I have never been a big fan of nametags.
I am not talking about nametags at big conventions. I realize there are many things to take into account at such gatherings like meals, security and the like. It is the small meetings I go to where they give you a “hello my name is” tag along with a Sharpie. Maybe it is because I am left-handed and have terrible penmanship, and my first and last name won’t fit on the tag.
How can nametags help at Shabbat Worship? I was on the board of my synagogue, Temple Ner Tamid in Bloomfield, NJ. Board members were given these gold plastic names tags with the temple’s name and logo, our own name and title. We were asked to wear them at Services as new members were instructed during announcements to ask us questions.
I must admit I never wore my nametag. I guess I was acting out and being passive-aggressive. I have often thought that having such nametags only for board members is somewhat elitist. While those new to our community were encouraged to ask board members questions during the Oneg, board members were also asked to interact with others. Not everyone is outgoing all of the time, especially on a Friday night after a long week of work.
About a year ago, I attended a community meeting at the Unitarian Church of Montclair. In the lobby there was a large rack with a few hundred nametags, one for every adult congregant. When congregants come to a meeting, a social function, or worship, they put on a nametag. And staff or leadership at the end of each gathering would collect them.
You may remember back in July, I wrote about attending Shabbat morning services in another community for the Yahrzeit of my dad and no one asked me my name. What would have happened if at that alternative Shabbat morning service, everyone had nametags? How would nametags work for new people so that their newness wouldn’t standout?
Google research provided me with a number of blogs and newsletter articles – some of them are listed at the end of this blog- on nametags in churches and synagogues. Many, many others have been struggling with this issue for some time.
Everyone having a nametag – existing congregants and guests – is a more egalitarian approach. Of course board members still need to be trained to be more outgoing and engaging of everyone both before Worship and at the Oneg. Existing members can have permanent pre-printed tags on lanyards. It wouldn’t take much time to print nametags for new people so they won’t struggle with printing their name with a sharpie, or stand out as being new with a separate tag.
In a recent blog, I wrote about metrics and figuring out who participates in various synagogue programs, including worship. By collecting the nametags at the end of each gathering, during the next work day staff can record the names of who attended Shabbat Worship, Adult Education, Movie Night, or even the Chanukah Party.
I don’t think nametags alone will solve the welcoming challenge. Richelle Thompson, writing on a blog for the Episcopal Church Foundation website stated … “as with any ministry of hospitality, simply offering name tags doesn’t make your church a welcoming place. It must be coupled with genuine warmth and authentic conversation”.
Leadership needs to make personal engagement a priority when people are gathered for worship or other programming.
No one will have to ask me my name if I have on a nametag!
Here are some links that may be of interest to you:
Temple Micah – Washington, DC newsletter article by former President Ed Grossman
Temple Beth El San Pedro, CA, recent High Holy Day address by President Marla Shwarts
Temple Beth Shalom, Austin, TX website
Temple Beth Elohim – Wellesley, MA, website
Website and blog of Bill Sterling, United Methodist Pastor
Living in the Kingdom-Searching for whatever is good, Blog by Wes Ellis, Divinity Student at Princeton Theological Seminary