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Updated: Feb 12, 2020

Did you know that a guest can visit your church and learn as many as 10 names in the course of one visit? How crazy is that! I’ve actually done it; I have come home from church on a first visit and made a list of 10 names --- people I met, people who introduced themselves, or people whose name I could recall. 10 people in one visit!

That’s unthinkably rare. Much more likely is the following scenario: a guest visits a church on Sunday morning and leaves, not knowing the name of a single person.

Not uncommonly, name-sharing is left to chance. Random introductions here and there; hit and miss. It’s better than nothing, but barely!

Sharing names, after all, is an important aspect of the guest experience. In addition to intros made in random encounters, name-sharing happens often by way of the Guest Services team engaging arriving guests (e.g., a childcare worker assisting a parent), name-tags on greeters, platform introductions of speakers, etc.

For the guest such introductions are 1) subtle hints of freedom to be found. They break down the daunting barriers that guests often feel… isolation, exclusion, and ignorance. At the very least, sharing personal name information with guests is an ice breaker that might, and certainly can, open the path for a guest to explore beyond the barricades that confine them. Additionally, name-sharing is like a porch light that attracts flying bugs. It is a 2) a powerful lure toward connectedness. It personalizes the Sunday morning visit (even in the face of anonymity being sought) and is an important catalyst for the formation of relationships. Opening the door for interaction, it moves guests ever so slightly toward the possibility of community.

What this suggests is that name-sharing face to face, person to person, and even in print, electronically, and on the screen are a vital piece of a church’s Sunday morning guest reception practice.

Consider this:

· Name-sharing should be intentional (e.g., name-tags cannot be so small as to be practically impossible to read). Careful, even strategic, thought should be given to all the various ways name-sharing occurs. Purposeful. Routine. Fundamental.

· Name-sharing should be nurtured and applauded (e.g., training official and non-official volunteers in the art of getting acquainted). You get more of what you encourage and celebrate. A culture of friendliness is not impossible.

· Name-sharing should be foundational and sustained (e.g., recording names of guest so you can call them by name the following week; names must be remembered and called again). Introductions are building blocks; they are best when not thought of as isolated happenings. Important developments (e.g., inclusion and connections) can follow and be built upon the name-sharing. Names are first steps in a planned and longer journey of relationship.

The lyrics from the theme song from Cheers, the TV show, tells an important story:

Making your way in the world today Takes everything you got

Taking a break from all your worries It sure would help a lot Wouldn't you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go

Where everybody knows your name And they're always glad you came You want to be where you can see The troubles are all the same You want to be where everybody knows your name

You want to go where people know The people are all the same You want to go where everybody knows your name

(Songwriters: Gary Portnoy / Judy Hart / Cheers lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC)

It sure seems like the church might could be that safe-haven. Maybe if we work harder at name-sharing it can be!

Think about what name sharing implication there might be for your church. Greeters? Hospitality? Childcare workers? People in the seats? Worship leaders? Staff? Follow-up? Share your comments below.

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