“A good name is better than a good ointment” -Ecclesiastes 7:1a
“The LORD called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.” -Isaiah 49:1
God calls us by name. Our names, whatever the reason our parents chose, are important. Knowing our teens and calling them by name is an important part of youth ministry.
When I was in college, the leader of one of the groups of which I was a part met me about five different times. Each time I saw him, it was like he had never met me before. Not only could he not remember my name, he apparently did not even remember my face. After the fourth or fifth time, I could only laugh. Hopefully none of us has quite the same problem–of completely forgetting meeting people all together. Still, it can be difficult to remember names. In fact, sometimes I can remember everything about a teen–where they go to school, what sport they play, their friends– except their name.
It should be no surprise that name recollection is a part of good youth ministry. I am not sure where I was, what talk I heard, or what video I watched that emphasized how learning and remembering a name weighed so much. Nevertheless, it stuck. Here are some ideas that I have used to help me remember the names of my teens.
- Pray for the teens by name daily. Once each year begins, I pull together a list of the names from registration forms and sign in sheets to create a prayer list. Although the prayer piece is more important here, I have found that side benefit is that I quickly become familiar with all the names of the teenagers. This makes it easier to remember names once I start putting those names with faces.
- Create photo flash Cards. To help expedite the name learning process, in the beginning of the year we take pictures of the teens. (For any public posting, we do have permission to post pictures or video of minors.) Then, I actually get the pictures printed out and write the names of the teens on the back. Voila! Old fashioned flash cards. When I am still learning names, I will often review right before I will see the youth as a quick refresher.
- Repeat names. I do not know what conference or session I heard this tip at, but it does work. The premise is to meet someone and then repeat their name at least three times while still talking with them to be able to remember their name. It works.
“Hi, I’m Angela, the youth minister here. ”
“Glad to meet you Stephanie. Where do you go to school, Stephanie?”
“I attend Local High.”
“Cool, do you know Lauren? She also goes there and comes to LifeTeen.”
“Let me introduce you to her, Stephanie. “
- Use Mental Tricks. There are just some teens that for whatever reason I have difficulty recalling their names. This is when I have to get creative. For instance, I might remember that Bryan has blond hair. The alliteration of the letter “B” somehow helps. A few years ago a mom gave me a tip for two boys I could not seem to keep straight, one of whom was her son. The boy with the longer hair also had the longer name. The young man with the shorter hair had the shorter name. Luckily, I had it all figured out by the time the first young man cut his hair.
These ideas have helped me over the years to remember the names of the youth. When I find that a month or two has gone by and I still do not know everyone’s name in the group, I pull out the flash cards or make a point of figuring out a way to distinguish those teens whose names I continue to mix up. Now, whether by practice or grace, I tend to be able to remember teens names. (Remembering adults’ names is another story!) May God, who calls us each by name, help us to be able to call our teens by their names.