What’s in a Name?

name-tagSo what’s in a name?  Turns out…a whole lot.  Especially at church.

I don’t know about most – but I am AWFUL at remembering names.  Meredith, a girl in my last student ministry, was actually Kelsey.   Oops.  I think I called her Meredith for eight months….WITH HER CORRECTING ME EVERY SINGLE TIME!  Names matter – and so we MUST know them.  (I have a LOT more capital letters in this post than usual!)

Recently, I’ve been working with some students in a ministry who don’t know one another very well.  So each week, we spend about 20 minutes or so just ‘meeting’ each other.  For some students, it’s the very first time they have even spoken to one another.  Last night, it occurred to me – we’re spending a lot of moments hearing about family, school, even favorite foods – but do they even know one another’s names?

Turns out some leaders assumed all the students knew the names of their ‘friends’ because the leaders all knew everyone.  Most of the students knew the adult leader and the person sitting next to them – and no one else.

We tell students that Jesus loves them and knows them and wants a relationship with them.  How does that translate when no one even knows their name??  Make space for students to TRULY meet one another.  And make an effort to know their names….

Author: Darren Sutton

I've been in student ministry nearly 30 years…which generally just confirms how much I still don't know. Some days I'm the pizza-eating, over-responding, teaching-on-the-fly, desperate-for-volunteers, frustrated-with-co-workers youth leader that we all are. And sometimes…I knock it out of the park. I'm everywhere on social media that you are!

2 thoughts on “What’s in a Name?”

    1. Firstly and foremost, I address it directly. I challenge, from the front of the room, the assumption that everyone knows everyone. And though I sometimes get comfortable with ‘regulars’, I try to never assume that everyone knows the folks in the room the same way I do!

      We spend time building community in every single meeting – and pretty regularly, that will center on some kind of name game.

      I confess openly how bad I am at names….and I use it as an excuse to beg people to wear name tags. Sometimes we’ll run contests associated with the name tag, just to encourage their use. (Best design…the name tag with a red dot wins….that kind of thing.)

      I try to never, ever rely on ‘Hey, bro’ – or something similar. If I don’t remember their name, I’ll always ask for it. And I’ll apologize for being dense. :)

      Once, during a leadership team meeting, I flashed three photos of three different students and challenged our leaders to give me three facts they knew about those students – starting with their names. That one was pretty eye opening….. :)

      Thanks for reading the blog! Be blessed as you love God by loving teenagers!!

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