CHURCH JARGON FOR NEWBIES

It’s Monday … and I need a little humor.  Those who grew up going to church know all the special “church lingo” that goes along with going to church. But can you imagine what it’d be like for a seeker or new Christian to attend a worship service and hear a lot of terms and phrases they don’t understand? Unless someone is there to explain things, it’s got to be really confusing. I can’t help but think about how confusing our “church lingo” is to some people. Maybe they need the following program explaining these terms so they’d feel more at home (for those a little slow this is all tongue and cheek):

  • THE PULPIT MINISTER: Sometimes called other things like the Preacher, Pastor, Reverend or “Hey you!” A minister charged with ensuring the spiritual growth of a congregation or worship group. Often confused for a “Sunday Only” employee. Many ministers also enjoy additional job responsibilities as janitor, maintenance man, and landscape architect for their congregations.
  • THE YOUTH MINISTER: Responsibilities similar to those of pulpit minister, but focused on the student population. Youth ministers are frequently young, healthy men of God, capable of withstanding the extreme physical punishment in their attempts to keep up with their youth group. If you want to know who the youth minister is … look for a man with glazed eyes, a nervous twitch, and thirty teenagers in tow.
  • ELDERS: A group of men who see that salaries are paid, bills are covered and needs are met. Elders also handle other spiritual matters like intercepting letters that are addressed “Dear Heretic” and resolving serious congregational disputes (“I’ve sat right in that same spot for thirty years and now she comes along and thinks she can park herself anywhere she pleases!”).
  • DEACONS: A group of members chosen for their proven character and ability to run quickly enough when asked to serve. Deacons often assist with the things that the pulpit minister and youth minister don’t have time to get to.
  • VOLUNTEERS: Also known by some as a layperson (not to be confused with the people asleep and actually laying in the pews). Volunteers give their time in service to God and His people. Minister’s wives rank among the most consistent and sometimes unwitting volunteers (ie “I’m sure the preacher’s wife would love to lead the clothing drive, I’ve taken the liberty of putting her in charge and putting her phone number on the flyer.”).
  • TITHE: A term once used to denote a tenth of one’s income, especially in reference to charitable contributions or money given as an offering to God. In recent years, common usage and incredibly poor math skills on the part of some parishioners have served to broaden the meaning to encompass amounts ranging from the original 10 percent to whatever happens to be left over at the end of a given pay period. Example: “Hey, Mary, have you paid the cable bill yet, and do you think we’ll have enough left over for a tithe?”
  • GOSSIP: A detestable habit of spreading rumors, partial truths, or sensational talk of a personal or confidential nature. Often preceded by statements such as, “You know I’m not one to gossip, but…,” “Now I really shouldn’t be telling you this…,” and “I’m only mentioning this so that you can pray for him.”
  • SERMON: A twenty-five or thirty minute discourse in which the pulpit minister attempts to overcome a variety of distractions (crying babies, latecomers finding seats, etc) while transferring God’s message to the flock. Ministers regularly hear, “Good sermon, preacher” … unless of course  you’re speaking on stewardship.
  • CHURCH VAN/BUS: A form of transportation occasionally rumored to be in full working order. Church vans and buses, unlike other forms of mass transportation, are not intended so much for moving people as for building faith in the faint of heart. (“Do you trust in Jesus, Harold?” “Yes, Preacher. I do.” “Good, Harold, then get on the church van and hang on.”)
  • GREAT COMMISSION: Not the money some unscrupulous televangelists take home each week, the Great Commission, outlined in Matthew 28:19, instructs us to “go out and make disciples” – sometimes misinterpreted as the Great Suggestion.
Can you think of any other phrases or words that would be considered “church jargon?”
(Thanks G. Darber for the idea)

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Article by Trey Morgan

I am a Christian husband and father, who moonlights as the minister for the church of Christ in Childress, Texas. My wife Lea and I have been married for 25 years. We are doing our best to raise our 4 boys, who are all growing up way too fast. Read 1168 articles by
11 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Tim Archer says:

    You also need subtitles for a few phrases, like:

    “separate and apart from the Lord’s Supper…” — Subtitle: “Nobody really confuses the offering with the Lord’s Supper, but we feel obligated to say this.”

    “I have a few brief announcements” — Subtitle: “No way you’re beating the Baptists to the restaurants now.”

    “To wrap up this sermon” — Subtitle: “Just getting my second wind.”

    “Want to thank Brother Jones for that excellent sermon” — Subtitle: “Really want to thank my wife for waking me in time to make these announcements.”

  2. Lemuel says:

    How about: Ushers, Worship Leader, the visitor.

  3. Great stuff! I would add that most gossip is usually followed up by some spiritual sounding phrase like, “Bless her heart.”

  4. Katherine says:

    How about “guide, guard & direct us”.

    Oh…and youth ministers are not always male, my friend :)

  5. Aussie Pete says:

    Are the deacons the guys “with ability to run quickly when asked to serve”, or the INability to run quickly when asked to serve”??

    Stewardship: A fancy word for “the church, I mean, God, needs your money for this new …”

  6. Rob Kittle says:

    Stolen from Tim Hawkins….
    Servants Heart- we need someone to stack chairs

  7. Jewel Melton says:

    Grace-getting the goods things/gifts/blessings you have earned or “deserve”

    Mercy- not getting the punishment you rightly deserve for something wrong/sinful you did

    Redeemed-bought back

    Justified- seen by God just as if I’ve never sinned

    Reconciled- made friends again (with God)

    Propitiation/Atonement- payment satisfied for God’s wrath

    Holy-set apart

    Bring us back at the next appointed time = more than half of those who say that don’t even come back at the next appointed time anyways!

    These thy gifts…. why do people still use 17th century language in church but not in regular conversation?

  8. Steve Melton says:

    I must needs run some errands by the way of the car.

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Trey Morgan Here are my thoughts about marriage, family, raising children, humor, faith and the life God intended for us all. I am a Christian husband and father, who moonlights as the minister for the church of Christ in Childress, Texas. My wife Lea and I have been married for 25 years. We are doing our best to raise our 4 boys, who are all growing up way too fast.

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