but I didn’t dig your message, cuz you lost me at the start
I’m sure you meant them from the heart
those things you had to say
but heart is not sufficient
if your lips get in the way
I came across this short poem in my early 20’s as I was starting out in youth ministry, (it’s in Andy Hickford’s book Essential Youth) and I guess it sums up the frustration I feel with trying to speak to teenagers. Many times I have believed that I’ve just said the most profound and inspiring thing ever heard only to glance up at the front row of young people who are either sniggering at me (because of some innuendo I have unwittingly led them to think of) or perfecting the puzzled look (because I’ve just made a horlicks of trying to explain propitiation!)
When communicating with young people it is vital to think carefully about every word we use. We need to be like missionaries who learn the language of the culture they are communicating the gospel in. This does not mean that we never use words like ‘justification’ or ‘righteousness’ when we are speaking to teenagers, it simply means that we need to explain these words well. Ed Stetzer who is a church planter and President of Lifeway Research says “If you can learn to order at Starbucks then you can learn theological language at church.”
My best communication with young people happens when I thoroughly prepare a word for word script. Even if I don’t end up speaking from it when the time comes – I have forced myself to think a little more carefully about every word and to work out which ones need some explanation.
2 Corinthians 4:2
Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.
Communication Part 1 – choose your words carefully.