Pioneer Ministry blog: The Shift in Language

Published: Monday September 20, 2021

Picture of Andy Wilson, Lead EvangelistA Pioneer Ministry blog post from Andy Wilson, Lead Evangelist, Gloucester & Forest Centre of Mission

How things are described can often have an impact on how people see them and engage with them. I wonder whether some language change could help people engage differently?

Service or gathering?

So often in churches, we talk about services, particularly those points on a Sunday morning, or sometimes evening, or even at other points during the week. But I wonder whether by calling them services, people attend them with the attitude of being served by others, and thus we create a consumer culture for people attending these elements of our church life. To have a service often means to provide something for others, which means that they come and engage with what is being served to them, and it means that they don’t need to partake, or even have a huge involvement, instead they can soak up what is being provided to them, or served to them.

Whereas to have a gathering has the feel of people gathered together, all included, all bringing something of who they are, and what God has given them to the wider body of people. What this gathering could be called, I will touch on shortly, but just as this point, I want us to consider whether changing the language of service to gathering would start a process of adjusting how people saw these times, and also how they saw their own involvement and engagement in these times.

Gathering also has the feel of everyone in this together, as opposed to a service which has the feel of those who maybe have something more serving those who don’t have. A gathered time could and should enable more of a participatory feel for all who are there, that they have something that is of worth to others who are there.

So that is the first thought, and change, from service to gathering.

Group to community

So often we refer to our work with children or young people or even our meetings in our houses as groups. To me the word group has a closed feel to it, it is only for those who are part of that group. If you aren’t in the group you don’t get to come.

Community has a more invitational feel to it, where people can come, and at times go from a community, but they are involved in the life of a community. Community often has the feel of life on life engagement and journeying together, as opposed to a group, which meets when it meets and people don’t necessarily see each other outside of the group.

A community could/should mean that others can come, participate, bring who they are, and all that they are to the community, supporting others, and also being supported by others. Again community has much more of a feel of people being in something together, and all having an involvement to it, as opposed to a group which often feels that something is done for, or to others.

So here we have just 2 suggestions on the change of language that we use, that may help us engage outwardly toward others, and hopefully even help those who currently do not journey with us have that knowledge and feel that they are invited, and they have something to bring to the whole, and their participation is wanted and valued.



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