In my conversational repertoire, I sometimes gravitate toward "fall-back statements." Fall-back statements are brief declarations about easily-relatable topics, meant to engage my audience.
We all have our own stockpile of one-liners we come back to again and again. Usually they are rooted in a contemporary issue, most regularly the weather. Example: "Can you believe last week's heat wave?"
Most of the time, fall-back statements are harmless. In fact, they're usually a helpful way to enter into a conversation. But sometimes they are not harmless. Now and then, our fall-back statements are either not true or not helpful.
There are a few specific sentences I think we should try to avoid for the next month. These are all statements widely used in circles of faithful, well-intentioned people. Rarely does anyone mean any harm. But I think the following three one-liners are of particular concern, so let's ban them for awhile (perhaps forever) and see what happens.
"Senior citizens don't like change."
It's easy to say. And maybe I used to believe it. But the last several years have shown me this stereotype is completely untrue. Actually, in my experience, many senior citizens are quite open.
Change-related topics are best approached in a genuinely thoughtful way when working with older adults. If you're hoping to invite seniors aboard your transformation train, be sure to allot plenty of time for listening. Hear their stories. Hear their insights. Make recommendations. You'll be amazed by the possibilities.
P.S.: I don't think it's just the elderly who are sometimes change-averse. It's all humans.
"There should never be athletic tournaments for youth on Sundays."
I get it. I truly understand. The culture shifted. Now many families participate in athletic tournaments on the weekends. Basketball, dance, hockey. The list goes on. And it starts young. I know this deeply grieves many people of faith who would love it if Sunday could continue to be a day that is completely set apart for family, worship, and rest.
But I don't see this new Sunday reality changing, folks. And if we keep saying this particular one-liner over and over, we're likely offending families who are already in a tricky spot, trying to find balance between life's various priorities.
I don't know the complete solution, but complaining isn't it. Should we work on developing some alternative models and times for worship? Have a form of church right at the sports field? Encourage congregational members to call and check in on families instead of judging them by their pew absence? Let's brainstorm. Let's talk. But please, oh please, let's stop complaining about weekend tournaments for a while.
"Kids these days have no interpersonal skills because they are always on their cellphones."
I have some good news. As far as I can tell, young people still know how to communicate. They haven't lost all interpersonal skills. They still know how to make eye contact. They can use their fingers for more than just texting. And if they do have to turn off their phones, most youth do not spontaneously combust.
That being said, it is absolutely true that we live in a world of rapidly changing communication styles. This means our kids and grandkids are going to prefer different models of communication than we did. Maybe the won't be especially fond of talking on the phone. Maybe they'll be great at typing but they won't like writing letters.
I think our best bet is to stay engaged with the communication patterns of our youth. Let's not write them off. Let's keep talking and learning together.
For the next month, how about we all do our best to be careful observers of the stereotypes and misconceptions we're participating in? Let's be especially aware of our one-liners and fall-back statements.
We're in this together, my friends. So no matter what our differences of opinion, let's remember that at the core, we're all on the same team.
The Lady Pastor is a weekly column by Emily Carson, a Lutheran pastor in Stewartville. Visit her blog at: theladypastor.com.