“Hey! Good to see you….bro!” “How’s it goin’, chica?” (Maybe we only say that in South Texas.) The standard fist-bump, high-five, or side hug.
Youth pastors shouldn’t rule the world because we cannot remember names. And rather than just ‘fessing up’ to this short coming, we’ve designed all kinds of ‘smoke screens’ to throw people off our tracks.
Here’s a news flash….THEY KNOW! When you don’t remember their names, know their stories, or invest in their lives – it doesn’t matter how many pseudo gang-signs you throw or generic colloquialisms you say – they know you don’t know them
How about this story of ‘fallibility’? (I almost didn’t write this one because I know my former students will recognize their stories in it and because it’s so shameful….yes, in my humble but accurate opinion, worse than sending the entire church porn under the pastor’s name!)
My student ministry was growing. Kids were bringing their friends all the time. We had a lot of students coming….and staying!! Lindsey (her name is not changed, because if she’s reading this, I want her to know I still KNOW her name) had been attending with her friend Leah for months. Every week I would give her a standard ‘hey girl’ line – or something lame like that. Occasionally I would bust out an ‘I’m so sorry – can you remind me your name again’ (which, in my opinion, is the best way to do it!). Lindsey made a decision for Christ – and soon after, decided to be baptized. I never forgot her name again. (YAY for me!). But how that translated for her was ‘Darren doesn’t remember your name unless you get baptized.’ I know this because she told me every day for the next two years!
What kind of ministry are we doing where our interactions with students are so superficial that we cannot remember names? Or where our programming is so paramount we don’t get the chance to learn names? Or where we are so over-run with students we don’t enlist people to KNOW who those kids are? Or where we only invest (or appear to invest) after kids become ‘regular’ in attendance, get saved or baptized, or take on leadership roles?
Jesus made a big deal out of names. He called people by name – changed names – and even defined people by their names. At the very least, we should know them.
Lindsey – thanks for challenging me to be better at that (or at least more honest).
Remember names – it’s an indicator that you care.