Seven Trends in Church Names

The call came from an eager young man starting a new church in Florida. He already had 50 people meeting in homes in Bible studies. They had secured a leased space to launch the church in just a few months. But they were having trouble coming to a consensus on the name of the church. What could I tell him about church names? Were there pitfalls or opportunities where they needed greater awareness for their church’s name?

While I could not provide a precise church name for their congregation, I could share with him these seven trends I had seen emerge. Perhaps “trend” is not the best choice of a word, since some of these issues have been around for quite a while.

  1. Newer churches are consistently using descriptors in their names other than denominational affiliation. Some are focusing on their location. Others are at least implying a distinctive doctrinal leaning. And still others are using more trendy and less common terms.
  2. Denominational names, though, are still dominant among church names. Though the information is four years old, did a fascinating study of church names. Some of their conclusions are still valid today. Denominational names still dominate, and “Baptist” is the major denominational name.
  3. The most common church name is “First Baptist.” Over 5,000 churches have this name. Of course, this name by itself does not specify which Baptist denomination; and there are many different denominations that have Baptist in their own name.
  4. Many words are becoming common in newer church names. Some of those words are Christ, Community, Fellowship, Assembly, Center, Chapel, Life, Faith, Bible, Grace, and New.
  5. Outsiders are often confused about church names. Several years ago, I did an informal survey of the preferred denomination among unchurched persons. The second most frequent response was the “Community” denomination. Of course, that denomination does not exist; but it is in a lot of church names.
  6. The Internet has led to shorter church names. Churches are choosing names that don’t become a long URL.
  7. Church names may be important, but they are not the most important factor in people choosing a church home. Relationships, personal invitations, good preaching, and friendly people, among other reasons, still trump the church name as the reason someone chooses a particular church.

One of the more challenging features of a church name takes place when the church is named for a location, but that location no longer exists. Or, perhaps, the church moved from that location. So if Hickory Avenue Community Church is no longer located on Hickory Avenue, guests may be confused by the name related to the location. Still, many churches tenaciously hold on to such names, even if it engenders confusion.

I also see a number of churches take a name after a church split. For example, a group of people split from the Harmony Church after an ugly church fight, and took on the new name of Greater Harmony Church.

I would love to hear your thoughts on church names. I also hope some of you can share some interesting and, perhaps, humorous church names of which you are aware.

Posted on April 23, 2014

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • Arnold Shrewsbury says on

    I was born and raised in Southern West Virginia. There was a community called “Hell.” Thus the Hell FreeWill Baptist Church.

  • carlos torres says on

    Great information, thank you. Would you happen to know when, more or less, in history churches began picking up names for themselves? Not necessarily along denominal lines such as Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian etc., but more moniker type names such as Triumph, Grace, Encounter etc.
    In his letters, Paul addresses the ekklesias at…; Jesus does so as well when addressing the 7 ekklesias in the book of Revelation. It seems like moniker type names are a fairly new phenomenon in the larger scope of church history.

  • David Schmidt says on

    My wife and I are tempted to start a church. I still am partial to “catchy name Chrch”????

  • Jason M. Hood says on

    As an Evangelist I have seen a wide variety of church names. There are a few which stick out in my mind from over the years; some because they were so strange and some because of their ambiguity. (Disclaimer – I have not preached in ANY of these churches. I only saw their names in passing.)

    Metamorphosis Worship Center

    Root of Jesse Star of David Fellowship of The Branch Messiah the King

    Guiding Light Tabernacle Non-Denominational Pentecostal Church

    Apostolic Faith New Testament House of Prayer Apostolic Church, Incorporated

    New Mt. Zion Highway Travelers Full Gospel Baptist Church of the Lord Jesus Christ

    The River (Note: There was absolutely nothing on this building to indicate that it was a church. I only found out because an area Pastor informed me that it was.)

    The Church for People Who Hate Going To Church

    The 30-Minute Church

    Lost: A Worship Experience

    And, my all time favorite:
    The Pentecostal Church That’s Not a Den of Thieves

    It’s weird out there.

  • ARE you REACHING OUT to Muslims and other non church-goers?? Having the word CHURCH in the name is a drawback. Some Muslim children started attending our church activities — They were allowed to come to the church HALL, but were discouraged by the parents from entering the Church building itself because it had the word CHURCH in its title. After a while they started attending the GOSPEL HALL, (run by the Brethren Church) which the parents allowed because it did NOT have the word CHURCH in its title. Since Muslims and many others do not have good feelings about the word CHURCH, groups which are considering a name change should consider reaching out to others. Also all CHURCHES no matter what the name should provide a leaflet describing their beliefs and goals, and their requirements for membership.

  • Claudette Elam says on

    I am writing an article for my thesis and ran across this site on names for a new church. The article gave me some ideas on what not to name your church.

    I preached in a church in MO called Doolittle Baptist Church and the name sure described the church.

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