Technology: Leaving Space for Silence
Rev. Paula Daniel-Steinbacher / Presbyterian Church of the Eternal Hills / Tabernash, Colorado / email@example.com
(This is the next in our series of Feature Articles from Youth Leaders Only 102 – which has the theme of TECHNOLOGY: Doing Ministry in the 21st Century.)
I’ve been in youth ministry for more than 25 years, and over the years I’ve seen every size/shape/variety of youth room. Most of the time these rooms have been the unused space of the church – mildewed basement rooms filled with couches of every shape, color, upholstery, and (unfortunately) condition. Sometimes the youth rooms were specially-designed with coffee bars in the corner, neon signs on the walls, and gaming systems projected onto several walls.
Currently, the church where I serve has been gifted with a large monetary donation to build the massive, unfinished space in our basement into a youth center. I cannot adequately describe the excitement it has brought to our youth and volunteers. In making plans for this space, we have listed all of the essential “needs” for this new space: a kitchen; large, open-space for games; bathrooms with showers so we can host other groups; big-screens; a stage; great sound system; classrooms/small group meeting spaces; foosball table, air-hockey table, blow-up hot tub (actually, I nixed the blow-up hot tub, but it made the initial list).
In all of our preparations for this amazing space, I have been pretty insistent on leaving room for unplugged, low-key, simple worship space. Here’s why: in our wait for the architects to draw up a tech-savvy space, we’ve been meeting in a corner of our Fellowship Hall for our chapel time, and we have not previously experienced worship so deep and meaningful as we have in our little quiet corner.
We used to meet in our sanctuary, complete with great sound system, projection screens, stage area for the youth band – everything I thought kids wanted when they came for Youth Group chapel time. But when we worshiped in the sanctuary (it’s a very large, open space), the youth sat in little “clumps” (dare I say cliques?) spread across the huge area. The loners were on their cell phones and not participating, and the “clumps” spent more time whispering and talking together than they did listening to the message or worshiping through song.
In our quiet corner, we park our cellphones in the cellphone garage, and we only have as many chairs as there are youth and adults. We sing, mostly unaccompanied, but occasionally…
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