Pet Peeve: When someone who has forgotten or doesn’t know my name calls me Chief, Boss or Big Guy. My inclination is that students will quickly label us as fakes if we do the same thing to them week after week, using names like bro, dude, girl etc.

I’m the guy that always wants to start at step 4 or 5 in any process. I want to get to the creative big picture or the implementation stage right away. In doing so, I butcher the process and weaken the outcome. For many of those who subscribe to relational ministry, we often skip past the power of knowing the names of our sheep for greener pastures of programming and vision. Knowing names can be tedious and challenging. Knowing names can be profoundly life-giving to the students and parents we serve.

Listen to these powerful words Frederick Buechner writes about his own name.

Buechner. It is my name. It is pronounced Beekner. If somebody mispronounces it in some foolish way, I have the feeling that what’s foolish is me. If somebody forgets it, I feel that it’s I who am forgotten. There’s something about it that embarrasses me in just the same way that there’s something about me that embarrasses me. If my name were different, I would be different. When I tell you my name, I have given you a hold over me that you didn’t have before. If you call it out, I stop, look, and listen whether I want to or not. In the Book of Exodus, God tells Moses that is name is Yahweh, and God hasn’t had a peaceful moment since.   –Wishful Thinking.

1. Memorizing Names is a Discipline.
Whether it comes easy to us or not, knowing names is a non-negotiable in relational ministry. I know a pastor who was ultimately fired because he knew very few names and refused to work on it. Refuse to use your struggle with memorization as a cop-out. There are several tips to name memorization, here are a few that work for me; a. as soon as they tell you their name, repeat it back in the conversation, b. introduce that person right away to 2 other people, calling them by name, c. make word associations or rhymes in your head that help you remember their name like Emo Eric or Hipster Hannah. I keep these to myself.
2 . Make it a fun competition. Each time your youth ministry team gathers together, take 10 minutes to quiz each other on the names of students and something you’ve learned about them. We have a volunteer who takes the student’s pictures each week and keeps a database for our use only. Picture directories are a priceless tool in knowing names and they are worth the work.
3. Be Humble. Have enough humility to go to that student and say; “I know you’ve told me your name before, tell me one more time and I’ll never forget it”.

Apparently God found knowing names of His people important too;
I have called you by name, you are mine Isaiah 43:1