June 13, 2011

To (Name) Tag or Not to Tag?

Name tags are for the church that plans to welcome new people.

If your church is already the perfect size, then there’s no need to read further. Close the doors and issue passwords to members.

But if you believe that living out your faith requires sharing the story of the risen Christ, then let’s talk about whether to use name tags.

This is a touchy subject, so I’ll tread lightly. Some folks argue against name tags, saying they create “in groups” of members and “out groups” of visitors or infrequent attenders. Others say name tags are awkward or artificial.

I come down on the side of name tags being a way to engage visitors and create community. Instead of a visitor feeling overwhelmed by introductions – and frantically trying to remember a plethora of names, the tags offer an easy reminder and way for visitors to put names with faces. And it’s helpful for me too. Countless times, I have introduced myself to a newcomer, asked his or her name, launched into conversation and by the end, promptly forgotten the person’s name. 

There are some techniques to avoiding the in-group/out-group scenario. One of my favorites is the sticker name tag. This name tag is pre-printed (or run through a mail merge) with the church, the logo, the website and/or phone number. Every person, every Sunday, writes their name on a tag. This enables new folks to have a name tag immediately – as well as something they carry home with the church’s contact information. 

To be both green and hospitable, a church might consider having name tags with plastic covers and lanyards. Members can easily pick up each Sunday their name tag, while extra tags and lanyards are available at the greeters’ station. If someone doesn’t have a name tag, they can fill one out before they pick out a pew. 

As with any ministry of hospitality, simply offering name tags doesn’t make your church a welcoming place. It must be coupled with genuine warmth and authentic conversation. 

I know there are lots of opinions out there about name tags. I’m anxious to hear what you think. Are name tags a viable method of extending hospitality or do they perpetuate feelings of being an outsider? What other tips can you offer for a name tag ministry?