What Is Your Name?
Names mean something
by Revd Sophie Jelley (revised, originally published in 2009)
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To explore the significance of names.
Preparation and materials
You will need a book of baby names and some Mr Men or Little Miss books.
You will also need a reader for the Bible passage, Matthew 1:21.
Tell the children your whole name, if appropriate, or just the name they know you by if you prefer. Tell them what your name means and anything special about it. For example, you may be named after another family member, your name may come from another country or you could be named after the place in which you were born. If you have changed a name due to marriage, you could talk about that - whatever helps to introduce the subject of names and how they are special to us.
Point out that our names often mean something. Parents may have chosen a name because it is something that reminds them of an event or time of year, for example, Holly, April, Hazel or June. Show the children the baby book and read out a few names, along with their meanings.
Ask the children about their own names. Does everyone have a middle name? Does anyone have more than three names? Try to include a variety of names from different countries and cultures, reflecting the diversity of the school. Names are special and we should be careful how we use them. We should not be unkind about names, or make fun of people’s names, or give people cruel nicknames.
Show the Mr Men books to the children and enthuse about them – their names are special because they tell us what kind of characters they are. For example, you could ask, 'Why is this character's name Mr Jelly?' and seek the answer that it's because he’s scared of everything.
Show the Bible and say that it is full of names. You could read out some funny ones that are hard to pronounce, such as Abel-beth-maacah (1 Kings 15:20), Merodach-baladan (2 Kings 20:12) and Maher-shalal-hash-baz (Isaiah 8:1).
Explain that for Christians, there is one name that is more special than any other. When this particular baby was born, there were no baby name books like the ones we have today. However, the baby's mother, Mary, knew exactly what she should call him because God had told Joseph, her husband, what name to give him.
Ask the reader to read from Matthew 1:21.
The baby was called Jesus, which means 'Saviour', or 'God will save us'. Christians believe that the name of Jesus is special because they believe that Jesus helps us and puts us right with God.
Time for reflection
Close your eyes and think for a moment about your own name.
Say it silently in your head.
Does it have a special meaning?
Are you named after someone in your family?
Do your family and friends have a shortened version of your name they like to call you by?
Silently name three special people in your head – perhaps from your family or your friends.
Thank you for your special name.
Thank you that it reminds us that you came to help us.
Thank you for our names that were specially chosen for us.
Thank you that each of us is unique and special.
‘A living song’ (Come and Praise, 72)