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There are some real abuses of wireless technology being perpetrated all around us, and the time has come to create some social order out of the cell phone chaos. As ministers and church leaders it's time for us to set the example.

In an effort to be connected and for safety reasons, most of us own and utilize cell phones. Although it has accomplished the above we are often neglecting the people we are in the room with. I enjoy the opportunity to check on my teenager at any given moment, and to be able to call my spouse and add something to the grocery list.

But it is so sad to see a couple at dinner and they are both on their cell phones with other people! Just as horrible is the father I saw in the orthodontist waiting room with his teenage daughter who spent the entire time on the phone. What a missed opportunity to connect with her.

There comes a time in any technological revolution when some basic guidelines need to be laid down. It happened when email exploded on the scene and people started to learn some basic do's and don'ts around the new medium.

Well, I've reached the point with cell phones where I feel the need to lay down some helpful guidelines. There are some real abuses of wireless technology being perpetrated all around us, and the time has come to create some social order out of the cell phone chaos. As ministers and church leaders it's time for us to set the example.

This is by no means an exhaustive list simply because as the technology evolves, new annoying traits will surely emerge. For example, the gym now has to ask people not to bring camera phones into the locker rooms. But commandments usually come in tens, so think of this as the first Ten Commandments of cell phone etiquette, with possible amendments someday:

  1. Thou shalt not subject defenseless others to your cell phone conversations. When people cannot escape your conversation, such as on the bus, in a waiting room, on an airplane, in the elevator, or at a restaurant, you should spare them. People around you should have the option of not listening. Stand 10 feet away from others when speaking briefly on your cell phone. Sensitivity to other peoples' needs and comforts is a sign of good character.
  2. Thou shalt utilize voicemail. Where was it written that we must answer every call regardless of where we are at or what we are doing? Voicemail is awesome and easy to use. Why not simply change your voicemail to reflect your values: "I'm out on a date with my wife and I want her to have my undivided attention. Unless this is an emergency, I'm going to call you back tomorrow." Your values will teach others. Just be sure you do return your calls within an appropriate amount of time.
  3. Thou shalt not cell yell. "Can you hear me now?" is an everyday experience, yet we somehow feel that if we yell or talk really loud that it will make the connection better. If your signal cuts out, speaking louder won't help, unless the person is actually within earshot. These things have incredibly sensitive microphones—let them do the work for you.
  4. Thou shalt beware of the content of thy conversations. Ministry and people issues must be kept confidential and private. Too often I hear things about people that I don't want to know by someone who doesn't realize we all can hear everything they are saying. Be up front with people by saying, "There are some things I need to discuss with you on that issue but I would rather do it when I am in private." People will love and respect you for it.
  5. Thou shalt not dial and talk while driving. Use a headset, but if talking on a cell phone still distracts you (you know who you are), then use the time for something else. Some people are better at juggling many tasks at the same time than others, but there are some things in life that deserve your full attention.

    Some of you are taking multi-tasking to a whole new level. There are enough people in the world who have problems mastering vehicles and phones individually. Put them together and we have a serious health hazard on our hands.
  6. Thou shalt not wear thy earpiece while not on the phone. Besides looking like a growth is coming out of your head, it really confuses the rest of us. When you are with a group of people, out with friends, or hanging in the church lobby after a service, take it off. It gives the appearance that others are more important than the ones you are with.

    When you have it on and start talking to someone on the phone, we think you're talking to us!
  7. Thou shalt turn thy cell phone off during public meetings, performances, and presentations. There is nothing more irritating than a cell phone going off during a church service, recital, or movie. The frazzled look of "Oops, I forgot!" doesn't cut it any more. Turning your cell phone to "off" or "silent" should be as natural as sitting down in the chair.
  8. Thou shalt not use thy cell phone for long conversations. Once again this applies when you are out in public. Be brief. Keep the call short and don't be afraid to politely explain that you are not where you can discuss things or talk extensively. Those you are with will appreciate it.
  9. Thou shalt turn thy cell phone off. Just 15 years ago the average American was not available or "on call" 24-7. It was amazing then. People had to be patient and wait for you to get back to the office or get home to speak with you.

    Cell phones are addictive. Turn the phone off and enjoy the evening with your family. I recently lost my phone for two days and it was amazing. The world continued to function and it was actually quite enjoyable. Do you really want to be available all the time? Does that truly make you more productive, or does it just spread the productivity thinner over more time?

    I once read a study of supermarkets vying to stay open longer than their competition. They found that beyond a point they were not necessarily increasing business, but rather spreading it out. And expensively so. Keep in mind, the more available you make yourself the more available everyone will expect you to be. People will actually be miffed if you are not instantly and constantly available rather than being pleased when you do call.
  10. Thou shalt turn down the volume on the earpiece. There is nothing more awkward or even embarrassing than when the volume is up so high on your phone that everyone around you can hear what the other person is saying to you.
Good manners is the key to all of these commandments. Be considerate to others and—above all—to your family. They are worth it!

Dean Hawk Ministries
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Author Biography

Dean Hawk
Web site: The Rock Family Church
Dean is the founding pastor of Rock. He has been married to his wife, Kim, since 1983 and they have three adult children; Alesha, Allyson and Preston. Since 1981 Dean has served in the full time ministry. Prior to starting the church in 2004 he served as a Youth and Associate Pastor in three different churches. Along with his current pastoral duties Dean is also an adjunct professor at Charis Bible College in Woodland Park.

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