The One Thing 343: The Great Name Tag Debate

Vine Church uses name tags, Hunter Bible Church does not. In this episode Toby Neal (Vine Church) and Dave Moore (Hunter Bible Church) face off in a debate about whether name tags are helpful in church. 

Arguments for:

  • Community: They can help people connect as addressing people by name helps with relational interactions
  • Follow up: Having a check in process helps to get new people's contact details and helps with the followup process after Sunday
  • Pastoral care: Name tags can be used to see attendance and help reach out to people if they aren’t turning up to church

Arguments against:

  • It adds a step of complexity to people coming into church
  • If you train a good welcoming team, you don’t need name tags
  • It can make church feel like a corporate event when it should be a relational environment

TOOL BOX:

177: Better Welcoming 1

178: Better Welcoming 2

Gospel Growth and Community ebook

Transcript

Speaker 1

Lightweight, lightweight leadership podcast network.


Unknown
get I pay Here is welcome to the one thing a podcast is on TV one a solid practical tip for gospel centered ministry every week.


Unknown
Now, the one things brought to you by Reach Australia and we would love to see thousands of healthy evangelistic and multiplying churches all over our country. Now, recently we came across a post of someone who was looking for a church and they visited a number of churches and one of the comments that they made was, I don't want a name tag, which got us thinking about name tags for visitors or name tags at all.


Unknown
Is it a good thing in church? And so we've got two very different views on this and so we'll see how this works out. We've got Dave Moore from Hunter Bible Church up in Newcastle. Welcome, Dave. Thanks very much. And Toby Neill from Vine Church in Surry Hills. Great to have you with us, Toby. Great to be here.


Unknown
All right. Now, just before we get going. When was the last time that you guys were in a place that was so completely foreign to you? Did you get a name tag? Toby? The neighbors birthday party last year. Didn't have anyone there. Just the neighbors didn't get a name tag that really hard to type. Did you find it hard to just remember people's names as you were introduced?


Unknown
A very difficult and didn't know anyone. As soon as I found out as a pastor, they didn't want to talk to me. Dave, what about you? Have you ever been in a completely When's the last time you're in a completely foreign place? Did you get a name tag? Well, we went to a I went to a conference in Melbourne a little while ago and we registered we got a name tag that was like, I didn't know where we were going.

Unknown
It didn't know whether you were in the conference or not, because a whole bunch of people who did have name tags and didn't have name tags in the lobby. And so the conference started at this point. Yeah, yeah. But that was okay. So it was confusing having some people having them, Some people not. Yeah. Yeah. Well, for now, you press play on another episode of the one thing, the great name tag debate.


Unknown
right?

Unknown
Just to be clear, I visited both your churches. Right. And both churches. You guys made me feel very welcome. Not you particularly, but your your welcoming team and I think we can all agree welcoming is actually a really important part of of church, the church culture. It's a great expression of the gospel. And I think as God welcomes us into church, but let's talk about nametags and what I want to do.


Unknown
I want to start with what's the experience like? So as a visitor comes to your church, what actually happens? Do they get a name tag? Toby, let's start with you. What happens when someone comes? It walks off the street into your church. Walk us through the process. Yeah. So they come off the street, they see signage, they walk up our plaza.


Unknown
I'll see some people outside the church ready to welcome them. They'll also see some A-frame saying, Welcome to church. Check in to get a name tag. Our membership pass. One is great and others a sign saying God knows your name and we'd love to. Also. And so they may check in at that point. They may not. Then they'll walk up to some welcome as our welcome, as will say to them.


Unknown
Hey, I'm Toby. Welcome to church. We'd love to get you name tag. Can I help you? Check in. And 90% of people say, yep, call and then we take them to they can either check in via the QR code, but probably the majority come to the table where there's someone on a computer and they'll check them in. And that works better for families that try to check in five people rather than doing it on their own phone.


Unknown
We do it for them and we'll also like probably only maybe 20% of people don't want to check in. But those who do check in, maybe another 20% will only give their first name. But the 80% of people who do check in will give us their name, their email, their phone number and all the names of their kids, etc..

Unknown
So they'll get to that table, they'll get and they'll put all their details into our system and they'll get a name tag out. And then they go into the foyer and into church. And just be clear, it's actually a printed name tags on a handwritten one. So it looks like everybody else's name tag as well, because that's what happens.


