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Church Names: 10 Tips for Church Planters and Rebranding Churches

A church planter friend of mine bounced some potential church names off me for his forthcoming church plant. After speaking with him, I began to think more about some practical thoughts on how to name a church.

church names

Below are ten thoughts. This list is neither perfect nor exhaustive. These tips are highly subjective and there is, of course, much room for disagreement. I’m also writing from the western part of the world, so perhaps the following may or may not apply if you live far away in a different direction. The advice is for church planters or those doing a rebrand for an existing church.

Church Names for Church Planters and Rebranding Churches

In no particular order:

1. Put the term “church” in your name.

Shocker, I know. But I think if you’re about to start a church, then what you’re about to start should be reflected in the name. End the church name with the word “church.”

Maybe you’ve seen church names like Hope Fellowship or St. Peter’s Assembly or Mercy Community Chapel or The Gathering. These churches can obviously be healthy and biblical. But the names are, to me, a little weak because they fail to reflect what the organization actually is, a church.

2. Tread carefully with Greek or Latin words in your church name.

Coram Deo or Imago Dei (on the Latin side), or Doxa or Soma (on the Greek side) are beautiful expressions that portray biblical truth. They would be strong church names and indeed should be considered as you plant or rebrand. But they are not easily understandable names for all skeptics and most Christians. They also may give the impression of elitism.

That doesn’t mean you can’t put Greek or Latin or Hebrew or whatever else in your church name. But it does mean that your church website should clearly articulate what the name means, and every staff member should know how to handle multiple types of questions about the name. You should also expect to answer the question, “What does your church name mean?” a thousand times. But this might be the best part of having a name like this: it gives you free reign to express your heart about the name and potentially capture the heart of the inquirer.

So by all means, put that expression nobody’s ever heard of in your church name. Just be sure that you, your staff, and your website can competently field questions about the name.

3. Avoid trendy or shallow church names.

I’ve heard some church names that are so off-putting they make me want to gag. Once I heard a pastor poke fun about a church named “Oxygen,” and he joked as to whether people went there to meet with Jesus or Justin Timberlake. I’m not going to mention some of the trendy and shallow church names here because I don’t want to unnecessarily offend anyone (although I’m sure a few of us would get a good laugh together). I’m all for being relatable, just be sure there’s some depth and meaning behind your name, too.

4. Consider brevity.

All Saints of John Calvin the Reformed Fellowship Church is too long. You can add “fellowship” or “community” in the middle of the church name, but once you go past, say, four words, it’s getting too long.

5. Consider the power of imagery.

You might know Tim Keller as the former Senior Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, but before landing on “Redeemer,” he and his wife almost went with Christ the King, going so far as to already having materials printed with the name (you can read about it here). They had a change of heart when a missionary presented the name “Redeemer” in light of the beautiful imagery it portrays. The rest, as they say, is history.

6. Consider what you will gain or lose by putting your denomination’s name in the church name.

Should you put Presbyterian or Baptist or Lutheran or Methodist or Evangelical Free Church in your church name?

There are usually two sides to this debate. The first side says you shouldn’t do so because if you do, you’ll automatically lose people who don’t identify with your denomination. When people do a Google search for “churches near me” and see “Baptist” on a name, they think, “I’m not Baptist. Looks like I won’t be going there.” These church leaders are thinking of barriers to entry.

The second side says you should include your denomination in your church name because if you don’t, you’re not being true to you’re identity. You might be coming off as deceptive or sneaky. Besides, there may be a few Baptists who do that Google search thing you’re talking about and just might come. These church leaders are thinking about authenticity.

I see a case for both sides. Whatever you decide, be sure you have strong convictions about where you land.

7. Consider a name that aligns with the geographical location and people you’re trying to reach.

I live in St. Louis which is known as the “Gateway to the West.” The term “Gateway” is included in many businesses and organizations around here. As soon as a St. Louis native sees “Gateway” they might think, “Ah. A St. Louis business. I’ll support them.” And yes, there are a lot of churches with the name “gateway” in it. My point is that the word is both contextual and understandable by the natives.

Wherever you plant, consider a church name that the people whom you are trying to reach can identify with.

8. Consider the church names of already established churches in your area.

Chance are there are probably a few other churches in your area with the word “grace” in it. It’s fine if you add another. And if you get a sense from the Lord that you should call it that, then you must obey. But if you don’t feel the Lord tugging you either way, you probably don’t want to have the same exact church name as another church in your town. Doing so will only lead to confusion and headache for both churches.

9. Make sure your wife is on board with the name.

Although your launch team and the opinions of your church elders and leaders matter, don’t forget about your wife. You don’t want your wife to dislike the name.

10. Pray for the Lord’s guidance.

I’ll save the best for last for those of you still with me. Pray and ask the Lord for help. I don’t want to sound hyper-spiritual, and certainly I’m not suggesting for you to wait for a sign in the sky or for an audible voice. All I’m saying is that it’s good to ask the Lord for wisdom and guidance. It’s his church, anyway.

Congrats on starting a church or for the decision to rebrand your existing one. I hope these tips help you as you prayerfully consider a church name.

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About David Qaoud

David Qaoud (MDiv, Covenant Theological Seminary) is associate pastor of Bethesda Evangelical Church in St. Louis, Missouri, and founder of gospelrelevance.com. His work has appeared on The Gospel Coalition, For the Church, and Banner of Truth. He lives in St. Louis with his wife and son. You can follow him on Twitter.