Communication: Part 1

I have listened to you chatting preacher, chatting from the heart

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.

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1 thought on “Communication: Part 1”

  1. I think we come across two problems with our language, the first as you say is it can be totally irrelevant to the young people we talk to but also for those who have grown up in church many of the language we use loses its power. Familiarity breads contempt and so we’re faced with the challenge to regain the power that the words we use should have. Words like Grace and images like the cross are staple diet for Christians but how often does the true impact of either hit us? How can the language we use at once bring revelation to fresh ears and fresh revelation to ears who have heard it before?

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