Unknown
So does that take how long does that take? Pretty quick. It's all automated. So yeah, when we did it, we we found that there were a lot of people at the welcome table. So we got we were straight up we the time it took to put our name in, people were talking to us basically press enter the name tag came out.


Unknown
So yeah, about as long as I've just explained depending on how quickly you can talk. Really? Yeah. Yeah. I asked our membership guy this morning, what's the script? And they say, Hey, we can get in touch with you about upcoming events, help you connect here. Do you feel comfortable sharing an email and phone number as well? So we'll ask them, What's your name?


Unknown
And then yeah, and you find most people are willing. Yeah, it's like 80% of people are giving us everything and 20% will give us a first name. And actually I think our guy said like 90%, like it's very small number of people not doing it right. Yeah. Yeah. All right, Dave, tell us what happens when someone walks into your church.


Unknown
Yeah. So we don't have we've been renting schools and that type of thing and so there's no, no really Sunday walk in because when there's a presence around the week until recently but people walking in those frames will be welcomed at the gates by people wearing lanyards saying welcome and then welcome at the door. And we kind of people hang out before church in the lobby or outside for coffee and then and then we'll say to everyone who's there, hey, we're best church, Let's get on it.


Unknown
And then and then as part of a service, will invite people to fill in a connect card with their information and to take out the back. But until that point where welcoming people personally and trying to get to know them, we have a welcoming team who's quite aware of who's new and who's arriving. And so we kind of got this thing that we want to we want to say hello, welcome back.


Unknown
Within 30 seconds of the service ending, that's that's kind of the goal. If people if they've got to wait more than 30 seconds for someone to come on, that's a problem. Sure. And do you find that most people are filling in the connect card? We find that people feel on that kind of card when the person walk in, welcoming them, welcoming them suggests that they do.


Unknown
And so it's a it's a conversation that goes on. Ones of, have you had a chance to fill in the card? Let's fill that in and take that to the connect point. And yeah, I kind of say they're getting assistance to do that to make sure that's right. We do it the other way. If people come in with kids, then part of that process, if they knew they will check in the kids in much the same way that the Toby's just described.


Unknown
The thing fill in a form, but we don't have nine takes a lot of name tag for that kid when he walks into the classroom but we'll have a live those in fact, they will have their reflection for that as well. I'll track that look then. You as well. And that's part of the safe. That's a safe ministry kind of thing as well, isn't it, to make sure that you know which kids are there.


Unknown
And yeah, it's a part of that process or is that something else here? yeah, we want to. It's a way of communicating to the parents that we care about the safety of the kids. We want to know who their kids are and if there's an issue while they're in church, we can get in contact with them. That's the main reason.


Unknown
And all parents are happy for that. And so, yeah, we get that information for that. All right. So that's the process. So let's talk about some of the thinking, the principles. I don't know if there's any theology that you guys I don't know if anyone's got a theology of name tags in that category. If it is. But Toby, what's what's your thinking about?


Unknown
Yeah, having people checking and having particularly that process of getting a name tag for someone who's who's new and as a visitor. Well, I'll start off by saying I hate name tags, although we do need to. I, I feel like it feels like a corporate event. Should I get a name tag at a party? I think we want church feel more like a relational event than a corporate, you know, organized event.


Unknown
And so for that reason, like, I have like a vibe issue with having name tags, but we use them. Wait three reasons. One, community to follow up and three, pastoral care. So community, we think name tags help people connect. We get roughly 15 first time visitors every Sunday, seven, second time visitors every Sunday. We had 2,001st time visitors over the year last year.


Unknown
So we got lots of people just visiting our church. We want church to be a place of connection and community where people are known and loved, and addressing people by name is a key part of relational interactions. And so if it's your first time at church, maybe a meeting ten, maybe 20 people on that first Sunday, you come back again.


Unknown
That's another 1020 people you're meeting. You just cannot remember that many names. And having a name tag helps them interact with people, make connections, remember who people are. I think there's also an ethnic cultural piece here as well. So sometimes you'll meet people and sometimes it takes me like five times to get someone's name and like, I just my mouth cannot get there yet.


