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Disconnect: Permission for Pastors to Power Down

I have a serious question for you. There is only one right answer to this question, so get ready. If you answer incorrectly, don’t be too discouraged – there is hope. But this question is a barometer that can’t be ignored. Here it is: Did you take your cell phone with you on your most recent date with your wife?

If you did, let me assure you that you are not alone. A recent study by Hewlett-Packard found that 62 percent of the adult population is addicted to cell-phone technology: texts, tweets, Facebook updates, instant access to emails and, of course, phone calls. Pastors and other church leaders are not immune to this phenomenon. In fact, we may be among the guiltiest parties. We are a techno-connected bunch. We righteously clutch our Blackberries and iPhones as we accuse the outside world of being unable to free themselves from technology’s hold. But how often do we disconnect? How often do we allow ourselves to step away from our pressing responsibilities and spend uninterrupted time focusing on things more eternal?

You may already be arguing with me: “But being connected allows me to stay right on top of urgent issues in my church.” Okay. “My associate pastor needs to be able to contact me any time.” Really? “If I am out of touch, something might slip through the cracks – or worse, there might be a crisis that I’m not there to handle.” I hear you. But consider this: Allowing yourself to disconnect at important times for appropriate periods is really a statement of trust, an acknowledgement of God’s ability to handle the world without your help. 

When to Disconnect

A few years ago, I was attending a seminar led by a well-renowned speaker. Just before the seminar began, like most of the other church leaders in attendance, I busily shot out a couple of last-minute emails and responded to a text message or two.

When the speaker stepped onstage, the first thing he said was, “Why don’t you all give yourselves a gift and turn off your cell phones for the duration of our time together. I want you to be able to focus your hearts and minds on what we’re going to be discussing.” His words hit me squarely between the eyes – disconnecting from my cell phone for a period of time could be considered a gift I give myself. By doing so, I could truly center my attention on the critical information he was about to convey, without the distraction of a buzzing pocket. This truth began solidifying itself in my mind: There is nothing wrong with being connected most of the time, as long as we realize and respect the importance of wisely disconnecting.

There are four scenarios where I believe it is not only important but wise to turn off your cell phone and focus completely on the moment:

When you are on a date with your spouse

When you are spending time with your kids

While you study and prepare for your Sunday teaching

On your Sabbath day