Say What?!

By: Rev. Steve Zimmerman

Years ago, as I was developing the partnership I also taught as an adjunct professor at the local community college. My primary class was Critical Thinking. I enjoyed my time with the students as I could see many of them for the first time discover and use critical thinking skills. 

One of the book’s chapters covered language and why it is so important to our thinking. To help me prove my point in how we misuse our own style of language, I wrote SS, WMU, and koinonia on the board and asked my students if they knew what these meant from my line of church work. Many guessed SS stood for Social Security or Secret Service. Others thought that WMU was for William and Mary University. No one could figure out koinonia. (If you grew up like me as a Baptist in the South, SS was for Sunday School, WMU was for Women’s Missionary Union while koinonia is a Greek word for fellowship.)

I did this activity not to frustrate them but to get them thinking how we unconsciously use language without getting the results we want. It was also an eye-opening reminder for me to be careful how I phrase words and symbols around people. 

If you are sincere about developing relationships with people who do not have a church background, watch what you say or print. Not everyone is on the same page. Be patient with them. One way is when guests come to your church, be sure to have someone sit with them to help them through the Bible study or worship service. Be with them through any transition to guide them in where they need to go, etc. until they are comfortable in this new setting.

Navigating the idiosyncrasies of the English language is hard enough. Let’s try not to make our church language another barrier to communication.

These thoughts above are from Rev. Steve Zimmerman, the founding partner in the ministry. He works alongside churches in their mission process and small group dynamics. He coordinates the work of the partnership out of Martinsville, Virginia. Contact him for more information about how he can help you.

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