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Should We Ban Smart Phones on the World Race?

Brian Cooke, our team leader on the World Race, told me the smart phone situation was terrible. “We were in Africa. When we’d have a spare moment, the team would all get on their iPhones. They were distracted and wasting their time. It killed me – as a leader, I was broken over the issue. They we…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

smashing the smartphone addiction

Brian Cooke, our team leader on the World Race, told me the smart phone situation was terrible. “We were in Africa. When we’d have a spare moment, the team would all get on their iPhones. They were distracted and wasting their time. It killed me – as a leader, I was broken over the issue. They were there to serve and to grow, but they couldn’t stay present.”

So what are we to do about this? It’s become a real problem. People go on the World Race to solidify their identity, learn to do community, and learn how to live a great life. But smart phones get in the way.

As I spell out here, we need to first leave or abandon the things that have have come to define us if we are to allow God to redefine us in his image. Consider the things that we need to abandon:

  • The false self
  • Materialism
  • Narcissism
  • Consumer spirituality
  • Victim attitudes
  • Media-absorption
  • Negative relationships

The Divine exchange

In their place, God wants to give us a deeper relationship with him. He wants to confirm our identity as a son or a daughter. He wants to connect us to a life-giving community. He wants to show us the world in all of its glory and pain.

He wants us to partner with him in bringing the Kingdom of light and grace to dark places.

What spectacular gifts these are! How awesome to take in the glory of God’s creation wherever you are in the world! How incredible is it to go from a place of insecurity and angst to feeling the depth of God’s great love for you.

And all God is asking for is a little space. Space to connect. Space to notice other people. Space to hear his still, small voice.

Leaving things that have come to define us can make our lives uncomfortable. As comfort-seeking creatures, we rebel. The smart phone is like a little electronic security blanket. It creates a portable comfort zone for racers no matter how far they are from home.

When we started the World Race ten years ago, this wasn’t an issue. Racers always brought their computers along, but they didn’t interrupt life as much. PCs required time to boot up. They required wifi and a place to sit. Then in 2007, Steve Jobs rolled out the iphone and everything changed. 

Smartphones have become ubiquitous. Gradually they have come to occupy an ever-greater part of our daily living. It used to be we restricted our computer time to primarily productive activity – our work life. Now, with the advent of Facebook and social media, we can live the rest of our lives online as well.

Ramifications? 

Smart phones are impacting people in a number of subtle ways. At family dinners they get in the way of conversation. In schools they are impairing learning. A recent study showed that schools that ban students from carrying phones see a clear improvement in their test scores, according to a study by the London School of Economics.

“We found the impact of banning phones for these students equivalent to an additional hour a week in school, or to increasing the school year by five days,” researchers Richard Murphy and Louis-Philippe Beland told Money Magazine.

And then there are the truly destructive things a smart phone can do. The vast majority of young men struggle with pornography. For guys like that, packing an iphone can be like carrying a copy of Playboy with them.

The smart phone can be a wonderful tool – a camera, a device to do research, and a means of communication. But it can also be a source of constant temptation. If racers have the ability to self-govern, that is, to resist the temptation, then it can serve a good purpose. But in the absence of self-governance, the temptation can be overwhelming.

Options

So here are our options for the World Race.

1. Ban the smart phone. Problem: Racers never learn self-governance and resent this kind of top-down rule-setting.

2. Assume self-governance. Problem: They are addicted and can’t self-govern.

3. Set strong boundaries. Problem: Someone has to be the policeman. It’s a thankless task.

Proposed Solution

Prove it or lose it. In the best of all possible worlds, the racers would have the chance to demonstrate their self-governance (see the video below for an example). If they fail, then they lose the privilege.

All our lives we face temptations and need to learn how to practice self-control. What are your thoughts on how we deal with this issue?

(Edit) Be sure to read the follow-up:

The Smartphone Issue is Bigger Than We Realized

and

Smart Phones & Mission Trips

Comments (220)

  • I think that it does make a lot of sense to have them leave their cell phones at home. Even the idea of leaving computers at home appeals to me. Part of the journey is to Be Still before God. This is made much more difficult to do with so many distractions. Having basic phones or one computer per team might be a good compromise.

  • i definitely understand that it is very frustrating to keep people engaged in the ministry when they seem to constantly be looking at their phones. In any kind of gathering, it’s easy to tell who is interested in what is happening around them and who is more interested in what is going on somewhere else.

    My daughter is currently in Zambia, Africa with her squad, and yes, she does have her cell phone with her. But she made it clear to us when she for back from training camp that there would be times, sometimes long periods of time, where she would not be able to communicate with us. Of course, that saddened me, but I understood that if she was constantly texting me or posting on Facebook, that she wouldn’t be getting much out of her experience in any country she visited. And if she was always in contact with me, it would be hard for her to communicate with God and hear what He was trying to teach her, so we have not pressured her to call us frequently.

    Knowing that her desire in applying for the World Race was to deepen her relationship with God and act in obedience to Him, has made it easier to get through the periods where communication is scarce. In fact, I find myself almost celebrating during these times because I feel that these are the times when He is really doing a work in, through, or for her!!

    I do get excited when I see a text from or hear her voice, or see her face on the screen, but so far she has managed to govern herself to contact us during days off. Fortunately, Facebook has never been priority for her, even before becoming a Racer.

    My opinion as the parent of a current Racer is that phones should not be banned, but it should be emphasized to the Racer early on (at training camp or during the interview process) that communication to home should be limited and the reasons why should be clearly stated. Then, this information should be shared with the family of the Racer by the Racer, AND in the information from AIM, AND to the parents who attend Launch, AND in any other format possible. When the Racers realize that their family is OK without hearing from them so frequently, they may feel less pressure to call.

    I feel that Racers should be encouraged to govern themselves to make contact only on days off from ministry and during travel times.

    There is one squad on the field now that has had more than their share of extreme circumstances, from major illnesses, to accidents and earthquakes. I’m sure those parents are thankful for the ability to communicate! AIM did do a good job keeping families informed of the condition and safety of the

  • I have read the comments that have been written as of now. There has been many excellent suggestions so far. Both for and against whether smartphones should be taken on The World Race. I believe that they should, however there could be a written agreement or policy that states this , each racer must hand over their phone to the team leader and on one assigned day each week, each racer will get to have the phone back for 2 hours period. During that period of time each racer can use the phone for calls, texting or posting on FB. Perhaps put it into writing the day of the week it will be, so that everyone knows how and when they will get to use their phones.
    AIM can post the time differences for the families at the time they post what country each squad is in. So that if the day is to be every Tuesday evening, the families can expect that they will be hearing from the racer on a particular day & time according to the time change of that country by adding or subtracting the difference from the day that is in the written agreement ..
    AIM would have to then adher to that stated day & time by always allowing that time for the racers to be available. Which would also include that each team in the different countries have available WiFi.
    Just a thought that might work for all involved. Team leaders would also be assigned a phone for emergencies and, exc. However, that phone should only be used for that, not for a racer just wanting to borrow it to call their family because they forgot to tell them something during the assigned time.

    As for pictures, there is now cameras that have WiFi ability where as the racer can post the pictures. Samsung makes one & the cost is very reasonable.
    Just some possible ideas.
    Seth, I know that God will put on your heart the best solution for this dilemma. Will say a prayer for you as you make this decision on what will be best for all involved.
    Blessings, Rhonda Coryell, mother of Alexis currently on K Squad.

    • Thanks, Rhonda. I love the trust you give us – you see the big picture of what God is doing in your daughter’s life.

  • Seth this is a great topic. My two cents would be that we need to communicate self governance better. This might be to set better expectations and challenge to change while out in the field. I did not have the time to read all the comments and maybe it was already discussed. To police would create a “law” culture. To ignore would be selfless and would not eliminate the problem. I think we create a problem when we try to create a sterile environment. People need to learn to make choices and make the right choices. The people that cares about me most keep me most accountable. Calling each other to a higher place is an act of love and care. If we can get them to care for each other in that way and keep each other accountable maybe we can see different results?

  • As a parent of a former World Racer, I agree completely with the idea of banning smartphones. Most people today can’t seem to stay focus on the job at hand, instinctively picking up their phone at every little beep of the device, like they are going to miss out on an important event in their life if they don’t instantly respond. since so many people appear to be addicted to their device, I am not sure that self control is possible. I think freedom without the devices help racers stay in the moment. Liife back home will go on and they will have plenty of time to catch up once they return home.

  • Great conversation. Very wide range of opinions. I appreciate the comments about missions work pre-smart phone . . . but we are called to live in the present moment, the present cultures. I doubt if anyone is suggesting that Racers not use air travel because ‘in the day missionaries traveled by boat’. There are enough limitations now on Racers, giving them many opportunities to learn sacrifice and greater reliance on God. I don’t think adding smart phones to the list is needed. If a Racer has a problem with a smart phone, e.g., too much use, pornography, distractions, etc., let the Leaders lead and the Coaches coach.

    • That is definitely the biggest take away from this conversation – let’s let the leaders lead and coaches coach.

  • Seth,
    This is an interesting idea. I’ve looked back on my world race and noticed that the months that were most successful (relationships being built, feeling closer to God and community) were the months that I was “screen fasting”. The brief moments when I’ve considered going again, or squad leading, I’ve told myself that I wouldn’t bring my phone or a computer or an iPod or anything that ran on electricity besides a flashlight. Internet cafes are everywhere and if I need to write a blog, or email home, or update Facebook, I can walk 10 minutes and do it. If there isn’t one nearby, that’s ok too. I think about all of the opportunities I missed where I could’ve talked to someone about Jesus, gotten to know someone better on my squad, or spent time with Jesus, but instead I was watching a tv show or checking Facebook or listening to music.

    Unfortunately, in my experience this isn’t an issue that we are very good at self-governing. I remember that even during screen fast months people would “sneak” a Facebook check, or a text back home. I’m probably guilty of the same thing. I think if phones weren’t allowed, amazing things would happen for the squads and the results they would see in ministry would be expanded.

  • The “idea” of the race is to see the face of God and hear His voice thru and in people around the planet; when you have your face in a screen, you will miss most of why you are doing this in the first place… no phones, one or two computers per team that they can use twice a month to blog, email family, etc. discipline, fear of the Lord, radical obedience come when we are quiet, aware and focused on the person that is right in front of us. We have to get back to this…

    • If nothing else, we have to give them the opportunity to choose what they’re going to focus on. Worst case, everyone gets to choose to live in their own mess. But at that point, if a person won’t choose to life, I’m not going to feel compelled to help them and we don’t have to include them on the race.

  • Thanks Seth for sharing your homework of insight. These are very similar places we all are in, almost daily. We have tried to ban phones from meal time. It is tricky. One goes to the phone store and they say, add this or that or do this or that and you can have this or that. It is truly exhausting. A walk on the beach with God and leave that phone in the car is truely a place to relish. I guess if the kiddos can’t handle the tempatations, the leaders have to make decisions to make this a good steward experience. Parents, will have some withdrawl as well. I believe we all have the ability to say no, but perhaps don’t really want to count the cost! I will pray for wisdom as you move from here.

    • You’re welcome, Peggy. Thanks for showing us that this issue is much broader than just the Race. It impacts the kind of family we want to raise and belong to.

  • Another thing to consider about this is that A LOT of people use their smart phones as their camera these days. I know that that is what I did when I lead Passport AFX and Squad lead.

    A lot of people don’t have an actual camera because smart phones these days are the same quality if not better than a lot of point and shoot cameras. WIth our focus on wanting to tell a good story(including photos and video) it would be hard to press that and yet tell people not to bring phones. Self governance would also be more challenging because it would be hard to tell when people are using their phones for photos/videos(editing etc) and for other things.

    I think it is another angle to the whole issue that would need to be thought out.

  • This is so great! I’m with Brian. It was really difficult as a team leader to watch as my younger team and squad mates struggled to abandon their technology. I remember returning to the table during a team dinner in Nepal and every single person was on their phone. I asked that they put them away during dinner and a teammate responded with “I told you she’d say something.” At the time, I thought it was a generational thing and I just didn’t get it, but now I realize how much we were all missing the bigger picture.

    Christina, I’m really proud of you and your decision! I know it won’t always be easy, but it’s going to be soooo good 🙂

  • Bold thinking. And an issue that needs serious attention. You are spot on Seth. Months where I had wifi access, I was much less present. It was at least a bigger struggle to stay present. I know that smartphones and tablets have stolen the attention away from the experience of many racers. To grow we must feel pain. iPhones dull the pain or allow us to get around it. Unfortunately, then there’s no growth oftentimes.

    • Very well said, Matt, “To grow we must feel pain. iPhones dull the pain or allow us to get around it.”

  • When I was on Gap Year from 2012-2013, there was one person on the squad that everyone would agree was significantly distant from the rest of the squad at nearly all times. They were emotionally, and often physically removed.This person was also on my team for most of the trip. Often times, because of their constant access to things outside of the place we were in, it felt more like a team of four than a team of five. We didn’t know how to reach them.

    I’ve watched smartphones and excess WiFi pull teams apart. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the teams who spent the most time not investing in each other had the most issues with each other. They weren’t growing each other, they weren’t growing themselves, and it created a tense spiritual environment.

    Now, I work in IT at AIM. I appreciate technology for what it can do. But because I also spend so much time with it, I’ve had to learn to set boundaries. Because tech can do great things, and it has a lot of potential in the mission field. But not without some specific purpose, which is what every racer I’ve known lacks in regard to their phones.

    So when it comes to technology, I have to ask myself a personal question, and that’s whether or not I can pick up my cross with one hand and still carry my phone in the other.

    That’s the argument that should be made. If you want to go around the world, find new revelation of God, and experience personal change, don’t diminish your journey by plaguing it with the same reliance on your phone that defined your life before.

    • “whether or not I can pick up my cross with one hand and still carry my phone in the other” – such wisdom, Ryan. You remind me of your dad!

  • Ban the phones 🙂 I think it would be a gift to the participant.

    The people who were most engaged on my World Race were the ones who couldn’t escape to home.

  • On the flip-side Austin brings up a good point. Our storytelling culture might take a hit when phones are banned.

  • Love the thoughts that have been shared – thanks to all for creating a good dialog on an important topic.
    As with many challenges we face in living a Christ-centered life, it is easy – and natural – to confuse the physical thing with the core issue. Cell phones are not the problem. They are – as Seth notes above – a powerful and productive tool. Jesus did not seek to ban phylacteries or fringe on robes, he sought to change hearts. Once the heart is changed, behavior can’t help but change. So the question is how can we point to the need for heart change and create an environment and opportunity for the Holy Spirit to effect change. Here are some ideas:
    1. Have a session at the start of each trip with all team members when they discuss cell phones and they decide as a team how to deal with the issue. AIM could establish some high-level guidelines that each team must develop a policy and design a way to ensure that the policy is adhered to. However. each team is free to design their own policy and AIM empowers them to do so.
    2. Start each trip with a period of silence – maybe one month – when their is no communication with anyone outside of the team. No letters, no phone calls, no carrier pigeons. Then re-introduce communication gradually, one per week for example, until there are no imposed limits after three months. Research shows that habits are formed with 30 days of repetition so one month has a high likelihood of establishing some new habits.
    3. People respond to what is measured. So, share with the team each week a chart of minutes of phone usage by team member. Don’t need any commentary or discussion – just sharing the information will highlight excessive usage and people will respond. (There has to be an app that will collect and summarize that data.)

    Those are some thought starters. I’m sure there are many better ideas out there in radio land.

    • Ed – good job kicking off the conversation.

      John – I like your wisdom. Practical – gives people the benefit of the doubt and gives the chance to learn new behaviors gradually.

  • For me this boils down to honor and trust. My friends and I grew up with strict external rules in place to govern our outside behavior in hopes that it would change heart attitudes. From experience I can tell you that it doesn’t work. External laws created to (hopefully) change internal heart attitudes most often create resentment, defiance, and a lack of trust instead. True heart change requires a choice on the part of the individual to make a conscious move toward their freedom and I think this is most clearly defined by Jesus’ willingness to give us free will. If an individual isn’t given a choice, then their heart change hasn’t gone through the fire of free-willed determination and what they’ve learned will often crumble once they have choice back.

