Choosing a Church Name

May 12, 2005 by

What’s in a name? Everything. More and more churches are considering a name change, often dropping denominational affiliations that no longer connect with people (though the denominational ties remain intact) or dropping language that’s no longer relevant.

“My feeling is that we will improve our ability for someone who drives by to say, ‘I might try them someday,'” said Rev. Bruce Stryd of Thornton Avenue Baptist Church in Fremont, Calif., which is considering changing its name and dropping the ‘Baptist’ title because their church doesn’t fit the Baptist stereotype.

A name change can be costly as everything from signs to web sites to business cards to checks will need to be redone. Harbor Light—formerly First Assembly of God—in Fremont, Calif. has found a way to cut some of the costs: “We’re not changing the legal name. We will retain the corporate name of First Assembly of God, but it’s more like we’re also doing business as Harbor Light,” said pastor Terry Inman.

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Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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9 Responses to “Choosing a Church Name”

  • srotpar
    May 12, 2005

    I don’t know if there is much in a name as many people think. There have been far too many examples of churches that have changed their names but haven’t changed thei vision. The church you mention in Fremont sounds like a name change would be useful, but I think the most important thing is making sure that your name fits your vision.
    We’re called “the Annex” cause we want to be that thing that helps people to feel more comfortable in their initial contacts with God through Christ. We also think a relationship with God brings a better understanding of the value God has on each of our lives (all of humankind). Finally, it’s also a great way to help people within our church remember our vision.

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  • scott hodge
    May 13, 2005

    we changed the name of our church about three years ago and it was one of the best moves we’ve ever made. we dropped the denominational title and renamed our church, “Orchard Valley Community Church” – and now we refer to our church as, “The Orchard.”
    but not only did we change the name, we changed the entire philosophy and culture of our church as well. in fact, we initially waited to change our name until after we made a big shift in our weekend progamming (a big external change), which eventually led to a huge internal cultural change.
    Changing our name and getting rid of the denominational title helped us reach a segment of unchurched people who had stereotyped our denomination. but – i agree w/ srotpar above, changing the name only isn’t going to get the job done.

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  • Cryptblade
    May 22, 2005

    I think what Scott said that was the key difference is that his church changed philosophy and culture. I think if the name change changes the church internally, then you’ll see the difference. My church has the name Baptist in the name – but go to a service and it’s anything BUT baptist. We dont change the name because our philosophy, service, and culture are not affected by the name. Membership is not at all affected by the name.
    I don’t see how a church with a DBA from one name to another makes a difference. You still suffer from the same cost concerns like business cards, letterheads, etc.

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  • Eustis Habighorst
    February 28, 2006

    We are looking at changing the name of our church for several reasons: We are building outside of town, which means we are changing our location entirely. The name has been with the church since 1941 and a sense of “change” and “freshness” has being felt by the ministry team. Also, the church has asked to consider it so that the comdmunity doesn’t feel a sense of “denomination” loyalty. So, we are considering it, but does one consider using a company that helps the business world to come up with a name? They are very expensive ($7,500 to $25,000) and I believe if the end result is a fabulous it would be worth it. As you may know, a new buildng has so many other costs that need attention.
    How can we go about getting the right name for us? We do have a mission statement, purpose statement, etc. We did survey the church for names and have a list. Honestly, nothing seemed to jump out at us. Help

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  • Ryan Cooper
    March 11, 2006

    I appreciate the ongoing dialogue about a name change and its potential to influence a change in the church climate. We are looking for ways to bring a freshness, and vitality to a tired congregation suffering from burnout. I agree with the sentiments that without an internal assessment and transformation of vision and direction a change of name has little to no power to draw people closer to a relationship with Christ.

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  • Sophie Highton
    December 21, 2006

    Hay guys, i just want to ask you all where you’re at, because reading some of these comments i questioned whether you understood the whole reason for changing a name — it’s not the same thing as changing the culture unless the name change is representing that. it is about seeing the church and the names we give our churches from a non-churched person’s point of view… what does ‘baptist’ or ‘the new life’ or ‘the reformed tabernacle’ mean to someone who isn’t a Christian and doesn’t know our jargen? Because surely if we are to reach a lost generation, we should be using language, names and stories that they understand – as Jesus Himself did.

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  • kristopher
    April 29, 2008

    im tracking with the post right above mine. probably a silly question, but why does a church even need a name?
    so that when people give money they can put it on the check…? this and corporate marketing? neither of which would be allowable in times of persecution. not that we have to adhere to ministry philosophy during persecuted eras, but what is absolutely essential to a successful ministry? what is more important, our name or our impact in the comunity? who cares if name recognition causes people to know who we are and what we stand for… btw CenterPoint says nothing to a lost person. its only attractive to members of another church. our impact in the community should be such that they are changed by the power of the gospel. not to go super-spiritual here, but its the name of Christ we want them to remember most.
    not that i think a church should not have a name; ive actually spent hours thinking of oa cool name for a church someday. just trying to get to the heart of the matter. why do i want one so badly? i obviously need help getting there. smile

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  • sop
    November 9, 2009

    what if two churches have same name but at the end one finish with assembly and the other one with ministries? does it affect the pastors? anything confusing in it? what about the law?

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  • Brandon
    December 7, 2011

    I am in the process of planting a church in western NC. In the conversations that I have had with folks, especially unchurched people, I find they are losing trust in churches because “the Baptists (or the Methodists, or the Lutherans, or the Assemblies of God) are going incognito.” I frequently hear them tell me they “feel deceived.”

    I have heard from many pastors from various denominations that claim they “dropped” the denominational name because their church doesn’t “fit” the denomination’s standards. Yet, they still are deeply connected with the denomination.

    When I think about it, I think what I hear the pastor saying is: “My denomination has built a bad reputation because of positions we have taken or things we have done in the past, and we are ashamed to publicly be associated with it.” So, maybe the unchurched people are right.

    I feel strongly if your church is going to be affiliated with the Baptist, the Methodist, the Lutheran (etc) denominations then you should be upfront with people about it. We really need “truth in advertising” when it comes to denomination-affiliated churches who are going “undercover.” You can call yourself Crossroads Church… but disclose the tagline should read “Affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.” Ultimately if you are going to be affiliated with the SBC (or any denomination) then you should have no problem being honest with people.

    The sin of omission is just as bad as the sin of commotion. Just the opinion of a church planter who has had numerous conversations with people from all over the country… especially unchurched people who every church should be called to reach.

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