One of my seminary profs recently told me a story. He met up with an old friend who recently became the pastor of a certain church. “Oh?” the seminary professor asked his friend, “What’s the name of the church?” “It’s such-and-such Church,” the friend responded. Being a Hebrew linguist, the seminary professor said, “Did you know that your church name means ‘House of Iniquity’ in Hebrew?” Obviously the pastor didn’t know that. Neither would most people. Nonetheless, the pastor returned to his church, called a business meeting, and promptly changed the church name. Thus, the “House of Iniquity Church” moniker was replaced with something more innocuous.
Most pastors don’t have the privilege of choosing their church name. In many cases, church names live as long as the church does. Sometimes, however, a church name change is in order. Other times, a church may just be getting started and a name must be selected. So, what’s the best approach to take with naming your church? Well, here are some of the most common categories.
The Denominational Church Name
Sometimes, a church name is chosen with a denominational tag. The most common one, of course, is “Baptist.” Putting “Baptist Church” in your title is a pretty safe go, especially if you’re a baptist church. Of course, if you’re not baptist, feel free to pick “Presbyterian,” “Methodist,” “Lutheran,” “Episcopal,” etc. This is a common type of church name to choose, and people can prepare for what to expect if they know the denominational category.
The Spiritual Lingo Church Name
Sometimes, you may want to throw a little spiritual pizzaz in a church name, just to give it that little extra kick. This kind of church name often involves stringing together a series of words by which you want to be characterized. “Bible Baptist Grace Ministry Fellowship Unity Assembly of God Community Church” is a good example of a church name in this category. Another sample is “Grace and Peace Family Life Ministry New Life Hope Glory Heaven Scripture Fellowship Church.” (Please keep in mind that you want your name to fit on one church sign.)
The Geographical Church Name
An easy way to select your church name is to name it after the city, community, or neighborhood. This doesn’t always work, of course. Sometimes, the city name isn’t very conducive to being part of a church name. If your church is located in Boring OR, Looneyville TX, or Hell MI, Odd WV, try a different approach.
The Number Game Church Name
The number approach isn’t as effective any more. It used to be that a church could be planted in a city and have the claim to fame of being the “First.” Thus, the name “First Baptist Church,” or “Second Presbyterian” are quite common. In fact, in the United States, there are over 5,000 churches named “First Baptist.” If your city doesn’t have a “First Baptist,” you might be able to claim it. As a city grows and has a lot of churches, the numbers name game doesn’t work so well. There’s not a whole lot of distinction in being “Thirty Third Baptist Church” of your city.
The Normal Church Name
Sometimes, the best way to go with your church name is with a very normal one. You have three options: Grace Bible Church, Fellowship Baptist Church, Grace Community Church.
The Ubertrendy, Hipster, Latte, Mac, Soul Patch, Postmodern, Contemporary, Missional, Church Name
For a growing number of churches, choosing a church name involved selecting something that is attention-grabbing and exciting. The Edge Church, for example, has a very exciting sound to it. It makes you feel as if the church will be edgy or somehow dangerous, as if teetering on the edge of a steep precipice. You may wish to select a Greek or Hebrew word, the meaning of which is shrouded in mystery. For example, Ekklesia, Agape Assembly, Musterion Church, and Charismatos Church fall into the category of Greek loan word church names. If your church is characterized by loud music, you may wish to select a name like Rhythm Church, Pulse Church, Beat Church, or Dynamic Church (all of which are actual church names). Sometimes, finding the name of a particularly tasty coffee will work as a church name. That way, people who are trendy enough to know that coffee name may think that your church is a coffee shop and will be tempted to come. One good rule of thumb is this: choose a verb (a very active and motion-oriented verb) and then put “church” on the end. Propulsion Church is a good example of this, as is “Embark Church.” Obviously, putting .tv at the end of your church name is also a very cool thing to do.
The Non-Church Church Name
Perhaps you should drop the name “church” altogether. The word “church” is a dead giveaway if you are trying to attract people to more of a coffee-shop community than a church. For this type of church naming process, the words Community, Village, Center, Assembly, or People are great options.
Better Church Names
If you reject all the stereotypes above, you’ve still got some decision-making ahead. Here are some bona fide church naming tips that will get you thinking on the right track.
- Choose a church name with meaning. Names are special and should have some significance, rather than merely being trendy or cutting-edge. Choose something that will give your people and your community something to think about when they come across your church name. No, you shouldn’t have a long and wordy church name, but you should have something with meaning.
- Choose a church name that is simple. Church names shouldn’t be tongue-twisters. A church name that consists of a long phrase is hard to remember. Keep it simple.
- Choose a church name that is memorable. With nearly 400,000 churches in America today, you probably won’t come up with a church name that is both original and appropriate. However, try to think of something that is memorable without being off-the-wall. Familiar church names tend to get forgotten. Choose something that is easy to remember.
- Choose a church name that is reverent. The “church” isn’t a building; the church is an assembly of God’s people who meet for the purpose of corporate worship, prayer, teaching fellowship, and obedience to God’s commands. It’s not important to pick a name that makes people so curious that they just have to see it. A reverent church name does not mean that you must choose a boring church name. Instead, choose a church name that places the focus upon God, not upon how cool or relevant your church wants to be.