Getting Past Church Language



By Kathy Jackson

Yesterday, I made a decision to write a blog entry for the 30 Hour Famine. When I started praying about what I had to offer, God presented me with several things. Being human, I forgot several of the things he offered me.  I discovered that I am going to have to write things down so that I can remember what he has shown me.

So, tonight while sitting at our family dinner my “adopted” son and our German exchange student were talking about their day at school. Our son was telling a story about how sad he thought it was that some students in his group were in a discussion about some things that he thought should just be common knowledge to everyone. The question came up in this group “who chopped down the cherry tree?” (Even though we know this is a false part of history, everyone knows the answer). Every other student in his group said “Abe Lincoln”. He was shocked! He knew that story was attributed to George Washington.  The other students were sure of their answer because Lincoln was known as “Honest Abe.”  They thought the quote “I cannot tell a lie” was Lincoln’s also. He just didn’t understand how these students didn’t know this—wasn’t it common knowledge?

As we continued our conversation I wondered if we as youth leaders allow misconceptions of our faith to continue unnoticed. Do our students really understand our “church” language? Do they really understand God’s grace? What about mercy? And do they really understand Jesus’ call to love one another? We use these words and think they are common knowledge in our church and youth groups. But do they really understand?  Unfortunately, in many schools today, our students are taught to memorize and take a test. Is this what we are expecting our students to do? Memorize and not practice?

How do we show our students that God’s love, mercy, and grace are ours? I believe one way is living in community during mission trips. When living out our lives with our students in community, we can show this to them in all places.  We must be intentional in pointing out where we see it, offer it, use it.  We must also ask our students to do the same. As we come together at the end of the day, we always ask “Where did you see God today?” or “How did God use you today?”, or “Did you see God’s Love, mercy, or grace in someone else, today” If we are constantly asking and confirming in our student’s what they see and what we see in our everyday lives, it becomes second nature for them to recognize that God’s love, grace, and mercy are at work all the time.

I believe that as youth leaders, we are called to live this out with our students—to embed in them a deep-seated desire to see God things in all of life not just in youth group or church on Sunday mornings.