When You Forget a Child’s Name

I had one of those spacey moments at Sunday school where I couldn’t remember a regular kid’s name–first or last. And I was doing check-in. The mom and child stood there smiling sweetly while I scrambled mentally—or maybe I was mentally scrambled (I’d only been gone two weeks).

Anyway, I fumbled with the last name in the system. Got it wrong. I couldn’t ask! He’s a regular! So I said, “Can you hold on a minute? I need to ask Abby something?” I went into the classroom and asked her. She told me with one of those “Good grief, Mom” looks. But disaster averted!

So I thought how do other folks handle forgetting a child’s name who’s waiting expectantly to be acknowledged? And I asked on our Facebook fan page. Here are some of their great answers:

* Use a generic nickname. Names like “sweet potato,” Buddy, Sweetie, Girl, Friend, Honey, Mshana Wam (means young man or lady in Zulu), Chickadee.

* Admit it. Sylvia Hagopian says, “I usually blame it on being “old” and then ask their name again. It really is important to them to feel accepted, included, and special by having their name remembered so I pray for all of us that we get better at it. It isn’t always easy – agh!!!” Vanessa Jones says, “Sometimes, I’ll do the whole, ‘Hey sweetie,’ ‘Hey dude!’ etc. thing, but if it’s a kid I haven’t seen in a long time, it’s usually not a problem to say, ‘You know how silly forgetful I am with names! Can you tell me yours again–I won’t forget this time!’ I’ve never had a kid get upset–they just usually laugh at me like I’m a dork and go on. Then I’m extra careful to use their name a lot during the service.”

* Fake it. Jon Dixon suggests, “Smile and say, ‘Hey! Great to see you!’ Add a brief conversation, then after they leave, I use my phone to look their name up in our church database if I remember any part of it. If I find them, I send a quick ‘It was great to run into your kid…’ e-mail to their parents.”

* Play with it. Tina Kirk Fussel says, “With my preschoolers, I tease and say something like, ‘Do I know you? Oh, that’s right. You’re Bob (or some other random name like Esmerelda or Zacheaus).’ They always start giggling and correcting me.”

* Pray. Tina also says, “With the older kids, I’ll just start talking to them like I know exactly who they are and pray that it comes to me. It often does.”

* Wait. Joni Lum suggests, “I give them a hug and keep talking until I remember their name–lately we’ve had more visitors from VBS, so I’ve had to fake it more than normal.”

* Use nametags. Many said that’s why they love nametags, because they do forget at times, and it’s so important for us to know kids’ names. Mimi Keeler Leach uses the nametags to find the name with this: “It’s really great when I can write them a name tag, or write their name on their paper. Then I ask them, ‘Can you tell me the letters in your name?’ (Of course, this works best with preschoolers or kindergartners, who are just learning how to spell their names.)”

So there you go! If you ever space out on kids’ names, try some of these great ideas from my friends on Facebook! I know I will!