At many conferences and meetings I attend, I am expected to wear a nametag. The business world thinks about nametags, but the church world gives them too little thought. Here are ten reasons EVERYONE in church ought to wear a nametag.
- Few people know everybody in the church. Even in the smallest churches, it’s sometimes difficult to remember everybody’s name. If/as the church grows, that task becomes even more difficult. Nametags allow us to admit that struggle while providing a way to overcome it.
- Leaders need help with names. I want to know everybody’s name in my church, but I’m not gifted with that kind of memory. I admit I need help if I want to be the best church leader I can be. I would much prefer calling people by name as I minister to them – and nametags allow me to do so.
- Nametags invite conversation. Knowing another person’s name breaks down one barrier to conversations that church folks ought to feel comfortable having. It’s simply easier to talk with others when you are on a first-name basis.
- Knowing names makes fellowship more personal. While calling each other “brother” or “sister” sounds good (and is theologically on target), that nomenclature is often a cover up for “I’m sorry I don’t know your name, and I’m embarrassed to ask.” As long as conversations remain at the anonymous “brother” and “sister” level, fellowship will remain surface level.
- Nametags save embarrassment. We’ve probably all called someone by the wrong name, only to realize it later (or perhaps even within the same conversation). If “brother” or “sister” is a gentle way of saying, “I don’t know your name,” using the wrong name is an undeniable way of doing so. That’s embarrassing for both parties.
- Nametags are an inexpensive way to promote outward focus. The church that says, “We don’t need nametags since we already know everyone anyway” is probably saying more than they care to admit. My guess is they see few guests at their church, and they probably aren’t expecting any. On the other hand, using nametags is one way to say, “We expect God to send us guests, and we want to be ready for them.”
- Guests feel less conspicuous. I understand why we might give guests a nametag, but doing so for them alone actually makes them even more noticeable – and puts them at a disadvantage in conversations. I know their name, but they don’t know mine if I’m not also wearing a nametag. Guests should never be the ones who must do the asking.
- Saying to someone, “Please let us know your name” also says, “We want to know you.” Much has been written about guests’ desire for anonymity in churches, but I take a different slant on that issue. People who come to a church are looking for something. They often welcome care and concern. What they don’t want is to be smothered and made uncomfortable. That’s a different issue, though, than simply wanting to know them by name.
- A “nametag” ministry provides opportunities for service. Somebody must purchase the nametags. Somebody must distribute them. Greeters must remind folks to get their nametags. And, likely, somebody must clean up the “peel and press” nametags that wind up on the floor after the service. The opportunities for members to get involved in a simple but significant ministry are numerous.
- Leaders risk little by trying this approach. We’re not omitting a ministry from the budget, re-writing the church constitution, or killing a sacred cow with this approach. We’re simply asking people to wear a nametag to promote fellowship and welcome guests. If this ministry fails – and I don’t think it will if leaders promote it properly and patiently wait for it to enter the DNA of a congregation – the church has lost little.
What are your thoughts about nametags?
photo credit: Hello, my name is anonymous via photopin
GREAT idea! I’ve been for this, for years. I think it maybe be members’ pride …. “I don’t want folks to know I don’t remember their names…” … that keeps this from happening.
One big advantage: you could use one color for members and one for visitors.
I would not color code visitors like that. That is just another version of having all of the visitors stand up during the worship service. Few visitors want to be singled out. None want to be seen as the next target for the tally sheet. I would use the same color for visitors, members, and others. It promotes the idea that we are all basically the same.
If you want to color code someone, make the name tags for the church leaders different so that the visitors will know who to go see for more information. Put their title on the name tag, too. It will also tell the person that their first grader is being turned over to the proper first grade Sunday School teacher, for instance.
The first step toward having a person join your church should not be to make them feel (and look) like an outsider.
Thanks, Jim. I like the idea of identifying leaders as you suggest.