Unknown
But when you see the name, you become more able in being able to pronounce that name. What else have I got? Okay, don't do it. Sorry. I'm going to interrupt there. And I do want to do want push back on any of those community, particularly those community principals there that that Toby's mentioned and who come back to some of the ways that some of the principles that you've got in mind as you've made your decision not to do name tags.


Unknown
But yeah, I just I'm not sure it's accurate and it could be a cultural thing of where church is and that type of thing. I think the hurdle for people to even the process of checking in for church, the thing you're saying there, Toby, about it feels corporate. It feels like this is not a family that feels like an event.

Unknown
You're checking into a screen so loud that I don't think knowing being able to see someone's name helps them particularly much like that. They can see my name. Yeah, maybe. But I. I just don't think that they are going. I wish I could see everyone's name here. I just don't think they're interested in other people or I think they're feeling concerned about themselves.

Unknown
A lot of people think of me that someone talks to me. That would be great. I think their desires are much more relational than I want to know other people's names. And I think the hurdle of I need to give I need to wear a name tag. But yeah, I just think people are going to go and I'd be really interested to find out.

Unknown
And this is where I could be wrong. If you got 20% of people who are, who are reluctant to give their name for a name tag and reluctant to wear a name tag. All right. What's the return rate on those people? Because my, my, my guess is and I could be completely wrong, but my guess is that your turn right for those people is really low.

Unknown
That going That was the most awkward, awkward scenario. And because of the name the check in process you think Yeah, yeah. So if I had to go somewhere and I knew I had to check in and I didn't want to give my name, I wanted to be anonymous, I'm not going back. Yeah, I don't know. What do you.


Unknown
Yeah. I think there are cons to using name tags there. The cons just the pros outweigh the cons. So yeah, it's a hurdle, but I think you're overstating it when you say it. Scary slash, it doesn't scream awkwardness. It's just it's one little moment of uncomfortability for people who want to remain anonymous. They're able to remain anonymous. If they want everything else about our church screams welcome.

Unknown
All right? Everything else is very informal, very relational. So here's one moment which has significant benefit for us. Say, why don't the Cup Two other things on just the community pace is it create it's a small culture piece. It says to our own people, hey, we expect that you're going to meet someone you don't know and we're going to help you do that.

Unknown
Another piece here is this is me personally. I know that when I've forgotten someone's name, I get very anxious about going and talking to that person again because I feel embarrassed that I've forgotten their name on their pastor. How could I forgot their name? And so the name tag just takes away that awkwardness. And I and I stop not engaging with people because I forgot their name.

Unknown
And I think plenty of people are like that. So I do think it has a significant community benefit. I agree with you. I think there's a con there, but I think there's a the pros outweigh the cons. Yeah. So even with that level. So we run a growth group in our house, we have 29 people in our group for the first couple of weeks of the year.


Unknown
We print out name tags and people walk in to our house and they put a name tag on. But it's designed for the people who are already in that already part of the community. And there's an acknowledgment that, yeah, we're part of this. And so the awkwardness is much less. I think the reasons you're you're describing are reasons for the people who are already in rather than for the person who's new.

Unknown
And it's I mean, is for the church. Yeah. Yeah. Well, yeah I agree with now I think there are reasons for them, but I think yeah, there are good reasons for the church as well, which is why we do it. I had an interesting experience. I'm going to just jump in a little bit in this debate. My family joined a new school recently.

Unknown
One of the things I said it to welcome, they actually had nametags for everyone. They gave the existing parents. If you were a parent who'd been there for a while, you got a black name tag. And if you're a new parent, you've got a blue nametag. And I actually found that incredibly helpful because when I went to walk up to someone, I went, You're new to, okay?


Unknown
You've got no idea. Like, it actually kind of helped me navigate that. Now, I don't know how that fits into to church. I just thought it'd be interesting how a new person kind of perceives it. And I think I think it's worth saying, Toby, the thing you've described sounds great. It sounds really good, but you've got if you've got a welcoming team who has been drilled and they are so good at making people feel comfortable overcoming that slight awkwardness, if they don't want to go on a name tag, that's great.


Unknown
The stories I've heard. So I've got a friend from England who came over to a few churches and he's in Sydney. His regular experience was the only person who spoke to him at church, was the person who chased him down and said, You need a nametag, here's your nametag, and then walked away. And that was his regular experience of name tags.

