What’s in a (Church) Name?

I had a great conversation with a leader from a church in Mississippi yesterday on the topic of changing
their church’s name. They had connected with Auxano founder Will Mancini’s 5 Strategic Reasons to Change Your Church’s Name blog post and were interested in seeing if we could help navigate their decision making process.

That discussion got me to thinking… what is in a church name? 

It seems like there are generally (this has not been researched and is not a scientific study) 3 categories of church names, in some way derived by Geography, Theology or Mission.

Geographic driven names, lately are more derived from the locale or immediate context of the church than just the City. For at least 100 years though, geography was as primary driver behind every town’s First Methodist, Baptist or Presbyterian church name. The mid 90‘s to somewhere around 2008 (on the heels of Saddleback, Willow, and NorthPoint) seem to be the apex of the regional or location-driven church name movement. As the photo illustrates, not all city names translate into good church names…

Theological names more often than not include some form of denominational identification, but the stronger ones seem to couple an aspect of belief or reference to Christ in them. Strong aspirational ties to Grace or Faith or Mercy can also serve as a good belief-reminder to the body for visionary leaders.

Last, and admittedly favorite to me as a lead navigator, are the Mission driven names. Using a combination of belief and action, churches with names like Faithbridge, or Harvest Church seem to exude movement and growth. Missional names can be a catalyst to live out the church’s calling and connect to the heart of the community they are trying to reach.

Some friends are launching a church plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee next month, and they chose Mission over Geography or Theology. Based on the name they chose, the church has a lot to live up to from day 1. But when your clarity journey has led to a mission to “transform everyday people through active faith in Jesus Christ,” a name like Dynamic Church can be a call to action every time it is used.

I am sure there are also combinations of the three naming conventions, and probably some church names that exist outside of geography, theology or mission… can you think of any more?

Here is a list of some church names that Auxano has partnered with through the years.

Out of curiosity, what is your church’s name, and if you know why, why?