What means the screen?

This morning, I was greeting at church, which means that for the better part of an hour, I stood in front of the glass doors and welcomed people as they came to church.  At about twenty till, a friend of mine who’s probably in her sixties, came in.  We greeted each other, hugged, and I gave her a bulletin.  As she walked past me toward the sanctuary, she paused, looked around the foyer, looked over her shoulder at me, motioned back and forth with one hand palm up, and shook her head.  Then she went on in.

At first I didn’t realize what she was getting at, but a few minutes later I put it all together.  As more families arrived, many of the adults headed either into the sanctuary, to the bathroom, or to one of the children’s classes where they’d be serving, but the kids were, for the most part, hanging out in the foyer where I, the woman at the door, got to be a fly on the wall observing youth behavior.

Of our own children, Katie and Jessica live out of town, and Josiah is away at college, so Andrew was the only Roberts offspring present at church this morning, and he was in the sanctuary for worship practice while I was made the following (disturbing to me) observation.

As I briefly turned my back to the door and scanned the foyer, I saw that two five year-old girls were seated on the floor heads bent over an iPad that was plugged into the wall.  Three boys – eleven, thirteen, and fifteen years old – were seated in a row on the pew along the wall, each fully focused on his own handheld device.  A fourteen year-old boy came in and leaned on the information counter, intently touch-padding his phone.  A nine year-old boy wearing ear buds walked past, holding his device in front of his face.

Seven kids, and every single one of them head down and completely captivated by whatever was on his or her screen.

This made me sad.

It was a deep, inside kind of sad.

I happen to know all those kids and their parents.  They are great folks who are working hard to raise their kids well, but not everyone knows that.  It occurred to me that if a visitor came in and happened to walk from the front door through the foyer and into the sanctuary at that moment, he or she might think that screens are the preeminent priority for the kids in our church.  Is that really the image we want to portray to our first-time visitors?

More importantly, is that the truth?

I guess this is the pot calling the kettle black, because I use screens all the time.  I use my phone many, many times a days to make and receive phone calls and to send and receive texts.  I use my computer ALL DAY LONG, not only for “work” (dealing with financial matters, doing various kinds of ministry planning, administration, and contact work, planning, printing, and keeping records for Andrew’s academics, renewing library books, editing documents for myself and others, ordering all kinds of items and supplies), but also for fun (emailing friends and family, reading blogs, and – smiley face – relaxing and recharging by writing. . . like this!).

Do I have my face in a screen too often?  Yes.  Do I feel a compulsion to look at my phone every time it bleeps to say I have a text or incoming call?  Yes.  So, do I set a bad example for Andrew?  Probably so.  Obviously, I need to make some changes and do better at putting my screens in a box.  But I do want to say that I am extremely grateful to God that we were at least able to raise our three oldest in a culture where screens were not our gods and where their being relatively screen-free didn’t necessarily make them social outcasts.

It takes an awful lot of internal strength to buck the culture, and that’s especially hard to do when you’re 14, incredibly social, and desperate to fit in and be accepted.  Oh, God, give us more grace.  Please.


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