“Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name…” Did I just put the jingle from the television series Cheers into your mind? This catchy tune conveys the desire that rises from our hearts to be in a place where we feel as though we belong. Where we are at home.
Knowing each other’s name matters. Scripture assures us in the prophets, psalms, and gospels that God knows us by name. Jesus calls each of us as surely as a shepherd calls a wayward sheep.
Churches become places of comfort and significance when people are invited and receive a warm reception. Our recent new member class confirmed this as each person shared stories of when they felt welcomed and known – and of those times their church excluded them or others they loved.
Recently, Faith Kemmler, our Director of Children’s & Family Ministry, presented to the Session an overview of the programs she oversees. The reinvigorated commission, volunteers, and staff breathed new life and technology into programs, reaching even more of the community’s children.
When asked how we could further strengthen this vital ministry, Faith challenged the elders: “Learn the names of five children in this church who are not part of your family.” She then told her story of an elder in her home church who knew her name and supported her throughout her childhood and youth. Even today, when she returns, this man greets her – by name.
Faith’s personal experience, confirmed in research, highlights how churches thrive when younger ones walk through the doors and know they are loved and welcomed. Parents feel supported in the Herculean task of raising children when others – outside of the family – walk alongside them and their kids. Just last week, a member, who raised her children at Westminster and is now a grandmother, remarked that at trying times, older members quietly said, “you are doing just fine, we are here to help.” Without any other family in this community, she felt at home.
Regardless of age, it matters to know and call each other by name.
Unquestionably, it feels risky – to open up to another person you do not know. You might forget their name. That’s okay, we’ve got nametags. They too forget. Just ask again.
You can practice with everyone after the all-church worship service on June 5. When we bring together people from the 8:30 and 11:00 services and the Bridge, expect to see and worship with someone you do not know. Take the leap, say “hi, my name is” and let the spirit move among you. This is exciting.