I’m really surprised that is presented as a good idea. It’s not written as irony is it? I’m really sorry but I think this is a terrible idea. I think the folks who don’t like the meet and greet time would find this idea even more difficult. Personally I couldn’t imagine this working in any church with which I consult.
So am I really missing the point or does any one agree with me?!?
No irony at all. I’ve seen it work. Thanks for your thoughts, John.
I totally agree. Terrible idea. If I walked into a church and was told I had to wear a name tag I would turn and walk right out.
Agreed. I would not be willing to give my name at church..this type of thing would drive me from a church. I would turn and leave the second someone told me I needed to give my name to attend
Agreed, Terrible Idea. I attend a church of 1,300 in York, PA and there is no way we would do that. It is very cheesy.
It can promote laziness when remembering names. It can also make an outsider feel like they stand out too much. I have heard of one church who prints out labels of members each week and then new ones for guests. They then mark the role based on name tags not taken.
We currently do nothing, but it has forced me to get better on names.
Thanks, Randle. This process actually helps me to remember names, but I understand your point.
I wonder if the size of the church makes a difference here? Would it be more or less beneficial for name tags based on the size of the congregation?
I also wonder if you have seen different size congregations use this practice?
Our church is at the 250 barrier in worship services.
Thanks, John. I have seen both small church plants and larger churches move in this direction. It’s not easy at any level, but I still believe it has merit.
Good article! We did this when we were smaller, running around 450, but we’ve almost tripled in size. Our church was built in 3 stages over 55 years, and we don’t have a “main entrance,” we have 4! We’re now consistently over 1,350 on Sundays with 4 different services. Anyone have any practical ideas on getting this done without it being burdensome (i.e. people having to wait to enter b/c other people are at the doors writing out their nametags, etc.). I like the idea, but I can’t see how it would work with our present set-up. Thanks!
You’re right, Bill, that the process gets more complicated in situations like yours. I suspect, though, that you could have enough folks at each entrance encouraging the name tags to facilitate this process– especially if you have some folks who still remember when it worked. Blessings on your work.
When a person becomes a member, they get a plastic name-tag.
When they become an elder / deacon/ Sunday school teacher / whatever, they get a new name-tag.
If a visitor wants a name-tag, they can have a paper one.
That leaves out the regular non-member attenders. If there are enough of them to be noticeable, then you have a different set of issues to deal with.
I feel that this is quite silly.
A congregation that is too big for people to know each other ought to consider developing/planting another church.
Bigger is not better, in terms of fellowship, or the dissemination of biblical doctrine.
As a pastor who has been in. Church of 800 and now a church of 50, the 50 get more done, percentage wise, than the 800.
Those in the bigger churches believe that their size gives them the authority to teach a smaller church how to “do church”.
My experience is that the bigger church can learn a lot more from the smaller church.
I’m not arguing that bigger is better, Rich, but I appreciate your input. Thanks.
As I am on a new field this would be a huge help to me! I also know that everyone doesn’t know everyone else so I plan to employ this right away!
Thanks, Jeff. Just prayed for your new ministry.
Don’t want to be a Debbie Downer…but…most churches would have a very difficult time getting the majority of people to wear them. Our greeters wear them. But imagining some of our members wearing (or even choosing to wear) name tags, makes me chuckle. I imagine in many churches, this could even lead to discord.
Start from the top. The leaders on the platform, elders, deacons, and ministry team leaders. Some will naturally resist, but leaders casting the vision and giving the initiative credit will work long-term.
Thanks, Brian. It doesn’t always work, but I agree with your proposed process.
…. ahhhh …. there’s that phrase again …. “leaders casting the vision’ …
Thanks, Charlie, for your input.
Nametags ? Really ? To a congregation on a Sunday morning. Humm, uh no
It won’t go over very well. We try it all the time at special events and fellowships. We see about 50% participation and yes someone must clean up. Also it is difficult to read hand written names and there are visitors who would be too shy for this.
Name tags don’t even work in our small groups and bible studies. Shy people refuse.
Nice thought but not practical at least for our church.
Thanks for the personal experience, Russ, to add to the discussion.
