I don’t know if you have realized this yet but our culture is getting more and more Bible illiterate. At least in my context, students are walking into our services with very little to no real background of the Bible, its stories or any of this church talk that many of us keep using.
In a world where people say, “Two Corinthians”, when it comes to reaching and communicating clearly to our students, especially if you are reaching new ones, assuming they know what you are talking about is a very dangerous place to be. We know where we want to get them to but we have to be careful not to lose them on the way with our language. I think if we were to just be a little more intentional we will be able to communicate more clearly and help move students towards Jesus.
Think for a second about the words you use from stage, in small groups or in worship music. In a generation where students don’t have a preconceived notion of what church is.
Think about the words you use for a second.
Think about the “church words” we use (and they are important) we need to make sure we go out of our way to explain them and not just throw them out there like many of us are used to. When we explain them.
Think about it how you communicate from stage when talking to students.
In how you talk, does your language assume they know what you are talking about? When you say, “Turn in your Bibles” are students turning or are they all holding their smart phones? Do we assume they know where 1 John is? Do we assume they know the whole story of David and Goliath? With today’s growing religion of being “No religion” assuming can hold you back.
Now hear me, I get that everyone is passionate about the Gospel and we want to reach students with it. I’m not saying this is not true. But something I have been convicted with in our ministry because we are reaching many students whose parents do not go to any church, so they grew up with no church background, language, ideas of stories…. anything.
How can I go forward assuming they know anything that I’m teaching or what we are saying from stage. There is a fine and intentional balance in our services to be challenging to the believer but engaging to the non-believer. I think our language can help engage and help new students understand and grasp what we are even talking about from stage.
While it may seem cumbersome, adding some simple instructions:
I wouldn’t say “Okay in John chapter 4”. It could be “ In one of four biographical accounts of Jesus written by a man names John”.
“If you are using a smart phone just search ‘First John,’ then go to chapter 4” can really help students to track with you with where you are wanting to take them.
There is a lot of different language in our worship songs. I am not saying don’t sing, but think though the worship songs we use. Many songs have these words and ideas that for someone who has no idea about church, there is a lot of weird sounding stuff in there for someone new to church.
I’m alive in the river? I’m clean in the river.
Sitting on the edge of heaven? Huh?
Come to the altar? For what?
Hosanna? Who is she?
Our worship leader will make sure he explains certain lines in the song so our students can at least understand what they are singing. For example:
To close a message we were singing to “O Come To The Alter” (which happens to be my jam right now) and when the message was done we did not go straight into it. Any students who did not grow up in a church back ground would have no idea what coming to the altar meant. So we said, “So in this next song you will be singing this line. To give you an idea of why this is a big deal, in the Old Testament of the Bible people would come to the church, or tabernacle as they called it, and they would come to the altar and sacrifice an animal to God for forgiving their sins. It was a messy thing. Today, when we sing this song, it’s like saying we are to bring our messy things to God. We lay it in front of Him. To the right of our stage is a cross, I’m going to kneel in front of the cross as my coming to the altar before God, I’m going to give him my mess because he sacrificed his life for mine.”
For a student who does not do this “church thing” often, how much more would they understand what was happening when we take the time to explain some of the things that we are so used to but could lose a student if we didn’t.
I think it’s bad stewardship of our leadership of the students who God has entrusted in our ministry if they come but don’t understand the things being said from stage or the songs they sing. Do I think the Holy Spirit can still move if we don’t? For sure. He always does. But I think we can help watch our language in order to set up the best atmosphere for students who do not know what church is all about, to help them understand in the best way possible so they can meet a pretty remarkable God.
Be aware of your language.