How a Digital Detox got our youth excited about prayer
Yas Galarza shares how her young people decided to do a digital detox, what happened and some tips for running your own.
Not so long ago, one of the teenagers who come to our youth group noticed that when we gather to worship, pray or hear a talk, people were busy on their screens and got easily distracted by a text or social media. They came up with the idea of doing a “Digital Detox” and asked us if we could do one. Given the idea came from one of our youth and it seemed to tackle an issue we could see in front of us — we naturally agreed to have a go.
The first time, we locked ourselves in our youth room overnight with our phones in a safe, and prayed for a bunch of different things. The youth got excited, had a great experience of prayer and intercession and we all had fun, so we decided to do another one, which is a story worth sharing.
Bible in one hand, newspaper in the other
We decided to theme the second night, “Bible in one hand, newspaper in the other” — we wanted to pray intentionally for what was happening in our city, and hear from God for any words or scripture to proclaim over ourselves and society. We also decided to make it an over-nighter for the older youth and Sixth Formers, with an open invite for all our youth on the Friday night from 19:30-21:00. Leaning into the theme even more, we decided we could try covering our entire youth room in newspaper, including all our device screens, which was a challenge but incredible fun!
Doing this detox helped us to refocus, be refreshed and intentionally engage with God and one another. These nights have been key in strengthening our faith as we listen to God with no distractions and see Him show up in miraculous ways. We’ve seen young people come thirsty and leave refreshed in awe of God. As team we know it’s so important that we disconnect with our phones and connect with God more intentionally, but doing this with our youth has been amazing, especially when they lead activities alongside the leaders.
The story doesn’t end there…
On the Saturday morning, we wanted to take everyone who stayed over to Lambeth Palace to wrap up the over-nighter praying in a different yet significant space, but when we contacted the Community of St Anselm to see if we could use the space, we received an invitation from Simon Lewis to join them at the Synod, where they were hosting the prayers! For us as a youth group, it was a privilege to be there and get to pray for the debates whilst experiencing the Synod and listening in.
What young people got out of it
“Before the digital detox I struggled to be free in worship and lift my hands. After the detox I feel refreshed in worship.” Emily
“Seeing everyone worship together until 4am without caring about sleep was both crazy and amazing!” Lucian
“It was a great time, the Holy Spirit was moving in powerful ways! Pouring out our hearts in worship and prayer for the young people in our city was great to see.” Edwin
How to run a Digital Detox
Running one of these “detoxes” is great, because it’s a simple idea that anyone can try without needing a lot resources:
- Spot any young people in your youth group who would be up for the challenge, so that they can lead it too.
- Come up with a theme for the evening: something to focus on to make it more intentional.
- Create different stations to pray at: Be creative and think of different engaging activities young people can do that won’t feel boring and will help them pray. Try to get young people leading them wherever you can (ask them to come up with the ideas, too).
- Worship: explore an alternative style of worship to what happens on normal youth nights you already do. This will help the young people focus on what it’s all about.
- Think of something that would be memorable to keep at the end of the evening – some young people are more impacted when they see or take home something to mark what had happened during that night.
- Keep phones safe in an area where it’s out of sight to stop temptation
- Just do it! Set a date and keep it simple.
About Yas Galarza
Yas is the Older Youth Pastor at HTB Youth, part of Holy Trinity Brompton Road church in the Kensington Area. As part of the Youth Minster team she is also involved in planting a new youth church in St Francis, Delgarno Way.