Wearing name tags every week has it’s advantages, but their are significant challenges. Having visited a name-tag church, 1) It’s weird…no place else in life has everyone wearing a nametag every time they are together. Church is weird enough. 2) Guests may feel “singled out” if the tag is different, they’ll notice the color difference right away. I did. 3) Some guests prefer to be a bit anonymous and this forces them to NOT be invisible and they will know it. 4) Slows people down getting into worship. Our cultures tend to run late as it is, this is one more step/line/process that will get people in later.
Thanks, Dave, for your reflections.
I HATE name tags with a passion. When I wear one people put their faces all up on my personal space trying to read my name! I get a lot of “Car, Car, uhhhhh Cathy??? From there I have to waste a lot of time trying to help that person pronounce my name and explain why my parents chose it for me.
I think name tags would just be to awkward for new comers to a church. New comers want to feel welcomed but not put in the spotlight, especially if they may have unique name.
Appreciate your taking the time to contribute, Carrine.
Agree 100% that I hope this is satire. Our church would be horrified if we implemented this, as would most guests. In studying church plants I have heard several stories of this being tried and guests really not liking it. This is like the mid service greeting time, it comes off as phony. Our church is a family, and you don’t wear name tags with your family or ask new guests to do this. I’m the ex pastor of a church of about 350, about half millennial.
Exec, not “ex” 🙂
Thanks for your thoughts, Nate.
“Exec” not “ex” 🙂
While I would think it difficult and perhaps odd to do this every week, I was part of a church (600+) that did this every quarter or so. I’ve always thought that was a great idea and would like intorduce it it in my current setting as well.
Blessings, Oliver. Thanks for your thoughts.
I am in the process of church shopping. Most of the time when I go to church no one speaks to me other than a quick hello. It seems that passing the peace and greeting people is not part of most services anymore. I am told the to meet people, I should go to smaller Sunday school groups, that sort of thing. But it would be nice to be able to talk to someone at the service. I understand that introverted people may not like to have attention drawn to them in this way. I’m an extrovert and would love to meet people and make connections. I think the name tag idea is brilliant. It opens the door for conversation that normally would not have occurred. Thank you for bringing this up, Dr. Lawless!
Appreciate your thoughts, Rachael.
Our goal at church is not to make everyone feel comfortable in their own little bubble, but to be growing disciples of Jesus. Name tags can help us to do that, even if not everyone takes part: it may highlight hidden issues with pride or lack of submission.
I say this as an introvert who finds it difficult if I have to talk to more than two people on a Sunday. If Jesus was willing to go to the cross for us, should we not be willing to endure some very minor discomfort for the sake of each other?
I think SOME kind of effort needs to be made along these lines of helping people get to know each other. Quite possibly in smaller communities where more people are already connected and visitors are less frequent this is not AS much of an issue, but any church that is reaching people from different communities, towns, and social circles needs to be name-tagging or something. To hear a name AND see it helps you remember a name MORE (contrary to what someone posted earlier). In our setup/teardown church, I’m afraid that we do not have as much time to socialize and get to know others as we would like to, but I think we will make sure we do name tags for special events (even on some Sundays).
I agree we need to do something, Robert. Thanks.
A couple of thoughts on this…
I worked as an interim staff position at a larger church about three years ago and noticed that the head pastor and the full-time staff ALL wore professional name tags EVERY Sunday. They asked me to do the same even though I was just a short-term interim. At first I thought it was silly. Then, I realized that not everyone who was attending (visitor and member, alike) knew me by name and some did not even remember all the full-time staff members by name. Guess what, they never had to worry about that…because the leaders were wearing name tags. It also, helped me as I was learning the names of my fellow staff members. And then I thought, “If all the church members wore name tags, it would be so helpful to me in learning their names!”
By the way, the argument that all the church members know each other by name is simply not true. I have served in 10 churches over 30+ years of ministry. These churches have varied in size from 100 in attendance to nearly 1000 in attendance. In EVERY church I have served it has amazed me how many times I would go up to long-time church members, point out a person in the distance, ask them if they knew that person’s name, and have them tell me they did not know them.
