The request came by email – would I be a facilitator for an upcoming event?
I didn’t see any reason I couldn’t do that, so I responded in the affirmative. Someone asked me what a facilitator does and I explained they simply keep a discussion on track, on subject and within given time frames. With a little bit of training in the specifics of the event, that should not be a problem.
I queried if there would be training. Yes, arrive 55 minutes early for training and that was mandatory. Good!
Well, the evening came. I left with plenty of time, I thought, and even got off the interstate at the right exit. Then came the first problem – I couldn’t find the church and didn’t have an address so I could use the GPS. Duh!
By the time I found the church, I was late to get the full 55 minutes of mandatory training. A thoughtful lady gave up her seat in the back of the room to make room for Kelly and me. Thoughtful, but my hearing impairment, probably not the best for me. We settled in and the first thing I heard was someone asking a question from the floor using an unfamiliar alphabet name.
She kept referring to “LGBTQ,” repeatedly in her question. Eventually, (it seemed several minutes later), someone did clarify those letters: L, lesbian; G, gay; B, bisexual; T, transsexual. “We won’t use the Q because we don’t agree on what it is supposed to stand for.”
Now to begin with, I understood this discussion was to deal peacefully with questions relating to homosexual lifestyles as they affect the church. But, when I heard this alphabet name used (and everyone else seemed to know what it meant, too.), I knew I was out of my league. I didn’t understand anything else from the training.
About the next thing I heard, though, was encouraging – they had more facilitators than would be needed and some would be welcome to double up with others at tables.
Aha! I saw my out! And I used it!
I sat at a table with another facilitator whom I knew to be a “take-charge” type of individual. I did explain to the other participants that I had taken the facilitator training but didn’t feel comfortable in that position so I would simply take part in the discussion, just as they were.
You know it seems every area of involvement has its own language. Here it was LGBTQ, but drop the Q. In the coal mines, there were directions like, “in-by” and “out-by,” fresh air, return air, etc. Even in the jail, one used the term “cat walk” when quite obviously there were no cats.
That tends to be true in Christian circles, too. If we’re bot careful, we can lapse into religious terminology that leaves others feeling set apart just as I did in the training module. We who have been in the church all our lives frequently don’t even know we are using a language foreign to others. Looking back, many of the terms I started using as a young adult aren’t even used any more, though they still make sense to me.
You seldom hear anyone speak of being under conviction or going to the alter to accept the gift of salvation. We still do the same things, but the language is different.
How can we attract youth and young adults when we don’t even speak the same language? I’m not suggesting we throw out the old, but I am suggesting we work on our communication skills so we are truly speaking the same language.
It does all come down to the basics though – we each need to ask Jesus to take up residence in our hearts if we want to spend eternity with Him in heaven.
Helen Guilford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org