“If you want people to know how much you care, show them how much you remember. Learn their names and use them often. It’s an important skill to develop,” says businessman, author, and syndicated columnist Harvey Mackay.
Remembering names is a discipline that Bob Fetterhoff, long-time pastor at Grace Church, Wooster, Ohio, has cultivated in more than 35 years in ministry.
“Years ago I heard someone say, ‘Nothing sounds sweeter than to hear your own name remembered by someone else,’” recalls Fetterhoff, who has served as senior pastor at the church since 1981. (He is beginning to step back with the appointment of Nick Cleveland as the next senior pastor of the congregation of more than 2,000.)
As church attendance has increased, Fetterhoff has tried to remember the name of everyone he meets. He says there have been times when he’s not been successful, but he’s tried. “It’s virtually impossible as our church has grown,” he notes. “But I still work at it.”
“Often I’ve heard people say they began attending, ‘When we returned the following Sunday, we were surprised that you remembered our names when the church was this big,’” he adds.
Fetterhoff says he doesn’t have a specific system for remembering names, but he makes a point to listen carefully when a name is mentioned. He sometimes asks the person to spell it, then writes it down and re-uses it as soon as possible.
He also suggests looking the person in the eyes, being determined to remember the name, and introducing the individual to someone else in the church.
“Look for and engage with new people,” he adds. “Realize they are more uncomfortable than you are. Do everything possible to help connect them with others they might already know in the church. Find a ministry that meets a need in their lives.”
It’s a powerful way to practice hospitality.
This first appeared in the Winter 2017 issue of GraceConnect magazine, the publication for the people of the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches. A downloadable pdf version of this issue is available by clicking here. It also may be read online at issuu.com. If you would like to receive the magazine delivered to you at no charge via U.S. Mail, click here to subscribe.