Yes, it is a bit of organizational work, but it ends up being a win-win because (as you noted) you don’t have to struggle with coming up with creative ways to cover up the fact that you don’t know their name AND it creates opportunities for you to say a person’s name. It is a proven reality that the more you call a person by name the quicker you learn their name. It is also a psychological principle that when a person hears their name called it makes a positive impression on them.
A last thought…..I especially resonated with you on #8. Most people who visit a church are either searching or hurting and are not offended if someone cares enough about them to call them by name. Sometimes, I think we worry too much about this “anonymity” thing. If people want anonymity why are they going to a setting where there will be anywhere from 50 to 5000 people all around them? Besides, the ones who don’t want to wear a name tag won’t wear one…visitor or member. No problem. But that doesn’t mean it is a bad idea. This idea can only help in the fellowship and social dynamic of a church.
Thanks, Roger, for your thorough response.
As an introvert I’m too shy to ask people their names, but I would really LOVE to know! And I would love wearing a name tag so I don’t have to actually introduce myself! I’ve been in a great church for 2 years, but I’m sad that I’ve seen people regularly for so long and still don’t know their names. True, some people won’t participate, but many of us would be eager to.
I’m also an introvert, Kathy, and I would gladly participate. Thanks.
This is one of those ideas that may have more to do with geography , size of church and demographics of the congregation than we realize.
One size never fits all in our churches. Having preached all over the US for over 40 years I have learned there is no cookie cutter solution. Pastors and churches need to explore and try new ideas and be willing to quickly ditch them when they do no work.
Failure is a key part of innovation and success. The church that refuses to change and try new things is destined to die. That you can be sure of.
Like the math test on the sign-up section.
You may need to add a #11 reason for name tags (or the #1 reason); that the Lord says in the scripture to greet people by name. It’s very special to people. It goes right to their heart. We all know how nice it is when people remember our name.
Our church did this when we were 50 people and still do it at 500, for all the reasons noted in the article. We love it and see it as important. No one is “made” to wear tags; in fact, people must sign up to have one printed. The majority do. Guests may, or may choose not to, hand write a tag by our greeters. Our leadership wear tags with name and title. I can see the difficulty at a truly large church but I would encourage those who find it cheesy or unnecessary to talk to a church who uses them successfully and ask how, and why, it works for them. Send someone to visit on a Sunday morning and watch the tags in action. If you merely sit at your desk and decide it’s a bad idea, you might be missing out on a valuable ministry tool.
i would argue that nametags are wasted work. I do think volunteers should have church branded lanyards with name tags, so they are easily recongizable and approachable.
I wrote a whole series on name tags a few years ago, and I’ve been in churches that have tried them. All have been failures due to poor implementation and resistance from members in wearing them.
I would argure toditch the nametags on Sundays but use them in smaller metings as needed.
At our church we asked “friendly” people to volunteer to wear name badges. We recognize some are more outgoing with others, so we ask them to sign up at the welcome center and through small groups. We use clip on badges and most pick up their badges at the welcome center each week. We designed our badges which are printed to say: Every family has a story….welcome to ours…(we use a graphic that says I love my church) and at the bottom it says “the Church at dorrisville”. We run 350-375 in attendance and have many new people attending so this helps everyone. We do not ask visitors or those uncomfortable to wear badges unless they request them. We want to love and accept people and this is one way we are able to accomplish this….I love to be able to call people by name or to be called by name. We have all ages participating, love this simple act!
I have recently taken a new call at a church that is 2 ½ years old. The congregation implemented name tags before my arrival, and a clear majority of folks wear them. They are printed out with the church logo and look very sharp.
Having name tags has been very helpful for me as I am learning names, but even more significant to me is that the whole church learns to be a friendly and welcoming place for attendees AND guests.