    Personally, I think the best option is remembering that anyone going on the race is an adult, and treating them as such. To me, this means allowing racers to make their own life choices on the trip (within reason) which leads to mutual trust and respect between participants and leadership. If we are indeed a culture of honor, we need to remember that it goes both ways. When I am treated as an adult and presented all of the facts and then INVITED to make a conscious decision to change my life, I am more likely to take the time to weigh a decision and make a choice that aligns my current self with what I want my future self to be.

    As a passport leader, this is what I did with the participants on my team. Because I’d done the World Race with an international data plan (and later regretted it), I knew the dangers of too much connection. I laid out the facts and we had a heart-to-heart conversation about what they wanted from this trip and who they wanted to become in the future. They chose to only access internet once a week (even though it was available around the corner) because of that:
    A. I didn’t become the bad guy
    B. If they were struggling with the temptation to connect to wifi midweek, we could have an honest conversation where I could point back to the decision they’d made on their own, rather than some arbitrary rule that I’d placed in effect. This made their choice more personal, and they were much more likely to hold their end of the bargain.

    I think we have to remember that anyone who’s made it to training camp or on the world race most likely WANTS a change in their life. They are ready for new life. I think presenting facts to racers, explaining the patterns that we’ve seen on the race, and appealing to the future self they want to be is the best way to get an actual heart choice that lasts.

  • I see this is already generating a lot of comments! As a far former World Racer, when I saw this title, my immediate thought was to respond with an emphatic YES!

    YES! I remember I had my old cellphone (granted this was 2010) with me up until I called my parents at the LA airport before meeting my squad and leaving for New Zealand. I told them I made it and they were to cut off my phone line for the whole year to not pay the bill. I tossed that phone in the trash at the airport. It was amazing feeling, freeing, not to have that thing in my pocket, to have phone calls/text distractions, or to even think of it. It was so wonderful. When I came back home the new iphone craze was starting and my family wanted to make sure I had the most up to date thing with all the new tech stuff. I didn’t even want one anymore, but I knew in America you pretty much have to have one. I just told them as long as it dials I’m OK. But it was wonderful without it. I Skyped my parents on the computer and I was able to stay present for my ministry, for my teammates, but most importantly for the Lord and where he had me and teaching me in that moment.

    I did have an old iPod to listen to music. I Know a lot of smart phones are used for music; so there’s a discussion there, but I would encourage Racers to figure out an answer themselves. Use an old unused smartphone or phone and put music on it that doesn’t have service for anything else.

    The purpose of the trip is spiritual growth and serving to see God’s kingdom move, make the trip that, nothing else. You’d be amazed at what you can learn by detoxing that thing out of your life for a whole year. How much I wish I still did this now without a phone here!!

    YES! It takes away from the trip. Tell the stories on the computer, blog.

    I remember the word from the Race, simplicity! You can’t relate to someone who has nothing to survive when you feel like you have to have a phone to survive.

    Engage your team and the trip.

    Please, as a former Race, ban it if it’s not already.

    Challenge them to not have them and if they do bring them for music listening purposes, have it a team accountability to make sure no internet connect or other stuff is on there.

    • I love the passion, John. Maybe the best thing would be if we could get you to come make the case for them voluntarily leaving their smart phones behind.

  • Hey Seth,
    I have a little sister who is planning on going on a passport trip in January and I would love her to have a similar experience that I had on the race. A second to breath.

    One of the biggest impacts the Race had on my life was being unplugged. I had time to think, process, and dream. I would get on a 25 hour bus ride with my ipod and my computer fully charge, fully determined to not get bored. After about hour 4 they both would die and I would be left alone. No distractions and I was forced to just think. I had a lot of painful processing that needed to happen with Jesus, but I wouldn’t have chosen that for myself.
    I think that having the prove or lose it plan could muddy the waters too much. You’d have to make leaders policemen. But more importantly, having a cell phone sets expectations for family members back home. I would just take it off the table!

    • What a great idea, Angel. We need to address this issue to parents and ask for their help in encouraging racers to stay present.

  • I’m all for banning smart phones. I didn’t have one on my race and I’m pretty sure instagram survived. I don’t think the idea of self governance would be lost because they will still have to deal with computer use on months where wi-fi is plentiful. I had to learn that on my race and I actually loved being off the grid for a year.

    Banning smart phones would cut out an often mindless use of technology and require them to be more intentional in their use of it. If they’re worried about a camera/music player, they can go old school and buy an actual camera or ipod.

    The thing that pains me most about this issue is that upon arriving at a contact’s house in a foreign country, the first question on everyone’s lips is, “is there wifi here?”

  • I am also all for smart phones being banned. From my understanding people go on the race because they want to get away from connectedness. I think a thing that could help would be putting an emphasis on smart phones being banned from the beginning. Like during the application process, training camp and launch, so the expectations are laid out clear.

  • You have stated some good points and insights. As a former world racer, I think smart phones are valuable when used properly (as you stated with self-governance). In a constant changing world, the fact that our families, friends & supporters have a little bit of access to us to see that we are safe is a good thing. Not everybody has the kind of faith/trust that an average world racer has to pick up and leave America for 11 months for God…so giving the respect to the loved ones we’re leaving back home is why I think smart phones should be allowed. And if the racer abuses the privilege, that’s where feedback comes in. 🙂

  • This is a great article with many valid points. The smart phone is the can be the biggest source of distraction on the field if people let it.
    However- banning smart phones entirely seems hasty to me. I don’t believe going cold turkey will really work. How many people would then just sneak their smart phones on the feild?

    I do think that setting a precedent with racers that smart phones should be used for ministry purposes only and on off days? Setting appropriate times. And yes, someone would have to police it (team leaders, SQLs).

    Set the boundaries. Make it a part of
    The culture, but don’t ban it. To do that would be throwing the baby out with the bath water.

  • Ditch the phone. And the policy needs to come from the organization, as an expectation set as part of the program. Otherwise, we set our field leadership up for failure by pushing it to their level and inviting question and dissent into their leadership. And a policy of self governance is not strong enough to create the change we wish to see. Self governance comes after the Race. For me, that has meant intentionally owning a dumb phone.

    Our storytelling culture started before the smartphone, and the early growth of the world race came through blogs and photos posted in Internet cafes from handwritten notes. Getting rid of smartphones does create an initial barrier to sharing stories, but it’s a very low barrier.
    A quality camera these days is small and cheap. For under $100 a Racer can buy a camera to use on the Race. And it takes little effort to plan for a weekly Internet cafe stop, to upload the best two photos, and a fully processed blog post. I think we might even see an increase in quality of our storytelling.

    We also had a policy back in the day about not bringing out cameras until the end of a trip, because it impeded our relationships with those in country. We built the relationship, did the work, and then took photos at the end when trust was built. Whipping out the camera early was considered rude and American.

    It will be uncomfortable and unpopular with some to ditch the phones, but necessary to preserve the integrity of the experience. The army has had to go through the same process for basic training soldiers. At one point they allowed Facebook updates during boot camp…disastrous! You simply can not be re shaped into something new while fully connected to the old.

    • What a great summary of the issue: “You simply can not be re shaped into something new while fully connected to the old.”

      So true!

  • If you want more people to leave the devices at home, which is a great idea in my opinion, then you probably need to change the push for blogs. They probably won’t be blogging very regularly without the devices. The change that I have seen in the last Couple years isn’t the number of smart phones but the amount of contacts who have WiFi where the racers live. if you cut the WiFi out of the house then the smart phone can still be used for music, photos, games, etc. without the constant connection to home. Ask the contacts not to provide WiFi

    • That’s a good idea – limit the local wifi access.

      You’ll be interested to know that people blogged a lot more before there ever were cell phones. If you follow that logic and limited the cell phones, blogs should go up.

  • It is tough because you don’t want to control people but lead them into freedom. However I find that the habits of society become so strong that many people need help leaving the comforts of home. There is so much noise in our life that we really have trouble recognizing God’s voice or even our authentic voice. To be honest I think getting rid of a smart phone for a year would dramatically grow people to be more sensitive to what God is up to in their life and around them. The challenge is getting them to buy into the process, not feel legalistic, or controlling.

  • Quick follow-up to Neil Bruinsma’s comment: I think any “outright ban” would need to be communicated long before anybody signs up for a route. If done that way then they know what they’re getting into if they choose to join. If you try to impose an full ban later they’ll feel trapped and it will ultimately fail.

  • I think you’ll be hard pressed to ban internet connected devices altogether. As you say, they are ubiquitous and can be wonderful tools. In this era of social media we’d cut off an important means of reaching new Racers, families, and the general population if we eliminate these devices altogether. Besides, in this day and age many of the people we minister to themselves have such devices. I recently heard about an entire village in Panama, without electricity, that relocated from near their life-sustaining river to the top of a hill solely because at the top of the hill they got better cell service.

    Besides, as others have pointed out these devices are used in place of cameras, they’re used to provide music whether for individual or corporate worship, and they’re used as alarm clocks. And while I wouldn’t want to write a whole blog on an iPhone I know Racers who have done so! I for one have an old iPhone without a SIM card that I use for music and various apps so I know how useful they can be.

    I do, however, think we need to reduce or eliminate the level of communication with the outside world. Perhaps we concentrate on limiting it when the Racers are in the field doing ministry but give them more freedom during debriefs and travel days.

    I like John Barrett’s suggestions near the top of the comments. Let the Squad, and then the separate Teams, come up with their own guidelines and then measure phone usage. And yes there is an app for monitoring wifi and data usage, at least for monitoring individual phones. The app – My Data Manager – tracks both wifi and data usage. So it wouldn’t track or interfere with using the phone as a camera, alarm clock, or music player. It would give them the ability to play prerecorded movies and such, but only up to the storage limits on the phone between access to wifi/data.

    Ultimately it would mean everybody on the team turning over their information on a weekly/monthly basis so someone can compile and publish the team summary – and maybe a Squad summary at the monthly debrief. I think that if the Squad comes up with a consensus decision and “enforces” it through public periodic reporting, most of the Racers will comply. At the very least it would spark conversations among the Teams when someone has an urge or a real need to spend time communicating with the outside world.

    • Yup – I think you nailed it here, Dan. I’m going back thru the comments and this is a particularly good set of recommendations – thanks!

  • I’m pretty torn on this issue. On the one hand, I think its an amazing idea to be free of smart phones for a year. I brought 4 devices on my Race (smartphone, Kindle, old-school iPod, and Macbook) and all four of them, at different points in time and for different stretches of time, broke or got lost. The biggest hit for me was my Macbook, which I spilled a coffee on during month 1. It was clearly what the Lord had planned for me, and it made me rely SO much less on technology.

    But, I think that the flip side of this is the idea of self-governance. World Racers are all adults. Telling them they can’t do something, rather than opening up a dialogue, sends the message that, even though they are adults, they can’t be trusted to make decisions for themselves. I know a lot of people are saying that Racers probably won’t choose into it. I think they are a lot less likely to choose into it if its forced upon them.

    Opening up a dialogue as a squad or as teams would be the ideal, I think. Along with their alumni squad leaders, who have already walked the road, let each group decide upon some guidelines for themselves, prior to Launch. Then, stick to them. If somebody is a part of the decision making process, they are a lot more likely to actually support the decision.

    The other option, as somebody else mentioned, is to request that contacts not give out the WiFi password to teams. If there isn’t WiFi where you’re living, you’re less likely to be on it all the time.

    I think the conversation is a little bit different for World Race: Gap Year, with the age difference. When we had a Gap Year team stay with us, we just didn’t give them our WiFi password. So if they wanted to go online, they had to find the time to go into town. They definitely did that often, but not as often as you’d think. They told us that they were so happy their team didn’t have access to WiFi, because it allowed them as a team to bond as a group, and to individually pursue the Lord more. They all said that they wouldn’t have chosen in for themselves, but that they were glad it worked out that way.

    • This is good advice, Katie. I agree with you. You’ll see that we’re going to implement a lot of it!

  • Hi Seth,

    I was on 1st generation R Squad. I didn’t have a phone the entire year which led to incredible intimacy with God. I was more present during the race, started reading more books that helped me grow in my faith and had valuable conversations with people without the distractions of the phone.

    The smart phone has become an idol to many in our culture. I believe we need to re train and raise up a generation that knows how to communicate with and without a phone.

    My proposed idea is to allow them to carry their smart phones. Allow them to use it one month and remove it the next month. Alternate throughout the race so they can see for themselves if it is more or less fruitful to operate without a smartphone. I believe this will also teach racers to be less distracted at the appropriate times like when they go back to America and have dinner with their families. Moreover, operating without smart phones increase creativity. It forces a person to think of new ways of operating.

  • Seth, great blog and ideas. Thanks for asking for our opinions. I didn’t have time to read all the comments but I would be in high support of banning smart phones on the race.
    Your right, smart phones are a portable comfort zone and a way to escape back to ones own culture. Doing away with these would cause racers to have to look moments of bordom and discomfort in the face.
    You could ban all smart phones beginning with the squads launching in January so that racers will very well know what they are signing up for and agreeing too. I think this would have the following beifits.

    1. More commited racers: Racers that are more willing to leave this connection to home will be more commited to the mission.
    2. More Racers soaking in the moments: always having a camera on you often lead to leaving the moment to take a picture. If a racer wants to remember the moment he can capture it in words at the end of the day.
    3. More fun: we have all had those moments in life where we were so bored that we came up with some crazy plan or game. If this rule was In place there would be a lot of this.
    4. Parent growth: parents love the security of their racers phone just as much as the racer. Not being able to text mom every other day will also push parents comfort zone and lead them to put their trust in God more.

    No racer ever says “I wish I spent more time on my phone” at the end of their race. I don’t think they would say “I wish I could have brought my phone” either.

    Lincoln

    • Lincoln – this is good. Probably not going to happen right away, but you’ve understood the issue.

      How is Ethiopia?

  • As a World Race coach I have seen the demise of intimacy and growth in the squads as phones have become more and more popular over the years. I 100% support “No phones allowed” on the race. I am sure Truett Cathy was faced with the same kind of questions when he decided to make a stand and not open his restaurants on Sunday!!

  • Ban! People will appreciate the rule eventually and it makes the Race more extreme. “If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out!”

  • Hope M. (1st gen J squad)

    Seth! The only thing I brought on my race was a Canon camera. No regrets.

    I’d say give it a shot and ban cell phones / electronics from one squad and see how it goes. Let people know up front, of course. Set the standard and let people meet it. I think they will rise to the occasion… and be excited about it, even if it makes them nervous.

    GO BIG OR GO HOME!!

  • Lots of good stuff posted above. My two cents: ban the phones. Yes, people will resent. Yes, some will choose to not learn from it. But for most of us, we’re so addicted it’s going to take a force outside of ourselves to help us realize we can live without it all the time. I really think it would be a helpful thing for Racers. The vast majority would walk away being thankful they were forced to learn how to live without a smartphone because I think most of us know we’re addicted, don’t want to be, but lack the motivation to change it. Should it be that way? No. But would having an outside intervention be the tipping point for breaking the addiction in many Racers? I think it would.

    I also agree with what Jay said about asking ministry contacts to not provide wifi for teams – even team leaders. We had issues several months where team leaders were the only ones with wifi and were supposed to only use it for ministry/leader related tasks, and yet the self-governance even there was rarely even attempted and the team leaders ended up not following the guidelines. For me, the months we had to worker harder to find internet were the months I was most productive and efficient when I was on it (scheduling blogs, making my communications with home intentional/efficient), and it made me really evaluate whether it was worth my time to go find it.

    The racers who want to spend every spare moment on internet will always find a way to do it. There’s always a mall nearby, and there will always be that group of racers on the squad who are only interested in malls. But I do think banning the smartphones would allow the majority of racers to experience the Race the way they really want to, deep down – which is living with less, living simpler, being truly present and not distracted.

    Good questions to be asking and I absolutely do not envy your position trying to figure out how to deal with this!!

