I recently took my sons to a soccer day camp that was run by coaches we had never met. There were probably a hundred kids there for the camp. My wife and I were concerned that our boys might be lost in the shuffle; that they would be just a couple of unknown kids in the crowd. What if they needed something? Who would look out for them? Those concerns were gone by the second day.
When we dropped them off on day two of camp, we were amazed to discover that all the coaches knew the names of all the kids, including our boys. Every kid was greeted by name as he or she was dropped off and as the coaches interacted with them throughout the day. I don’t know how they learned all those names so quickly, but they did. Their efforts to learn the names of the kids, ours and all of the others too, gave my wife and me great confidence in the leaders. It gave us peace of mind, knowing that our boys were not just nameless members of a massive, nebulous camp. They were known on a personal level. It also boosted the confidence of the kids. It wasn’t just that we knew they were known. They knew it, too. And they responded better to their coaches because of it. There’s a lesson here for our kids ministries: Nothing communicates value to a kid like knowing that they are known.
It has been said that no one cares what you know until they know that you care. This is a profound truth in ministry. As such, whether you have a handful of kids in your church or more than a hundred, I propose that your ministry to kids and their families will be deeper, stronger, and more effective if you and your team make it a priority to know the names of every kid in your program. Acknowledge every kid in your program by name. Do your homework — make a cheat sheet, create a contest among your leaders, invent a name game, use name tags if you need to — but set the goal and work at it.
I confess I am not naturally great with remembering names, but since our soccer camp experience I have made it a priority to quickly learn the names of the boys and girls on the teams that I coach and the kids that I interact with at church. My goal is to greet every child by name every time I see them. It isn’t easy for me, but it really does make a difference. Every kid is noticed, every kid is known, and every kids feels a greater sense of belonging. What’s in a name? Everything.
Chuck Peters is Manager of Marketing & Media Production for Lifeway Kids. A graduate of Columbia Bible College, Chuck, and his wife, Cris, have served vocationally & voluntarily in Student and Children’s Ministry for many years. They have four amazing children.