Embracing Informality

emojisAnother new reality of communication outlined by Pastor Matt Peeples is that communication is becoming increasingly informal. The formal memos are gone, the business letters on crisp parchment paper are no longer needed. Important business matters are now commonly related through mass emails often containing emoticons. Instant messages are used to call meetings and gather information. We can get texts from our bosses any time of day or night. The rules of grammar and spelling and complete sentences are no longer seen as too necessary. Many words are shortened.

What does this mean for the church? As I see it, it means the eventual decline of formal newsletters and paper bulletins packed with information. News that needs to be shared with the entire congregation can be sent through a tweet or email. If there is any kind of paper handout that needs to be shared, there needs to be lots of pictures and icons and, yes, emojis to grab people’s attention.

In some ways, as a proofreader, the lack of formality and grammar in communication can bother me. It may seem lazy or irreverent when done in a church setting at first blush. But it other ways, it frees church leaders to not be too concerned about issues of proper rules of English. The bottom line is: did you get your message across? Then the communication was a success!

Informality in communication is actually an extension of the prevalence of informality in our culture in general. People wear jeans, t-shirts and flip-flops to church and no one bats an eye anymore. Some children call their parents “dude,” and it is seen as a term of endearment. The music we sing within the walls of church includes guitars and drums and keyboards in addition to organs.

Like it or not, it is time to embrace informality, even the church. I have come to realize that informality in today’s world is not a sign of disrespect or irreverence, but an indication of friendliness and compassion and familiarity. It is a sign that we are in this together and this is who we really are and we are comfortable enough with one another to call each other “dude,” in the name of the Lord.

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