We use this word so easily, often without thinking about it, but we really shouldn’t. As a matter of fact, we should consider banning this word from youth ministry altogether. You wanna know which word?


Every time someone tells me I ‘should do’ something, or ‘should read’ this book, or ‘should consider’ this or that, I mentally cringe. Most of the time, people mean well, but they don’t realize the emotional effect this word can have.

‘Should’ is known to invoke two powerful negative emotions:

  • a sense of inferiority (or superiority in you), because you’re telling someone else something they need to do
  • a sense of guilt, especially when ‘should’ is used with ‘have’ (‘you really should have invited him’)

Both aren’t emotions that are conductive for an open and honest conversation. On the contrary, these emotions will cause many people to mentally shut down and close off for anything you have to say. And if they do listen to your advice, they may be doing it for a completely wrong reason, namely out of guilt.

My advice: if you want teens or anyone else to take your advice, avoid the ‘should’ construction. You really should.