“Pastor, everyone thinks that…”
“Hey, everyone is going to …”
“Mom, everyone will be at …”
Everyone is an interesting pronoun. It is an indefinite form that doesn’t refer to a specific person or thing. While plural in its scope, it is treated grammatically as a singular. Everyone is the faceless mob.
Pastor, everyone dislikes the color of the carpet in the sanctuary!
Wow, you wonder, how could I have been so wrong? How can I be the only person who likes the [color of the carpet, the new sound of worship, the Children’s church, the youth pastor, (insert your current issue)]? This reflection should only last a second though as you recall your grammar. It represents the whole as a single entity, and since you don’t dislike (whatever) you recognize that the scope of its usage is necessarily limited.
Everyone is not leaving the church. Everyone does not disagree with the decision to name so and so as a ministry leader. Everyone is no one until you are included. Until then, the scope of the commenter is subject to challenge. When you do however, an interesting thing happens.
They almost never include themselves in ‘everyone’.
‘Everyone’ is a challenge or a test. The person using the term is poking and prodding to see what kind of a reaction they can provoke in you. If you take the bait and respond by asking what can be done about the issue at hand, don’t be surprised if the solution is deeply enmeshed in that person’s agenda. This isn’t necessarily malicious but it may threaten to derail the plans that God has laid before you for His church.
When I am confronted by ‘everyone’, I use a number of probing questions and statements to get to the heart of the issue:
- “Do you dislike …”: Often, this simply question helps to uncover the true nature of the speaker’s concern. Perhaps there was safety in posing the question as crowd-sourced and now they feel safe in speaking for the group even as they give their personal take on the issue.
- “Who exactly is unhappy with …”: This question can put a stop to agenda promoters as you indicate that you will speak to the other people directly, freeing her from the enormous responsibility of being the spokesman for the crowd.
- “You and I agree that … should be done, so it really isn’t everyone is it.” This is another statement that uncovers what really wants/needs to be said.
Grace and peace to everyone…