Sunday, December 6, 2015

Is Your Church Liquid? Or, What's in a Name.

A church in my neighbourhood is thinking about a name change. Its current name is taken from its location and denomination; so far, the new names being suggested are mostly variations on the same theme. Maybe what they need to do is really step out of the proverbial box and come up with something radical, like many churches are doing today.

There was a time when it was easy to name a church. All a congregation needed to do was follow a few simple guidelines. 

If you were Protestant, always include the denomination: Baptist, Nazarene, Mennonite, Pentecostal, etc.

In order to be easily found, include geography, using either a street name or location.

For churches lacking in imagination, chronology was helpful: First Baptist, Second Church of Christ, Scientist or Third Presbyterian. 

Saints were also a great source of names, especially for Catholics and mainline Protestants. So were biblical concepts like Epiphany, Faith, Grace, Abundant Life, Immaculate Conception or Miracle, to name a few. 

Those simple days seem are long gone. 

Blogger Dennis Baker took a look around the U.S. and came across the following names for churches: 

  • Resonate
  • Revolution
  • Radiance
  • Mosaic
  • Encompass
  • Soma
  • Journey
  • Solomon’s Porch
  • Celebration
  • Legacy
  • Encounter
  • The Well
  • Carpenter’s
  • Flipside
  • Substance
  • The Orchard
  • The Pursuit
  • Liquid
  • The Table

And dozens more.

Unique church names are not only found in the U.S.Winnipeg, where I live, has a few, as well, such as Soul Sanctuary, Oasis, Springs, The Bridge, Solidrock, Church of the Rock, Faithworks 4 U, The Meeting Place and The Den.

What’s driving the changes? The same thing that’s driving name changes in the business world: The need to stand out in an increasingly noisy and cluttered marketplace.

In this case, it’s the marketplace of theological ideas. People want a name that sticks out—one that arouses curiosity and sticks in the mind of those who might be seeking a church home.

People also want names that stand out on the Internet. There are a lot of First Baptists out there, but how many churches do you think are named Liquid? (It’s in New Jersey, in case you’re interested.)

But how to come up with a new name? One way is to ask the congregation what they like. Or you could do what Matt Sweetman, a church planter in Chicago, did. 

When it was time to find a name for his new church, Sweetman came up with a list of names and then did a survey in the community.  

In selecting potential names, his first criteria was that it had to be simple: “One or two words with the word ‘church’ after it,” he wrote on his blog. “People need to know we are a church, so having ‘church’ [in the name] is important to me.”

He also wanted it to be attractive for people who didn’t go to church, but not one that alienated Christians.

It had to be “something non-traditional, because we are targeting a younger urban crowd, yet something not too wacky that would turn away Christians who are looking for a church,” he said.

The four names that rose to the top for consideration were: Message Church, Crimson Church, Destination Church and Celebration Church.

Church members then went out in the neighbourhood and asked people: “Purely based on the name, which church would you be most likely to visit if a friend invited you or if you saw an advertisement?”

The winner? Destination Church—that was the name that was most appealing.

In addition to being original, he wrote, “it has great theological meaning. Our destination is Jesus. Everything ultimately finds meaning in him. It speaks of purpose, clarity and goals. Most Christians thought it sounded strong and had lots of marketing potential. 

"Non-Christians shocked us with their opinion of this name. 90 percent of them really liked it. They understood it. It made sense to them and they thought it sounded pretty cool, actually.”

So, what’s in a name? It should be memorable, reflect congregational character and beliefs, and arouse a curiosity.

That, plus be easy to find on the Internet. 

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