Unknown
Churches. No. Yeah, that it was people who were committed to the concept of name tags rather than to the principal and the love behind it. Now, if we can do that, I agree. If you can get a team to love people amazingly well. So yeah, no, you don't need no time. That's fine. It just helps our skills, helps us love you.

Unknown
How can we help us? Can we welcome you? If they go to that? Fantastic. I just think that's a big welcoming team development. You need to you need to develop that team really well. And I wonder for lots of churches, if you do, if you've got energy to develop a welcoming team, maybe nametags is not the thing that you need to do.

Unknown
We need to be training them in, maybe need to be training them in welcoming people well, and then nametags do the stretch. What do you think about it? Yeah, yeah, I agree with you, Dave. I think that the principle, it's a welcoming thing. Those are the key thing. And again, I want to say both your churches do this very, very well.

Unknown
It's not just about my tech savvy. Was there anything else that you wanted to add in to show your principles and. yeah, I mean, so that's for the newcomer. But I think there's significant benefit for other reasons. So so you've got the name tag on the day, but then the data we're getting on the Sunday that this person checked in his their email, his phone number, we use all of that for follow up.

Unknown
So that's the second reason we do it on a monday morning. We send a welcome email welcoming people to church. On Tuesday we a them from an individual saying, Hey Toby, it's great to have you at church. Love to invite you back this week. If they come a second time, then we phone call them. And so gathering all of that information from the check in process is massively helpful.

Unknown
And then the third reason we think it's helpful is for pastoral care. So it's not just new people who are checking in and getting name tags. Everyone is. And that means we know who was there on Sunday and who wasn't there on Sunday. And then it's easy to run reports. We run a pastoral care system runs report. They've missed three weeks of church.


Unknown
We want to get in contact with them. If they've missed five weeks, we have this escalating response and if they've missed nine weeks, you know, it's escalated again. And we used to do it with out name tags and I'd have to manually mark a roll every service. And that just took so much time. This is so much more efficient, quick and accurate and enables us to do pastoral care better.

Unknown
So there's like three reasons. It helps us connect new people up to follow up new people, but also helps us follow up people who are drifting part of our community. I know people don't like it, and I know it turned some visitors off, but I just think the the the outcomes we're getting outweighs that. And I think if you are exploring, I think actually you generally you want you want help, you want a way in.


Unknown
And I think it's Christians who are attending other churches. They just want to say anonymously, I don't really care about sure you want it, you want the, the people, that spiritual inquiry to come in and make it okay. Dave, we've heard some of your ideas and principles or the other things that you want to add in terms of why is it that your church doesn't actually have name tags?


Unknown
Why would be there's a we want to make that welcoming process as smooth and easy as we can, that those first the first experiences people have, the first few minutes of church will shape their experience for the rest of it. And so we want to try to put as much effort into making that smooth as we can. I completely agree that being able to follow up new people, we have to put a lot of effort in the other side of trying to get those details information out of the service.


Unknown
And so there's a trade off there that we can't do it this way. So we're doing it this way and I can say would be so much easier getting their information to church to second verse on a care thing. I think this is where we push the two things down to our cross group leaders and they are responsible for making sure people in their groups are coming to church regularly and they're doing the pull up for that because there's a dispersed responsibility of pastoral care within church first and then things that can escalate up if there's an issue there.

Unknown
But coming back to it where if we could work out a way to do it that we think would work well, I think we'd be open to it. But at this stage it's that, as I said this week, that's our cover visit. Come over to the side. Go, go, go. Visit by. If you go and have a look.


Unknown
Okay. So you're actually how does a fairly large church, how do you capture all of that information? I mean, Toby is kind of mentioned. One of the things one of the advantages of having a name tag system as he coming in. Yes, I know who is here. I know who isn't. How do you guys capture all of that information then, if you're not doing it through name tags?

Unknown
Well, so the new people will have a team of people who look out for the new person, make sure there's someone talking to them, and they are following up on the the connect card. And so and then after that, the same process that Toby described about the email, the same as the phone calls, that same system is in place.

Unknown
So for them and so we have a call up process that new people, we love them through that with the team. Yep. What about the existing people? Who are they like, Do you do you kind of keep track of who is actually there on a Sunday or are you relying really on your growth privileges at this point of time?


