Be a Jargon-Free Church

Be a Jargon-Free Church
Every Sunday our local newspaper runs a column in the business section called “Today’s Young Professional.”  I was disturbed to find out that I do not qualify as a “young professional” (Oh really? Clearly, these people are ageist.).  This past Sunday featured a very nice and a very young looking woman – and no, I am not bitter.  Not one bit. 

It was clear that the paper had sent her questions in advance.  In response to, “What do you do at work?” she answered:
“I am the quality improvement director with X Counseling and Family Services.  I support my colleagues to meet and maintain state and federal guidelines for behavioral health counseling and encourage best practice standards for office – and community-based family and stabilization and enrichment services.” 

I don’t know about you – but after 44 words I still have no idea what she does.  This young woman has excelled in the art of jargon. 
Churches are awash in jargon.  Really, if we were smart, “outsiders” would be handed a special dictionary before entering church (think narthex, communion, hymnal, eschatology, sin, etc., etc., etc.).  Instead of stating things simply and straightforwardly, terms are thrown around the church that can be convoluted and confusing…especially for newcomers. 
One of my favorite non-profit bloggers is Claire Axelrod.  In one of her “Clairification” (get it?) posts, she says modern jargon is:
  1. A ‘clinical” or “official” or “specialist” word (see above – “stabilization and enrichment services”)
  2. A term of art (“out-of-the box” or “It’s in God’s hands”)
  3. A word that’s seldom part of every day language (think “transfiguration”)
  4. A pompus “big” word (again, “transfiguration” although “eschatological” is fun to say)
  5. An acronym (LOL! I M hip2U, OR-ID AC UMCers)
  6. An overused phrase (United Methodists might recognize, “Making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” as one that’s been heard one too many times.)
This is not about dumbing down – it’s about being inclusive and being good and kind neighbors to those who are coming through your doors.  It’s about making sure your message gets heard.  And really, it’s about “straight talk” in the very best sense of the phrase.

Cesie Delve Scheuermann is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past decade, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over $2 million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. She served as the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012. Like really, she avoids obfuscation. Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation. You can reach her at inspiringgenerosity@gmail.com.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.