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scrabblelettersIt occurred to me last evening as I was driving home; If nothing else, I’m going to have quite the vocabulary when all this is done!   With twenty-five years in ministry (teaching, discipleship, worship, etc.),  experience in agriculture, manufacturing, consulting and hospitality,  I should do just FINE next time I play SCRABBLE!

I attended a meeting yesterday where high-level management looked back at Quarter-one of their business site to report on progress made with their quality assurance and examine the document that would go to corporate as to their progress and plans for second quarter.   That’s not how they said it, though.  It was more like  “I attended the Q1 QMR yesterday at EA  where they reviewed the QMR document, making sure the SQP conformed to corporate standards, and recorded Action Items for Q2 in anticipation of Wave3.”

Every facet of our culture has its own vocabulary.  It’s usually meaningful, the abbreviations or catch-phrases growing out of frequent use or familiarity.  To a newcomer, however, specialized vocabulary can be overwhelming.  (I was pleased how many of yesterday’s terms I remembered, and it felt pretty good when a new term to me needed clarification by the plant manager too.)

This afternoon I’ll be part of a leadership meeting in the hospitality industry.  The vocabulary won’t be the same as yesterday’s meeting.  Not at all.

I write, and writers and editors have their own vocabulary.

Sunday morning Brenda and I begin a five-week series on Heaven with our life group at church.  Life groups are groups of people who study and fellowship together, similar to adult Sunday School classes or adult Bible fellowships (ABFs).  Ours is about 40 – 45 people; we call it “Joint Heirs”  or JH for short.  Yet another vocabulary set.

Sports has its own vocabulary, hunting has one, cooking does, music, forestry, auto racing, motorcycling, construction, banking, medicine, electricians, plumbing, insurance, gardening — there are many!

My point today is this: Be alert to how a newcomer to your circle probably feels and be careful with the specialized vocabulary you’re accustomed to.  It’s helpful to watch the “newbee”‘s facial expressions for clues that they’re still with you.  Use definitions instead of an in-house names, or the full term instead of an acronym while they catch on.

This is especially important at church. The quickest way for a family to decide not to return is to make them feel unwelcome or reinforce their feelings of being an outsider.  Our specialized vocabulary at church can unwittingly do just that.   When you see someone you don’t know this Sunday and introduce yourself, make a mental note. Are they a new-comer?  Careful with the vocabulary, then.  You want them to come back. You want them to become a part of you and grow with you while they participate in the ministry you already enjoy.

One day they’ll know the vocabulary. It will be common knowledge and you’ll probably even smile at certain terms.  I remember one time we chose the name “Doorkeepers” for our welcoming teams. The idea came from Psalms 84.10.  All was well until someone in the office shortened it. The in-house nickname became “Dorks” and began to spread. NOT the first impression you want, ya know?  We picked a different name and smiled at the old one.  My favorite acronym at the place I was yesterday is TLA. It just makes me smile. It stands for  Three-Letter-Acronym.  Honest.  It’s in the glossary.

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