In this episode of Church Planters Ask, host Danny Parmelee answers the question, what’s important when choosing a church name?
Here are some suggestions Danny posed during the episode that you should consider when choosing a church name:
Step # 1: Look at a list of names and then start “name storming“.
To help you get started, here a list of over 200 church names:
Pay attention to names that resonate with you and those that don’t.
You can start circling ones that you like or writing down variations or new combinations. So maybe you liked the name ValleyBrook church and City Lights Church… but it inspires you to come up with Valley Lights Church. You get the idea.
So just like naming a baby, I think you should generate a large list of existing names that you like.
Step 2: Narrow down your list.
Start by sharing your church name ideas with others.
Over time, you’ll probably start seeing some of the names you originally liked drop off the list, and others rise to the top.
Here’s a tip: once you have your list down to 5-6 names, you should be asking non-Christians which names appeal to them.
Why do this?
Well I’d argue that Christians are notorious for coming up with some of the cheesiest, most cliche names.
As a church plant, you are really hoping to reach those that don’t know Christ and aren’t part of a church.
As a double bonus, it allows you to strike up conversation with them about spiritual things.
This is what I did when we planted a church in Milwaukee, WI.
I literally went to coffeeshops and parks, and had my list of names, and asked complete strangers, “Hey, could you give a moment of your time? Which of these names appeals most to you?”
I also gave this list to others that were starting to form the launch team and had them do the same.
It was a great way to train soft evangelism skills and engrain into our culture early on : that our church plant would engage in spiritual conversations with non-believers AND value what they had to say.
Part of narrowing down the list is thinking through negative connotations.
Did anyone else when naming their child think through how that name would be used negatively on the playground? Or what accidental nick names would come about!
Think through how your church name might be misinterpreted or have negative connotations.
You also have to be careful of unintentional association.
For example, using names that contain recognizable big churches that have gone through bad things.
So Mars Hill, Harvest, Willow: though you may have zero connection, subconsciously and consciously, people can associate you with them.
Even churches with a good reputation like Life Church might be names to avoid. Because people again may wrongly assume that you are connected.
Step 3: Find the balance between uniqueness and clarity.
I can speak to this from personal experience. I shared how we went around and asked people which name they liked. Keep in mind that we were next to a university and reaching primarily 20-somethings. The name that rose to the top was epic 2:42. 2:42 of course being a reference to Acts 2:42, the description of the early church.
Well after some time, I felt like having a number in the name wasn’t the best idea and it felt too much like a youth group name.
So I had the brilliant idea to just use the first word epic but to really jazz it up use the greek form of the word. That word is “epikos”. Not even found in the bible. And side note it caught on as epikose (not even pronounced properly) because its hard to say.
Keep in mind that our church was being formed during the emerging church movement so there was this kind of rebellious attitude towards organized religion.
So my second brilliant idea was not to even use the word church in our name. We didn’t want to be a church….. we wanted to be a “Christian Spiritual Community”
Man we were so edgy and cool you wouldn’t even believe it.
Well we hit the uniqueness out of the park!
No one had ever named their church that.
We were the first! 2004. You can look it up. There are others now.
Now, there was an advantage to this uniqueness.
When people did start talking about epikos, the name was so unique that it caught people’s attention.
But there was a major downside and that was it was confusing.
I’ll start with the fact that we didn’t have church in the name.
All of our signs, marketing, or even conversation left out the word church.
So imagine that we put up a poster somewhere and people just have NO IDEA what it was. While maybe there would be an intrigue factor, most people didn’t give it a second look.
And then when people did start asking what it was and I would do everything I could to avoid the word church…”we’re a Christian spiritual community”
they just had a weird look on their face.
It was after a few conversations where people were like “i’m looking for a church” that I was like, “oh, well that is what we are.”
We eventually changed our name to epikos church. Which helped somewhat.
But even after 10 years I would meet people in the community and introduce myself as the pastor of epikos church.
]They would respond “Oh, that Greek church on the corner of National and Greenfield.”
In their minds they saw our name and assumed that we were a greek orthodox church…
that would have priest in robes and long beards and gold icon jewelry.
I never thought our unique name would be so misunderstood.
All that to say, put on a very critical thinking hat and think through how your names could be be misunderstood.
Now I am not suggesting that you go with a common generic name like Grace Bible Church or Faith Fellowship.
According to Thomas Rainer The most common church name in the US is “First Baptist Church”– over 5,000 churches in the USA have that name. Not sure its the best name for your church plant.
No, I’m not suggesting you play it safe and throw out creativity.
If you do that, you might lose out on expressing that God is doing something new and unique in this church body that you are shepherding and leading.
I know its only a name, but its part of the communication of what God is doing: so find that balance of creativity without being confusing.
Last step before you name your baby:
Step 4. Make sure the name is available.
Most church names are not trademarked, but you should check with your state to make sure you can use the name.
Most states have a website on their Department of Revenue where you can check to see.
Secondly, you may want to check what domain names are available for your church website.
This isn’t a deal breaker, as you can get creative, but it is good to check and maybe if you’re down to two names and one has the domain available, it becomes the winner.
Finally, a word about using your city name or neighborhood name.
The upside to using the city name or neighborhood is that you create clarity of your location and people you serve.
It also might be part of your vision to be very committed to a specific neighborhood.
The downside is that your church plant could move from one neighborhood or even from one community to the next.
This happens VERY often, especially in a metropolitan area.
If you move sometimes even a couple miles over, you are in a different suburb: and I always find it odd when the church name mentions a nearby city that doesn’t match the meeting address.
All this to say that this is a fun process but should also be given thought and time.
Step 5: Include others in the process.
Finally, if you think you have a creative name for your church or want some advice on your top choices please contact me or leave it in the comments below.
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