What’s in a Name?
What does your name mean?
by John Fryer (revised, originally published in 2009)
Suitable for Whole School (Pri) - Church Schools
To consider the significance of names.
Preparation and materials
- You will need to consult the list of the top 100 baby names in the UK in 2017, which is available at: https://tinyurl.com/y8bo7dm2
- You will also need to look up the meaning of some names that are popular in your school. One source of the meanings of names is available at: https://www.behindthename.com/
- Start by asking the children to guess which baby names were the most popular in 2017. (Answers are available at: https://tinyurl.com/y8bo7dm2)
Ask if any of the children present have any of those names.
Ask if any of the children know why they were given their particular name. Maybe they were named after a person in their family, or someone famous.
Ask if any of the children know what their name means.
- If there is time, give the meaning of the names of some of the teachers in the assembly.
If appropriate, tell the children about your name or middle name or the name of one of your children and why the name was chosen.
- Explain that in the past, names were given great significance. In the Bible, names are often considered to be very important. Go through some-well known names in the Bible.
- Jesus. His name means ‘Saviour’ or ‘God saves’. You may wish to explain the main elements of the Christmas and Easter stories.
- John the Baptist. His name means ‘loved by God’. Remind the children about the story of Zechariah (Luke 1.5–20 and 1.57–64) and how the baby was named John, even though it was not a common name in Zechariah’s family.
- Peter. One of Jesus’ disciples, Peter was originally called Simon. His name was changed by Jesus because he would be the ‘rock’ on which Jesus built his Church (Matthew 16.17–19).
- Andrew. Another of Jesus’ disciples, his name means ‘manly’.
- James. Another of Jesus’ disciples, his name means ‘one who trips up another’.
- John. Another of Jesus’ disciples, his name means ‘blessed by God’. (Together, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were known as the ‘sons of thunder’.)
- Philip. Another of Jesus’ disciples, his name means ‘lover of horses’.
- Bartholomew. Another of Jesus’ disciples, his name means ‘a son that suspends the waters’.
- Matthew. Another of Jesus’ disciples, his name means ‘gift from God’.
- Thomas. Another of Jesus’ disciples, his name means ‘the twin’.
- Thaddaeus. Another of Jesus’ disciples, his name means ‘gift of God’.
- Simon (the Canaanite). Another of Jesus’ disciples, his name means ‘one who hears’.
- Judas. Another of Jesus’ disciples, his name means ‘the praised one’. (Draw attention to the name of Judas. Point out that not everyone lives up to the meaning of their name. Judas was the disciple who betrayed Jesus, so the name ‘the praised one’ is not very appropriate!)
- Abraham. He was formerly called Abram, but as part of God’s covenant with him, God gave him a small, but significant name change to mean ‘ancestor of a multitude of nations’ (Genesis 17.1–22).
- Isaac. His name means ‘laughter’. The angels visited Abraham and Sarah to tell her that she would have a son, and she laughed (Genesis 18.1–15).
Time for reflection
Point out that although we all have different names, chosen for different reasons, God knows us all by name and values us. Christians believe that we are special to God and even our fingerprints show that we are special. No one else has ever had our individual fingerprint, and nor will they ever in the future.
Ask the children to look at their fingertips as you say the prayer.
Thank you, God, that we are each special to you and that you love us.
Thank you that the Bible tells us that you know all about us, even how many hairs are on our heads – wow!
Help us to remember that everyone is special and to treat them well.
‘He made me’ (Come and Praise, 18)