I have never—at least yet—received hate mail in response to my enthusiasm about nametags. Scott Ginsberg has. He has made a career of writing and speaking about nametags, and some people actually hate him! In my previous post about nametags and the three essentials of group ministry, I mentioned the story about how nametags reduced crime in a Boston community. I’m sure some people thought that was a stupid idea, too. Lyle Schaller, who consulted thousands of churches before his death about a year ago at the age of 91, was a consistent advocate for nametags in his scores of helpful and practical books on healthy church practices. If you hate the idea of nametags, don’t get mad; just stop reading! But if you’re open to trying nametags in your group, here are five practices you might consider.
1. “Use nametags as often as you can.” Rick Warren makes this simple suggestion in a blog post that hints at the influence of Schaller, too. Don’t worry about having permanent nametags. Just use the stick-on kind. Provide Sharpie-type markers. Use nametags at regular group gatherings. Consider wearing them even if the group goes out for a fellowship activity. You never know what kinds of conversations they might spark that could lead to an invitation to your group or church. Wear nametags if your group does a community service project. If you make a personal visit to the door of a prospective member, for sure wear a nametag.
2. “Forget” to take them off. If your group meets on campus before worship, “forget” to take your nametags off. It might provoke an opportunity to invite someone to the group. Or wear it to lunch. If you grab a coffee after a weeknight group, “forget” to take it off as you visit. I like to write at Panera Bread. I have had some fascinating conversations that started when a stranger pointed out that I had “forgotten” to take off my nametag. They seldom remained a stranger!
3. Add something in addition to names. Keep the nametag experience fresh by creating a new point of connection each time. Favorite book, movie, snack, vacation spot, café, beverage, team, etc., etc. Suggested nametag practice: First name large in all caps; last name smaller underneath; leave room for the “getting to know you” stuff on a third line.
4. Wear it on the right side. This is counterintuitive—for most right-handers anyway. We put it on the left side. It’s better on the right side. Especially if you are shaking hands, because it is in the line of sight. Exception: At a big conference, where you will be passing people on your left, wear it there. Unless the conference provides the gold standard—around-the-neck lanyards that let the nametag hang in the middle. (If you’re a conference planner and use a single lanyard, print the name on both sides!)
5. Wear it as a symbol of faith. “Everybody already knows everybody in our group.” In reality, that is probably not true. But even if you think it is, is everybody in your group everybody who could be, should be, or might be in your group? If yours is an open group, wearing nametags communicates: “God may send someone new to our group this week. Let’s assume He will. And be ready to welcome them.” And nothing makes a newcomer feel more comfortable than a group where all the new friends are wearing nametags. Nothing.
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.