Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Building Bridges: A World Religions Program for 8th-9th Grades

Alternate Activity 2: What's In a Name?

Activity time: 20 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Look up the meanings of participants' names and create a list.
  • Make copies of Handout 2 and the list of participants' names and meanings.

Description of Activity

Say, in your own words:

In ancient Jewish society, a person's name was considered a definition of who they were. The Bible has frequent stories of people who, following transformation, change their name or are assigned a new name by God. After Jacob (the Betrayer) wrestles with the angel of God, he is humbled and his life is completely changed. To honor this transformation, God renames him Israel (Wrestler with God). When Abram and Sarai conceive a child, and thus begin the Jewish line, God honors the event by renaming them Abraham and Sarah.

Many cultures practice this tradition when young people come of age. In many faiths, youth take the name of someone in their religious heritage whose life and works they admire and whom they would like to emulate in adulthood.

Distribute Handout 2 and the list of participants' names, and allow participants a few moments to review and discuss them.

Invite youth to consider what it would be like to have a name that defines who they are. Ask: If their name could represent what is most important to them or a personal goal or a significant aspect of their family's history or faith, what would that name be?

Distribute writing materials and invite youth to brainstorm for a few minutes. Encourage them to jot down anything that comes to mind-things they would want a name to say about them. Have youth review their lists and see what themes emerge.

Invite volunteers to share their ideas. Ask:

  • What makes those ideas meaningful enough to incorporate into your name?
  • Would you keep your name in its current language or would you change the language?

Have youth use their ideas and themes to research names. They can share their research in the next workshop.