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A Name Change

Jonathan Reitz changed his response to the question, "What do you do?" Instead of saying "I work in stewardship," I tell them "I'm a generosity coach."  

Would a name change make a difference?

What's in a name?
by Jonathan Reitz
Imagine yourself sitting down on an airplane. The stranger next to you says hello, you say hello. The pleasantries continue, and shortly after takeoff, the inevitable question comes, "So what do you do?" You answer, and not wanting to be rude, follow up with "What do YOU do?"

"I guess you could call me a stewardship worker," the stranger says. Immediately a chill runs down your spine, and you're aware that you haven't turned a single page in your book since you sat down. As soon as an opening presents itself, you decide to start reading, and not to look up again.

Over the last year, this scenario played out a half dozen times for me. My passion is to help Christians see the connection between God's incredible love for us and our response. But that connection sometimes gets lost in an avalanche of financial talk. Discomfort with financial conversations is common in our society, and that has certainly had an impact on our ability to talk openly about stewardship.

So now I've changed my conversational tactic. Let's repeat the scenario from the paragraphs above. I've asked you what you do, and you--not wanting to be rude--are now asking me what I do. Instead of saying I work in stewardship, this time I say "I'm a generosity coach." Your eyebrows arch, and you say "What's that?" So I tell you . . . exactly the same thing I would have told you if I'd have introduced myself as a stewardship worker.

The two conversations are strikingly different, aren't they? The name "Generosity Coach" almost always spurs very positive reactions, while "stewardship worker" has less positive connotations. But the only thing that's changed is the name.

Brain science shows a potential explanation: Once something has a name, it becomes tangible in our perception. Our brains naturally search for words to attach to things, concepts, and actions! And once we make those attachments, the brain can begin to include those things, concepts and actions in the various patterns on which we act. Naming something--or in some cases, re-naming--gives that thing vitality and identity.

So what does this mean for stewardship ministries? Think about the names that are attached to the various ministries of your congregation. What reactions do those names bring to mind? Are they positive or negative? Do the reactions match the intended ministry purpose? If not, maybe it's time for a change!

Stewardship Resources Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 8765 West Higgins Road, Chicago, IL 60631. Any part of Salt Seasonings can be reproduced for local use with attribution.


Jonathan Reitz is CEO at CoachNet North America.

Author information was updated as of the article's post date. Author profiles may not reflect author's current employment or location.

Image credit: © Ignacio García Losa ( via Flickr. Used by permission.

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