We have our own language in youth ministry. Our youth pastor colloquialisms are tribal in nature—I don’t often hear these phrases or terms outside of the youth ministry context. But within that crazy and beautiful world, these are eight common expressions in the youth worker’s vernacular:
1. Be Intentional
Based on how much we talk about it, the primary goal for youth ministry is to be more intentional about…well, just about anything! Relationships. Worship. Discipleship. Evangelism. Bathroom breaks. As long as we’re being intentional about it, it’s awesome. Just listen for this word in youth ministry training seminars or youth pastor gatherings—it’s how we roll.
2. Fringe Kid
Describing the misfits and outcasts, the marginalized and downtrodden, we often talk about the “fringe kid(s)” who populate the social borders of our youth group. We love the fringe kids, but apparently not enough to refer to them as simply human beings. No relation to the bizarre J.J. Abrams TV show.
3. Making Purple
A boy is blue. A girl is pink. When they come together, they really make some sort of strange lilac or periwinkle color. But when it comes to retreat and camp rules, we’re all about discouraging the making of purple. I’m gonna start saying “making periwinkle” to be more chromatically accurate.
4. Bring a Friend
If if the primary goal for youth pastors is to be intentional, the primary goal for students is bringing a friend. Bring ’em to church. Bring ’em to camp. Bring ’em to small groups. Bring ’em anywhere and everywhere. We’re always encouraging it, especially if that friend is a fringe kid.
5. Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone
Especially on missions or service trips, youth workers frequently encourage students to get out of their comfort zone (i.e., that personal space where one feels safe and secure and warm and fuzzy). We don’t want warm and fuzzy. We want terrified and emotional. That’s called faith, right?
6. Love On
Marko wrote a brief post about the creepy factor of this phrase. A youth worker says they just want to “love on a student” or “love on the kids.” But this sounds downright gross if you think about it. No one wants to be loved on; they just need love, period.
7. Big Church
As opposed to the youth group service, “big church” is the main church gathering or worship service. Heard in sentences like, “After youth group, we’re going to skip big church and get donuts. Wanna come?”
8. Walk Along
A variation of “come alongside,” this is how youth pastors often describe their jobs to others: “I just walk along with students and help them know Jesus.” I don’t think we do this literally, unless we’re leading in a hiking ministry. Here’s what we mean: We’re making disciples. Intentionally, of course.
See also: Hip and Relevant Youth Group Names.
Examples: Elevate, eXtreme, Fusion, Journey, Revolution, Chaos and Impact. Or use some sort of variation on the concept of fire—i.e., Blaze or Flame or Fuel or Ignite or Spontaneous Combustion.
This is all tongue-in-cheek, of course, because I love (or love on) the youth ministry tribe. As you smirk and giggle at the above phrases, remember this: Our language matters. We need to have self-awareness about the words we speak and the tone we use when sharing about matters of faith, love and Jesus. We have to be mindful of using insider language that could be easily misunderstood or even harmful to relationships with young people. When we speak youth ministry-ese, let’s be alert to how our words shape our actions and relationships.