  • I think the response of applicants is a great idea of where the heart may be and how far they’re willing to give up.

  • You don’t know how much I would love to make the trip!

    Amy Williams just came from the recent Training Camp, she’s a team leader for an all ladies team. She was a youth at my first ever church I worked at and went on her first mission trip with one I led. She’s AWESOME! She told me the team is leaving the phones behind. I’m giving her advice on other things.

    Three things and then I’m done on this….
    1. The point being made the help family keep in touch back home, etc. We lived without smartphones for thousands of years until eight years ago (or around that). Let’s be honest, if we went that long without them then we’re going to be OK. If we think that it’s a loss of serious impact and communication then there’s already a serious problem within ourselves and society. There are still ways of communication, maybe just not as easily accessible.
    2. You can make a policy to ditch it and let them go without it. You made a policy for relationships. God made rules to obey, not because He was legalistic or mean, but because He knew what was best for us.
    3. I think this is going to depend on perspective. To lose is to gain. If we’re thinking about what it’s like without a phone, then it’s wrong. Think about what you gain to not have it and you’ll be amazed! The purpose is to strip everything and to learn and gain. We lose our lives to gain!

  • This is hard and it looks like our daily struggle with grace and law. I have had this discussion with many racers while on the Race and some have proposed a meaningful solution. They felt that these boundaries should have been set at Training Camp and then enforced on the Race based on their TC commitment. It can either be squad-wide or team by team. While they are at camp, present to them some options on how they could manage telephony and computer time and set boundaries then (a Squad Media Contract?). Then they are enforcing a self imposed constraint.

  • That was a well written blog. I like the fact that you’re looking into different options, but also bringing the thoughts to us. It’s great!

    The simple answer is a no brainer. Of course smart phones are hindering Racers around the world. They hindered me and I didn’t even realize it. Not until I got home, which is a smidge too late. It definitely promotes distance and connectedness. It’s a real issue. For that reason alone something needs to be done.

    However, I see this as a nuanced issue. One that isn’t fixed by just slamming a ban down. In my mind excessive smart phone usage is a symptom of a larger disease. I think you hit on it with the comfort aspects and calling it a security blanket. If a large amount of Racers leaving for the field have issues where they use smart phones too much, why is that? Is it just comfort? Maybe it’s loneliness? Could it be fear? Things are rarely as black and white as “I just want to check Facebook constantly.” And thus things aren’t as black and white as just taking a phone away. People are clever and resourceful. They will find some other way to disconnect. Books, sleeping, working out, eating, taking “alone time.” Not as destructive as a smart phone, but disconnected all the same. Until you attack the root cause, whatever that may be, you’re just chipping away at the surface.

    I think your proposed solution is the sweet spot. Self-governance with contracts. Giving them a chance, but being firm when necessary. And while this is going on figuring out what is so flipping special about the smart phone in the first place and encouraging and challenging them in that space.

    Another thing is that I think we talk out both sides of our mouth, here. “Don’t be online more than you have to. Be present. Stay off wifi.” But.. “Blog often. Share Instagram stories. Make videos. Fundraise online.” Some of these are unavoidable and that’s where the self-governance comes in, but often we’re leading Racers to the surface of the Sun and telling them not get burnt. Not many among us could go spend a day online for fundraising or blogging and not check Facebook and get in touch with our families. And definitely get lost in the internet.

    I think this is a huge issue. And I think it’s one we can tackle. Just not by swinging a hammer around and hoping for the best. We’re gonna get there!

  • Even adults are not able to “self-police”. Make the call – ban them for the World Race. We owe it to them to get the FULL experience. If you lose a few people so be it. They can buy great little digital cameras to take pictures – heck, we could sell them branded AIM cameras, and then have 2 lap tops per team with the team leaders for blogging.

  • So are you going to ban tablets, computers, etc.? When I was on the race and there were slow months it wasn’t the smart phone that was the problem but tablets, computers, etc. People, myself included, would watch tv shows and movies 24/7. You need to stop trying to control every little thing. If you keep treating adults like children they are never going to be independent. People need to learn how to say “no” to temptation because that is what you have to do in the real world. It is impossible to take every single temptation away from people so they live in a perfect little bubble. They won’t learn this way. Also, I thought this is why community and feedback was created? So that people can challenge you and call you into greater things. They can help you through the temptations and things you struggle with.

  • No… it shouldn’t be up to the organization how much “abandonment” is necessary for every racer. It seems AIM is trying so hard to uniform everything and run everything like a well oiled machine that they are losing the individual racer and individual squad growth at ones own pace and instead trying to control every aspect and ram it down your throat if you like it or not.

    If you are asking for advice or opinions then I think as an organization you should be going in the opposite direction. Stop adding more rules and regulations and trying to make cookie-cutter racers and forced uniformed cookie-cutter growth and abondonment. If this is supposed to be about your personal journey and growth with God and your individual race, then Seth and AIM needs to trust the fact that since you took this amazing step of faith by fundraising and leaving everything behind, that through natural and real community is where the growth and abondonment will truly happen. Just as it did when the world race started.

    Some of the best and most uncomfortable feedback given on my first team was just about this topic. It was a moment of growth for everyone involved. You would be taking away the opportunity for real community to happen that you have been trying to cultivate for the last 10 yeasts.

    And for a lot of us experience and hindsight lessons are the best lessons. How many of us needed to learn this lesson ourselves and now have grown and learned from it. The stove will always be hot and no matter how many times you tell a kid to not touch it that’s eventually what they are going to do. Sometimes that’s exactly how God wants us to learn… if not then he would not have given us the free will we have.

    Whatever decision is made is up to you and your organization… but like someone said earlier the phone isn’t the problem, it’s the heart. And on the race is up to you and your personal walk with Christ and the support of your family back home God gave us and the community out on the race that should and will keep us accountable.

    I say bring serious awareness to the issue and then you have to have faith that God will work in the hearts of those whom it will and has been an issue for. How about bringing more of the bible to sessions and not just “hot topics.” Teach that first and foremost and let the Holy Spirit do its job in convicting us.

    We as Christians are starting to put such an emphasis on ourselves and our distractions that WE are taking the focus off of Christ not the “distractions” themselves.

    • Thanks for your feedback Darren! Good point too; personal experience is always more effective as a teacher than commandments are.

  • Been thinking about this all day and all I can say is it’s not an easy decision. If you don’t decide to ban it I would recommend a “good stewardship of technology” component be added to the training camp curriculum if it’s not already there.

    Also – really impressed with the girl’s video. Lots of potential.

  • Why not have one smart-phone per team. People would be forced to approach the entire issue communally rather than individually.

    I can imagine all kinds of problems cropping up with this idea from data hogs to jealousy. But, every problem I can imagine would be relational and would have to be solved relationally.

  • Hi, I am a WR race parent alumni. My daughter just returned in May! I am wondering how many parents put a lot of stress (unintentionally)onto their racer about staying in touch to relieve our fears. I know I was probably one of them. I am amazed each day how God really got a hold of me during these 11 months and how much more He probably would have done being totally trusting Him with not being in touch so much with my racer. I believe if you decide to ban or give them the option to completely unplug that it would be good to bring this to the parents as well. That they don’t put pressure on their racer to stay in touch. I know looking back it would have been hard to not hear from my racer, but I also know the months that I didn’t hear much I was on my knees more and hearing God more clearly as well! The hard things are what grows us and strengthens us. Thank you Seth for always seeking to bring the racers closer to the Father and His work!

  • Hi! I am a World Race parent. My daughter just returned from her World Race in May. Although I absolutely understand the problem that smart phones present, I was very grateful that my daughter had her smart phone. The pictures she posted and the blogs she wrote helped me and others who were supporting her either financially or through prayer feel as if we were somehow sharing in the experience. It also was a reminder to those who were supporting her of their financial committment to giving and specific things to pray for. My daughter, along with several others on her squad would occasionally “unplug” for the month when they felt that the technology was getting in the way.

    Another advantage to having her smart phone was that there were a few instances when she needed a little extra money in her account because of ministry related expenses she hadn’t been told about before hand. She was able to appeal to her supporters to help as they were able.

    Some of the squad members had to go to the hospital at one point or another and were able to stay in contact with their parents to get help with their insurance and medical expenses. And honestly, as a parent of a young adult, we feel so much better when we occasionally hear from them. Just being honest here.

    I am praying that God will give His wisdom to those who are making the final decisions as to the technology policies for AIM. Whatever decision is made, I believe, will be well thought out and prayed over.

    • It is great to hear of your daughter having the self discipline to “unplug.” And thanks for your thoughts!

      Seth

  • A parent perspective on cell phone use on the race….it is our lifeline to our kids. Our kids are the ones who signed up for this race…we did not. Not having the ability to communicate with them is incredibly hard for those of us who have a close relationship with our racers. Our squad didn’t have internet much of the time they were gone, and so we didn’t communicate a ton…we were not constantly “on the phone.” Yes you have to trust God more…but also there is something very unsettling about an organization that tells kids not to communicate with their families…which I believe is what many who do not know AIM would think a ban on phones is doing.
    Point 2- Beyond talking to racers, I know that supporters like pictures and videos. Instagram shots drew my heart to the nations…without those I would have been a sad mom at home not seeing all that God was doing with my racer, and not really having the images that changed my life. My participation would have been much much less and I wouldn’t have been transformed. I believe that with all my heart. The photos I posted…which I got from my daughters team’s facebook pages…impacted many people in my community, and many of my family members. People still stop me and ask me about them a year and a half later. My heart change is a direct result of social media postings. God used technology GREATLY to change me.
    Point 3- These racers are adults. If you dictate to them they will not buy in, because it wasn’t their choice. It is not good on a journey like this one, because it fosters resentment. It makes them feel as if they are being treated like children who cannot be trusted. Telling racers (or acting like it) you do not trust them from the get go isn’t going to empower anyone. If you police phone use are you going to police alcohol use, and cigarette use too? See the slippery slope problem here?
    Point 4- Addictions cannot be controlled by other people. Ask anyone who has ever lived in a home with an alcoholic. I cannot force my alcoholic brother to stop drinking…if I could I would. I have tried. It only causes strife. I know phone use isn’t alcohol…but it is an addiction and any good counselor will tell you that the addicted person is the only person who can make the change in behavior. They have to do the work to get free. They have to ask for help. All those who love them can only sit back and watch and pray that one day they will reach the end of themselves and SEE what is holding them back.
    I believe that if you stress the importance of this techno addiction issue to racers they can, as adults, prayerfully seek God for themselves…and do some listening prayer, until the Holy Spirit shows them their hearts in the matter. Those who know they are addicted can ask their group for help and accountability. That is what feedback is all about. (Hannah’s team had feedback on this very issue when it became a problem.) Build into the system you have already a safe place to bring this addiction where they can ask for prayer and healing. That means some racers will probably put down their phones as directed by God, and others will use theirs for ministry purposes, and still others will choose not to address their problem at all. And like any other addiction, only God can empower them to truly change their hearts.
    As this is happening, you may also want to add a techno free month…just like ATL months. A month to disconnect. I believe that this would open many eyes to see how truly addicted they are and from there they can take steps to make changes as led by the Holy Spirit. It would also allow them to prep parents ahead of time that they will not be communicating for the month. Ultimately, we are a spirit led people…or we want to be. The only way we can truly follow his leading is if we practice. If you take phones away by force…there is no opportunity to do so.

  • I have a poor habit of saying nothing or saying too much. This is the latter. Sorry about that.

    “All technologies come complete with a philosophy about what is important about human life and what is unimportant. What parts of life does technology exalt? What parts does it ignore?” ~Neil Postman

    Smartphones preference immediacy by abandoning continuity. Smartphones assume your default state is interruptable. Immediate updates – no matter how trivial – should be allowed to disrupt real-life interactions or deliberate mental focus. Smartphones inhibit intentionality, which should be alarming as a precedent for Racers. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interruption_science

    Smartphones enable rapid communication by devaluing dedicated dialog. Smartphones assume the user ought to be able to split their attention across multiple conversations and stimuli for indefinite periods of time. Multitasking as a time management “life hack” has long since been abandoned, but the concept lives on in the way smartphones encourage us to manage our relationships. Smartphones allow more conversations, but of a generally lower quality. The Race should be about elevating the quality of relationships. http://fortune.com/2014/10/10/multitasking-relationships/

    Smartphones emphasis existing relationships over new relationships. While smartphones can enable conversations, they drive them through known communities. Chesterton said, “We make our friends; we make our enemies; but God makes our next-door neighbour. Hence he comes to us clad in all the careless terrors of nature; he is as strange as the stars, as reckless and indifferent as the rain.” Smartphones isolate us from the great danger of our neighbor, and they do it at the expense of new, unlooked for relationships. http://www.cse.dmu.ac.uk/~mward/gkc/books/heretics/ch14.html, http://www.wired.com/2015/05/new-facebook-study-says-echo-chamber-fault/

    Smartphones preference consumption over production. The transition from notebook computers to smartphones jumped the chasm between devices descendant from the typewriter (a producer’s tool), to a glorified television (the aging icon of consumption) . Blackberry’s anachronistic physical keyboards reflected RIM’s misunderstanding about what draws users to Smartphones. They aren’t primarily about being productive (though there are ways to use them productively) – successful smartphones are designed around convenient consumption.

    Smartphones mediating between the user and the rest of the world to create a sense of safety. They provide a veneer of connectedness and involvement without many of the real risks associated with face-to-face interaction. This is perilous for social development, and continues to be studied. It also seems antithetical to the World Race’s core goals. http://www.geekwire.com/2015/smartphone-separation-anxiety-affecting-health/, http://research.iupui.edu/events/researchday2014/documents/b48.pdf

    Smartphones dominate the foreground at the expense of the background. This is true even when smartphones are being used to capture events – the user is focusing on interacting with the device, not the experience itself. This is tremendous for using smartphones to market to us, but it reduces the quality of the actual experience. http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/no-pictures-please-taking-photos-may-impede-memory-of-museum-tour.html

    Smartphones can enable good things, but the assumptions behind smartphone design and the goals of the World Race seem to be largely at odds. That said, I think if there is any way to reduce the availability of smartphones on the Race, it would be a good thing.

    • Wow, Andy. This is the best critique I’ve heard of smart phones. And it speaks to the tradeoff we face. If you say “yes” to one thing, you say “no” to something else.

      thanks for the insight!

  • Hi Seth,

    Yes, it’s a problem, A REAL PROBLEM. I’m reminded of when I was teaching and coaching. We knew that uniforms increased GPA, and test scores, but we decided to not use external rules to affect internal change. It’s a tough one.

    I just returned from a trip where we had 15 American participants at our greatest outreach/trip of the year, where it’s remarkable to see and experience Jesus showing up, the Girls Getaway, where we invited bar girls to come for 4 nights and 5 days to a beach resort. Over the weeks and months prior to launching, I explained our philosophy of ministry: spending time with and loving girls like they had never loved before.

    At the Getaway, I had to admonish our team to consider putting phones aside and focusing on our bar girl guests. I addressed the team once only. I saw little, if any change, and it was so frustrating to see people on their phones at every given opportunity. It would have been better for the team and those they were there to minister to without their smart phones. The video demonstrates that the problem exists everywhere, and production in the workplace (in my opinion, I think!) decreases.

    Real question: Do you guys have a working hours social media policy? If so, I would love to see it. My little office, I have concerns, and are now exploring our options.

    I don’t know the answer. A two week trip is so different than an 11 month journey. I think we have to live with it for our short trips. For the race, I think I lean toward implementing external rules to implement internal change. However, the last thing I want are rules like “no dancing, no card playing”. I went to a grad school that had that policy! I continued in my “sin” and danced with my bride and children, and continued playing Go Fish with my kids, and Gin Rummy with DA!

    (BTW, we have had over 25 girls come into our care from the Girls Getaway. God continues to amaze us).

    Bless you man.

