“Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.’ ‘Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49:14-16 NIVUK)

               After missing so much over the last two years, it was a particular joy to me to be able to join P6 pupils from my local Primary School on their residential visit to an Adventure Centre at the end of last term. It is always a privilege to watch pupils grow in confidence as they tackle a new environment and gain new skills. Over the years we have been to many Adventure Centres, some of them secular and some of them Christian run. All of them have offered comparable activities. All of them have had the same basic facilities. All of them have had excellent, well-qualified and competent Instructors. For obvious reasons, I prefer the Christian centres and feel that they offer a far richer and better and more enjoyable experience. For many years I have assumed that my preference was subjective and was down to my own inbuilt bias. But this summer I realised that there is a qualitative difference in the experiences of the secular centres and the Christian centres. And it all comes down to one very simple thing. 

               The overwhelming majority of the Instructors in both secular and Christian centres we have visited have been highly skilled and competent and have prioritised the safety of the pupils in their care. They constantly check numbers and ensure no-one is missed out or missing. They constantly encourage each child to achieve and excel. As we have moved from one area to another, they are constantly watchful and forever doing headcounts. But one simple thing stands out about the Christian centres that, every time, has given the children a richer and more positive experience. And it is this: using names. 

               In the secular centres, Instructors invariably come out and introduce themselves with their own name. But then the first thing they do is a head count to ensure numbers match what they have on their list. In the Christian centres, Instructors invariably come out and say their own name too. But the next thing they do is to then identify each child by their name. They take those first few moments to ask and use each child’s name and to find out something about each child. Walking to each activity, they talk as they walk, and they address each child by name. At each activity, they encourage individuals by name. It’s such a simple thing and yet it is truly ‘Getting It Right For Every Child.’ The Instructor relationships with the pupils invariably seem to me to be better in the Christian centres. And it all comes down to each child being known and called by name.  

When you need encouragement, it is so much better to hear your own name rather than a general “You can do it! Just one more step!” When you need a warning, it is so much more effective and immediate when your own name is shouted. When a word of praise is offered, it makes all the difference to your sense of self-worth when your own name is spoken in front of your peers.  

               We are all in a new environment, coping with a post-pandemic world and with post-lockdown circumstances. We are all facing new challenges of financial pressures and new anxieties about how we will cope. But our Instructor walks with us. And He knows each of us by name and He calls each of us by name. Indeed, He has our names engraved on the palm of His hands. Whatever lies ahead, we know He’ll talk us through it and be with us to encourage us. And we’ll constantly hear Him use our names. Thank You, Lord!