The Power of a Personal Greeting

When I was fourteen years old we had a guest speaker at our church for a youth banquet.  I met him before the event and we talked briefly.   He was very friendly and gracious.   After it was over I told him how that he had blessed my life that night through his message.   He thanked me and used my name.   I couldn’t believe he remembered who I was.   It made me feel that he cared about me.

In the years to come we became very close friends and he had a major positive influence in my life.    One of the reasons I connected with him was the fact that he simply remembered my name several hours after he had heard it.

Using one’s name has biblical precedent.    A casual reading of Romans chapter 16 would reveal Paul’s love for people in how he greeted them.   It was not a general greeting but very detailed.   In that chapter he specifically mentions 35 people by their names and does so in very affectionate terms.

Four times in the Bible we are told to “greet one another” or to “salute one another” (Romans 16:16; I Corinthians 16:20; II Corinthians 13:12; I Peter 5:14).   These verses don’t speak of corporate greetings, but are personal, to be given to “one another”.   They are  customized.

If we knew the impact of learning someone’s name and using it, it would astonish us.   Some have better memories at memorizing names, but for most of us it’s just hard work.   God has instructed us to “greet one another” and with great reason.   We underestimate the influence we have when we do so with enthusiasm, graciousness, and genuineness.

The principle is that greetings ought to be personal.    Even with our loved ones we need to prepare our greetings to make sure they are given in a right spirit and meaningful.     The payoff is worth far more than the effort we give to it.

One person that helped me to do this was Dave Simmons, the founder of “Dad the Family Shepherd”.   He designated a physical marker on his way home from work as a reminder to dump the negative garbage in his mind there and not to take it home.   He didn’t want to pull in the driveway, walk in his home, and dump his problems or bad day on his family.    The designated marker was a reminder that his family needed a kind word, not negative emotions left over from his job.

It’s so easy to allow our closest relationships to degenerate into a bare minimum of talking and sharing.   There is a lack of a personal touch when only the bare essentials are discussed.

Parents are to deal with each child on a personal level.    The Bible teaches parents to  “Train up a child in the way he should go…”    (Proverbs 22:6)    It doesn’t say train up “your children”, but to train up “a child”.     This requires that it be personal, customized and intentional.

The same truth is reaffirmed in I Thessalonians 2:11 – “As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children.”   He is comparing his pastoral ministry as a father would parent his children.    Note that his ministry was to “every one of you”.   It was personal and individualized rather than just corporate and generalized.      Personal ministry makes a difference.    So do personal greetings.

About ten years ago our family was at the Magic Kingdom in Disney World and our youngest child, sweet Aubrey, my baby girl, wanted to see the princesses featured in the Disney films.    They had a different princess in adjoining rooms where you could speak with them and have your picture made with them.

Aubrey was only three or four years of age and was enthralled at seeing the different princesses.    I shall never forget as we approached Snow White that she knelt down to eye level with Aubrey and said, “Oh, I have been waiting all day for you”.   It was a powerful connection for a little girl to hear that from someone she had seen on film and read about in books.    Aubrey felt like the most special person in the world.

Had the lady portraying the character Snow White been trained to do that?   Sure.   Did it make my daughter feel special?   Absolutely.

Of course, I am not advocating lying or giving someone empty flattery.   I do believe there are plenty of good things with which we could greet those whom we love – every day, every time we see them.

Aubrey with Sleeping Beauty.

Aubrey with Sleeping Beauty.

Typically as our children become teenagers they become more reserved with the expressions of their feelings.   They are present in their heart, but somehow they seem to tumble out awkward when they say them.    Young person, (I realize most teenagers don’t read these posts, but here goes!) when your parents reach out to you and ask about your life, speak to them.   And not with just monosyllables.

Talk to them about school, your friends, your frustrations and challenges, your questions about God.    It will surely make your relationship with them closer and one day you will be glad that you did.

Men, pay attention to the quality of your greeting to your wife and family.   Offer them a sincere compliment about something which you have been thinking of during the day.   Smile at them and look them in the eyes.   It is so easy and, yet, bears so many dividends.  It’s also biblical.

