Excuse me...do you speak "church"? Sponchia at Pixabay.com
A number of years ago I was teaching a university class on the Middle East. Granted, I was no Middle East scholar but not to worry, the premise of the class was that I was a co-learner along with my seventeen first-year students. Learn I did. I’m embarrassed to say that I knew virtually nothing about Islam. I knew a little bit about Judaism.
My utter surprise came when we started talking about Christianity. I knew a lot about Christianity. And, I was sure my students would also be well versed on the religion that undergirds our nation – you know, the “Christian” United States of America. I had to hide my shock that fully two-thirds of my class basically knew nothing about Christianity.
Lent? Blank stares. Palm Sunday? What’s that about a donkey? Good Friday? A mysterious oxymoron if ever there was one. Crucifixion? Resurrection? Wow. Minds were blown.
Think of that as you prepare for all those first-time visitors this Easter.
Easter, as you are well aware, is the Sunday when you can expect more visitors than any other time during the year. Not to freak you out, but Carey Nieuwhof says that most first-time visitors will decide within the first ten minutes whether or not they will return.
There was also a recent study done that looked at why visitors didn’t return after they attended a service. Of the top ten reasons people don’t come back, #7 was “Insider Jargon.”*
This is not to say that you need to be jargon-free. However, it does mean that you need to remember that 45% of Americans are unchurched – meaning that they have not been (nor they may have never been) to a religious service in over six months. Some of those unchurched people might be visiting you at Easter for the first time. You don’t want them to be peeved because you’re speaking in what to them is a foreign language. Unless you’re careful, they may unintentionally get lost in all the “insider talk” that we freely use and it will probably alienate them. Remember: keep your language simple and understandable. Not everyone grew up in the church and knows the lingo.
This Easter, do what you can to make all people feel welcome, the churched and unchurched alike. Your words – the ones that aren’t full of jargon -- can open up hearts to the love of the One who’s resurrection we’ll celebrate on Easter. Now that’s Good News.
*#1? An unfriendly and awkward stand-and-greet-time.