No Cell Phones Allowed

No Cell Phones Sign K 4121

During last summer's international mission trip, I didn't allow participants to have cell phones. Throughout our time away, we did, however, blog.

Teens often joked at the irony of being totally disengaged from their cell phones and technology while their parents sat at home, refreshing our blog every 30 seconds eagerly waiting for updates.

In some ways, it's easy to forbid cell phones on an international trip. Even if teens bring them, without the right SIM card or an expensive international data plan, theirs won't work. It's often much harder to ban cell phones on domestic mission trips or overnight events.

Yet, I do so because I've found that forbidding cell phones...

- Forces teens to take a much-needed Sabbath from them. It gives them space and quiet – the kind that God often reveals himself in. It deprograms them from something that many are actually addicted to.

- Decreases homesickness. When teens are simply cut off from their parents and friends, it reduces the tendency to think about what's happening at home or worse, to obsess over problems they can't control or things they're missing.

- Prevents conflicts from escalating unnecessarily. During extended times away, fatigue plus fluctuating emotions make for an environment ripe for conflict – even between people who normally get along. Such conflicts can be easily dealt with during a trip... Unless, that is, they make their way home. Here's what I mean. Before I learned to ban cell phones from trips, teens and adult leaders on the first mission trip I led became embroiled in a conflict. In the midst of the conflict, teens called home in tears, something that both angered and worried parents. By the time we got home, we'd resolved the conflict. The problem was, parents didn't know that. Although they'd received the initial call, they hadn't received the one saying “It's all good!” As a result, they were still angry. Their fury caused an already resolved problem to resurface and grow, something that could have been avoided had teens not been able to call home in a panic.

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Jen Bradbury on Youth Ministry

Jen serves as the Minister of Youth and Family at Atonement Lutheran Church in Barrington, Illinois. A veteran youth worker, Jen holds an MA in Youth Ministry Leadership from Huntington University. Jen is the author of The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe about Jesus (The Youth Cartel), The Real Jesus (The Youth Cartel), Unleashing the Hidden Potential of Your Student Leaders (Abingdon), and A Mission That Matters (Abingdon). Her writing has also appeared in YouthWorker Journal, Immerse, and The Christian Century. Jen is also the Assistant Director of Arbor Research Group where she has led many national studies. When not doing ministry or research, she and her husband, Doug, and daughter, Hope, can be found traveling and enjoying life together.

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A Mission That Matters: How To Do Short-Term Missions Without Long-Term Harm

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Unleashing the Hidden Potential of your Student Leaders

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The Real Jesus

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The Jesus Gap

What Teens Actually Believe About Jesus

Based on National Research

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