Ladies, greet your husband and children warmly.   Be the kind of person that they look forward to coming home to because of your spirit and words.   It can transform the environment of your home.

Write notes to each member of your family occasionally.    My children often rise at 4 a.m. in order to be at their jobs and sometimes I write something and leave it on the bathroom counter for them.   Write notes of encouragement to them and leave them on their pillow or in their Bible.    On special occasions write something memorable and unique to them.   Tell them what you see in their lives that you admire and appreciate.

What are you leaving behind in concrete form (besides memories, and they are so important) by which your kids will remember you?     Learn to be an expert in giving greetings of encouragement, love, and affirmation.   It is a skill, but before it’s a skill it’s a desire to want to bless someone.    All you have to do is to verbalize or write in a note that desire.

Before we ever had a child I had purposed to write and share my heart with them all through their life.   I have hundreds of pages containing my thoughts about them.   Some notes are addressed to all of them, but most of them are written to just one particular child.

These are very sacred to me and, I hope, they are to my kids.    Following is a sample of a note I wrote to my son, Jordan.    He was about to leave for a nine month internship in a foreign country.   That’s why it’s a little heavy on the advice.   Most of my notes to the kids aren’t this “preachy”, but deal with my prayers for them and things I have learned I want to pass on to them.   Here’s the note I gave to him as we hugged him and said goodbye for a while.

September 13, 2010

Dear Jordan,

I am so excited about the next nine months of your life.   I believe it will be one of the highlights that you will remember for the rest of your days.   Know that your mother and I will be praying for you every day, many times a day.   You cannot know how proud of you we are.   You have been so faithful to be diligent at work, getting up early before anyone else, and saving your money even while being generous to others in need.   God is going to honor you for that.

In a sense this is the beginning of your adult life as you leave home, at least for a while until you discover what your next step will be.   I am confident that God will give you clear direction and it will be the most fulfilling journey you will ever experience.

Jordan, you have always been very, very special to us – especially because of the difficulty of your birth and the deep concern we had for you that you would even live.   Of all our children you always had the most insightful questions about God for me.   Usually it would be when we were traveling on a trip somewhere.   Your teachers at church told me the same thing about you.   I have always believed that God has given you a special calling because of the conditions of your birth and that He was going to use you in a mighty way.

I especially remember the time you went to Athens, Tennessee when I preached a revival at Faith Baptist Church.   Jeremiah and Jon went along, too.    We had a good time on that trip, but I will always remember your tenderness to respond to the invitation in that unfamiliar church we had never been in, kneeling at the altar praying.   I specifically remember the conversation we had about some decisions you made during that meeting. 

Remember when we went to the conference in Jacksonville in 1995 (I believe).  Steve Payne went with us and a tropical storm came along and it poured rain for two days.  I brought crayons and a coloring book so you wouldn’t be bored during the services.   It was in that same building that Ashley and Bryan would graduate fourteen years later.   I had no idea while we were sitting in the services that Ashley would attend there, much less meet her husband in that place. 

It was a joy to coach you in baseball and watch you grow physically and athletically.   You did a good job and improved every year.   Remember when I made you pitch in our last game and you didn’t want to do it.   It was three up and three down – and you struck out two of the guys.  After the game, all the guys were hooting and hollering for you.   In my Bible I have a couple of pictures of you and myself from several of those baseball teams.    Treasured times for me. 

You excelled in soccer because of your speed and hustle.   I remember when Matt Moody would come over and run with you to help you get in shape for the season.   One time when you and April were with me at Milton Frank Stadium when I was calling a football game, one of the men there commented to me on how well behaved my children were.   I didn’t know that he was watching both of you, but he was.   Thank you for your testimony and helping me to have a platform to win some of those guys to Jesus. 

Your school years have flown by so quickly.   I am glad that you decided to stay home this past year so we could have more time together.   One thing you will learn as you grow older, you will note that time goes by ever faster.   That is one reason why I have emphasized living in the present tense for all these years.   Planning for the future is a good thing, but we only have the present to enjoy.   I pray that these next nine months will indeed be days of joy for you.

I wanted to mention a few suggestions to help you maximize your experience in Costa Rica.  Some of them I have talked to you about often, but I believe they will make a big difference.

