what do we do about it? Cell phones are a part of life, and we have to put up with these constant distractions. Especially if we are leading a small group of teens who need their phones on in case their parents (or friends) need to get hold of them.

After wrestling with this debate for a while, I came up with what has turned out to be a great method of leaving the distractions at the door when meeting in a small group. Give the cell phones up.

Grab a basket – or better yet an offering plate – and have your small group members turn their phone off and place it in the container that you have decided upon using. Tell them that the time that you spend together as a small group should be time that is devoted to God. By devoting this time to God, we are removing all other distractions from our space so that we can focus solely on Him. You wouldn’t lead your small group with the TV on, showing a Lost repeat, unless you were using it as a teaching illustration. So decide now to cut out the other major technological distractions that we as modern Americans have. Now, you will need to be prepared for the questions: But what if my mom needs to get a hold of me? What if there is an emergency? What if?

Before you meet together, make sure that if someone needs a direct line to a member of your group (parents if you have a group of teens, spouses if you have a group of adults) know that you are turning the cell phones off for an hour or so, and in a genuine emergency, they can call your phone (preferably a landline, but your cell if you don’t have one). You can also make sure that those who might need to contact your group members know where you live, so they can drop by if a need presents itself.

I currently use a basket to collect our group’s cell phones, iPods, mp3 players, video game systems and any other electronic devices before a meeting starts. Initially there was much grumbling and many “what if” questions were asked. But after explaining why we do this for a few weeks, the questions and the grumbling subsided. Now teens will remind me if I forget to pass the basket around, and we have only had one instance in which a group member did not turn their phone off. They turned it to vibrate and were actually a little embarrassed that their mother was calling them.

So, turn the cell phone off! A small group should be an intimate time in which participants can listen to God’s words and focus on the life of their small body of believers. Help your group be free of distractions, and make it easier for them to hear God’s voice through their fellow group members.

Give up your phone as an offering to God. Just for an hour or so.