It’s okay when kids act differently in church

ELCA pastor Jason Chesnut reflects on the young people, the Gospel and social media.

I walked into a Lenten worship on Wednesday night this past month, and I came upon three confirmation kids looking with interest at a YouTube video on an iPod Touch.

I asked the one in the middle what time it was — he looked up, terrified when he realized it was a pastor, and all three were silent. They had been caught.

I asked again – “What time is it, dude?” “Oh. It’s 5:27, PJ.” A wave of relief cascades over these youth. Whew. I walk away.

It’s an interesting world we live in. Many of these kids, who have been raised with electronics as their first language, often encounter adults who see their heads buried in a screen and either silently judge them — or openly scold them.

It’s difficult, I know, to see this ubiquitous sight, especially in a sanctuary. It seems as though these future people of the church are not paying attention. Like they don’t care.

But then, I think about a couple of things:

For better or worse, this is the new reality in which we live. Notice I say for better or worse. Multitasking isn’t inherently bad, and newer generations are simply better at it than older generations.

Anytime a cellphone goes off in church, I can almost guarantee you that it is not someone 20 years old or younger. The younger generations might have their electronics as an inseparable extension of them, but they are much more aware of their appropriateness.

And then there’s the other reality that’s tough to swallow: For younger generations, what it means to be in church is fundamentally different than it is for their parents and grandparents.

This has always been the case, of course. There have always been matriarchs like Meryl Streep in the film “Doubt” who walk up the aisle, smacking kids (or simply wishing they could) who are falling asleep during the pastor’s sermon. There are always generations who lament the younger generation’s lack of respect, attention, silence — the list goes on.

Then again, I have walked right past grown adults who are talking during video prayers that are being projected on the screen during worship, oblivious to the carrying power of their (not-so) hushed tones.

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