(Little things have big consequences).  Here goes!

Manage your time well.   Live by a schedule.   Each day lay out a plan and live by that plan.   Someone said, “Plan your work and work your plan”.    Don’t procrastinate, but be ruthless about using your time in a productive way.   Sometimes the needs of others will arise and it will be necessary to adjust your schedule and God will honor that, too.

Be on time.  I learned from one of my leaders at Temple that “being ‘on time’ for a leader is late”.    Your leaders will take notice that you are early for meetings and are prompt. 

Take initiative.   Look for ways to contribute and help others quickly.   Leaders are not always those with the position and title or the most gifts, they are those that see the need first and respond to it.  

Grow in your relationship with God.   Make time for God in His Word every day.  Read the Bible in a strategic way.   Of course, a chapter of Proverbs a day will be great, but plow on in other books, too.    Pray every day using a list to organize your requests – personal needs, lost people, family, friends and other categories.   Make it a goal to memorize a passage of Scripture before you come home at Christmas.   The first chapter I ever memorized was Psalm 51.  It will keep your heart tender for God.

Stand alone.   Even in a Christian environment not everyone is walking with God.   There will be times when you will feel alone because of your convictions and beliefs, but you will have a clear conscience when you stand for what you believe. 

Stay true to your heritage.   You have an unusual background – and opportunity – in growing up in a pastor’s home.   You have been to many Bible conferences, youth camps, retreats and revivals – more than the average person.   You will meet people that will differ with you on Bible versions and music than you have been taught.   While they are good and sincere people, we believe these matters because of certain reasons.  I think you know that everything Dad does has a Bible reason and motive behind it.   So, while I don’t want you to be critical or negative, I do want you to be very careful about just following someone because of their charisma or giftedness.  

Keep a journal.  Faithfully write down experiences, memories and lessons.  Jordan, you will treasure this for the rest of your life. 

Well, I could go on, but that is enough.   I want you to know how very proud of you that I am.  May the next three months be the very best of your life.   Let us know if you need anything or just want to talk.   You are very special to me and I love you with all of my heart.


The night before Jordan left on his internship.

The night before Jordan left on his internship we went to a Braves game.

Someone said, “There are two ways to be a hypocrite: to say something kind without feeling it and to feel love or kindness for someone, but not to say it”.     Neither of the two are preferable – and neither make an impact or will result in a close relationship.

Paul Overstreet wrote a song called “What’s Going without Saying”.   I rarely listen to it without tears streaming down my face.   I want my family and my friends to indeed know that I do love them.    Here’s the lyric Paul wrote.

He stood looking at his father who was eighty-five years old,
He remembered all the ball games they played so long ago;
Then he put his arm around him and kissed him on the cheek,
He said Dad it’s time I told you what a friend you’ve been to me.

She stood in the kitchen doorway, all grown up with children, too,
Watching as her mama cooked just like she used to do;
She slowly walked up to her and she held her wrinkled hands,
She said do you know you are the greatest mom a daughter ever had.

‘Cause when you love someone you gotta let ’em know;
When you’re thinking of someone you need to tell ’em so.
Don’t know what makes us think our minds and our hearts can be read,
What’s going without saying should be said.

No one needs our roses when the sun of life’s gone down;
If you’re gonna send a message of your love then send it now.

Oh, I don’t believe I’ve let you hear the things you should have heard,
I don’t believe I’ve truly put my feelings into words;
‘Cause to me you are so beautiful, much more than words can say,
And if you don’t mind and you’ve got the time I’d like to try today.

‘Cause when you love someone you gotta let ’em know;
When you’re thinking of someone you need to tell ’em so.
Don’t know what makes us think our minds and our hearts can be read,
What’s going without saying should be said.

About familyencouragement

Pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama. Married for 41 years with seven children and nine grandchildren.
This entry was posted in Affirmation, Children, Encouragement, Family Issues, Father, Gratitude, Marriage, Mother, Parenting, Speech and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Power of a Personal Greeting

  1. Winona Smith says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I was very encouraged. My daughter Rebecca was with Jordan for those nine months in Costa Rica, and so this message was extra special for me as well. I’m very blessed that our families have crossed paths.

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