How to Break the Jargon Barrier in Your Church

Jargon is a specialized vocabulary that is distinctive to a specific group.

Jargon creates an impressive image.

If you want to sound like an expert, use the distinctive vocabulary that is specific to that field of knowledge. Knowledge of the correct use of jargon can make you seem like an authority in a given field, regardless of whether or not you have any actual in-depth knowledge of that field.

Jargon provides a tool to create a stronger internal identity.a)Jargon can function as branding. And sometimes branding becomes jargon, as in Kleenex and Coke.

Each of your social groups creates their own vernacular or vocabulary. Within one group, jargon aids in communicating longer ideas in shorter buzzwords. Outside that group, jargon negatively affects effective communication.

Jargon, like any new language, can be difficult to grasp.

Jargon tends to exclude those who don’t get it.

An increased level of jargon results in increased isolation of a group.  The use of elitist language that only privileged insiders can understand creates an exclusionary environment that is hostile towards outsiders.  Inside jokes are deliberately pretentious and purposefully exclude others from understanding. Jargon may be utilized in order to make others feel uninformed, out-of-touch, ignorant.

Jargon can create distrust.

Listeners may feel that you are hiding something from them when you choose to not speak plainly in concrete terms. Jargon is a verbal disguise. Jargon is a language of concealment because it prevents disclosure of a clear definition. It is natural to distrust a person who avoids providing a clear definition of their terms.

Your church should be careful when speaking jargon.

  1. Recognize words that are jargon, how much of your communication is jargon, and how jargon affects people that are not part of your inner circle.
  2. Use a limited amount of jargon to strengthen internal bonds of identification within your congregation. If your church has too much jargon, trim it. Use easily identifiable phrases rather than witty fad names to brand everything.
  3. Provide clear definitions of jargon. Post definitions where they can be accessed by people that need them. Remember that abbreviations and acronyms are jargon.
  4. Communicate intentionally and clearly at all times. If jargon is hindering good communication, quit using it. Don’t alienate people that you don’t intend to alienate.

Ephesians 4:29 asks us to speak words that build up others, giving grace to others.

Colossians 4:6 tells us to let our speech always be gracious.

Titus 2:7 tells us to have sound speech that cannot be condemned.

1st Peter 4:11 tells us to speak as the oracles of God.


*George Orwell essay: Politics and the English Language

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

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a. Jargon can function as branding. And sometimes branding becomes jargon, as in Kleenex and Coke.