MT. COMFORT — It’s a common sight: A group of friends drop into the coffee shop, place their orders and then silently submerse themselves into their smart phones, seemingly oblivious to those around them.
“I think we all agree one of the problems we have in our society is communication, or, more accurately, the inability to communicate,” said the Rev. Robert Miller, who, along with a task force of counselors, teachers, parents and young adults, is initiating a pilot program called Let’s Talk.
“One of the problems we have is that we don’t have time to talk to each other, and it’s getting worse,” he said.
The eight-week program designed to explore methods for effective communication is being offered at no cost to area families and will be the first of its kind in the area, said Miller, pastor at Mt. Comfort United Methodist Church, which is sponsoring the program.
“This is a pilot program. We are developing the curriculum now,” he said.
Each week, the program will focus on a specific issue such as dealing with disappointment, family tension, fitting with friends and family and parental expectations in small-group settings for adults, young adults, upper elementary and lower elementary students.
The individual groups will examine the same lessons and issues from a biblical perspective at age-appropriate levels with take-home topics to discuss during the week, said Miller’s wife, Norietta, also a task force member.
Task force member Kaylee Lyons, a Mt. Vernon High School senior and president of the school’s Family, Career and Community Leaders of America chapter, said the pervasive use of texting and social media via smartphones and other devices at increasingly young ages is coming at a cost to face-to-face communication skills.
“My parents instilled in me that there would be no phone until I was older,” she said. “If you don’t have communication skills, you’re going to have issues.”
After the initial eight-week session, the group plans to evaluate the program’s outcome to determine how best to move forward, Miller said.
“I’m hoping some other churches in other communities might buy into it,” he said.
The group plans to break the ice on the series with two informational meetings at 5 p.m., Sunday with a barbecue dinner followed with an ice cream social at 6 p.m. Sept. 28. Both events will be at Mt. Comfort United Methodist Church.
Classes are set to begin the first week of October.
The irony of the ever-evolving and expanding world of communications technology is that it can contribute to a certain amount of isolation.
Faith Woods, who attends Indianapolis’ Crispus Attucks High School and who does not have a smartphone or tablet, said even for kids, the influence of technology leaves some students feeling set apart.
“There are many times I’m trying to talk to my friend, and she’s on Facebook on her phone, and she’s not even paying attention to me,” Faith said. “I feel like I’m left out, so basically I just pull out my books and read.”
In addition to the area’s youth, Miller is certain today’s families feel the problems and pressures he believes are isolating them and making it easier to avoid rather than communicate. It’s not that families aren’t aware or that families don’t care.
“The acid test,” he said, “is do you really care enough about your families to do something about it.”
More information about Let’s Talk is available by contacting Miller at (317) 435-0405. Mt. Comfort United Methodist Church is at 3179 N CR 600W and can be reached at (317) 894-8965.