3 out-of-the-box ideas for using cell phones in worship

July 14, 2014

By Jeremy Steele -

No matter how often we make the announcement about silencing cell phones, people in our congregations are using them during worship.  Some use them to read the Bible they like; while others are checking social media updates.  

What if we took advantage of that incredible little tool that most people have at their fingertips?  There are ways to encourage people to use their cell phones during worship to stay engaged and interact with the service … as long as you think outside the box.


A popular cell phone trend is the selfie.  You have seen them: People standing with one arm out holding the phone to take a photo of whatever special thing is happening in their lives. One part of the human experience that has largely escaped being shared with friends through the selfie is church.  

Other than the occasional undercover selfie taken by the youth in the back row, church is almost never part of the selfie.  Few have the opportunity or encouragement to take a selfie during worship.  We can remedy. Consider having several Selfie Sundays throughout the year or even Selfie Small Group days! You could celebrate any day of the week and extend the idea to any ministry. 

  • First, schedule the selfie celebrations. Give people advance notice and encourage the use of props and costumes.
  • Plan for extra time (about five or ten minutes) for people to take pictures during your normal greeting time.
  • Provide a few different scenic background options to add color and creativity. Arranging or constructing backgrounds could be a fun activity for the youth group.
  • Give a clear explanation that today the congregation is celebrating Selfie Sunday and you want everyone who can to share this important part of their life with a selfie direct from the service.
  • Enlist a few cell-phone-savvy volunteers. Most people can take the pictures themselves, but they may need help from a volunteer to post to Instagram and other social media platforms.
  • Let the fun begin! Feel free to make fun of the church selfie concept. Put on your best duck face, stage a baby selfie and let your church's lighter side shine!
  • Give everyone a specific hashtag to use, something like #FUMCselfiesunday, to add to the photos so that you can search for them and show them before next Sunday’s service.

Want to take your selfie to an un-selfish level? Take an “un-selfie” to raise awareness about a problem or raise funds for a cause.

  • Highlight a call-to-action by taking a selfie with a sign that lets people know what to do!
  • Hold up a sign in front of your face with a link to a site where people can learn more about a cause.
  • Add a prop to everyone’s picture (like a net to raise awareness of the Imagine NO Malaria campaign)

Poll Everywhere

Though 90 percent of Americans have cell phones, only 58 percent have smart phones.  However, this next idea uses a feature that is on every cell phone on the market today: text messaging.  Poll Everywhere is a tool that allows you to collect and immediately display responses from a poll via text messaging.  

During your service, ask a question, such as "Which of the beatitudes is most challenging to you?" while displaying a screen from the Poll Everywhere site with the options.  Everyone in the congregation uses their phones to text their answers to the phone number shown on the screen. As each person texts a response, a bar graph is instantly updated.  Wait a minute or two while the graph flexes with each response, then you can move on to the next question or next point in the sermon.

Creating the poll is very simple.  After signing up for Poll Everywhere, click “create a poll,” type in your question and answers, and you are done.  It is that simple.  Of course, there are many more features like a presenter app, countdown clock, social sharing, etc.  However, the core functionality is insanely simple!

Poll Everywhere is free for up to 40 respondents.  After that, you pay a little for each month that you want to use it. You are not locked into a contract. Now, put this engaging tool in your creative toolbox where it will be ready for your next service!

YouVersion Live

If you are around the church long enough, you will hear the debate about whether you should give sermon notes and whether they should be fill-in-the-blank, whether to put a whole verse on the screen or ask people to turn in their Bible, and on and on.  The answer to many of those questions can be YouVersion Live.

You probably know YouVersion as the app on your phone called “Bible.”  Though you may have only used it to pull up a passage of Scripture or to incorporate a reading plan, there is a lot of power hidden in the little tab that says “live.”


You can place everything there that people need to follow along during the sermon (or small group study). There can be full Bible verses in whatever version you will be using, links to videos, discussion questions and even online giving options.  All will come nicely formatted in a Bible app on the phone. These two simple YouVersion tutorial videos will walk you through the process.