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Pastor Asks Congregation to Turn Cell Phones ON During Church Service

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If you’ve ever been in a church service, chances are you’ve experienced the annoyance of someone’s cell phone going off in the middle of the service.  For people in the congregation it’s a nuisance, but for pastors it ranks up there at the top of their pet peeves list.  So, you can imagine how shocked members of Cypress Meadows Community Church in Clearwater, FL must have been when they received this email from their senior pastor, Rev. Douglas Poole:

“Please bring your cell phone with you to the service this Sunday. Yes, you read that right.  I, the President of the ‘I hate cell phones going off in church club,’ am inviting you to bring that blasted thing to church this Sunday.”

The reason?

“At the end of the teaching on prayer this weekend I am going to devote about 7 minutes to answering questions on the topic and the way you will pass on your questions is by texting them to a number you will receive during the service. We will of course all have our phones on SILENT won’t we!”

The service was the third in a series called “Secret Confessions of a Pastor,” with this Sunday’s message entitled “I’ve Wondered If Prayer Really Works.”  Rev. Poole spoke about personal experiences when God did not seem to be answering his prayers.  He also used biblical references to explain several reasons why God does not always answer our prayers in the way we would like Him too.

Prior to the sermon and then once during the sermon message, Rev. Poole invited people to text their questions about prayer during the service to a special cell phone number.

In one of the church offices an elder (me) read the text messages as they came in and typed them into a word processor document.  Some messages were filtered out and others were combined.  Of about 15 text messages received, the end result was 7-8 good, challenging questions that a lot of people struggle with including:

  • How do I know that God has heard my prayer?
  • How often should I pray?
  • What’s up with public prayer?  Isn’t it a private matter?
  • I’ve done some really bad stuff in my life.  Will God still listen to me?
  • Do people who are not Christians get their prayers answered?

With about 10 minutes left in the service, the list was printed, walked up to the front of the church, and handed to the pastor.

Being the text message screener, I had the opportunity to “seed” the list of questions, and so I injected some humor by putting my own question at the top of the list:

“Douglas, I’ve been praying for years that your sermons would get shorter.  How come God hasn’t answered that one?”

Rev. Poole read that one and then chose 3-4 other questions from the list to address.

While the overwhelming response by the congregation to the text messaging was positive, there were a few criticisms levied.  A few people said they found other people punching away at their cell phones distracting.  Some who couldn’t text felt excluded because they couldn’t send in their questions.  One person confronted me after the service wanting to know why their question “didn’t make the list.”

The vast majority of attenders, though, liked the text messaging.  People appreciated hearing practical answers to real questions about prayer.  Additionally, in this era when many people are tired of being preached at, the notion that a pastor would actually listen and respond to their questions was refreshing to many people.

Asked afterwards for his assessment of the text messaging experiment, Rev. Poole said he thought it went well.  A lot of good questions were texted in.  “I wouldn’t want to do it every week, but it would be good to do occasionally in the future.”

Audio of the sermon and questions addressed is available on the church’s sermon blog.

 

This article is listed on Blogs4God and GospelShout.

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About the author

Paul Steinbrueck

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck.

17 Comments

  • While I suspect the whole texting process is a little distracting and obtrusive, it does communicate one thing effectively: This pastor wants to be contemporary.

    It raises this question for me, though, how is this an improvement on passing around the bucket for folks to put slips of paper into, on which they have written their question?

    Benefits:

    There’s no technology gap. Everyone from kindergartners to grandparents could participate.

    Lower distraction risk: people won’t be peering at their neighbor’s using this new-fangled texting thingie. And there’s no risk the cell-phones will go off if someone forgot to put it on vibrate or silent. Teens won’t be texting each other during the sermon under the cover of “writing the pastor a question.”

    More anonymity: guests won’t feel like they’re giving away too much information if they have a question. Church memebers might feel awkward asking a really tough question knowing that the quesetion could be associated with their ID.

    Less anonymity: If someone wishes, they could sign their name.

    Sometimes “old school” works better, I think.

    Regards,

    Rich
    BlogRodent

  • >>how is this an improvement on passing around the bucket for folks to put slips of paper into, on which they have written their question?

    Rich, good qustion. Some other improvements I think texting has over passing a bucket is are:

    1) Personally, I would consider having the ushers walk around passing buckets to be more distracting than texting.

    2) Passing the bucket only gives one opportunity for people to submit their questions, whereas with texting a person can do it any time during the service.

    3) Texting allows the moderator to review quesions as they come in throughout the service rather than all at once at the end. If you pass the bucket you would have to do so earlier in the service to give the moderator time to review all the questions afterwards.

    4) Texting makes the moderating easier because all the messages are all in one place and typed rather than hand-written.

    But I do consider the fact that texting excludes more than half a congregation from submiting questions a big detractor.

  • […] In einer Gemeinde fordert der Pastor die Gottesdienstbesucher auf, ihr Handy mitzubringen und angeschaltet zu lassen. Während der Predigt (zum Thema Gebet) haben sie die Möglichkeit, per SMS ihre Fragen an eine eingeblendete Nummer zu schicken. In einem Büro sitzt einer der Ältesten und stellt die wichtigsten / häufigsten Fragen zusammen. Anschließend bringt er die Liste dem Pasor, der sie öffentlich beantwortet. So geschehen in der Cypress Meadows Community Church in Clearwater, Florida. […]

  • I must admit your idea of getting questions to the pastor through the latest technoloyg was interesting. If it works and maintains order, then why not use it.

  • Hello everyone!!!
    I agreed the concern….
    This shows how much our society has crept into the church. Who would have thought 10 or 15 years ago that this would be an announcement which would have to be made at the start of the worship services.

    I would have to say though that I have been quilty myself of forgetting to turn my cell phone off at the start of the worship service. I usually try to remember to place it on silent when I get out of the truck at the church building but I have remembered a few times after I got set down that I had forgotten. I then have to try to “sneak” it out of my pocket or its holster and turn the ring tone off. Although I have not had it to ring during worship services I have learned that if my cell phone and the tranmitter for the lapel mike get into close proximity of each other it causes a funny noise over the pa system. This happen due to cell phones receiving “pings” from the cell towers every so often. When this happens I try to discretely take my cell phone and move it to another pocket without the audience noticing what I am doing………….

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