Jul 02, 2018


Always Have Name Tags

Cole Penick shares three reasons that name tags are a must to help promote a welcoming community in your college ministry.

Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
Taking a break from all your worries, 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 wanna be where you can see,
Our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows
Your name.

Our old friends at Cheers knew exactly what they were talking about. Everyone wants to be known. It’s for this simple reason that your ministry should always use name tags.

Here’s a few reasons why.

1. Name tags Help Guests

Being known is a deep-seated desire that acts as a powerful magnetic force in our lives. We are dramatically drawn to the places where we feel known while being repelled by places where we feel anonymous but shouldn’t. That’s why name tags are especially important for new folks in small group formats. Since you shouldn’t be able to get lost in the crowd, the expectation of getting to be known is higher. This also makes anonymity more off-putting, even for introverts. The first step in the right direction starts with sharing your name. Name tags provide the platform for everyone to introduce themselves.

We don’t want anyone to get lost in the crowd, no matter how big the event. But don’t confuse known with singled out. It’s not a great idea to make every guest stand out or be recognized. It’s a very small sliver of students that find that level of acknowledgment inviting. And while you’re unlikely to lose an extravert by not pulling them up on stage, you’re very likely to scare off an introvert by pointing them out to others. It’s also why all of the name tags should be similarly produced. If you have the capacity to print them out, do that for everyone, not just your regulars. Otherwise, handwritten tags as people arrive are the way to go. Within minutes of arriving, a guest has had a chance to introduce themselves, meet one of your leaders, and hopefully be introduced by that leader to others. All by name.

2. Nametags Help Regulars

Most people learn names by sight and repetition. Nametags facilitate that for your regulars as they associate names with faces. It often takes weeks of seeing someone’s name to feel completely comfortable saying it unaided. That means you have to use nametags all year long. If you are expecting guests to still show up with just a few weeks left in the year, then you should be giving them and your regulars a chance to know and be known.

Few things help us feel more at ease than when someone uses our name. In contrast, few things kill the moment like being called the wrong name. While a rose by any other name might smell just as sweet, the Rose might not take to being called Daisy all night. Nametags help prevent these kinds of moments and keep your regulars from sticking their foot in their mouth.

Confidently knowing someone’s name helps your regulars avoid those awkward situations that remind a new person that they are still not yet know. Imagine a student who has been coming for a few weeks and keeps introducing herself to one of your student leaders. The new student might think to herself, “people still don’t know me weeks into coming here.” Instead, your student leader, who has met dozen of new people in the first few weeks, could take a quick glance at a nametag, confirm their memory, and call their new friend by name. It’s not cheating. It’s good planning.

3. Nametags Help Leaders

As a bonus, making and distributing name tags helps you identify your next crop of leaders. It’s an entry level role that requires little training but can give a new student ownership into your ministry. Just a few weeks into the semester, you could have an all freshman team learning the faces and names of every person who attends your events. When they show themselves faithful there, with calligraphed tags and an uncanny knack for names and faces, it won’t be long before you’re grooming them for more influential roles. For others, name tags won’t be their cup of tea. You’ll recognize them by the chicken scratched names they scrawled while trying not to make eye-contact with anyone. Great, sounds like that guy was willing to get out of his comfort zone to serve. You can’t beat that. But maybe next week you shift him to teardown and prime him to run sound by year’s end. Either way, adding name tags to your welcome routine helped you sort two new students into the right leadership pipelines.

Who knew glorified address labels could make such an impact for Kingdom. It’s a tool every ministry should employ early and often. They accelerate the transition from unknown to known, from a guest to a Norm to an influencer.

about the author

Cole Penick

Cole is the Campus Minister for the Baptist Collegiate Ministry at the University of Arkansas. He and his wife, Caroline, live with their four adorable children right in the middle of campus, their mission field. They enjoy family walks on campus, watching and playing sports, making and eating good food, and oh so many books.