Sunday I was able to blow a church guest’s mind. I love doing that! I don’t do it as often as I’d like. I’ve had a few memorable swings and misses. But when I connect and blow someone’s mind, it validates the time and energy I put into the whole endeavor.
What’s the profoundly simple way to blow a church guest’s mind? Call them by name the second time you see them. People expect to be ignored when they go to a church for the first time. They’re new. No one knows them. No one should talk to them. They’re pleasantly surprised when you go and introduce themselves. They give you a first name, talk pleasantries for a minute, and then you move on to the next guest.
But if you pay attention, if you write their name down, email yourself, check them out on social media to get to know them, do whatever it takes to remember their name the next time they come back, you’ll blow their mind. Easter I met a couple with two kids. Nice family, talked pleasantries for a few moments and then moved onto the next guests. It was a little easier to remember this family because they had a connection with a family who already comes regularly.
That week I went on Facebook and found them, worked on names and faces, and waited. Three weeks later the couple showed up for the second time. It honestly took a few seconds to register who they were, but by the time they walked past me (they weren’t planning on talking to me because they assumed I didn’t know them) I was able to call out to the husband by name. (Full disclosure: I forgot the wife’s name and had to ask her again).
I could tell the husband was visibly stunned that I knew his name and said something to that effect. In that moment he didn’t feel like a stranger or an anonymous face in the crowd. He felt like a person worthwhile enough for the pastor to learn his name. It was the first step in them beginning to feel like family at Mt Vernon. They’re planning on coming back again, and hopefully they’ll become a part of our family.
I miss more guests than I get, but I learn all the names that I can. It’s a profoundly simple way to blow their minds.
I had it all planned out. John and Jennifer* were a new couple who had come to our church for a few weeks but I hadn’t gotten a chance to meet them. So I found them on Facebook, got my creep on and memorized their names and faces. The following Sunday I was all ready to greet them by name. The only minor detail I forgot was getting the right couple.
So last Sunday I saw a new couple that had just walked past me on their way to worship. I was about 95% sure it was John and Jennifer so I called to them as they walked past me. They hesitated slightly but kept moving. Convinced they hadn’t heard me, I called out to them again by name, this time more confidently. They slowly stopped and turned around with a strange look on their faces. I asked, “Are you John and Jennifer?” They responded, “No, we’re Mike and Amber.* It’s our first time here.”
At that moment I was doing everything to make time go backwards. I looked for Doc’s flux capacitor. I tried the “timeout” thing from Zack Morris of Saved By the Bell. None of it worked. I had just introduced myself to the new couple by confidently calling them by the wrong name.
Now hopefully this story has a happy ending. We laughed about the whole thing, I welcomed them to church, vowed to remember their real names from now on, and Amber even sent me a message later saying they enjoyed the services and planned on coming back.
But yikes, that was awkward!
P.S. I did find John and Jennifer later that morning as well!
* These are not their real names. I do know their real names, believe me.
This past Sunday at church I met several new families at Mt Vernon Church, but I was able to make a huge impression on two of them. How? I knew their names. The small thing a pastor can do to make a huge impression is know somebody’s name before he even meets them. How is this possible? Take my situation for example.
On the first family, they walked in the doors just as the early service was about to start. We didn’t have but a moment to speak but the dad said, “I’m Jennifer’s* brother.” I know Jennifer. Her and her family come to our second service. I texted Jennifer during the first service and asked her the names of her brother and his family. She gave me all four. About 60 seconds before the first service ended and they would walk by me in the back, I glanced down at the text, memorized the four names of the family, and called them all by name as they exited. They later told Jennifer that they were extremely impressed that I knew their names.
With the second couple I had help from another church member. About five minutes before the second service started, a regular member said, “I met a new Air Force couple today, they’re sitting right up there and their names are Todd* and Shannon*.” Taking that cue, I introduced myself to Todd and Shannon and called them by name the first time I saw them. They were both impressed that I already knew them by name. Just by watching their non-verbal cues, they seemed cared for and validated because the pastor already knew their names. Even though they would have to make the 30 minute drive from the base every week, they said that they really enjoyed our church and would be back.
It takes a little bit extra work, but believe me, learning names on the front end makes a huge impression.
Here’s part of an email our church recently received, “Thank you for making us feel so welcomed, we have been enjoying the church services and my heart is so happy that my children are also enjoying it too!” This is from a family who’s recently attended and has decided to make Mt Vernon their church home. What helped make the difference? We knew their names.
This family came late to our 10:30 service, dropping their kids off and slipping in before anyone could properly greet them. But our staff are highly trained welcoming ninjas. They will not let a new couple go away ungreeted! At the end of the service, while our Worship Pastor was closing out the service, one of our staff informed me that we had a new couple that came in late, but we didn’t know their names. They had kids, however, that they had registered in our children’s environments. Checkmate.
I quickly walked over to our children’s environment, got the names of the kids and the parents when they registered. By the time they came to pick them up, I was ready for them. I greeted them by name and talked with them for about five minutes. They couldn’t get out of our building without two or three other couples coming up and introducing themselves.
Two weeks later, they were back. This time to stay. They’ve found their home at Mt Vernon. Once we knew their name, they were family. Do whatever you have to do to learn someone’s name.
QUESTION: Has knowing someone’s name ever helped you connect someone with your church?
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