“A rose is a rose is a rose,” according to Gertrude Stein; but sometimes a rose is a bush, a bouquet, or long-stemmed. (Which reminds me, Valentine’s Day is this week!) In the church, sometimes what we say isn’t what we mean, or what others hear. We have to remember that language drives the culture in ministry and helps define the vision.
This was brought to my attention last week as I was leading a seminar for Rose Drive Friends Church, Yorba Linda, CA. Our name for the training was “Multiply Your Ministry.” The leadership at Rose Drive Friends rebranded it with the name, “Becoming Equippers.” Mandi Pettikas, Pastor of Implementation, explained, “We felt the staff may feel ‘Multiply Your Ministry’ would mean more tasks coming to their plate. We wanted them to realize the shift was to equip others to get involved in ministry.” So they used a name that would speak to their church culture and drive the focus to equipping leadership.
Consider another example: What do you call those in your congregation who are officially on the church roster? Do you use the word “member” or “membership”? Edge Church in Cape Town, South Africa, uses the words “partner” and “partnership.” They offer “Partnership” classes for those who would like to join them in their mission to make disciples. “Paul speaks of being partners in the Gospel,” states Pedro Erasmus, Senior Pastor. “We felt this term best describes everyone working together towards the same mission.”
For Foundation Church in Loveland, Colorado, they’re looking at the word “ambassador” to express this same concept. This fourteen-month young church is redefining all their language terms to make sure they set the culture that will drive their future. “There’s gold in them thar seats” senior Pastor Carl Sutter told the people at their first official gathering. The paid staff team is now wrestling with how they describe shared ministry, support systems, titles, and action plans to align everything with their core values. The key is to make sure what they say communicates what they believe and reflects what they do.
So a rose may not be a rose….at your church. Consider the words you use carefully. They’ll define your church values and set your culture. Watch out for those thorns!
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