    Kenny

  • I am a parent of a racer that returned in May – on our parent group page – we had corporate prayer on travel days – most times when I heard from my racer. I think that having parents come together like that – and let the teams/squads know that they are being prayed for is good – I am of the opinion that the squad/team leader have a phone – just in case of needing to contact someone – but – the little cameras can take great pictures and some can even do video. lots of countries are “updating” (getting more internet access) – on off days – the racers can always send blogs/emails/raise funds – still stay in contact. bottom line – racers know they have prayer warriors back home – and it seems that prayer warriors always know when special prayers are needed.

  • Susan Massey – WR Parent Alum

    My racer just got back two weeks ago and is about to rejoin her squad at Project Searchlight next week. Why not ask these adults how they would have liked to have handled this subject? My personal experience is this – my racer took her phone but we never talked on it. She used it as her camera and I would HATE to think those wonderful moments wouldn’t have gotten captured because the phone wasn’t allowed. If it communication with the outside world you’re concerned with, banning phones won’t take that away. My racer and I skyped on laptops whenever she had reason to talk and wifi to do it. She also got on facebook to catch up with friends and post blogs. I like the earlier conversations about the team setting expectations for being unplugged an appropriate amount and providing feedback about how it plays out on the race. But, I’m not a racer, I’m a parent. I would ask the racers who will be on campus next week their thoughts. They’re adults, they’re racers, and they’re fresh from the race. I think they would have great input. I know they would appreciate being asked their thoughs.

    • Thanks, Susan. The racers see the value of abandoning all the stuff that causes their ADD and limits the depth of their relationships, but they are divided in how best to accomplish that.

  • Seth- when I left on the race (Jan 09) none of us had smart phones. As a result, our teams became family in a very deep way. I read through the bible that year and really pressed into my relationship with the Lord.. I can’t imagine what my race, and what my relationship with the Lord would look like if myself and my teammates had smart phones. I’m thankful that we didn’t have the option, as a result our relationships were richer, we grew in the lord, and we actually knew what abandonment looked like.. I have to wonder if Racers these days even know what it’s like to really miss their family, do they know what it’s like to really not have constant communication with them? I personally think we should do away with them, computers are already enough of a distraction. No phones is part of the journey.

  • As a parent of a racer (2014 Squad Z) that lost her cellphone during the midpoint of the race, we survived – she survived, but she really wasn’t on it a lot anyhow because she only got on when she had access to wi-fi. She did have a Kindle so she could get on Facebook when there was wi-fi. I can’t see how the team in question were all on their phones “when they’d have a spare moment” because wifi wasn’t that present in the African countries that my racer was in and international cell service was too expensive – we didn’t use that except on family birthdays – we sure didn’t use international data. And although you want them to be present, there are supporters and prayer warriors back at home that became a part of the team support that Instagrams/Facebook contributed to the prayer effort. I think the restrictions listed get into the World Race leadership trying to be their parents and that shouldn’t be the role – leave it to the Holy Spirit to convict them or their team feedback. They are adults and should be treated as such as we parents were repeatedly told.

  • Totally agree with this post. Plus it’s one thing to ask parents who are Christians to trust God with their child. Parents that are not Christians don’t have this frame of reference and it’s unfair to expect that of them. Plus the messages/pictures and the excitement of seeing your Racer’s growth provides many Praise the Lord moments-perhaps even witnesses to unsaved friends and relatives back home.

  • My thought is that it was nice when we had a serious family emergency and someone on my niece’s team had a phone. We were able to talk right away. I think a team leader of each group should have a phone that works. Our situation required her to fly home and without the phone there she might not have got back to see her mom before she passed.

    In that case phones were very good. I believe restrictions should be on them as it does take away from bonding as a team and with your host.

    • Even if smart phones were limited, we’d still mandate phones on each team to maximize communication.

  • Jan 2015 Parent. We have precious little contact with our racer. She has her laptop and an iPod. The idea of having contact further limited is disturbing at best.

  • Virginia Pillsbury (WR Parent Alum)

    My daughter finished the race in May. She is still traveling and we will reunite next week!
    She had her phone – she had no phone plan – we rarely talked and never texted. She also did not take her laptop (and regretted that decision – borrowing others for blogging purposes was sometimes difficult).
    My daughter also has type 1 diabetes – and the thought of her having a phone might have initially made me feel more safe with her traveling internationally.
    But in realty – having a phone was not a safety net for her. I had to put my trust fully in God that He would take her through the World Race and any diabetes emergency that she might have (and she had NONE!).
    I am most thankful for the photos that she took and shared. I love that those at home could share some of those moments on FB and instagram. I also feel a bit selfish saying that – the race was not really about us enjoying vicariously their WR moments! But I am so glad that we were able to.
    Once I realized that the parents were well informed about where the squads were, when they traveled, etc., I was ok.
    However, my daughter is not a huge social media person – even at home she can go days without her phone, so for her it would not have been a hardship to not have one.

    Tough question – before the race I would have hated being told that she could not take a phone. Post-race (and even mid-race), I would have been totally ok with it.

  • The World Race has been a tremendous opportunity for our daughter to grow and serve since her launch in January. I do agree that cell phones can be distracting, but the bottom line, in my opinion, is that these are Young ADULTS, who as such have the right to choose whether to spend their little free time in the present or to distract themselves with electronic gadgets. God gives us free will, and when we attempt to regulate something as relatively trivial as cell phone use on the World Race, I sense an unwelcome shift toward legalism. Most of these young people have already demonstrated maturity and sound judgement in even getting to this point in the race, so what’s wrong with taking a step back and allowing them to exert control over what little free time they enjoy?

  • Brenda Kelly — WR January 2105 Parent

    …or you could be so dyslexic that if your ipod was banned, you would never be able to communicate because email and Microsoft Word are just not possible….since that is my daughter’s situation.

  • Andrew,
    I totally agree with you. We do not have a lot of contact with my daughter, but it’s a comfort when we do. While my daughter has been gone, she was hospitalized for 5 days in a foreign country and she has lost 2 grandparents in a matter of months. Because she has her phone with her, we were able to connect, but if there was no contact (or less), that would be awful.

  • I am a parent who has a racer on the field at this time. She does not have a phone with her there are a couple of reasons for this. The cost of having the phone and she said she wanted to be 100% in. I adjusted to this idea as long as somebody on the team had a phone. Emergency do happen! I have to say as a parent we have to let go and so does Aventures. Part of the race for a parent is seeing the pictures and story’s from all of the racers. I believe it helps keep us all conected to the racers and see how the lord is working around the world. Plus it helps with funding!! My daughter has an I pad mini with her and I don’t here from her all that much. But I am able to see posted pictures and her story’s . So if there is away to earn the right to use there smart phones that would be ok but these are adults so they need to make the choice .

    • Thanks for the trust, Lorie. We want the twin objectives: for racers to be present and for them to “bring their family and friends along w/ them w/ their reports from the field.”

  • Jill Kennedy (Martha’s Mom)

    I agree that if the parents are on board that’s half the battle in keeping the phones at home.

    Our daughter Martha is in L-Squad month 10 right now, and she doesn’t have a phone with her. It was her decision and we supported her in it. She took her camera, an old ipod for music and a tiny netbook computer. From our perspective, we have made do with infrequent emails and Skype once every month or two, her monthly pics uploaded on facebook so we can see her healthy and well and get a glimpse of the ministry, and the parent’s facebook page (to share info and pray).

    There has only been one country, Ethiopia, where we went nearly a month without hearing from her – that was hard for us, but we didn’t begrudge the serious bonding time that we knew was happening for those racers without wifi access.

    The racers are adults, and parents should be encouraged to embrace limited communication as evidence that their racer is fully engaged in a potentially profound time of growth as a Christian. Bringing phones should be strongly discouraged.

  • I was a team leader on a ST trip in March. One of our team members was on her phone or had her ear buds in listening to music often. Then at night she would watch movies she had downloaded on her laptop. She missed out on relationship building with the team and with the nationals, she missed out on quiet time with the Lord, she missed seeing where God was at work. Our team missed out on getting to know her, and I think that her witness to others was less effective. Being a small non-profit organization, after this trip, our board of directors decided that we would write into our agreement for trip members that technology would be limited to “off-ministry hours” (typically before breakfast and after dinner). This would not be a hard rule, but a guideline so that the team member, the team, and the locals would all have the greatest opportunity to see God at work and join Him.

    • I wish more parents could see just how destructive smart phones can be to a racer’s experience. This is a good point, Vicky.

  • My racer just returned last month. I have to whole-heartedly agree with what Michelle said.

  • Loved Christina’s (in the video) 3 questions. The questions make the answer clear. Leave the phones home.
    Mark

  • Bev Phillips (parent of July 2014 racer)

    As a parent of a just-returned Racer, I understand the differing opinions and ideas on this subject. Our daughter’s phone was stolen halfway through the Race and she missed the camera. We never texted with her but did get a very brief phone call maybe once (or twice if lucky) a month. She let us know of prayer requests and updates to send out to her supporters, especially as the support deadline was close. I tend to agree with the idea that these are young ADULTS and should be treated that way. Rather than imposing a ban on phones, training and challenging them as to appropriate use of the technology is the more respectful approach. Also having them use the community emphasis and team feedback would be growth opportunities around this topic.

  • Celeste Gutierrez

    Seth- I am a parent of the O squad. I totally disagree with the racers not having a phone. These racers are adults. This is what AIM tells us! So as adults they learn to make choices. Now if a racer is not present and is on their phone too much than I feel their leader or squad leader should find out what’s going on with that racer and see how they can help . My daughter was a leader and now is a squad leader . It is her job to take care of this IF it is a problem . If you already have a 14 hour time difference it’s hard enough to be able to skype or text. We do this once a week. If for some reason she needs to talk to
    Me that is always a option. If the racer get sick and their have been many with the Jan 2015 squad she is able to call. Thank you

  • This has become an issue in our society as well. I’ve read several views on it. I believe awareness of the problem is the first step to finding somewhat of an answer. I like your proposed solution. I think it’s a start.
    Parent of world racer. Launch date: Sept., 2014

  • As a parent, I would say absolutely NOT to banning smart phones. Not only is the phone a connection with Family, friends, and “Supporters”, it is also a tool for safety. Need directions to an embassy? Need translation? Need health info? It is all at you finger tips.
    They are adults that have raised thousands of dollars to go on this race. Please don’t start acting like a “Cult” and cut them off from their family and friends. In my opinion, this would be terrible for the Race….

    • That would be counter to our raison d’ etre. We exist to help young people grow up spiritually. We lead them into freedom and in practicing more responsibility.

  • As a current racer just coming off the field, I see the dilemma that is at stake. On one side is the struggle to put down the iPhone and be present where you are. The other side is the necessity the iPhone, or any phone for that matter, plays in our lives today and the necessity of it.

    On the race, it was the fastest way to update blogs in a pinch, get that donation email out, and check in with family/supporters. It also was a tool used for team time in community with one another (games, podcasts, etc). They are multi tools (flashlight, bible, navigator, email, and more) all in one, not to mention all the books you can have on it. Knowing that means less to pack and less weight.
    Yes, it can be used for facebook and other social media outlets. It can be a distraction, but one big BIG lesson I learned on the race is we have the choice to be present. It is not Adventures (The World Race) choice for us, it is not a squad leaders choice, it is not a parents choice. It is each individuals choice to press in and really seek out why God has each person on the race.

    I think stepping in as a mediator, taking away iphones from the race won’t help the issue. I believe many racers will bring them regardless of what is said. Then what happens? You take their phone, their private property and send it home? Do you send them home for breaking the rules? There are many scenarios that you can play out.

    I personay believe God is bigger than us and our little IPhones. If He wants to work, He will work. Sometimes He will even use that little IPhone to play a role in that. But all in all, if people want to have an authentic experience with Jesus, they have to be the one to choose to do it, and crazy enough they can make that choice with iPhone in hand or not. Who are we to say that they can’t?

    Don’t take the phones, be encouragers, be prayer-warriors, and be supportive of racers to pressin and choose to be involved. Don’t dictate their race, it is their race not ours. Let them Choose.

  • This issue matters to me because, as a storyteller, my entire ministry and livelihood is based on the belief that technology can be an amazing gift and tool God has provided that generations before us didn’t have. It can be a connecting thread between someone experiencing a deep need and a person across the globe with a generous heart to meet that need.

    I did the Race in 2011 before Instagram was a big deal, and I didn’t have an account until after I came home. Unlike what many people are saying, I actually wish looking back that we had access to things like Instagram on my Race because it would’ve greatly expanded our ministry of advocacy.

    I know this is not the norm, and we may have been an anomaly, but for my team in general our technology actually bonded us in many ways. Going into the Race I did two things – I prayed and asked God to put me on a team of creative people, and I prayed and dedicated my blog and the stories I would tell to him and his work. What resulted changed the direction of my life and the calling God was placing on me.

    Starting at Launch, my team and I collaborated to make videos – some just for fun and some for ministry – and it brought us together. When we were bored with nothing to do some months, we tried to look around and take ownership of our ministry when the contacts didn’t provide an assignment. This resulted in our main ministry for several months of the Race revolving around storytelling and video making. No matter what country we were in or what our ministry assignment was, it was always a chance to use the platform and influence God had given us to share the stories of his power and of the people we were meeting along the way. We got to provide many of our ministry contacts with videos they would never have otherwise had, and we got to help two girls get out of the bars in Thailand and start new lives, all with stories. Along the way I found my calling, and none of this got in the way of my team becoming incredibly close and seeking after God together.

    I realize this is probably not the average experience Racers have with technology, but at the end of the day it comes down to a choice like everything else in life.

    For me, an outright ban of phones or other technology is problematic for several reasons:

    1. For people like me who feel specifically called to a ministry of advocacy and storytelling, you’re cutting off our platform and our tools. More and more (and probably especially after the documentary comes out), the Race is attracting gifted participants with a talent for storytelling, and I feel like it would be a step backwards to tell them that because you can’t trust them to use it in moderation, they can’t have access to the things that make their ministry possible. You would never tell someone with the gift of preaching or teaching they can’t have access to their Bible or books to study and prepare. When done right, advocacy is just as powerful and necessary as any of the other gifts and callings and should be encouraged accordingly.

    2. It feels legalistic and like an unsustainable way to make a change. One of the things I appreciated the most about the Race and AIM during my Race was the trust and responsibility handed to us to be adults. My squad didn’t always make the best choices, and we had some serious come to Jesus moments of tough love from staff and squad leaders, but we also learned from those times. Even when we were making mistakes, I remember constantly thinking, “The best thing about this ministry is that it gives us the space to fail and to learn from it, as opposed to legislating our conduct in the way most ministries seem to do.” Sustainable life change comes out of personal ownership of your choices and consequences, not fundamentalist legalism. I think that’s a valuable thing to preserve about the Race.

    3. Top-down decisions and rules eliminate the opportunity for communal growth, accountability, and feedback. The Race is built around the belief in the value of these ideas, and every time you make a new rule from the office, you remove another chance for a group of committed adults to come together and learn from each other. There were months where my teammates and I spent too much time online, but it was noticeable, and those times provided opportunities for us to call each other up to something better. We got to make decisions as a group to fast from the internet or limit our contact back home, and we had ownership of those choices. If someone legitimately has a technology addiction, the Race community is a great place to confront it and deal with that sin. Simply eliminating the temptation is like asking someone with any other sin issue to just push pause on it for a year and deal with it later. That doesn’t exactly set them up for success when their feet hit American soil at the end of the Race.

    Can technology be an incredible distraction and an open door for sins like pornography? Absolutely. But as people who want to shape our culture, not withdraw and declare war on it like many people in America are doing, I think a redemptive approach to technology is best. I think teaching Racers how to take something the enemy has used to create apathy and temptation and use it instead to pursue justice and freedom is huge. After the Race ends we can’t isolate ourselves from the world, we have to be ready to live in 2015 with the same faithfulness and righteousness as believers in 40 AD. Spending a year learning how to use modern technology to increase our faith and ministry seems a lot more valuable to me than taking a year off of it and then being thrown right back in where you left off.

