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Leadership, Marketing | May. 15, 2015

Reaching the Unchurched: Avoid These 5 Phrases

Reaching the Unchurched

Every Sunday night, I hang out with a group of 8- and 9-year-old girls. Even though I know them well and don’t consider myself “old” yet, I’m often confused by slang terms they use. So here I am, age 28, feeling anything but relevant to the younger generation.

This got me thinking … could something similar be happening in churches? Do we have our own slang that makes visitors or unreached neighbors feel irrelevant? Perhaps this is where plans for reaching the unchurched might be failing.

Here are some terms to consider ditching:

  1. Join Us For Worship

Why do we continue to put this on our banners, websites, and church mailers? We do it because it makes sense to a church or someone familiar with church. Worship simply means our Sunday services, right? But to someone not familiar with this common saying, it might sound kind of weird. I can imagine someone receiving an invitation with this phrase and picturing people sitting cross-legged, chanting together, bowing down at specific times, and humming, all while surrounded by candles.

  1. Outreach

I’ve seen my friends who don’t go to church look at me almost cross-eyed when I talk about being involved in church outreach. Outreach isn’t a popular term outside of church. However, if I explain it as serving or community service, it makes sense to anyone who hasn’t grown up in church.

  1. Growth Groups

Small groups, home groups, life groups, growth groups. These terms are completely foreign to most anyone outside the church. People who don’t go to church hang out with friends in their homes. But churchgoers designate a night of the week to meet with people they sometimes barely know to do … what, exactly? Yeah, confusing.

  1. The Lord’s Supper

Just picture the confusion Jesus caused in John 6 when people were seriously debating how and why Jesus would give His flesh for them to eat. Many even turned away and stopped following Jesus after that lesson. So as you describe this sacred tradition to your church, remember to go the extra step and explain it to visitors as well.

  1. Denomination Talk

Presbyterian, Gospel Reformed, Southern Baptist, Free Will Baptist, Methodist, Anglican, Lutheran, etc. What do any of these terms mean to someone who is looking for a church for the first time? Absolutely nothing. It could mean a lot of Google searches, which may not turn out well for anyone. Mind you, being part of a denomination is nothing to be ashamed of, but think through how to define this to your community on your materials (website, brochures, mailers, etc.). Make it easy for someone to define and understand. Don’t assume they know the differences between denominations.

By simply avoiding common church jargon, you might open your organization up to not just a fresh way of thinking, but also build a better foundation for reaching the unchurched.

Sarah Blackmon Church Marketing Specialist, d2design
Sarah Blackmon Church Marketing Specialist, d2design