What? You knew I was talking about flip flops, right?
My Australian and/or United Kingdom readers were probably less intrigued by this title and more confused by the opening line than my United States readers were. I bet a few of my US readers wondered for a moment if perhaps this blog had been hijacked. Because the words in the title have VERY different meanings depending on where you live.
This weekend, I had the opportunity to spend some time with David Wakerly of Hillsong Church in Australia at the CMConnect Conference in Louisville. During his workshop, he brought up a very important point often overlooked in our homes and in our churches, simply this:
Language Matters. A Lot.
The words you choose to use to describe your activities and programs set a tone before people have even had a chance to engage the experience. For instance, this blog title? Perhaps the shock of the the title or the curiosity you had initially has now worn off as you realize… she’s gonna make a point and it’s not going to be about thongs. (Don’t worry, I’ve started many a blog with similar expectations and been let down as well).
But yes, I am going to make a point. You clicked on this blog with a certain expectation based on the title. Most of you weren’t expecting a blog about flip flops; you had another meaning attached to the word and probably were curious about how that particular topic applied to family or children’s ministry.
When we consider how we are presenting things to our kids and families, we need to keep in mind, they too are coming with expectations.
For example, think through a typical Sunday morning as a kid with me. You get to CHURCH and go to Sunday SCHOOL where your TEACHER goes over the LESSON and after CIRCLE TIME, CRAFT TIME and/or SNACK TIME, you are handed a WORKSHEET to complete and a Bible verse to WORK on at HOME (or otherwise known as homework).
Wait a minute, what? Where do we go on Sunday morning? I thought we said we were going to church? Hmmm….
Well, maybe your church experience is a little different. Maybe your kids go to KIDS CHURCH where they get to JAM OUT with their worship BAND and have an FUN time engaging in a DANCE PARTY or HANGING with their friends.
Wait, are you saying there’s something wrong with that?
What I am saying is that language goes before you. Each of those descriptions carry with it a very specific and very meaningful background to them that will reach your parents, kids, community, and church long before they’ve every had the chance to walk through your doors and engage them in any activities.
And it is important that we realize that. Because we are creating environment by establishing those expectations. At Hillsong, they no longer call their Sunday kids’ time “Kids Church” because they felt like it was creating two churches in one building and they consider the kids a part of the larger Hillsong community. So you if you go to Hillsong to visit, you will find simply “Hillsong Kids.”
This same thing holds true in the home. Gathering your kids together for “family devotions” will set a different tone than if you are gathering for a “faith talk.” My point isn’t to say that one is is right and one way is wrong; my point is the language you choose to use goes before you and creates an atmosphere and expectation long before you even open your mouth.
So… choose wisely.
Consider what it is you are trying to share or say or communicate in the words you choose to use.
If you have a heart or a vision beyond a specific event, consider if the words you are using are words that will convey that heart and will create the atmosphere you are desiring. This applies to everything from how you title your ministry, how you refer to volunteers, what you use to describe your family times or worship times, and the “vernacular” or common language of your ministry.
The thing about this language thing is that.. there really is not a right or a wrong.
You know your context. You know your family. In my family, if we say, “We’re going to have a family meeting,” the kids come to the living room with a certain expectation of what is going to happen there. “Meeting” has a totally different feel than “talk” in our house. However, I had another family say, “We can’t use the term Faith Talk in our house because “talk” in our house is a bad thing.”
You know your town, your region, your home, your family and you know what you communicate with certain words. Sometimes, we just don’t think about the words we are using. We use what we’ve been given or what we’ve generally heard.
But we don’t have to. And sometimes, we really shouldn’t.
Consider the message that goes before you at your ministry. Are you conveying the true heart and vision that you want to? If not, maybe it’s time for a change.
Speaking of… maybe I should change the title to Break Out Your Flip Flops… but then again…
About the author
Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at ChildrensMinistryBlog.com.