La Crosse pastor asks flock not to put away the cellphonesEnglish Lutheran Church in La Crosse started incorporating cell phones during its Wednesday Lenten service series.
By: By Jessica Larsen, La Crosse Tribune, Wis., Superior Telegram
Youngsters Katlyn and Alisha Saley know it's a strict rule: no cellphones in the church sanctuary.
So when the Rev. Mark Solyst told them to pull out their phones and start texting during a recent service, they thought he was joking.
An avid texter himself, Solyst had gone so far in the past as taking away cellphones from children disobeying his no-phone policy. But maybe, he thought, they could be put to use in the lessons.
English Lutheran Church in La Crosse started incorporating cell phones during its Wednesday Lenten service series. Solyst poses challenging questions to worshippers, who can text their answers. The responses are then reviewed in a PowerPoint presentation after the homily.
"The Spirit doesn't just work through me," Solyst said. "As they answer these questions for themselves, they grow stronger in faith and commitment."
Adam Nichols agrees. Often when a preacher asks a question during a service, it goes right over your head, he said. "Now I have to have an answer."
This week's question: Why church?
"It teaches us God's story, which he hopes we (use to) follow his path to heaven," one text read.
"It's a community of believers that helps strengthen everyone's faith," read another.
A simple smiley face text --:) -- summed it up.
Sixty-five percent of English Lutheran's newer members are in their 20s and 30s. That has church leaders constantly looking for ways to engage the growing younger generations sitting in the pews.
"If the church wants to connect with people, this is how you do it," Solyst said.
Some texts bring insight, others raw emotion, as people offer their reasoning to questions such as: Why be a Christian? And what do I expect from Jesus?
"Now they're owning the answers," Solyst said. "If I'm up there saying why they should be Christian, it goes right over their head. It's much more powerful to answer it for yourself."
Like many of the longtime members, 75-year-old Mary Sween does not text in her responses. Instead, she pens it out on a notecard and hands it in.
She doesn't mind the phones, though.
"It's a good way to keep the younger ones involved,"she said. "It will be their jobto carry the church on some day."
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