Lifeway Groups Ministry holds to three essential qualities that every group ought to demonstrate:
- disciple making
- community building
- culture shaping
One thing that can help build all three qualities are name tags. Some of you who know me or have read any of the twelve little books I’ve written about groups know how strongly I feel about name tags. Here is another installment!
1. Community Building. Nothing makes a newcomer to your group feel more at ease than a room full of people wearing name tags. Nothing! Community starts with names. Then stories connected to those names. Then stories that connect people to one another. So make a regular practice of sharing a piece of who you are everytime you wear name tags. Which should be every time! We can make tons of connections in just a few weeks of a new small group by asking everyone to print three lines on their name tags:
FIRST NAME (all caps)
last name (smaller)
Something about your assignment
The last line can be anything—post a topic in the room or on the table where people make their name tags. Favorite movie. Where you were born. Sports team you cheer for. Year you moved to town. Favorite book you’ve read this year. (Anybody can say “the Bible!”) I’ve seen tons of unexpected connections made this way.
2. Disciple Making. Discussion is more meaningful if the discussers can call each other by name. That’s another reason to print your first names in all caps. That way they can be seen easily across the room. I have visited dozens of Bible study groups all over America. The ones where almost everyone was wearing a name tag were not just more friendly. The Bible study was just better. Jack and Yolanda are new members of our small group. They were back again this week. They asked to be put on the email prayer list—and asked me to resend the link to a spiritual gifts inventory they had missed. Confession: We didn’t get out the name tags until they showed up. But we did get them out. It mattered.
3. Culture Shaping. One of the most inspiring stories I know about name tags happened in Boston in 2007. Forty thousand nametags were distributed at Fenway Park as fans entered a game. About half wore them. The sponsor? The Boston Police Department Crime Watch Unit! It was based on a program implemented in subway suburb Jamaica Plain by officer Joseph Porcelli. He began a movement that encouraged people to wear name tags everyday everywhere, and it actually had a dramatic measurable effect on the crime rate! Why? People who know each other by name are more likely to look out for one another. That’s all. That’s significant. That’s enough.
David Francis is Director of Sunday School at Lifeway. He is the author of eleven small books available for free at lifeway.com/davidfrancis or at the iTunes store. His interactive Bible study, Spiritual Gifts, is in its ninth printing and is not free! (But it is available to order at lifeway.com.) He and his wife Vickie teach four- and five-year olds in Sunday School and are members of a small group of empty nesters. Their three sons and their families live in three different time zones—Boston, Los Angeles, and Bryan-College Station.