Every November (or sometimes early December) we take our youth group on a Fall Retreat. There is a family connected to our church that loans us their house about two hours out of town. It is a great change from the city, super cheap and perfect for the youth. There are about 20 who go. We go on the same hike each year and have teaching, worship and lots of free time. Part of the idea is to just let them be together and see what happens. Whatever ideas they come up with I try to say yes if possible.
In the past I have always banned devices. I thought it would take away from these guys interacting with each other. I was wrong.
This year I allowed devices, mostly because I finally bought a smart phone and didn’t want to be hassled every time I pulled it out. I thought I would have to keep the youth from playing games by themselves. I was completely wrong. I had underestimated their ability to interact with each other around their devices. They played games together. They played all their favorite music and didn’t once try an inappropriate song. They read their bibles on devices and were more excited about it. They came up with themes for the weekend. They made videos and came up with video based activities.
In addition to all this they interacted with youth who weren’t even there almost as if they were. At one point a txt conversation started with one of the youth who wasn’t there. They passed around the phone and let everyone in the house ‘talk’ for a few minutes.
The end result of this was the most energy we have ever had on this retreat. The energy also lasted longer afterward because of the social media afterglow.
I still think that there need to be times when youth take an intentional break from media and all devices, but I was wrong to think God can’t do his work through them.