    My suggestion is this:

    From the absolute beginning (I mean the application, interview, and training camp), present everything you choose to bring on the Race and the entire packing process as a mission to equip yourself for this year of radical service to others and intimacy with God. Instead of looking at packing as, “What do I need to bring to make me comfortable,” look at it like, “What do I need to have with me to walk out what God is calling me to this year?” Teach future Racers to ask God what he’s asking of them going into the Race, and if that’s complete disconnection and abandonment of technology, great. If it’s to be a worship leader and carry a guitar for 11 months, great. If it’s to bring 10 pounds of craft supplies so you can do art with people along the way, great. If it’s to bring six different translations of the Bible with you like one of my teammates did so you can dig into theology, great. If it’s to tell stories with your computer and phone, great. As long as every item in your pack is something you’re prepared to surrender to God and his calling for you for that year, you can bring it. If anything is just because you’re scared to live without it, it stays. Instead of packing everything imaginable and painstakingly eliminating whatever weighs too much, start with an empty pack and only put in what is essential to the mission. Use an additive, equipping approach, rather than an eliminating, restrictive one. This puts these decisions in the hands of the Racers, and they own the experience they created for themselves.

    Talk through this approach with them in the interview and ask if they’ll agree to it. Then at training camp, have some honest small group conversations where they get to talk about what they feel God is calling them to in the next 11 months, and their squad mates and teammates get to hold them accountable to those callings when they get to the field.

    They get to be adults who make decisions and choices and live with those consequences, intentionality is front and center, feedback and accountability are communal instead of top-down, surrender and abandonment apply to everything you bring with you, not just your phones, and Racers get to make cultivating their individual callings a priority from the moment they apply.

  • Just been commenting about this on your FB. I like what Emily Tuttle wrote above, interesting thoughts there.
    I think it is terribly important to acknowledge that Smart Phones are generally things that are so addictive, it is actually very hard for people to self govern if they are present. It’s akin to telling someone with alchohol issues to carry a bottle of gin in their pocket but to not use it or to use it sparingly. You would say that was madness, they need to not have a bottle at all.
    You separate yourself from the things that cause you problems. What do we pray? Lord, lead us not into temptation…….but it’s okay, I can find it all by myself.
    There is something incredibly difficult about carrying a phone but not looking at it.
    I would say lay it down – it won’t hurt you and it will probably give you a whole new focus again and relieve you of the burden of worrying about all the trivia you might be missing. I switched away from a Smart Phone personally because I couldn’t stop checking it. I now have an old fashioned Nokia in my pocket that only does calls, texts and a calendar. It can’t access the internet, it can’t take photos. It’s just a phone for moments when a phone call is needed. I have to say, it makes all the difference in the world.

  • Chase G D Squad: 2nd Gen

    I would totally support banning Smartphones. Immediacy does not and should not trump community with the people you are with. People don’t need to know where you are at all times of the day.

    Furthermore, smartphones continue handicap our social skills. So many times, when I ask people why they prefer to text they say, “Talking is awkward”.
    The Race, and life, is supposed to push you out of your comfort zone. Part of life is learning how to deal with that awkwardness…

    Respectfully, if you want to post pictures online, bring a laptop and a camera. Make it difficult for you to use technology. Perhaps then you will appreciate the people around you more.

  • coming from similar upbringing & becoming somewhat of this type of parent, now with 2 young adults. (One being on Jan2015 Racer) I have to agree with this post. Well said!!

  • As a parent whose only had fb messaging w my son 1-2 times/week; after reading this blog and a lot of the posts, I can honestly now see both sides. However, this is an area where I believe God needs to be the One to convict & direct these hearts, not the organization or parents. As team leaders & teammates they can encourage each other, while allowing God/Holy Spirit to do His work in their hearts.

  • I’m a dad of a current Jan 2015 racer, …BEKS comments make a lot of sense to me. Adult racers need to make choices in light of the challenges that technology presents. Experienced leaders helping the racers understand those challenges makes a lot sense and serves as a reference point for accountability.

  • Many amazing thoughts on the subject! Well thought out and shared from the heart. The only thing I have to add is that as Cindy and I sit and talk about the subject we both have jobs that set strict guidelines about phone usage while on the job. Getting fired is an option for the use of your phone during your work day. It wouldn’t be the end of the world to set guidelines it will prepare them for a real job at some point. Expectations on the field doesn’t mean you aren’t an adult or at 59 I have a job treating me like a child. grin. Responsibility is called life. If we have guidelines in the marketplace I have no problem setting some for kingdom work.

  • Thank you Amie! The support and encouragement makes it easier to make this decision and I will now be held accountable to all that I’ve shared. I’m excited for the growth and fruit that God will bring about from this choice to go “phone free” for the next year.

  • Seth,
    There are many thoughts, opinions and emotions about this topic. I did not read all of the comments but the ones I did carried a wide range of responses and all were quite valid! My input is this… GOD IS MOVING!! He is inspiring wreckless abandonment in this generation of Christ followers! You have decisions to make as you lead the ministry that God has entrusted to you well & wisely, BUT have no angst. I truly believe that with the posting of this blog, the discussion that has come about, and then later addressing it in person at Launch and at future Training Camps God will move on the hearts of these missionaries and amazing things will happen. That is my prayer and I believe it.
    Thank you for all that you do—for your prayers, your obedience and your support.
    Christina

  • I didn’t read all the comments before mine. But I’ll say this: abandonment ends up looking different for different people. I don’t think you can ban the smart phones. When I was on the race we were just beginning to see iPhone 3s, so there weren’t many on the Race. But as our team finance person I had a lot of conversations with folks
    On my team about how much toilet paper they were using. I got into a heated discussion with a teammate because I couldn’t understand why she had to buy red and yellow peppers for our meals instead of the less expensive green peppers. And the other guy on my team came to me because he was concerned our ladies were too worried about their appearance when in Europe they started wearing makeup again. Negotiating what abandonment looks like is a key part of learning to talk as a team. I think you give folks a heads up and encourage them to set boundaries as a team. This will help the. To define abandonment for themselves and learn about one another in the process. (Comment typed on my smartphone)

  • Selena (you have my heart) Day

    This reminds me of the conversations we had several years ago about racers and Facebook. O It also reminds me of the conversations that were had when I was a young christian about how much television was watched or what we watched.
    I ditto what Beks said and what Christina said.
    As a coach and as a minister I want to lead people to what Christ is saying to them about their walk. Yes we will have some come off the race never engaged or spent their whole time on social media, but I know that God will use that as well. He never stops pursuing us.

  • I have not had a chance to read others comments yet…but my own thoughts are….for each Racer the race looks different and they are going for different reasons. Its not for you to figure it ALL out for them but to give them the tools to help them (which you have). In real life, they will have many distractions at some point will need to learn to deal with it all. I know our son who has been gone since Sept. has told us some months, “Dont expect to hear from me, I am going to limit my WIFI communications this month” and then he does, and we honor that by not texting or communicating with him. As any good parent (You the WR Parent) you show them and give them the tools of what you think it best, but you allow them to make the decisions. I think you have done a great job with that and each will get out of it what they want. I am sure the other Racers will help their team deal with those that are to addicted ! 🙂

  • As a race parent, I started out craving the interaction (phone calls, texts, Skyping) with my racer. As my journey went on and I trusted God more completely to care for my racer I found I was ok with occasional contact. In hindsight I was prepared even at the beginning for minimal contact. It was surprising we had as much as we did. My husband and I really did wonder how much the home contact interfered with the work that was being done in our racer, though. Any and all rules and guidelines made clear right from the beginning should be able to be adhered to, on my opinion.

  • Such interesting, insightful comments from everyone and it just proves that the smart phone is not an easy issue to resolve. As an alumni WR parent and a retired educator I can unfortunately argue either side of the smart phone issue. I would love to see them banned from classrooms but they are great for quick look-ups in the hands of a responsible student who is mature enough to use them correctly (there’s a mouthful!). On the race, I was ever so grateful to the racers who used them to post pictures and I think that the people in the countries they visited, especially the children, loved having their pictures taken, so perhaps, the smart phones were useful tools in some ways. Having said that, with the availability of wifi cafes around the world, there are certainly ways for the racers to write their blogs and I KNOW that the blogs are NOT why they are on the race. Did I look forward to those blogs? Of course! And I subscribed to as many from my racer’s squad as I could so that I could follow the entire squad and pray accordingly. I found that reading blogs helped my walk with the Lord. The fasting months (China, most notably) were hard, but I grew right along with the racers and it gave me a new appreciation for all things electronic and I actually stayed away from my computer a bit more that month. I do feel that the blog is a great way to keep in touch with supporters but I know that some racers lost computers while traveling and I can’t imagine writing a blog on a smart phone. Internet cafes seem to be the answer.
    My last point – as a parent, there were times when I was frustrated with other parents who seemed to know WAY too much too soon – my guess would be that their racer was communicating with a smart phone from the field – this would indicate a little too much reliance on technology and not enough reliance on God – sorry, but that’s just my take – those were the times when I stepped away from my keyboard and prayed for all concerned!

    • Good insights, Mary. The process of “individuation” is normal, yet stunted in our society. The best thing for young people is that they learn to self-govern – that’s what we’re after.

  • “One of the first signs of spiritual sickness is an unwillingness to consider sacrificing something” — Johnnie Moore

    I love some of the suggestions here in regards to asking Racers from the start to consider more of what they are wanting and really what is God wanting for them out of a trip like the Race.

    My experiences have been some of the following:

    I’ve seen the effects of smartphones and honestly, technology in general with both of my squads. I’ve had squad mates buy SIM cards in each country and call home almost everyday -no smartphone needed for that. I’ve spent months with teams when the bonding event EACH and EVERY night was someone’s favorite TV episode. I’ve watched as people never get to know their teammates, and never voice their true feelings to the people they are supposed to be doing life with, only to walk in on skype calls where it’s clear family members and best friends back home are hearing EVERYTHING. I’ve received emails from parents questioning my decisions as a leader when their adult children had never spoken any of the concerns to me. I seen teams fight over wifi passwords.

    I’ve seen so much ugly with having consistent wifi, and the ability to retreat “home” — but like so many have written before me, will the heart behind WHY this is the question at hand come across when a decision is made?

    I have also benefitted from good things that technology can bring. As a racer, I valued being able to post the occasional blog, but I always did this from a computer on my first trip. On my second trip, I carried a less bulky iPad, but honestly preferred the lack of ‘wifi-ease’ with my computer and valued the full size keyboard, ability to format blogs more easily.

    I enjoy connecting with my second squad (still serving) via various social media means, and I love following what they are doing.
    There are amazing benefits to being able to bring people along with you on your journey. Instagram and blog posts were probably some of my biggest connectors.
    I was never great at emailing people back home when I was overseas and very rarely did I attempt to FaceTime or Skype (sorry mom).
    I do not take very many pictures, but every now and then, I wanted to remember the smile of my host mom or the place the became my own for quiet times.
    I was still fundraising, and still am through social media and sometimes used my tablet or phone to post updates to my supporters.

    All of that being said, I don’t know the right answer for this. I do think it’s a valuable question. I think there are more questions that go with it.

    What is the heart behind the question (just to clarify, I do think it is pretty obvious)? And how does this get communicated — in both banning phones, tablets etc, and also in a decision to let it remain a personal, team decision?

    Can the convictions of previous Racers, parents, coaches etc be placed onto future squads? Or should we simply ask questions and share our hearts and allow God to convict those that He will?

    As the Race grows and moves forward in time, what does it look like to break off entitlements that were a nonissue at the start of the World Race –i.e. wifi in so many contacts’ homes.

    I know I have regrets in regards to my technology choices, but I do not regret learning from them. I needed to make those choices to learn those things, but I do often wonder what other growth I could have had.
    God wastes nothing. So are former racers’ experiences supposed to be the catalyst for future racers to have a new floor? We hope so.
    Can our past experiences -successes and failures- with technology/smartphones on the race be the prompt for necessary good growth for the racers ahead?

    And I guess the biggest question for future racers and anyone really: what are you unwilling to consider sacrificing ?

    Why? Is it because it is something God is asking you to hold sacred, or something that he truly has not asked for you to give up?
    Or is it because it will be inconvenient or rough for a season?
    If the former – stand firm.
    If the latter, drop it now.

    I still don’t know where I stand on the idea, but I do like the conversation for it all.

  • I did the Race in September 2013.

    Simply put, no. You should not ban smart phones from the Race.

    I’ll be honest – I haven’t read through all of these comments yet, so much of what I will say may have already been said. I apologize for any repetition! But, here are my thoughts…

    Technology-wise: I took my smartphone, a kindle, and my computer.
    I used my computer to watch movies, send C & C’s, and write blogs.
    I used my kindle to read. I used my smartphone to take pictures, check emails (which mostly included correspondence with AIM because I was a team leader), instagram, check in with family and friends at home, as an alarm clock, as a translation device when needed, for music, to make notes during meetings with contacts of things to tell my teammates, to take notes when teammates were sick (so I could inform AIM accurately), for quick Bible reference, and many other things that would have been seriously inconvenient to have to lug around a computer to do. And the months where we had to go to a coffee shop or internet cafe to have wifi….it felt a million times safer to be able to slip a phone into my pocket than to carry around a backpack.

    Did I distract myself when I wanted to disconnect with my phone? Sure.
    Did I also distract myself when I wanted to disconnect with my Kindle and my computer? Absolutely. Did I disconnect from my teammates by pretending to be busy writing in my journal? You bet. With anything I could find? Yep.

    If humans want to disconnect, they will always find a way.
    Forcing connection is not equal to creating connection.

    It’s really idealistic, in my opinion, to think that banning smart phones from the race will “fix” the issue. If we ban smart phones from the Race….do we ban them from Passport and all your other trips? Do you ask your longer term missionaries to do without their smart phones or other potentially distracting technology? Do you ban them from training camp? Do you ban them from CGA? Do you ban them from your offices? Because really, the Race is teaching community and dependence and living missionally…..and aren’t those the same things you’re trying to teach and live out in CGA and in your offices? Aren’t they just as much of an issue here at home as they are on the field?

    And if we ban smart phones because they are such a distraction and allow for such disconnect, shouldn’t we also ban computers? Kindles? Ipods? Journals? External hard drives full of movies? Anything can turn into distraction and can cause disconnection. there would be some nights on the Race that during team time, even without a bit of technology in the room, we still lacked connection because we simply didn’t want to connect that night. You could have put us in a completely bare room with zero distractions, and we wouldn’t have connected. Our minds were elsewhere….and elsewhere had absolutely nothing to do with a smart phone.

    We have to learn to live in a world full of distractions. Banning cell phones from the Race to try and give someone an “authentic” experience is taking the authenticity from them…because when they come home, the phone is right back in their hands. Wouldn’t we rather give someone the chance to live and learn how to create and set boundaries for themselves and their addiction to their smart phones in an environment that is supportive and encouraging of those boundaries? Months where my teams had wifi where we were living (which ended up being most of them), we sat down at the beginning and determined our own limits for ourselves. We decided that we were adults, and we wouldn’t set one big general rule for the team, but we would each create our own individual boundaries. We spoke them all to each other, we wrote them down and posted them where we would all see them….that way we were constantly reminded of our own “rules” for ourselves and could hold each other accountable. For some people, it meant putting the phone completely away and off except for off days. For others, it meant deleting certain apps that were especially distracting. And for some it meant limiting themselves to a certain amount of time of internet each day. Were any of our rules better or worse than the others? No. But the rules I set for my own usage wouldn’t have been beneficial for my teammate, because we struggled through our smartphone addictions in different ways.

    It starts with leadership. I can’t tell you how many people in leadership I saw at my training camp that were completely distracted and off on their phones. And then at launch. And then on the field (and I was one of those)! Your leadership will set the tone. Maybe it’s worth adjusting training camp and making sessions that deal more directly with our technology addictions and how to combat them on the Race and how to hold each other accountable when you set boundaries.

    Setting a rule of “no cell phones” also doesn’t at all guarantee people won’t bring them. Will you search their packs at launch for their phones? I don’t think you’ll have time, considering how much the Race has grown.

