The premise is simple, allow students to have something to mindlessly play with while they supposedly listen better in class, youth group, or around the house. Originally designed or targeted at those with special needs or an attention-based learning disability, these little toys are now in everyone's pocket, even adults.
I recently was invited to attend a meeting at a local school for one of my students. I truly appreciate the family inviting me to come in and the local public school to allow me to be present. What was funny to me was to be sitting in a meeting for a student who was struggling in school to pay attention and behave, while adults in the room were playing with their own toy.
I went outside the other day to play basketball in the neighborhood with my son and a group of boys. One boy was trying to play basketball with one hand, because he could not put down his fidget spinner. When he finally did, it only lasted a couple minutes, because he just had to have it in his hand. He was outside with other people doing a physical activity involving a ball and his hands, but still could not put down his "fidget".
A few years ago I was talking to the principal, inside of the one of the top school districts in the country. A district known for educating children in the outskirts of Washington, DC, where we were living at the time. The school district is filled with children of military families. The children have parents whose jobs are known for discipline, control, and being 'at attention'. Her comment to me was that she missed having children who attended church and that she could immediately tell which students were religious and faithful to church, because they were the ones that could sit still, pay attention, listen for long periods of time without fidgeting. Mind you, this was all pre-fidget craze, a year or so ago.
What I am writing is not another psychological or educational study about the evils of "fidget spinners" to the average student's brain, there are plenty out there just "google" it. This is even a personal struggle in my own home, with a 4th grade son and 8th grade daughter, who see everyone else with fidgets. We have actually decided as a family not to have them in our home. The whole fidget craze, I think just reveals some spiritual challenges and needs of our middle years students. Here are just a couple quick Biblical challenge as we teach our middle year students how to focus their mind, body, and spirit in order to give their full attention to God.
- STILLNESS: Ps. 46:10- “Be , and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Is constantly allows students to be moving and fidgeting, really helping them understand the spiritual discipline of stillness and listening to God. While the world around them is a constant sensory overload and they live in constant motion, what would happen if we challenged our students to moments of stillness at camp or on a mission trip this summer?
- SILENCE: Mark 6:31- "...he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a and get some rest.” Youth ministry is known for being loud and busy, but should we also be offering our students opportunities for quite places and silent rest? Our ministry and our retreats may be the only place where they will ever have time to listen to 'nothing' for a few minutes. With students having to sleep with headphones and noise machines, because their brains have been trained to have constant noise, it may be challenge but it could be worth it. Even if it only a few minutes, offer your students moments of silence, as the end of a lesson to reflect, maybe even ask them to find a corner or a place to take a couple minutes to be quiet with God.
- SOLITUDE: Matthew 6:6- "But when you pray, go into your "closet", close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." If you are reading this and you are of the religious tradition of prayer beads and spiritual 'fidgets', I am sorry not sorry. Students are surrounded by people almost all of the time. Our ministries are known as "youth groups" and we have "small groups", we may even refer to our meetings as "big group". There is a spiritual need sometimes for "going to lonely places" by yourself (*Luke 5:16) to pray and refocus. Why not offer that and teach that to students? Not "well I am going to storm off to my room by myself" moment but a respectful time alone with God in prayer...hands free!
- SELFLESS: Ps. 24:4 The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god. Sometime we need to learn to put down what we are holding onto or put aside our baggage. Really if we are honest with the whole 'fidget' craze, it is students holding on to "I want...", "I need..', "I have to have..." and "I rely on having...". What would happen if we challenged students to literally, physically put down what they are holding onto and come to God empty handed willing to listen, let Him control them, and be their focus? You don't know what would happen? Well, give it a try in your own personal life and then give it a try in the life of your students, and see what happens?
These are not new concepts, these are ancient, early church spiritual practices. They are from a time before toys, noise, medication and the need to fidget?