As I think of various people in my past, somehow the ones whom I habitually addressed with some term of respect are held on a different level in my mind than those who I was on a “first-name-basis” with.
It does not matter too much whether the term was “Mister” or “Misses”; “Sister”, “Brother”, or “Pastor”; or even “Grandma” or “Uncle”. It does not even matter if the word was followed by a “first name”, such as “John”; or a “last name”, such as “Edwards”–or even if the term was used alone. The difference is simply made by the presence of a title.
As an adult realizing this, I have tried to be much more careful how I address people, especially those much older than myself.
But what happens when you plan an outreach program, such as Vacation Bible School, where adults and youth from all different experiences and backgrounds come together for a common purpose–but with different ideas on what respect is.
If your church has already laid out some sort of policy on this, whether actually written or simply understood, great. You probably don’t even need all this debate.
My first school was a church school that had a clear policy on names. Every adult at the church and the school was “Brother (first name)” or “Sister (first name)”, and the only exception was the pastor who was “Pastor (last name)”. That is just how they were introduced, so it was no big deal.
If your church, like mine, is a bit haphazard on the matter, however, it is worth at least briefly discussing when you do your Vacation Bible School planning–and you should share the results with all of your VBS helpers.
As small as it seems, the failure to discuss titles of address with your VBS team can lead to some awkward at best–and potentially offensive–encounters.
For example, one part-time helper, bringing her grand-daughter to Vacation Bible School for the first time, cheerfully introduced our registration leader as “Mrs. (last name)”. The registration leader was offended and corrected the introduction with “I am ‘(first name)'”.
Thankfully, the part-time helper met the correction with “Oh–this is (first name)”, and the matter was dropped; but really we should have had some system of naming adults in place ahead of time.
Another problem that can come up with lack of forethought and communication is how teachers address each other. In the presence of children, adults should always call each other what the children are expected to call them. If you have decided on “Sister” and “Brother” with a first name, then Brother Mark is Brother Mark to teachers and children alike at VBS.
So you have decided that you want Vacation Bible School to be a place where children learn respect in simple things. After all, if the children do not learn to respect people, who they can see, how will they ever learn to respect God, who they cannot see? (see I John 4:20)
Next, you are going to have to agree on a common title of address. Next we will look at some of these and discuss some of the pros and cons of each, so be sure to check back tomorrow for “How Should Children Address Adults at VBS? part 2”!
~What are some ways that the name we use for a person can affect our relationship with, or our view of, that person?
~Have you ever had a situation that was awkward because one person was unsure of how to introduce another? Tell us about it in the comments!