    And speaking of the Race’s growth- isn’t social media a huge marketing tool? How do you guys get the instagram posts or the facebook photos you use? Your Racers’ smart phones. Banning them from the Race wouldn’t be the best move for your marketing and storytelling.

    Banning smart phones to fix issues of distraction and disconnection is like trying to put a Band-Aid over a gunshot wound. The issue is deeper than simple smart phones.

  • I love the sentence “Forcing connection is not creating connection.” My racer pretty much expressed the same things to me that you did here. Basically just like parents cannot be the Holy Spirit in their children’s lives, I don’t believe AIM can by the Holy Spirit in the Racer’s lives. Can they give guidelines and give purposes for those guidelines, yes. Can they encourage the Team Leaders to give honest feedback if the phones are becoming a distraction, yes. But I don’t believe they should try and determine what is a distraction to all when it only is a distraction to some. Frankly a relationship with a single teammate can become a distraction or crutch from team bonding as much as anything else. But – the God is bigger than all of those things and can work in and in spite of those things.

  • Well put. I agree because even the following the legalism of the AIM created statutes that are considered “necessary” for abandonment can lead to self-righteousness. This seems to me like calculating exactly how far you can walk on the Sabbath as a means to make sure no one violates the commandment to keep the Sabbath holy.

    • “Instead of looking at packing as, “What do I need to bring to make me comfortable,” look at it like, “What do I need to have with me to walk out what God is calling me to this year?” Great response.

  • Hi Jen, it’s great to hear from your experience! As you talked about writing a blog weekly, you said not having a phone puts an initial barrier to sharing stories. It made me think about how much I like writing stories and keeping a journal when I’m in a place where I don’t have internet access when I travel to other countries. When I want to be sure to tell others, I take time to write it down. Writing in notebooks can be challenging when you are traveling around, but you could send the journal home when it’s full and start another one.

    I love the wisdom in waiting until the end of the month to take pictures. When you are on a short trip you may not have another opportunity to take a picture with those you meet, but when you have a month together, you can wait as you continue to build relationships.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • As a WR parent (L squad#2), I hesitantly say, YES ban ’em. For the sake of the racer’s and parents spiritual walks. That said, it would have been hard to go months not know if their team made it thru that typhoon that hit their island in the Philippians as they were arriving there. And being able to blog from a phone and not carry a laptop might help to ‘pack light’.

    If they aren’t banned it should be a topic at training camp and one the squads and teams discuss often (daily debrief?). Maybe, after a first month full ban, anyone not involved cooking the evening meal gets 15 minutes on their phones. But that would be a team decision. Its clear that the WR experience is sullied with too much phone time.

    bob

  • Self-governance didn’t go over well on my squad. I would consider my squad rebels and weren’t into growing or the Race. Let’s ban phones, why not?

  • I was a sponsor of someone on the race in the early years. I don’t believe that my sponsoree took her phone. In any event, I sponsored her to go around the world, not be on her phone.

    I believe they should be banned. If they complain, they don’t go on the trip. Grow up. Life is made up of rules, no matter where you go.

    I’m a junior high youth minister, and when we go on a trip, cell phones are banned, but the counselors have them in case of an emergency. We regularly post photos for the parents to see. I sometimes wish that I didn’t have mine.

  • Ok so let me give a little different spin (I think, but I didn’t read all the responses. I definitely would have had to “disengage” from life to do all that.) I definitely agree that “screens” have revolutionized (good and bad) how we do life. Was Watching NBA finals, and when they went to a timeout they showed fans right behind the bench. EVERY ONE of them were on their phones! Multiple thousand dollar tickets and they’re on their phones! But I have serious reservations about banning phone or technology usage on World Race. What are we communicating? That most intimate time with Jesus means unplugging or disconnecting from people back home? So what is that supposed to look like when Racers return? I get it that everyone needs to engage. Absolutely! Be in the moment! Then let’s teach people how to engage without having to do things they won’t sustain for a lifetime. Like how to use a phone without it becoming obsessive or distracting. And while I’m at it, how many of is are willing to go without TV, because the same logic that says ban the phone can reasonably be made about much of TV. Or the computer or internet, which everyone of us is using to reply to this. Don’t need to run from culture…need to be used by Jesus to redeem it.

  • Let’s be clear. Banning smartphones isn’t banning communication. No one is suggesting the World Race not communicate to family/friends. Please tell me there’s no other way to have communication without a smartphone?! This isn’t an issue about communication, but distraction. Smart phones have a lot more stuff on it to distract than a basic phone. Why are people commenting like we will never be able to communicate ever again, or if something happened that people will never know about it? That’s simply not true at all!

    I remember when I was on the Race we had people sick from malaria and people at home were notified instantly. Communication is just as much as the Racer’s willingness to correspond to family and visa versa, but you don’t need a smartphone to do it. I really think we will be OK.

    Regarding other electronics……it’s not that easy on the Race to just carry that laptop/tablet in your pocket.

    Is there governance? Yes for some things. But the purposes is to pursue Christ. I wanted to go without as little possible distractions. My family knew I would be in areas of tough communication. I would tell them ahead to know, and I’m sure they thought of me, but it was good for both of us and we both grew.

    Earning a right to use a phone? That’s a serious no! The World Race is not about rights. Actually, I remember very well in my training camps that we learn to lose our rights and privileges. It’s the right thing, we really don’t have rights when it comes to being disciples of Christ. Earning a right to use a phone is dangerous and fights against the mission of the World Race.

    Ban the smart phone, but that’s not banning communication. TRUST ME, it will be OK. Go buy a camera that has an SD card, get a SD card uploader to stick in your laptop, load the photos up to the laptop so you don’t lose them and maybe an extra external HD and reuse the camera card. Write blogs while on the field, even if you can’t post them yet so you don’t forget the amazing story God is showing you IN THE MOMENT! Then when a Racer gets wifi or any internet of the kind they will put the blog up.

    It’s that easy!

  • They aren’t telling the Racers to not communicate with families. Just not have smart phones.

  • Seth,

    Thank you for writing about this and addressing an unfortunate controversial issue amongst many in my generation and younger generations. Tia and I were discussing your blog this morning and I wanted to share a couple of conclusions we came to.

    Smartphones are amongst a multitude of things offer a distraction on the World Race and in our lives no matter where we live at this point. It’s another gray area in our spiritual lives that people will endlessly debate. At the end of the day the question is not over what bad/sinful things do we allow into our lives, but rather, what are the worthless things that prevent us from seeing/witnessing/being a part of eternal things.

    Young people are going on the World Race for adventure, for something different that God offers. They go on the World Race to experience what it means to live a Kingdom life. But often, I believe people set themselves up for disappointment because they aren’t willing to lay down the worthless things so that they can make room for the eternal things of the Kingdom.

    God does so many amazing, miraculous things in the world today, and many Racers get to see such things. But why do they not see more radical transformation in their lives and the lives of those around them? Why do they not see more breakthrough in the cities and countries they go to? Why do they struggle with hearing God’s voice and being able to discern his will? Is it possible that smartphones are one of those worthless distractions that prevent us from greater intimacy with God? I think so.

    It is my hope that future generations of World Racers find the courage to leave the worthless things behind, like smartphones, so that they can be a part of the wonderous, eternal things that Yahweh wants to do. But it takes intimacy with Him to see miraculous things happen, and that means leaving the good behind to make room for something better.

    You are leading well by addressing this, even if you encounter resistance.

    Hope this helps.

  • For many people, the smartphone has replaced their laptop devices. I vote for teaching self-regulation. Set aside 30 minutes in the evening for checking email, Facebook, etc. Also, I don’t care for the word “ban”. Teaching responsible usage is a better way to prepare for life after the Race, in my opinion.

    • Thanks for the thoughts, Chip. It’s good to hear from you and you have addressed the issue well. I love how God has given you the gift of wisdom!

  • I know there are many thoughts on this issue that probably have already been shared but I feel as though I must write something. As a racer getting ready to leave in the next 3 weeks, I have say that I am bringing my smartphone. No, I am not going to get an international plan. That is not necessary. I am going to practice discipline with my phone.

    Being in the United States Air Force before going on the race, I can say one thing…while top down governance does in fact prompt a change, IT IS TEMPORARY! I cannot tell you the endless things that basic training instills through rules and regulations that ultimately do not change the person. As many have already stated, you would have to get to the root of the problem. Simply banning smartphones is dogmatic and forceful upon instilling a principle that will not happen if the person does not want to accept it. Being present will not happen by banning smartphones. Case in point, at basic training smart phones were taken and we were only able to use them once a week. Instead of finding unity as a squadron/flight, many would be distant, in their journals, folding clothes, reading books and whatever else they wanted to do just to be separated. You cannot fool yourself into thinking your going to win people into a sphere of perfection by banning smartphones. Let feedback be the way in which accountability on “presentness” is approached. I for one am one who does not use my phone a whole bunch. Furthermore, I am not going to buy new technology such as a camera when my phone works just perfect as a camera. Also, coming from a family that has foreign relatives, I can say the google-translate app has helped me tremendously while I am visiting my siblings oversees. Also, staying in touch with older relatives such as my grandparents (who by the way do not have email, Skype or computers) can only be done through “viber” of sorts. And while I do propose a limit on the wifi, you cannot negate the fact that many supporters at home want to share/join in on this incredible journey and that can only happen for some, at least in my life, through limited smartphone use. Ultimately, I could just ramble on about the pro’s of having a smartphone, all the while, understanding the fact that one needs to limit usage, but AIM is going to do what you are going to do. All I have to say with my final comments is that treating us like adults is what prompted me to the race. I don’t want to be babied in my growth or faith. In fact, being babied in the beginning of my life caused me to convert to a different faith that allowed me to grow. Sure, I came back to Jesus, but it was because of the freedom I have to grow in Him on His time. I am going to press into the Lord while I am on the field but I do think smartphones have advantages that outweigh carelessness that can be treated with accountability.

  • Great blog – Everyone has seen the deteriorating social skills the more and more people are on their phone. It is a great idea for phones to be limited or removed from the Race. God deserves our all and if we can’t part with a phone then we have identified that we must.

    Also* racers get there phones stolen on the race quite often. As a result people lose all their photos and videos since most don’t have time nor wifi to back up their content on a monthly basis. Leaving the racer bitter and frustrated which affects their mood and possibly ministry if they allow it.

  • Hear, hear! I’ve read all of the other comments and this one comes the closest to expressing how I feel on the topic.

    If you had a special pill you could give each racer during training camp that would cause them to always be 100% engaged with the mission and to never be distracted, would you make them take it? You might be tempted to, of course, but if you didn’t it would probably be because the result, though seemingly ideal, would not be real.

    We want our children to truly love God, not to appear to love God because they have no other choice.

  • The only thing that I have noticed as my daughter post on facebook her experiences is that she has many non Christian friends following her seeing what she has been doing with mission work. I believe it has been a real witness to them.. Also, I have noticed them many of the local people where they have been have smartphones and communicate as well on it in facebook.

    • Yup – social media is an important part of the WR. We will not abandon that even as we press into the issue of social media dysfunction.

  • Hope M. (1st gen J squad)

    “This isn’t an issue about communication, but distraction.” – good line, John!

    …and pretty much everything else you said.

    • I like the rest of what you said too, “This isn’t an issue about communication, but distraction. Smart phones have a lot more stuff on it to distract than a basic phone. Why are people commenting like we will never be able to communicate ever again, or if something happened that people will never know about it? That’s simply not true at all!”

  • I read most of the responses and think this is an interesting discussion. When I went on the race (jan ’09) there was one of 52 that had a smart phone. I think that was a blessing for our squad. Also, that person was generous with their phone which turned into a blessing at times for other racers. The truth though is that there different avenues to check out of the present. That’s the core of this issue. For some it was Internet and they’d always be looking for a cafe to “blog.” Others it was movies or seasons of the friends. Some people opened up to their journal but rarely their team. Others would avoid relationships with teammates or ministry partners by getting alone and reading the bible. My point is that some of these situations were healthy at times and unhealthy at other times. Even still, I think the debate always has centered around checking out or staying in the present. As a society in America, we’ve increasingly been getting worse at face to face relationships (in my experience.)

    Personally, I think banning that stuff would be an extraordinary gift to racers. However, I don’t think it’s realistic with the scope of participants that AIM attracts.

    As a father, I want to lead my son into making mature decisions on his own. There will be times when I set hard boundaries, soft boundaries and no boundaries. If he isn’t prepared to make wise decisions in his 20’s, that’s on me. If he doesn’t make those wise decisions in his 20’s that’s on him. Unfortunately there are some participants that can self govern and balance this issue well and others that can’t. This is where a hard fast rule is hard to swallow.

    I don’t take lightly the variety of responses coming from parents of wr’s and I think that needs to be factored in… But from the participants side, not directly from an administrative position. For some parents, the healthiest thing for THEIR journey is to not be as dependent on constant communication. However, the race is a moment in the lives of the participants and then they’ll have to go home and balance friendships and family relationships.

    If you take away these devices you have to have an answer to better equip participants coming home. There’s a lot of culture shock to begin with and it will be harder for those that only had it taken away without ever learning to self govern.

    I could go on I guess with my thoughts on the matter but I’d rather focus on giving you a possible solution:

    I think that it’s healthy to unplug and I think it’s important to detox our culture if we are going into a new one. Usually for me and the people in with, that takes about 6 weeks before the friending for things like electronics, fast food etc really has subsided. I’d suggest for all races making the first month to 6 weeks a mandatory unplug event. If nothing else it should help teams bond and give individuals an experience outside of what they’ll ever have while in the States. Towards the end of their first fast, I would have them pray as a team about what two other months they as s team will choose to unplug again. This will give every participant a minimum of 3 months of team unplugging which if nothing else will give them a pout of reference to the role electronics plays in their life. This may actually start a life changing process for them individually instead of just being a mandate. I would make these months honor based and self imposed.

    Second, it would be easy to add to their application a statement that says all participants will be asked to unplug for three months on the race. Then I’d have them check a box signifying that they’d prefer this option or a route where everyone chose to unplug for the year. I think you may be surprised how many would choose each but it would at least empower them to choose it for the year or to experience it for 3 months. This also provides AIM with a way to protect the participants who come from situations where the best thing for them is to have a little distance from people who add a lot of unhealthiness to them. Regardless, having both options gives them the power to decide, you the power to keep them accountable and you the data to see if one option tends to add significant health or not.

    In the end, my guess is that the most effective marketing tool AIM has is still word of mouth. I’d say most alumni would side heavily on unplugging and if that’s a choice participants can choose to make (instead of forced to) my guess it would just be a matter of time before the numbers would take the advice and choose it.

    P.S. I’d consider letting them take an iPhone that doesn’t have a data/text/phone plan to only be used for pictures, songs and podcasts on the yr long option.
    Alright that’s more than enough from me.

  • P.S. I think “autocorrect” should also be banned for the year… Hope you could decipher what I meant to say… I should have edited before posting.

    • Benny,

      Great to hear from you. This is really good advice. We are trying to help racers live abundant lives, so the best of all possible worlds is for them to self-govern. I think we will grab a lot of the concepts you’ve outlined here as we begin to pray into and write a policy.

      Thanks!

  • Seth,

    I’m so glad you are addressing this, I pitched an idea while I was working in the WR to do a “unplugged” route. A race with minimal technology access. My idea was that we would provide team leaders with phones and little lap tops to connect with the office and that the team could share for blogging and skyping home.

    The benefit to offering this specified route vs. trying to encourage and set boundaries for 6+ squads at a time gives us the opportunity to study and see what happens when a group of people CHOOSE into a route without technology. I think there is something crucial about getting participants to CHOOSE into a year without it as a whole versus as a team or individual. The difference in their team dynamics, ministry, and overall race will be noticed and adopted by other squads. I full heartedly believe that habits and choices are influenced by leadership and flow out accordingly and if you had a squad that was committed to giving up technology for a year (This would also be a HUGE attraction to people in signing up for the race) their tenacity and commitment would trickle down and influence squads and racers yet to come.

