In his 1936 work How to Win Friends and Influence People, writer and self-improvement guru Dale Carnegie penned the following quote: “A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” This simple communication tip, Carnegie claimed, was a way to build trust and likeability with nearly anyone without expending too much relational effort

From the moment they are born humans are taught to react to their name, often from the loving voice of a parent or guardian. More than just a way to get one’s attention, a name gives identity. Identity then leads to purpose. Essentially, to go about life and never hear one’s own name is to be unknown and hopeless. This is why saying a name holds so much power.

Studies have begun to show that in an increasingly connected world individuals feel more unknown and disconnected than ever before. A deep longing to be known as an individual with worth drives the social media machine of self-promotion. Many call digital natives the ultimate narcissists. Instagram’s successful launch of the “Ask Me A Question” sticker in Stories offers proof of a culture needing to feel known. In 1936, Carnegie claimed that saying a name offered

While Carnegie popularized bringing value by making known, one of the most successful people to utilize this method was Jesus Christ. Not only did Jesus know those individuals He engaged with daily, He made them feel known and valued by saying their name to them. As their Creator, He even gave new names to some. Naming Simon Peter “Cephas” began a revolutionary church planting movement that changed the world. Calling Mary’s name from the garden tomb opened her eyes to the reality of the resurrection. Shouting “Lazarus!” brought a dead man to new life. God knows names, and He gives identity and worth to His creation by calling their name to them in their darkest moments.

If there is life-giving power in making identities known, how should the church – God’s life-giving instrument on Earth – respond in its own messaging? As church creatives seek new ways to engage congregations in the digital age, Carnegie’s advice is as important as ever. Here are three ways for creatives to consider engaging their audience by “saying their names.”

To better engage a congregation, try moving away from stock photos and footage and include the faces of those who will engage with content.

Disclaimer: Stock footage and photography are creative’s best friends. Without these tools, message content would be relegated to the horrors of Microsoft Word Art on Powerpoint slides. Stock footage, when combined with just the right soundtrack, can move individuals to places emotionally and spiritually. Artists who create incredible stock content should be supported and encouraged to continue making their craft.

However, as creatives who face deadlines to push out more and more messages that grab attention, is stock content a helpful tool or a comfortable crutch? If Carnegie is right about saying names, then the digital equivalent may be showing faces. The selfie-culture seems to agree with this idea. Though they may not admit it, people love to see pictures of themselves.

What if the next social media post a church used to draw members to engage in weekly small groups showed an actual group that is currently meeting? Someone who is skeptical if small groups are right for them may see someone they recognize and think “Hey if they can do it, why not me?”

While this move sounds simple, a simple survey of church websites will show the same stock image of a group of people seated on couches smiling to symbolize their small group ministry. Worse yet, the age, ethnicity, and gender of those in the picture may not even be an accurate reflection of the church’s membership!

Invite the audience of the church’s message to help curate the content they are seeing.

As creatives, it is tempting to hold the curation of content close to the chest. After all, words are powerful, and who wants to allow just anyone to add to the voice of the organization? However, inviting others to help create content ensures that the message is relevant to them, and they will feel ownership of the message. People are more likely to share a post or promote a message if they felt like their input helped bring it to life.

How does one invite this kind of partnership to begin? Take a church membership class announcement for example. Rather than simply create a promotion slide with date and times of the class, why not use a picture of someone who recently grew in their faith by taking a next step in seeking membership, and have them give you a quote of why they would encourage others to follow their lead. There is power in a testimony!

God uses people’s lives to display the gospel. Are those life stories being shared?

In Jeremiah 36, God calls Jeremiah to have his assistant Baruch write down all the commands and prophecies that Jeremiah has received from God. The final product is ultimately a story of Jeremiah’s life as a prophet, complete with his call to ministry, his successes and failures, and God’s faithfulness throughout. The record has stood the test of time, and to this day convicts and encourages believers to stand firm in their faith despite cultural influence.

There is a reason God uses stories of the lives of His people to bring redemption. Stories move people to reflect on their own lives and inspire them to see hope in the darkness. Stories also bring unity. No matter their past, each person who has encountered Jesus has experienced life change through the same cross. That reality binds the body of Christ together more deeply than heritage, ethnicity, or political affiliation.

A church creative, no matter their role or position, should strive to make much of the stories of God working in the lives of those in the body of Christ. No story is too small or boring, because any story of someone finding new life in Jesus is a miracle. What if a church became known for flooding the social media world with stories of real, life-changing hope? A picture, story, or video with someone who has found hope in Jesus in the midst of their hopelessness? This potential should drive creatives every single day!

The goal of a church creative should always be to take the glory from their own art and reflect it to God and His work. His people are part of that work that He is doing in redemption. Let those who God is using to bring hope become the image, video, and content that spreads the gospel of the church. By making people feel known and loved, creatives can lead the way in bringing value and inciting passion in the congregation. Say their name, show their face, and watch as beauty erupts into passion for the gospel.