Maybe You Need To Declare a Name Amnesty Sunday

It’s probably a silly idea. It’s probably the kind of thing we came up with late on a Friday afternoon and laughed about before realizing, “Actually, maybe there’s something to this.” Somehow it became a bit of a tradition for Grace Fellowship Church and, even better, one we rather enjoy. We call it “Name Amnesty Sunday” and we hold one every few months. Let me tell you how it works and how it might benefit your church.

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You’ve had the experience. I know you have. You’ve seen new people at church and meant to meet them, but never got around to it. Now they’ve been attending for 3 or 4 months and you know it will be just plain awkward to march up to them to introduce yourself. After all, what kind of a church member, or church leader even, waits that long before making introductions?

Maybe it’s worse than that. Maybe you met them the week they first visited, you spent a few minutes chatting and getting to know them, then walked away and realized, “I’ve already forgotten their names.” Now you’re in that cringe-worthy spot where you nod or wave or say “hello” every Sunday while hoping they don’t figure out that you’ve forgotten who they are.

Or maybe you don’t even remember whether or not you’ve met them. You have a vague memory of meeting them or someone like them, but is it possible you’re remembering intention rather than reality? Now you find it easier just to keep your distance.

What can you do? You can declare a Name Amnesty Sunday.

A Name Amnesty Sunday begins with an announcement the week before so it doesn’t take everyone by surprise. “We have declared next Sunday a Name Amnesty Sunday.” On the day itself, every person who walks into the church is given a name tag the moment they arrive. It may be a little awkward for visitors, but it can be explained away easily enough: “This week we are having everyone wear a name tag so they can learn each other’s names.” We often have the teen girls in charge of writing out the “Hello My Name Is” tags.

An announcement early in the service explains it. “This is a Name Amnesty Sunday. This means you are free to ask anyone their name without shame or embarrassment. If you don’t know someone’s name even though you should, or if you’ve forgotten their name even though they told it to you, you are absolved from all blame and all awkwardness. If someone doesn’t know your name, you are not allowed to hold it against them. You must grant them amnesty. Now go and find someone whose name you don’t know and introduce yourself.”

And, sure enough, you soon hear the conversations. “Hi there. I know we’ve met but I’ve forgotten your name.” “I’m sorry. I’ve been meaning to come over and introduce myself but, you know how it goes…”

Silly? Yeah, kind of. Effective? Yeah, that too. It’s an effective means of allowing people off the hook, of allowing people to connect who might otherwise find a convenient excuse not to. Maybe your church would benefit from declaring its own Name Amnesty Sunday.