    Technology is a bittersweet thing, it’s not going away and the generation being raised now will not know a world without it. I have personally seen both sides to technology on the race, it’s crucial to be able to send photos home, or blog about your experiences as a ministry to your supporters, it’s fun to read updates about what racers are doing but at the same time I’ve seen how the race can turn into a self-centered, media focused vacation. I watched racers just a few months go walk the streets during ministry and take selfies with poor kids, record videos of beggars and sit in the shade as they uploaded their “ministry” to social media. All the while buckets of food were waiting to be passed out to those in the slums and kids were begging to be played with. I’ve sat in homes with ministry hosts and heard their stories, their struggles, lived their life while I watched team mates get back and complete full series of whatever TV show they had on their laptop having no respect or interest in our contacts.

    Ministry is missed when we are distracted and I think it would be brilliant to mandate a squad to be “unplugged” for the year. Sharing a computer would play into team dynamics and challenge everyone to be incredibly focused and wildly intentional.

  • Great discussion and comments. I do particularly like the idea of asking everyone to give up smart phones for the first month or two – with discussions about the whys at training camp – then having the team come up with a team policy and having each person make personal decisions. That gives them a chance to actually feel what its like to be unplugged before asking them to self-regulate.

    • Wouldn’t you know that it’s my sister who has come closest to figuring out our policy direction! Well done, Liz! We’ll roll out the policy next week.

  • After reading more of these comments, it might be better to hand over a little more freedom. But to answer your question, I think because they are in a position of applying, and not accepted yet, there wouldn’t be much push back.

    I think though that if smart phones were banned, you would probably get a few that push back hard during the race. I think it would say a lot about the health of the team/squad, how many others joined in that push back, as well as the leadership on the squad, how they dealt with it. Some times how a select few outliers are dealt with has significant impact over many other things.

  • Prove it because Jesus wants you to self govern. On lots of things, not just cell phones. But we won’t take it away from you unless continuous sinful practices are being engaged. It will take time for self governance. People need to see and understand why. Each team should go through a Bible study on the practice. Why? Because it effects all areas of life from cell phones to food. (With food being just as big a problem if not bigger!) Self control. One of the important fruits of the spirit. We live in a self-indulgent world. Jesus wants us to live different. That takes in-depth study of God’s word and submission to the Holy Spirit. (Interestingly enough, missionaries experienced this in the 1990’s with the onset of the personal computer. Sure you have to turn it on and wait a few minutes, but the same principle applies.) Banning (unless sinful) doesn’t work. Don’t even go there. Besides, many of the people they are ministering to also have smart phones. They are everywhere now. So those people need to see self-governance in action!

    • Really good thoughts, Mark. As I’ve been crafting our policy, I’ve hit on this issue as being central. Thank you!

  • Remember they are adults. No ban smart phones now please.
    You can warn the future racers and they can accept it or not.

  • Seth,

    I’ve already commented earlier but I feel the need to share again. While i know your heart is in the right place and you are just trying to figure out a way for the racers and contacts to have the most effective and best experience possible, I’m afraid taking the phones away isn’t going to fix any problems. Taking phones away is a lot like trying to fix a gunshot wound with a band-aide, its not going to work. It can stop the bleeding for a little while but the issue is deeper and eventually the “band-aide” is not going to work. Its a Heart issue not a material issue.

    As a racer who just got off of the field in May we had a rough year on my squad. And little to none of it had to do with phones or the distraction that phones can provide. We had racers, and i’m not excluded from this list, that ran through whole seasons of shows while on the race. Spent countless hours taking and editing photos for Facebook, blogs, and instagram. Racers who would blow through 8-12 books in a month. Racers who would sit and journal for hours and hours a day to distract themselves from community and the team. Racers who would listen to podcasts and read their bibles for hours and hours and use that as a “good” excuse to not hang out and live in community. Racers who would fake sicknesses and injuries to get out of manual labor ministry months. Racers who would binge on snickers and coke every chance possible to get some taste of home. Racers who at every debrief who would just hang out with their friends, And yes people who got on wifi every chance they could but on every device possible not just phones. You see this isn’t a phone or material issue, it is and has always been a people issue.

    I wrote only one blog this year and it was about the biggest distraction for a lot of my fellow racers, alumni and present. It was about leadership and them overstepping their boundaries and leadership roles. I know this because of the endless amount of comments it got and emails and Facebook messages i got saying how they were/are feeling the same way. I have emails from people who currently work for your organization in the office, leading passport groups, and some who are currently world race Alumni squad leaders who felt the same as me and my fellow racers. And stayed and work for AIM to be there for those who struggle as well and to show them a different kind of christian leader. This is a people issue all the way around, not just with the racers.

    I can’t even begin to tell you the amount of times i sat down with leadership on my squad and told them all of this. How much people were struggling and none of it mattered because my name tag just said Darren and didn’t have the words leadership before it. We had a huge blowup on our squad that literally hours before it happened I told them was about to happen if they continued down this path. It didn’t matter though, again who am I but just a racer.

    So with all of that said and against my better judgement and my wife telling me not even worry about writing this because its been proven over and over again it doesn’t matter, here I am. So here is my feedback for you and your leadership. I believe feedback needs to be rough and raw sometimes so here is feedback we liked to call on my teams “life giving bluntness”

    You as a leader can’t make enough policy in the world that can take all the “distractions” away. It is not your job as a leader to make the decisions in peoples lives that only those racers can and should make. If you and leadership continue down this path of trying to control every aspect of a racers life you and this organization will fail. You will be throwing away this great opportunity and gift God has given you to get missionaries out into the field because YOU continue to try to create the perfect missionary, by making their decisions for them and Drag them along to you and the organizations “belief and christian level.” Which has been said by your highest leadership, “that we believe a certain way and we want to get people up to that belief level.” Which is fine except you are dealing with people from all walks of faith and we all move at different speeds and learn in different ways. But by continuing to make policies like this you are taking away peoples Identities and looking for “yes men/ladies” who are going to just do and conform to whatever you and leaderships says. You are creating a culture of “legalism” based off of a few in leaderships beliefs instead of letting God do his job in peoples hearts.

    I was challenged for a year to step up and be BOLD. That my voice has a huge influence on my squad and on the Race. But i knew and told leadership I felt I was called to more than my squad but to help future racers. Almost every time I spoke up i was made to feel like i was just challenging leadership, even though I was being challenged by the same leadership to lead and be bold. Sometimes that requires speaking boldly to those whom given you the opportunity to speak.

    So my advice is simple. Preach the Bible. Let the Word and the Holy Spirit do its job in peoples lives. Their was a simple lack of discipleship and preaching of the Word on my Squad. The very 2 things you’d expect the most from your leadership. If you want racers to learn about themselves and let go of things from their past then teach about GOD more often, disciple them. Stop having so many sessions on hot button christian issues and teach about Christ and his life. You can’t find yourself as a christian until you find GOD. You can’t let go of the material until you learn about everything you can receive from Christ.

    I’m going to finish with this because i’ve already written for too long. You ask the parents to let go. Let go of the need to try control, oversee, and make decisions for their kids. You ask them to let go and trust GOD and see the amazing things he can do in their lives.

    Now I’m going to ask you to do the same thing. Let go of your racers. Let go of the need to try and control so much of their lives and forcing them into things God might not have for them yet. Let go and see how God can change there lives and help them to put down the material distractions. I promise you with a little Faith in Christ and freedom for your racers you will only be amazed at how God will change and use them.

  • Very interesting thoughts and post. I’m on the World Race right now and in month 10 have taken a break from all social media this month. It’s true that the amount of time we spend on our phones can be distracting and take us away. But in no way do I think it has inhibited my growth, walk and/or connection with the Lord or my team. Just like life back home in the states. We have to learn how to manage life with our phones. They consume us at home as well and honestly 11 months on the World Race is helping shape different attitudes and different habits that I going to bring home with me. Although, I think it could be could to have more personal or team boundaries set for the teams with Internet I do think that banning it all together will cause a rebellious negative affect. I went on a trip before the World Race that allowed us to call home every other week and didn’t allow us to bring any devices. Sure we didn’t have the problem of being on our phones all the time but I also spent a lot of time wondering what my family was doing, sneaking to get emails and wifi places and wanting to rebel against the rule more than I wanted to respect the time they were giving me to really focus on God and my team. I understand your heart behind this and although I think that boundaries would be good setting something up out of force is never going to make people want to change. The world race sets you up for some amazing experiences and community and I do not think having my iPhone made that any less effective. And I think again we are setting up habits and desires for real life at home. Which when you’re withheld from something you do desire it more when you get home and I just think that’s setting it up for disaster. Also, I had my computer with me as well till month 9. I’ve noticed I’m on the internet far less since I sent home my computer. It’s not as fun to be surfing the web mindlessly when I have my phone cause it’s smaller. It was much easier on a big computer but I am glad that I sent it home and realize that I am only using my phone for practical things I need to get done. Thanks for asking people their thoughts! Grace & Peace.

  • So many questions:

    What will the behind the scenes WR organization change on the inside in order to adhere to a culture where cell phone usage is limited? I understand that we’ve all been “on the field” for various amounts of time and have experienced both sides, but does that exclude us from having to do what we expect others to do?

    What would be banned for distraction purposes if smart phones were nonexistent? Books, razors, makeup, journals?

    If the World Race is leaning further toward spiritual formation and outside of typical “missions”, which is totally fine, how do folks explain that to their financial and prayer supporters?

    Are we being fully honest with ourselves about what truly distracts us from God? And how often it happens even when we left our phone at home on accident?

    Will banning cell phones for 11 months produce a lifelong change in a person?

    How realistic are we being about reentry into “the real world” when the ban is over?

    How many people read and commented from their cell phone?

    So, so many questions.

  • i am a parent with a racer in the field now. She is in month 10. I have not read the previous posts so these thoughts maybe redundant. I feel racers need to be encouraged to not use electronics during the month and only use them to post, connect family and friends, and search their facebook etc when they regroup at the airport.
    I have never used social media until our daughter joined the race. I clearly see its impact. Where I use to chat with Jesus at the end of the day or when there is a few spare minutes, I hid myself checking facebook otherwise I get behind and buried in post (mostly AIM blogs lol). But I did find that over the months it has slyly robbed me of my intimacy with Jesus.
    When our daughter left on the race I was excited for her to have time away from electronics to live life, to rely on Jesus, and to grow. Even though she left her phone at home, her team went to the wifi cafe frequently. From there she call. I spoke to her more on the race then when she lived in the US. Once I asked her about needing to go and she said everyone is on their phone so it’s ok to talk longer because there is nothing else to do. Of course this did not continue and she had an awesome team, but I think they robbed themselves of time the first few months. It wasn’t until Asia when they had no internet that this changed. My daughter told me that she grew the most when she had no internet, and at times had to sit by herself for hours while the team had a fire (she is allergic to smoke, and yes she was close enough to be safe- never really alone lol). But she said in the past she would have just texted friends or checked social media, but there she had no distractions. It was just her and Jesus for hours. What a sweet rare opportunity for these racers if they can disengage.
    I would say they need to be on a fast for the first month or two so they can experience what life could be like without the ties to home. Them maybe they will rely on Jesus in a way they would not have here at home.

    • That’s the reality we’re seeing. We all struggle with this. It’s not even a question of being “an adult” and making “adult decisions.” We all face these temptations and need the opportunity to “taste and see that the Lord is good.”

      It’s remarkable to me that this is a reality that has only taken hold in the last 3-4 years and yet so many assume that it’s the best way to live life.

  • To this day I don’t have a smart phone BECAUSE of the world race. I went in 2010 and had a blackberry prior to the race. Going a year without it showed me how sickeningly dependent I had become on being falsely connected. I won’t have a smart phone to this day because I see the walls it builds where there could have been bridges.

    If a person can give up their right to a soft bed and ac and indoor plumbing, I think smart phones are even more luxury than those.

    Not having a smart phone also forces us to be more intentional with our communication which is something a lot of younger people have come up without learning

    • Good testimony, Rachelle. People need to connect w/ their true self more than they need to connect with those who have helped define them. Then they need to find the right balance.

  • While the ideal community free from distractions is ultimately the greatest goal for a race team, my argument would be that there will always be distractions. Banning things doesn’t give the adult racers any chance to self govern, which could be disastrous during re-entry. Why stop at phones? Ban Internet, ban alcohol, ban personal money which could lead to excess, ban secular books… It’s a dangerous road… Will people abuse the freedom? Maybe… But I think it would be much more rewarding to encourage adults to learn to govern themselves. One of the biggest obstacles I overcame on the race was legalism. I would hate to see the race become a list of dos and donts. Freedom in Christ, freedom to choose to do the right thing and engage with your team rather than social media, and freedom to grow up and learn to make the right decisions.

    • Not to worry, Kari. We are anti-legalists to the bone. Our problem is how to move out of the land of narcissism and too many choices…

  • Seth,
    Banning smart phones would only bring increased growth as a community. I seriously believe screen fasting is harder than fasting from meals. This is also one of the concerns I shared with my Squad “parents”, Bruce and Cinda. I believe Smart phones would benefit if it is restricted to squad leaders. When I went on the race (O-squad 2nd generation), I was one of the few who did not have personal phone; and I didn’t regret not bringing a smart phone with me on the road. Praying for the right decision to get poured on the leaders .

  • My daughter is in H squad and went on the race leaving her I phone at home. She did take her laptop and an ipod to document her trip and provide music when appropriate. She face timed on WiFi and we always felt connected but it was always before or after ministry. Seeing how distracting the phone, Facebook, e mail are in our home lives I can only imagine how it sends a message to those your are supposed to be ministering to that this little phone is more important to me than sharing God grace with someone who desperately needs to hear His word. I agree leave the phones home. This is your time to change other people’s lives, so start by changing yours so you can do a better job for Him.

    • That’s right, Allen. We tend to be ethnocentric in our evaluation as to whether or not smart phones are a good idea. In fact, from a missiological perspective, often the way we use smart phones is very inappropriate.

  • I was on a medical/evangelistic mission trip in April, with older Christians that should have been able to control their smart phone usage but didn’t. As soon as we arrived back to the hotel they had to get their phones out and where glued to them until it was time to go to dinner and then the second that we arrived back to the hotel room again they had to be glued to the phone. So, I think that either not permitting the smart phones on the trips or Setting strong boundaries. And yes, unfortunately someone would have to be the policeman. It’s a thankless task. And hopefully after the 1st offense they would not abuse the use of their smart phone again and if they did then the police person would have to take it from them for a period of time. This wouldn’t be a good situation, but we sometimes cause bad situations for ourselves by not following policies/rules.

    • That’s a sad anecdote, but it lines up with our experience. We don’t realize the depth of our addiction.

  • I did not read all the comments to this post but the Launch was filled with constant reminders (lectures) to the parents to stop thinking of and treating their offspring like children so why would AIM treat them like children and institute a RULE like this. A rule does not change their heart and it seems it is a heart change that is desired. It might be suggested (without peer intimidation) that curtailing, eliminating, or tailoring the use of their smart devices while on the world race with an explanation of the great benefit derived by doing so would be better. Some will do this; some will not – but it will be the (adult) racer making that decision. This is just getting a bit too legalistic for me.

    • Meg, right. The question was more rhetorical to invite discussion and problem-solving. Read the next post for context.

  • The world race has other rules such as “Do not go anywhere alone. Always stay with at least one other person.” As an alumni world racer- I am all for the banning of iphones. If this rule was put into effect AIM would probably clearly state it somewhere. People would know before they committed to the journey that this was a stipulation. If God has truly called someone to the race, this “rule” should not stop them from going. Often times I look back on my race and wish someone had drawn a hard line saying “no smart phones.” I tried all race to self govern when it came to this. I failed. I watched the women around me try. Many failed. I watched the men try…many failed. My most meaningful months of the entire race were Transnistria, India, Swaziland and Cambodia. They were not always the best months….but they were the months I learned the most, prayed the most, read my bible the most and journaled the most. All four of those months we did not have wifi anywhere near us. If i did the race again or squad led, you can bet I would be leaving my smart phone at home.

