by Jeff Stone
All leaders have had that awkward moment when encountering someone we’ve met, but find ourselves struggling to remember his/her name. Remembering names is a leadership tool we all can develop that pays large Kingdom dividends.
Dale Carnegie, in his best-selling business classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People, observed, “A person’s name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language.” Making the effort to learn, remember, and call people by name, is a path to make a genuine connection and have spiritual influence on their lives.
Jesus thought it was important enough to mention in John 10 that the Good Shepherd “calls his own sheep by name” (v. 3). A moment later He also said, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me…” (v. 14).
As shepherds of the flock, taking a personal interest in people makes a profound difference as we lead the flock.
I’ve often had people tell me, “At first when I visited the church, I felt a bit intimidated because it was larger than our previous church, but when you called us by name on our return visit, it made us feel ‘at home’ and that the church wasn’t too large for us to matter here.”
Remember that “people want to know and be known.”
Here are some practical tips to help us do a better job of learning people’s names:
- When meeting someone new, make a conscious effort to remember the name. Often, we fail to concentrate or are distracted when being introduced, then later when we can’t recall the name, we realize that we weren’t focused when we met.
- Repeat the name when you meet. “Don, it’s good to meet you. I’m really glad you chose to worship with us today, Don.” That will ensure you heard the name correctly and the repetition will reinforce the name, better engraving it in your memory.
- Write it down as soon as possible for later reference. After meeting, when you walk away, jot in down on your bulletin or in the flyleaf of your Bible the name of the guests you just met for future reference. It’s also OK to say when meeting, “Could you spell your name for me, please? I’d like to write it down to help me learn it and be better able to remember your name.” Few people object to someone making an extra effort to take a personal interest in them. Also, the exercise of writing it improves our retention since we remember 10% of what we hear, 20% of what we see and hear, and 40% of what we see, hear, and write down.
- Review your list on Sundays before arriving at worship. Study the names of new guests who have recently visited your church and pray for them on following weekends that God will bring them back to your services that day. Refreshing yourself on their names will help you call them by name when you see them. That’s done not to impress them with your recall, but to impress on them that God knows them, loves them, is interested in their struggles, and wants to enter their lives on a personal level. He demonstrates His love through each of us.
That’s your assignment the next time you see a new face. Go out of your way to welcome and authentically connect with that new person. Remember what Will Rogers said: “A stranger is just a friend I haven’t met.”
We want to always be willing to enlarge the circle and include the next new person whom God sends our way.