Support the Café

Search our Site

Cell phones in church? Not okay.

Cell phones in church? Not okay.

The Pew Research Center has just published a report, “Americans’ Views on Mobile Etiquette,” studying the discrepancy between where Americans feel cell phone use is appropriate and how their behavior reflects and contradicts that.

The study surveyed 3,217 adults, only four percent of whom said that mobile phone use during church or a worship service was acceptable – the lowest approval of eight situations ranging from walking down the street to family dinners to meetings.

As a general proposition, Americans view cell phones as distracting and annoying when used in social settings — but at the same time, many use their own devices during group encounters.

When asked for their views on how mobile phone use impacts group interactions, 82% of adults say that when people use their phones in these settings it frequently or occasionally hurts the conversation. Meanwhile, 33% say that cell phone use in these situations frequently or occasionally contributes to the conversation and atmosphere of the group. Women are more likely than men to feel cell use at social gatherings hurts the group: 41% of women say it frequently hurts the gathering vs. 32% of men who say that the same. Similarly, those over age 50 (45%) are more likely than younger cell owners (29%) to feel that cellphone use frequently hurts group conversations.

To read the report’s full findings, click here.


Café Comments?

Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Dirk Reinken

Another suggestion from the eFormation conference was to create a page on Yelp and get worshippers to review your church. I wonder how many of us are comfortable having our church available on a publicly accessible review platform? Talk about vulnerability!

Dirk Reinken

At VTS’s e-formation conference in June, there were many suggestion about how to incorporate social media and cell phones in worship. It comes down to understanding that the online community is an extension of the parish’s bounds.

Some suggestions include simple things like a notic in the bulletin to the effect of “Before you put your phone on vibrate, why note check in on Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter, or your favorite social media platform?” One colleague recently encouraged her parishioners to text the Peace to 2 people who were not in church ( and then put the phone on silent mode since they would text back). It ended up having a very positive effect.

I like silence and solemnity along with most Episcopalians, but social media is here to stay and can be a very powerful way to extend a congregation’s reach, including during worship. As with all things, it takes time to reach a comfort level and a general consensus on what’s good manners and what isn’t.

With regard to photos, we tell people they have to stay where they are and not use flash, but if they wish to record or take a photo of the baptism or wedding, they should do so while remembering they are here to worship. So far, it’s worked out OK.

Well communicated boundaries and openness seem to work well together in this area, in my experience.

MeredithGould (@Mere

Perfectly fine…if on silent. These are tools for evangelism and hospitality; powerful means for reaching beyond the building to people who can’t or won’t attend worship.

My latest fave story on point is the one about woman in one of my workshops who told everyone about her awakening and change of heart.

After being steamed about what “the kid” next to her was doing on his smartphone, she finally leaned over to say something. Turns out, he was following the readings with an online lectionary app. “In that moment,” she said, “I realized that I really don’t know what people are doing on their smartphones.” (Shameless self-promo: this and other similar stuff is in the 2nd edition of my book about social media.)


The article doesn’t specify what type of use. What if someone is using a cellphone to tweet sermon tidbits. By the way, I think it’s far worse to use a cellphone to text while walking down the street than while sitting in a pew.

Please follow the stated policy and post comments using your first and last names in the future. – editor

Alan Christensen

I’m curious about the subtle gradations between church, meetings, and the theater. Who thinks one of those is OK but not the others?

There are probably people who need to keep their phones on during church because they’re on-call for work, etc. They should of course put them on vibrate.

David Streever

I wonder if that falls into margin of error? It’s such a small difference. I also wonder if they were thinking of ‘use’ as a diversity of uses–checking the time, making calls, etc, etc…

Support the Café
Past Posts

The Episcopal Café seeks to be an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.  The Café is not a platform of advocacy, but it does aim to tell the story of the church from the perspective of Progressive Christianity.  Our collective sympathy, as the Café, lies with the project of widening the circle of inclusion within the church and empowering all the baptized for the role to which they have been called as followers of Christ.

The opinions expressed at the Café are those of individual contributors, and, unless otherwise noted, should not be interpreted as official statements of a parish, diocese or other organization. The art and articles that appear here remain the property of their creators.

All Content  © 2017 Episcopal Café