July 1st, 2011
05:00 AM ET
Editor's Note: Craig Groeschel is the founder and senior pastor of LifeChurch.tv. He, his wife, Amy, and their six children live in Edmond, Okla., where LifeChurch.tv began in 1996. A bestselling author, his latest new book is called "WEIRD: Because Normal Isn’t Working."
By Craig Groeschel, Special to CNN
Like millions of people, I Twitter, Facebook and blog. Though I hesitate to admit it, I even take my iPhone into the bathroom with me — just in case I need to do a little extra business (pun intended). Since we live in a tech-savvy world, our church, LifeChurch.tv, loves to leverage technology to spread the message of faith in Christ.
Our church was honored to create The Bible App, a free tool to help people engage with God’s word. The Bible App has been installed on more than 19 million unique devices (and counting). And last year alone, our Church Online services drew nearly 3 million unique visits.
It’s safe to say I’m a little like Kip singing to LaFawnda, “Yes, I love technology.” And like the majority of people, I spend most of my days immersed in technology, whether it’s in a constant stream of e-mails, texts, online posts, and cell phone conversations, or looking into the lens of a video camera.
One day when I came home from the office a couple of years ago, I set my iPhone on the kitchen counter as I walked into the house. I had switched out of “work mode” and into “family mode,” prepared to give my undivided attention to my wife and our six kids for the evening. With that many people in the house, it seems like it’s never quiet. But on this late afternoon, it was … eerily so.
I started looking around for everybody, and what I discovered was a series of tiny islands, each person immersed in their own little world. My wife Amy was on her laptop writing curriculum for a Bible study. One daughter was listening to her iPod as she surfed Facebook, and another was checking e-mail. Two kids were playing Club Penguin and Webkinz — on separate computers. At least the last two I found were together, although they were playing Wii, so they were both transfixed on the screen.
In our culture, there is nothing unusual about this scenario. It plays out this same way in countless homes every evening. But this episode brought it home for me: Although I was comfortable that everyone in our family loved each other, I realized we were gradually allowing the flicker of little screens to draw us away, running the risk of ultimately becoming isolated from one another.
That night, Amy and I had a long talk that led to what would become a controversial decision: We limited technology use in our home to just three days a week. That meant that for four days, there would be no television, no iPods, no Facebooking, and no feeding tiny digital pets—even if it meant, sadly, that they would starve.
We gathered everyone together to fully explain what we were thinking and why. We knew it sounded weird to them. But we also believed that if you want a life that few people have, you have to do things that few people are willing to do.
Immediately after the kids heard us out, our youngest son, Bookie, sequestered his brother and sisters in his room for an emergency summit. I learned later that Bookie plotted to unify the troops to overthrow our oppressive regime at the first opportunity. Fortunately, calmer heads prevailed, and our kids decided they’d at least go along and see how this new system would play out.
It took a while for the childrens' desire for that electronic buzz to wane, but once it did, it was as though our entire family woke up from a lazy afternoon nap. We traveled back to a simpler time, when people sat on the front porch together and talked.
We rediscovered board games and picnics. Now when I come home from work, I have to slip into the house undetected, because my sons routinely lie in wait to ambush me with elaborate traps, usually involving a decoy, followed by wrestling and karate. I’ve read more books with my kids during the last couple of years than I probably read during my entire stint in college. We practice telling each other stories, competing for bragging rights about whose is the funniest story ever told. We actually listen to each other.
This whole shift felt really odd at first, like we were giving something up. But what we got in return is worth far more. It’s intimate. It’s genuine connection. Honestly, we couldn’t go back now if we wanted to. The kids would never settle for things like they were before.
We’re weird … and we’re blissfully happy together.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Craig Groeschel
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team and frequent posts from religion scholar and author Stephen Prothero.