  • For me, the communication of Facetime is appreciated, but I think of all the parents and children of pioneers and immmigrants who never saw loved ones again. Letterwriting is a great way to share thoughts. I know that The Word (Hebrews 4:12 knows the thoughts and intents of our hearts. I just think no smart phones are really necessary. I know this isn’t well said, but it verges on worshipping the creation instead of the Creator.

  • For me, the communication of Facetime is appreciated, but I think of all the parents and children of pioneers and immmigrants who never saw loved ones again. Letterwriting is a great way to share thoughts. I know that The Word (Hebrews 4:12 knows the thoughts and intents of our hearts. I just think no smart phones are really necessary. I know this isn’t well said, but it verges on worshipping the creation instead of the Creator.

  • I find myself being torn on this subject. When I went on my race I brought along my smartphone, but I brought it to mainly use as an iPod and alarm clock, and I turned the data off because I didn’t want to pay out of the wazoo for overseas phone bills. Around month 4, the WiFi feature just quit working on my phone so all I really could use it for was an iPod and alarm clock.

    At the same time though, I was super lucky to be on a squad and team where you best believe you would get called out if you were spending too much time not engaging. It could even be the case where you didn’t even realize that you were spending too much time disconnecting. Having others call me out and up was a huge part of my growth process on the WR.

  • You rock Beks. And i remember that convo & definitely appreciated how you charged us and also helped to keep us accountable to the choice we made. This was the days before I ever had a smart phone but only had an iPod but I almost wish I didn’t even have that because of the temptation it gave me to disconnect from my team around me. There would also be so many times I would just want to turn off my brain and would just play solitaire on my iPod Instead of getting to know my teammates more or spending time ministering to someone or even journaling (which I gave up on after week 3). That is one of my biggest regrets during my time there.

  • Hello! I’m leaving this coming September on the Gap Year D squad. With all that I’ve read, and all I’ve heard from world race alumni, I can’t help but be excited for the disconnect. My parents, grandparents, and many others are really concerned with my choice to not have constant cell service (with or without the smart phone ban). But ultimately, I don’t feel that I’ll grow as much if I never leave my comfort zone. All the same, I was hoping to bring my phone for music, pictures, notetaking, an alarm, etc. When we could find wifi, I was also hoping to talk to my family and friends, because if I can, I would like to be apart of their lives in some way while I’m gone. I understand I could talk to them on my computer, so that is really more of a matter of convenience, and possibly having to leave that behind too.

    I really loved the idea of having teams discuss the issue before they leave, and coming up with a plan for how they’ll manage it. I think it would promote growth if we had that accountability with each other, and we were voluntarily choosing to be held accountable. Simply forcing everyone to not bring their smart phone (at least for the routes that currently exist, since it wasn’t a prestablished rule) may cause more problems for those who don’t want to be compliant. It is absolutely a matter of the heart. If each of our teams had the opportunity to pray through it together, and we voluntarily chose to limit or monitor the smart phone use in some way, I feel that there would be more room for God to move in our hearts. We wouldn’t feel so “forced” into it, per say, and in return, would be more open to accept the many lessons and blessings that come with disconnecting. All the same, I’ll be going on the race no matter what the final decision is! I trust where God has led me, and I’m so so so excited for this journey with him on the race!!

    It’s really awesome to me that the WR staff wants to include racers, and family and friends in their decision making process. Thank you for that opportunity! Blessings to you all!

  • Incredibly well put Beks! I couldn’t have said it better myself. I leave for training camp in a couple of weeks and this is a topic I’ve discussed with Racers currently on the race as well as a Racer who’s leaving next week.

    This is clearly a heart issue. Establishing a rule such as this will result in resentment and an overall failure to truly address the problem. Those same kids who are glued to their smartphone will simply run down to the Internet cafe every chance they get. I’m the oldest Racer on my squad and have been deployed twice during my military career so my perspective is probably quite different; however, I’ve lived in an organization that created overarching rules to try and address an issue without truly getting to the heart of the matter and it fails…every time.

    This is an issue that should be handled at the squad and team level. Every team will be different because it is comprised of different people. There may be one team who doesn’t struggle with this at all. It is not right to ban their cell phones due to another Racer’s inability to police themselves. As mentioned so many times in these other comments MOST people are not taking cameras and are using their phones instead.

    Squad leaders and team leaders are leaders for a reason. Leaders make tough decisions and sometimes it isn’t a popular one. Squad and team-level policing is the answer.

  • Totally love this article but I feel as though banning smart phones takes away the opportunity for self-governance. If we’re really going on the race to grow in our relationship with Christ than we should learn what it means to give something up because it may be the right thing to do instead of being told that we must do it. I don’t think that the ban is a bad idea. But I do feel that people tend to make changes to their lives, like deciding to do screen fasts, when it is their decision and it is done with purpose. In my opinion, while on this trip, racers should have the opportunity to decide based on conviction. Isn’t that what we are training for? Learning to self govern on the race and learning to go to our brothers and sisters in our time of need? If someone struggles with an addiction and their phone is enabling it then I would pray that they would really embrace the opportunity they have been given to open up to their brothers/sisters about their problems and learn that they can be an overcomer on the race with the same tools and tech that’s available at home. And maybe that would help people prepare for life back in the states later? I haven’t been on the race yet so everything I say here is simply opinion! Maybe it will change next year on the race!

  • OK so… To be honest I haven’t read any comments above because I am not getting caught in a debate I just want to ask one question.

    After reading the article when it first posted I pondered on my own self reflection .

    I totally see the point. I myself will be leaving for the World Race in January 2016 route 3. I would totally be prepared to leave my phone of asked of me.

    (Maybe thats the point…. Should I have to wait until asked to do something or should I understand and know what I truly need)

    In saying all this, if I left behind my phone yes I will grow. But would I get the point… What happens when I go back to the life after the world race. A world were technology is always advancing and people want it fast and easy…

    Will I get sucked back in?

    Because if I say I made it on the word rave without a smartphone…well gues what? It’s night like I had a choice in the matter…

    I think thats what God gives us is choice. That’s how we learn our lessons in life by choosing to make the right choices.

    So my question finally is this,

    If I didn’t bring a smart phone on the World Race, would I really be prepared to return???

    • It’s a great question. How do we break addiction? if I’m an alcoholic, should I learn how to sip small amounts of beer so that I am prepared to be around my alcoholic friends? How do we learn self-control?

  • I think it is important to know when to use it and when to just leave it alone. However, banning the smartphones means that a lot of pictures and memories from trips wouldn’t exist. This trip, the blogs, and the photos are all a part of The World Race ministry. Pictures and blogs that are sometimes completed over phones help spread Gods word around the nations. I think regulating is a good idea but at the same time I don’t feel like people should fear getting in trouble just for wanting to check up on a family member or take a photo. To me it would be more about the length of time. If someone checks their phone for a few minutes here or there its one thing but if someone has been on it for 20 minutes then there is an issue.

    I think rather than taking the privilege it would be good to talk to them about why they feel the need to be on their device so much and then try to minister to them and maybe help them learn how to get by with less time on the device. If it doesn’t get better then maybe I would be okay with taking the privilege away but these are grown adults, treating them like children will do more harm than good.

    • Ariana,

      Good points. You may be interested to know that since racers have been taking smart phones, they have been blogging a lot less. They did a lot better communicating their race when all they had was computers and cameras and cell phones.

  • Seth,

    For written blogs that may be the case but that cannot hold true for pictures. I know many of my squad mates do not have the additional funds to spend on even a simple point and shoot camera so their smart phone is going to serve that purpose while on the race. I have a few friends out on the race as we speak and about 90% of their pictures are taken with their smart phone.

    From someone who’s stepping out of a large organization (the Army) to enter into another large organization (albeit not quite as large) top-down rules are far less effective than “unit-level” rules. Time limits, situations when smart phones are or are not appropriate, and overall team and squad policing can actually bond a team together because unit cohesion arises through accountability. Allow your squad and team leaders with boots on the ground to assess the situation and go from there. There may be teams out there who do not have a SINGLE racer who struggles with this issue.

    This is just my inexperienced-with-the-race but very-experienced-with-overarching-rules opinion. Get back with me 3 months into my race : )

    • It is true. Racers have always had digital cameras. They posted more to their blogs before the smart phone.

      As to the cost of a digital Camera, it is about the price of a couple of your favorite Starbucks for a month.

      That said, I don’t take issue with your idea of wanting to self govern and take a smart phone. My issue is with helping disciple young people to their greatness in God.

  • “there is something very unsettling about an organization that tells kids not to communicate with their families…” Racers are not kids. Racers are adults. AIM is treating them as such by encouraging them to abandon the comfort of having 24/7 access to their families. However, I do agree that a blanket ban isn’t the best way to make that happen.

  • Not sure if comments to this string are still being monitored….but I just got back from PVT and I’m not sure how the team would operate without smart phones. All important team and squad messages came through facebook messaging. If a racer had to wait until they had time to pull out and fire up their laptop to get these messages, they would be “a day late and a dollar short”. I can’t count the number of times my daughter received critical info via FB messaging or an email that she could view on her ipod. So, unless the squads adopt a different form of communication, I’m not sure banning ipods/iphones is a good idea.

    • Thanks for the input, Brenda. You raise a good point: What would we do without FB?

      Well, what did a couple of thousand racers do before FB and smartphones? The answer is they used computers and phones and they communicated appropriately through their leaders instead of in a rumor-mill inciting way with multiple messages going out simultaneously.

      We just have to establish the protocols and people will use them. When issues require urgent attention, our staff get their info from phones and perhaps email, not FB.

      Racers naturally connect to the places where they have found comfort before. Where many struggle is in connecting to God. Our objective is to help them practice self-governance so as to eliminate the distractions that keep them from doing what is most important.

      If you’re interested in helping us as we continue to dialogue about how to best meet what may be conflicting objectives, please feel free to connect with our parent team led by Betty Means – we really appreciate your input and partnership in discipling your racer.

  • Culture eats strategy for breakfast.

    The technology is something they have with them and it is pervasive. Once you make a rule that will be hard to enforce and you know will have a high incidence of breakage, then you incur the pain of enforcing it and then punishing those who offend it.

    The symptom is a society with no respect for authority, even down to the level of the human being right in front of them. They don’t love others as themselves and have no fundamental upbringing that nurtured them “being present” simply with another person.

    Develop a culture of being present, develop a culture of submission to the reality they are present to, develop a culture of confidence in their ability to thrive in any situation.

    Then our kids don’t have to escape, they don’t have to run away into a virtual world.

    When they are loved and sufficient in themselves, they won’t reach out to the world for help.. that’s what they are doing, not simply playing with a phone.

  • As someone who went on the race before the days of iPhone intoxication (I think 2 people had a phone when I was on the race), I definitely appreciate that I can look back and have real memories to draw from.

    With that being said, prior to the race I went on a trip that refused phones, and in a 3 month period they only allowed us “one call home.”

    I think in theory the idea of banning phones is a good one, but forcing people against their will causes cultish tendencies and authoritative leadership. If people are being forced by anything it causes bitterness and resentment.

    While I think iPhones on the race have become out of control, based on what I see, I don’t think it’s a healthy choice to ban them completely.

  • Seth, our experience as leaders has been similar to that of Brian Cooke. I would ban smartphones, and also iPads which are just as easy to connect with. In general I don’t believe the racers will tend to self-govern. As Gary said above, a couple of computers per team, and visits to an internet cafe sound like good alternatives.

  • Is everyone pushing for no smart phones on the race ready to give up their own smart phones? The issues/reasons are the same for us as the racers.

  • Sorry – my finger hit submit before I finished the sentence.

    …Racers involved.

    I have faith that this issue will be settled in the way that will best please God and continue His work through this ministry!

    • Your feedback is valued. Thanks for taking the time to be open and honest on how you feel concerning this issue.

      Seth

  • My son was on WR Sept 13. We had many discussions about this before he left. He wanted a smart phone and he wanted to come onto my plan. His personal debt going into this race was about the same amount of the race and I was torn. I would not let him come onto my plan, as I did not want to have his debt my responsibility–and I wasn’t real sure the added expense was necessary. He also asked me if I could finish his fund raising for him and I said “NO!” I’m sure he took more gadgets than needed–and I even had to get one repaired and return it to him. So…the smart phone won–and he made the purchase about a month before he left. He did put his plan on hold and was totally reliant on free WIFI places. I did figure he wouldn’t blog much–it’s not his style–so using that as a tool didn’t hold water with me. I asked him about this recently and he told me he felt like he and his team mates had a pretty good handle on it. What my other son does when he gets together with friends is all phones (and they are all on) go in the center of the table. First person that reaches for their phone pays for everyone’s meal. He says some of these get-to-together goes on for hours–or they each end up paying for their own. This method would need to be adapted to the race situation but I’m sure it would work.

  • I did not go on the world race, but I went with AIM for a passport trip to Nicaragua. First there were boundaries of not using computers or calling home except once a week I think in the beginning of our trip. Though the longer we were there, the more those boundaries were coming down, and sadly people were on their computers and calling home almost every single day. I agree that electronics can be a blessing, but I believe for a mission trip you should have your focus on spreading God’s love and building the real life relationships out on the field… there is time to post and share when you return home. Though the world race is almost a year long, so I get that people should be able to call home, but there should be strict rules for maybe once a month in each country… though I think it is up to the leaders of the squad to be real leaders in these types of situations. I know everyone on the trip is an adult and should have discipline for themselves, but I noticed one reason it was so easy for people on my team to bend/break the rules, because our leaders were doing so. One leader was constantly using their computer to talk with people back home, and when I say constantly, I mean any free time that we ever had… and most of us looked up to our leaders and led by example. So you are going to band something or set rules, you need to make sure the leaders know what position they are putting themselves in, and they try their hardest to be leaders of God in every situation. Personally I just think it takes away from the growth during the trip, I noticed people who were homesick become even more homesick from using their computers all day every day. People were no longer relying on God and trusting him, but instead relying on friends and family back home for comfort when they felt upset or discouraged… this is not healthy in my opinion. Good luck!

  • Michelle McBeath – 1st Generati

    I literally can not possibly get through all 91 comments but Jen says it best right here. I so agree. The story telling has to come 2nd to what’s happening THERE. In the present. Photos can wait a few days. Blogs can be written weekly. Tweets can … well, I know nothing about tweeting so I’ll just skip over that one. Ha!

    To this day I consider the race a gift in so many ways. It shaped me in a thousand different ways, but one of the smallest is my phone habits. My friends get soooo mad at me for putting my phone down for hours and not responding until much later. Or even worse, accidentally letting it die. In other words, I’m not tied to it. That year of quiet and disconnect set a standard for the “quality” of life that I want. And it established habits that I hope continue (with a bit more emphasis on personal governance – ha!).

    And to add to my vote of banning them ….. I honestly think 50% of what’s powerful about the Race is what happens in the lives of those that are back home. My parents had to learn what faith and trust looked like in a whole new way when their youngest “baby girl” left for the Race and only called about once a week when we had internet access. Then when we hit China and over 30 days went by, it’s just a basic lesson that our lives are not our own.

    And it makes sense that less blogging happens – with FB/Insta you’re posting more, but with less content. For us (in the dark ages, pre smart phones), blogs served as part update/storytelling, but an EVEN greater part as a JOURNAL. Half of my blogs were me processing the things I saw/felt/experienced. I can’t imagine losing that to more shallow (yet more frequent) posts. It was invaluable to have a week to process/journal what I’d experienced and how I might tell the people I loved back home.

    Enough rambling – I vote no phones. To quote a very wise man, that rule isn’t necessarily about RIGHT vs. WRONG but LIFE vs. DEATH. What would bring more life? How do we choose more life???

    (also – because I love you guys – just wanted to say hey and that I miss y’all. Hope everyone is doing well. <3)

    • Hi Michelle,

      How are you? You definitely get it. Need to have you speak to the racers.

      In fact, wish we could get your whole squad back here for a reunion!

  • Michelle McBeath – 1st Generati

    Oh man – you know I would love that. Maybe a 10 year reunion needs to start up – 2016 for the Pioneer Squad and 2017 for us A/B. Love and miss you guys!

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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