The Snark Jar

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Working in Student Ministries requires a person to have several skills in their toolbox. The ability to craft and deliver a good message. The ability to make and manage a budget. The ability to eat inordinate quantities of pizza. The ability to listen to 1D without clawing one’s eyes out. And one skill that often rises to the surface and gets used more frequently than the others is the ability to have a snarky comeback.

Maybe the word snark is unfamiliar to you in your context and culture, but I would bet my dog on it that the concept is not (and I LOVE my dog!). According to UrbanDictionary.com, snark is:

Snark: (noun) Combination of “snide” and “remark”. Sarcastic comment(s).

Also snarky (adj.) and snarkily (adv.)

His commentary was rife with snark.

“Your boundless ineptitude is astounding,” she snarkily declared.

You may call this sarcasm or wittiness or something similar, but the idea is the same: providing a quick, witty, and oftentimes cutting remark. The goal is usually to be seen as funny and quicker than other people in making a comment.

Around our office we recognized that snark was becoming a pretty standard way of communicating with each other and with students. This forced us to ask the tough question: Is this really how we should be interacting with one another?

Sure, the comment we shoot from the hip may be funny, even hysterical, but is that really the measure we should be using? Heck, snark usually IS funny. However, while we may be seen as particularly funny or quick, someone else could be wounded by that snarky comment, particularly when we are talking about dealing with students. Is it really worth it then? Perhaps we should strive to use our language to build others up instead of to make ourselves look or feel important.

Once we recognized that we had an issue that we had to deal with, we devised a way to deal with it: The Snark Jar. It’s similar to a cuss jar, but here’s how it works:

  • There is a Snark Jar on the table in our central office area, and each person has a specific Snark Slip color designated to them.
  • When someone gets called for making a snarky comment, they have to put a slip in the jar. Each slip is worth fifty cents.
  • At the end of the month we tally how much each person owes and everyone pays up.
  • Whoever has donated the most that month collects all of the money and donates it to an organization or charity that they hate. This is key. If we donate to a charity or organization that they like, where is the deterrent?

We have been doing this for a few months now and it has forced us to really examine the language we use with each other, which is really the goal. If we can be using more and more of the words we use to build up, and less and less to tear down through snark, our office, ministry, and church will be a better place. Could this work in your context? On second thought, you’re probably WAY better than us, so you probably don’t need it. (Shoot! There goes another $.50)

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Fitz has served in youth ministries for over 15 years. He is currently the High School Director at Christ UMC in Memphis, TN. Fitz met his beautiful wife, Marcy, while a student at Asbury Seminary (it was not a typical seminary romance – she wasn’t a student). They married in 2003 and they have three children, each of whom have their own set of superpowers. Fitz enjoys reading (although he usually falls asleep after only a few minutes) and all Cleveland and Ohio State sports teams. You can follow Fitz on Twitter and Instagram: @mcfitzie

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