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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  • When I first heard of old my church “Freedom Church”, the name ‘sounded’ liberal and/or charismatic–oddly, it was thoroughly conservative. lol

  • Dempsey Kraft says on

    When I was in school in Shawnee, OK, we regularly drove by Pink Baptist Church in Pink, OK.

  • I have heard of a ‘#1 Church of God in Christ’ church in Oroville.

  • After years of deliberation my parents church changed their name from Madras Conservative Baptist Church to Madras Cornerstone Baptist Church. A huge factor was keeping the same initials of MCBC! Also conservative didn’t have the same meaning as it did when the church started; newcomers thought itxwas X a political statement rather than something about “conserving the truth” and not going liberal– what it meant in the 30’s.
    I live in a differe not city and go to Outward church- which is a conversation piece and can also be confusing to the public.

  • Not far from where I grew up, there’s a church called “Church of God” in Zillah, WA.

  • Greg Drummond says on

    When I worked for field education at Briercrest College in Saskatchewan, Canada we sent out a number of ministry teams to the surrounding towns and churches. One of those towns was Eyebrow, SK – the church: “Eyebrow Free Methodist Church”.

  • Funniest church name I have seen in my town is “Faith Free Lutheran Church.” Punctuation is key here. Faith. Free Lutheran Church.

  • There was a traditional-looking church in rural Alabama, outside of Mobile, I used to drive past called “Perfect Alternative Baptist Church”… I always wondered, alternative to what?

  • Just saw a Mt. Transfiguration Baptist Church the other day.

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