The Challenge of Changing a Church Name
Thinking about changing the name of your church? There’s plenty of reasons to do it. After all, “Second Baptist Church of Whatever” isn’t exactly a magnet to anyone – particularly a younger generation. But whatever your reason for changing – losing the denominational connection, making it more current, or it’s just a meaningless name – there’s one thing you need to know:
It’s hard. Really hard.
If you’re looking for a unique church name in the 21st century, so many contemporary names have already been taken. It doesn’t mean you can’t use another church’s name you really like (pending legal clearances), but if your goal is to be the only church in the country with a unique name, then you need some professional help.
Think about it – Elevation, Eklesia, Mosaic, Life, Destiny, The Gate, The Bridge, Harvest, and hundreds more are all taken. So what do you do?
Our team at Cooke Media Group has walked numerous churches and ministries through the process of a name change. While it’s not for the faint of heart, the end result can be amazing. We work closely with the pastor and leadership team and take them through a creative process that helps develop the right name for the church – one that reflects your calling, mission, and vision.
The bottom line? Names matter. In a world where people decide in the first 4-8 seconds what they think of you, then no matter how great your preaching, worship, or community, if a bad name keeps them away, then you’ve failed.
So if you’re serious about changing your church name, don’t start with a list of cool, hip, names because that’s actually the last step in the process. Instead, start by talking to someone with experience. Someone who can help you make the right decisions and keep you from selecting a name you’ll regret for decades to come.
Two additional points. One is that the name must also be consistent with the brand. A young, hip, cool name for a church that is anything but young, hip, and cool just will not fit. Bike shorts on a 90-year-old man won’t make him seem any younger if they’re combined with his black socks and sandals. A name must not just be appealing and meaningful, but it must mean something in context with the brand.
The second thing is that research should be a critical contributor to the name choice. Names may mean something very different to the general public or to your target market than they mean to you, to the general Christian population, or seekers. The name you think sounds friendly and welcoming may sound harsh and nasty to people who are interpreting it differently from you. How often have you said something and had the listener interpret it in a completely different way than you meant it? The same thing happens with names.
I’ve tested a lot of names at Grey Matter Research, for everything from new SUVs to a new home development to ministry programs. I’ve watched names that the marketing team loves go down in flames for really good reasons when we put them in front of consumers. Had they not done the research, some of these clients would have made some really, really bad choices.
All excellent points Ron. You’re exactly right – research can make a real difference. I’ve been involved in focus groups and the results were a literal revelation to the church leadership. Never hurts to know what the congregation thinks… 🙂