I agree that guests shouldn’t be asked/expected to wear “guest ID.” Rather, the fact that they don’t have a name tag can serve as the signal that they are new. If they decide to take the next step and get more engaged (even before membership) they can sign up for a name tags to be printed for them too!
There are challenges (like multiple entrances), but most people have opted in, and it seems good.
To those who don’t use name tags, I would say that this approach is worth doing.
Great idea. The book Divine Renovation by Fr. James Mallon points out how a Catholic church tried this successfully.
Sadly, most church goers don’t want to be known, or know others. They want to attend the service on Sunday morning, go to brunch, check off the box in their list of what “good” Chistians do and wait to do it all again next Sunday.
Jesus tells us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him, the church goers say it’s all about me and my comfort level.
I have enjoyed reading the post both pro and con. I know of a church that averages 4000 in worship attendance. Everyone attending goes to a kiosk and ‘checks in.’ This accomplishes three things: 1. As a first time guest, you are registering your visit i.e. filling out a guest card. 2. Those regular attenders/members are all getting a printed name tag from a kiosk. This church has multiple kiosks staffed with volunteers in case there are any questions or anyone needs assistance. 3. It captures a very accurate attendance number for each service.
Having printed name badges looks great and everyone’s badge looks identical except for the name of course.
People don’t like being processed. So whatever you do, do it with the Golden Rule in mind. If everyone sucks it up and speaks to people they don’t know, to engage them in meaningful conversation things naturally flow. You can’t remember a thousand names and neither can anyone else but you can remember the names of the people you have a meaningful relationship with. If you need to move a name from short term memory to long term memory put a note in your phone. Name tags … maybe … but get the conversation part right first. Move from mouth-to-mouth through head-to-head to get to heart-to-heart more often and you probably won’t notice whether or not they are wearing a name tag.
I’ve been attending a different church because I’m going with the man I am dating. I’ve been attending for a few months, and honestly, just this past Sunday I noticed quite a few people wearing name tags. I can’t believe I never noticed before(the guy I’m dating doesn’t wear one). I guess I thought we were sitting in a section with volunteers. The name tags do not bother me at all, I think its a great idea.
I am not offended that the people where I am visiting are wearing name tags and would be happy to wear one. It wouldn’t bother me if others were not wearing one. I wouldn’t spend my time thinking about it.
I would say if you’re not comfortable with wearing one, then don’t wear one. But have the option for those who want to. : )
We started name tags back in September and while a few of the “old timers” don’t like it the overwhelming response has been positive. We are seeing more new faces than ever at our church and those working in the name tag ministry usually remember the new peoples names by the 3rd week and they are busy introducing them to other people week after week.
I suppose it depends on the area of the country and the demographics of the congregation, but if I visited a church that had nametags, I would probably conclude that it was having some problems and felt it needed to do something like this to try to stop a slide in attendance. Nametags to me seem forced and stage-managed.
I understand the pro name tag people but, honestly as a 15 year member of the church, I just have no use for them. At Annual Conference I find myself constantly in the, “should I ask them to turn their name tag around or ask them out right what their name is,” trap. Both seem embarrassing to me because it means, hey I have no idea who you are and there is no graceful way to get out of this. I find stickers even more awkward because as a woman there aren’t many places to put a name tag that doesn’t make it feel like your inviting people to take a look at your ……….. what’s the proper term in a church setting? Chest, bosom, breasts. Granted one would HOPE in church no one is there to be checking such things out, but for a modest girl who is fortunate or unfortunate enough to be “well endowed”(depending on how they see it) it becomes tiresome in the secular world to remind people that your face is a little further north. Having to endure it at church because that’s the most natural place for a woman to place a name tag sticker is just pushing me too far. For me after so many years at the church, honestly I’ll respond to hey you, over there, heck I even responded to MOM once and I’m not even a mother…………
This is a horrible idea. Human beings can choose to ask people their names if they want to. This isn’t a kindergarten class, it real life. Stop telling people to get up and shake hands, this just makes the social obligation part of church an easy ritual. Start actually talking to people.