Human speech is an interesting realm. One day an expression is considered fun, trendy, and exciting; the next day it screams irrelevance. It’s frustrating, and even downright embarrassing sometimes. That’s why we always recommend that any organization, especially churches, do a yearly “cliche check.” A “cliche check” is a meeting where a staff gets together and asks themselves “What things do we say all the time that have lost their shock value, poignancy, and allure?”
this is important
We can’t over stress how important this is to the way your church communicates, because it’s not just next generation boys and girls that call foul on having an out of date vocabulary. It’s everyone who exists outside the bubble we live in called “The Church.”
Watch yourself though, the Next Gen kids will call you out before anyone. (Next Gen Bonus Tip: Star Wars is cool, and Lord of the Rings is not.)
our gift to you
We love you so much that we’ve done our own vocabulary audit of the church at large. We have been in so many churches, and so many church services, in so many places, with so many Pastors, that we decided to tally up all the phrases we hear all too often and put a nail in their coffins once and for all.
3 trendy expressions your church needs to stop using if you plan on reaching the unchurched
1) stop calling your church a “campus” or a “site”
What does this even mean? I’m not even joking here. Calling your church a campus, or a site, is extremely confusing to someone who is unchurched. Let me tell you why; they’re looking for a church and they know what a church is. They don’t know what a site is. They don’t understand the idea of satellites or churches as a community that is appropriately deserving of the term campus.
When I was younger, my good friend Billee was on his way to church with me. He had come with me several times in the past, but not very often. Nonetheless, he still understood the lay of the land. He knew when to stand up in service. He knew when to sit down. He knew when to pretend he didn’t have any money to give. He basically looked and acted like everyone else.
Yet on our fifteen minute car ride to the church, I happened to use the term campus to describe the location where something happened in a story I was telling him pertaining to the church. He laughed. A lot. Embarrassed and annoyed I stopped telling my story and asked him, “What’s so funny about all this?” He just looked me straight in the face and said, “Why’d you call it a campus? Church isn’t a school.”
The whole concept of auditing one’s vocabulary immediately hit me in this very moment. I realized I was so used to hearing and using certain language that everyone around me in ministry understood, and much of the church understood, but the rest of the world out there just didn’t understand.
So do yourself a favor when reaching the unchurched. Be genuine. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. Your church may be internally known as a campus or a site, but keep that kind of jargon out of your marketing and outreach. It sounds impersonal anyway.
2) stop using the words “edgy”, “young”, “rock”, or “contemporary” to describe your services
I was a web-designer for about ten years and I used to hear these kinds of words all the time from clients. I used to call them “MEAT” words, because all people meant when they asked for a website that was edgy, grungy, contemporary, modern, simple, and really popped was “Make Everything Awesomely Terrific.”
They just wanted an amazing website that looked great. They just didn’t know how to communicate what they wanted, and mostly because they didn’t really even know what they wanted. All they know is, they wanted it to work well and please the eyes of their customers and friends.
So when you’re talking to your crowd on Sunday morning, advertising in the local paper, or printing out invite cards for your church to give to their friends, try to avoid trendy labels that mean very little. Just like the frustratingly insane amount of adjectives that I would receive from clients wanting websites, the unchurched also feel over sold on hype if you’re not careful.
Someone who is unchurched wants to know what’s going to happen when they get to church, so rather than using words that are lacking in descriptive ability, use photos when possible to show your worship experience, your lobby on a Sunday morning, and your facilities.
When you’re speaking conversationally, give specific examples of songs that you may sing on a weekend or describe the kind of crowd that attends. Paint a picture of an experience instead of summing something up that you care deeply about into two or three vague words.
- Don’t say our church is young and edgy.
- Do say we have a very diverse church and our crowd is pretty young.
- Don’t say we sing contemporary rock music.
- Do say last week we opened up our service with a Coldplay song and it was amazing.
3) stop using the term “social media”
There is no more quick and curt way to tell someone you don’t really understand social media than calling it social media. Think about it for a second. Imagine someone driving up in a shiny new car they purchased with a make and model you’re unfamiliar with. They may talk in horse power and features, or even history of the brand itself. You can pretend to know what’s going on for as long as you can, but as soon as you refer to the shiny new car as a “Fast Modern Automobile”, they’re going to know you’re not following the conversation.
People speak in generalities when they don’t understand specifics. This isn’t a secret. So when you tell the community via flyers or direct mailers that they can “find you on social media”, they know you’re trying way too hard and don’t really get it.
Let them know that they can tell their friends to find your church online; it is assumed that if any organization is online it would also have a social media presence. (Side note: If your church doesn’t have a Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, you need to get one. It’s free after all, and it gives the people of your church a great avenue to share what’s happening in your church with their friends and family.)
Chief Executive OfficerTK has worked in the church for over a decade and brings years of executive leadership experience along with years of experience in media and technology. TK has a Masters in Public Administration and is an expert of navigating the minefield of procedural issues churches experience. He’s not quite so stuffy though; he is vibrantly creative and understands what it takes to create and plan a weekend from start to finish including video, music, and production.