Unknown
Yeah, we're really relying on people like Veronica. Yeah, we want our growth group leaders to keep track of who's coming to their group during the week, who's coming to church in the week, and be having those conversations with those people who we haven't haven't seen using groups of a senior church for a while. What's going on? How can we help you?

Unknown
So we want to facilitate and kind of encourage responsibility down so that there's real there's real love within the church for each other, rather than being reliant on the the pastors to chase everyone. Was that right? Let me ask you the hard question, David, how effective it does it? I mean, that's great. Does it actually work? I think so.


Unknown
No, I think so. We we have a you know, Yeah. So the way that those teams are managed and those growth group ladies are looked after, we have a fair idea of checking in on how are they going those if we, if we were getting reports from them every week that would actually be taking away from their responsibility.

Unknown
We're actually saying, no, you're responsible for this. And so we follow them up with that responsibility rather than getting them to report every week. What about people who are part of a community group growth group? Yeah, So they're part of we we have a way of looking after them. And so we have a team of people who keep an eye out for those people, but that's relatively small in our church.


Unknown
So we run at about 90% of our members are in groups. So yeah, Yeah. Okay. All right. I'm going to ask you guys, I'm going to go straight to the one thing and I'm going to give you guys a chance to kind of make your case. If you can try and keep it, you know, summarize it into one thing.


Unknown
Why would we use or not use name tags in church? Actually, Dave, I'm going to start with you. Why would you not use name tags in church? Well, I think the the hurdle of trying to get people into church in the first place that we live in a culture that is so suspicious and anti church and we want people come in not just one context, but coal contacts.


Unknown
And we want that experience to be something that they feel really comfortable in. And we don't want the only offensive thing to be the gospel we preach. If at all. And so we are trying to reduce any of those hurdles and any follow up. And getting the information we want to do is relational as we can rather than true, rather than making people feel like they're in a system.


Unknown
And I think that that relation, that anti relational hurdle is so significant that we would with we are very anti doing nametags at church at the moment. Okay. So really it's about making someone feel like a person from that first moment they step into the step into church and having that experience of we love you as a person.


Unknown
Yeah. And that they can be there without being part of the system. They can come along to okay and just be there and be anonymous if they choose to be. Yeah. Okay. Toby It may be a difference between coastal and urban like so the urban Surry Hills, very artsy, you know, And so they don't like the corporate experience, but at the same time, Surry Hills very professional.


Unknown
And so people aren't turned off by an organized machine so long as all the way that's executed is highly relational and authentic. And so there may be a cultural difference between, you know, Newcastle and Surry Hills going right now. I'm not sure I do under all. So again, from my experience, both your churches Vine is more likely to get people who are just walking past because it's in a very prominent place.


Unknown
Hunter in the past has been very you know, you have to know where it is to get there. People usually invite and have an existing relationship that's there, but any last words? But yeah, for the reasons Dave said, no, that's why we say yes, because we don't want people to just be numbers. We want to know their names.


Unknown
We think it's helpful for them to connect. And then the data we get from who was there on a Sunday helps us follow up newcomers and follow up our members who are drifting. So it's because we care about people that we use. Name tags. Guys, I want to say thank you so much for the debate. And again, I think what I've really loved is both of you are making decisions around how do we actually love people as they walk into church.


Unknown
And that's really I think that's the key thing. And I'm just remembering your story of the guy who's being chased down by you need a name tag, completely missing the mark of how to actually welcome people. We have a couple of things, of course, in the toolbox. We will have a couple of things, including our community book, which goes into a lot about how to keep building community better and some past episodes from the one thing 177 178 looking at better welcoming guys, I want to say thank you so much for talking.


Unknown
Thank you for disagreeing in such a great way and showing great example of how you can disagree on on something like ministry and still be loving each other as brothers. So, Toby, thanks for joining us. My pleasure to be here. Thanks for joining us from Newcastle. We've enjoyed the Magpies in the background as you've been talking, so thanks for joining us.


Unknown
Thank you. If you if you have a topic you want us to cover, make sure you email us at resources at Reach Australia dot com today, which has been one of the things that we've done today. So I may use chat soon.