By Krista Petty
My coworkers teased me all week long. (Yes, people in ministry razz one another.) Ten of us were attending a national outreach convention, and the one workshop I was most excited about was titled something like, “The Value of Name Tags.” Yes, it was all about using name tags at church.
Why were they making fun of me? The youth minister told me name tags were dorky. He’d never wear one.
Another staffer said, “Out of all the great options, you’re choosing that?” To make matters worse, they all pointed out that this workshop was at 4:00 on a Friday afternoon—not the best workshop time slot—and we couldn’t have an early dinner because they would be waiting on me!
Why did I want to learn about name tags? Our church, LifeBridge Christian Church (www.lbcc.org), was just beginning a new phase of ministry by launching multiple worship sites in smaller towns along the Front Range of Colorado. After several years of worshiping with almost 3,000 people over four services each weekend, I was convinced these smaller worship venues would attract a different kind of crowd. These would be places, as the theme song to Cheers says, “Where everybody knows your name.”
What did I learn? It was worth the late dinner! The workshop was led by John Ruhlman of Life Church in Temecula, California (www.getlife.tv). Ruhlman shared how his church plant used name tags for every single person since the first weekend of services. With only one entrance to the school where they hold services, the church saw the opportunity to get to know each person that entered.
The church set up two large registration tents. One has preprinted tags for regular attendees, with a special section with blank name tags for first-time guests. Another has preprinted name tags for staff and core volunteers. To get a name tag, each guest completes a registration information card. The next week, those guests have preprinted name tags waiting for them. And the cycle continues week after week.
What’s the big deal? As the communication director of our church, I knew that having someone’s name meant the church needed to work to develop a relationship. Names, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses are golden opportunities for connection when used properly and not abused.
Ruhlman told me his church also used name tags to track attendance. “No one walks through the door of the church without a name tag, so we simply look at which name tags are taken each weekend to track attendance,” he said. Tracking attendance? In a church of 3,000 that seemed nearly impossible, but if we could track from day one at the new sites . . . well, imagine the possibilities! Sometimes people slip away from the church without anyone knowing they are missing. We could help close any back doors before people even found them.
I also suspected something else about name tags—they’re actually friendly and create a sense of community. Name tags invite people to greet one another. Ruhlman told me name tags have helped Life Church create an identity and sense of community. The church also creatively uses the name tags. Sometimes a question is printed at the bottom of the name tag that is used at greeting time during the service, such as “Turn to your neighbor and ask him about his favorite teacher in grade school.” This is used as an illustration during the message.
Name tags are a tool that is obviously working for Life Church. The church not only has more than 1,000 attending, but it has planted five additional church sites in a few short years.
What about people on the wall? I’ve come to understand that no matter how good you think your idea is, there will always be people sitting on the wall thinking differently. A month after the conference I was still being teased in staff meetings. But one person took notice of the revolutionary name tag idea—the new multisite campus minister. He asked for the audio recording of the workshop and began to implement the strategy soon after.
Two multisites and two years later, LifeBridge at Tri-Towns and LifeBridge at Johnstown use name tags every weekend. It’s easy for greeters and ushers to identify new people—they have handwritten name tags—and connect them to information and resources. They also know who is missing and call to check in. Even the youth minister was caught wearing a name tag. Our multisites are certainly places “where everybody knows your name.”
Krista Petty is the former communication director at LifeBridge Christian Church. She is a freelance writer and coach for church leaders.