How Should Children Address Adults at VBS? part 3 (conclusion)

If you missed the previous posts on this topic, you may want to check out:

The Role of VBS in Teaching Honor, and How Should Children Address Adults at VBS? part 1 and part 2.

The final decision to be made when considering how the children at your Vacation Bible School should be expected to address the adults is whether you are going to use first names or last names (surnames).

If yours is a congregation where people usually address and introduce each other by their first names, you may not even know the last names of everybody.  (For that matter, if you have not been careful to intentionally remember them, you may not even know the first names of everybody.  While this is a bit off-topic, it should be noted that names are important–be sure to learn them, and make the effort to use them correctly!  It can be challenging, but the more we make the effort, the easier it becomes.)

Whether or not you know people’s names should not be your deciding factor, though.

Try to think, What is best for the children?  Do the people of your congregation normally introduce children to adults by the adult’s first name, or do they use the adult’s last name?  This could be a very simple way to decide how to treat the matter at Vacation Bible School, if the practice is fairly consistent at church.

If not, then you and your VBS helpers will just have to decide.

First names, when preceded by a respectful term of address, do foster respect.  This solution gives the children a sense of closeness to the adult, while giving a gentle reminder that our elders are not quite peers, but are rather given by God to instruct and guide us, and we should appreciate them as such.

When the term of address is used with a person’s last name, it adds a bit more of a barrier between the two parties.  Sometimes this is desirable: for example, in many business situations, or when addressing a casual acquaintance (especially an elder).

Other times, the effect is not so beneficial.  If the desired end is a sort of friendship between the two people, addressing one or the other by their last name can possibly somewhat limit the relationship–though not necessarily.

The strictest address would be “Mister” or “Misses” followed by a last name.

For Vacation Bible School, I personally prefer to be called “Teacher Sheila” over “Sister Sheila” simply because of the alliteration in the second choice (it is a bit more awkward to say).  I have no problem with being called “Sister Edeliant” or “Misses Edeliant”, and think that these two choices have their own benefit in that they make family connections obvious.  (The problem can be if there are too many “Mister Jones”es, for example, in one church.)

Admittedly, there is a lot of personal preference in the matter; but we as a Vacation Bible School team, should be able to come up with a consistent rule to follow.  In this way, we will encourage respect for adults in the church, yet avoid the misunderstandings and confusion that can result from having no guideline for names.

Whatever you decide, remember to make it a point to introduce yourself and other teachers to the children following the rules you have decided on.  Write your names this way on your name tags, and actually say your names to the children so that they can hear them pronounced–and be sure to call the children by name, too!

In the end, it is going to be the relationship that really matters; but a name is a good place to start. 🙂

~Does your church have a consistent way for children to address the adults in your congregation?

~Do you follow the same rules (or lack of them) at Vacation Bible School, or do you find yourself changing things, perhaps to accommodate the otherwise un-churched VBS students and their habits?


***Hasten Home is excited to announce the release of a new, original set of Vacation Bible School materials. It talks of God’s law, the Ten Commandments, and teaches the children the awesome truth that God wants to give us both the heart and the power to obey. You may purchase VBS–The Land of Milk & Honey from our store, or if you have questions, just send a note to and put “Milk & Honey” in the subject line.***

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