Reaching the Unchurched: Avoid These 5 Phrases
Every Sunday night, I hang out with a group of 8- and 9-year-old girls. Even though I know these girls 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 … is something similar happening in churches? Do we have our own slang that makes visitors or unreached neighbors feel irrelevant? Here are some terms to consider:
- 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 sounds 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.
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 term popular 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
I try to live my life pleasing to the Lord. Marketing strategist for d2design. Excited that retirement isn't an option for Christians.