Two months ago I welcomed five new members into my Rotary club – I gave each one a Rotary badge (the traditional ‘wheel’) as also a name badge. This month five more people have asked to become members of the club: they too will in due course be ‘badged up’. Rotarians believe that badges are important: on the one hand, it is a way of making Rotary known to the wider community; on the other hand, it is a way of making ourselves known to prospective members coming along to our meetings.
Would that churches too were ‘all badged up’! I would love to see every church presenting to their new members two badges: on the one hand, a small cross to help us share our faith with the wider community; on the other hand, a name badge to make it easier for newcomers (and also older members too) know who we are.
Although I have never known a church present a small cross to new members, I have been to two or three churches where all the members were given proper name badges; what is more, to ensure that people did not leave their badges at home, in one church there were racks in the church vestibule on which all the name badges were kept.
Certainly, if I were starting ministry again, I would ensure that every member was ‘all badged up’. As it was, in my last church we had ‘name tag Sundays’ once a term, at which every worshipper that day as they came through the entrance door was directed to tables, where they were given a sticky paper label and asked to print on it their name. Incidentally, not only young people and adults had to write down their names – children too did the same. Then, at some point within the service, people were asked to greet one another by name: provided people had written out their names in large print, greeting one another in this name was an easy task. Furthermore, it not only helped newcomers – it also helped remind regular members of the names of other regular worshippers! Sadly, most Brits are bad at remembering other people’s names, but with name tags people were able to read and not just hear people’s names – in the case of somebody from another culture or perhaps a person with an odd surname (like mine!) this helped the learning process.
As I reflect on my experience of ‘name tag’ Sundays, they were really helpful occasions. Although initially not everybody wanted to wear a name label, resistance soon faded and people began to look forward to these special Sundays. However, it was only once a term. And even when we did use name labels, they were made of paper and quickly lost their ‘stick’. Proper name badges were needed! As it was, the only people with proper name badges – which we wore every Sunday – were ministers, deacons (i.e. lay leaders) and members of the pastoral team.
There have been other times when I wished people had worn badges – weddings and funerals come to mind. In so far as they are ‘occasional’ events, clearly badges would have to be made of paper or card. Ideally I would love badges on these occasions to be ‘colour-coded’: at a wedding, for instance, colours could indicate those who are friends of the bride as distinct from those who are friends of the groom (and a two-tone badge to indicate those who are friends of both; while at a funeral it is always helpful to be able to distinguish family from work colleagues and other friends. Probably at this point I am engaging in wishful thinking, but what a difference it would make to pastors – as indeed to ordinary ‘punters’!
But to return to the main point of this blog: name badges can be a very useful device, and not least to help people feel at home on a Sunday. I am serious when I say: let’s encourage people in our churches to be ‘all badged up’ and ready to be known.