What’s In a Church Name?

Including denominational name has both negative and positive impact

Last year, Hayden Heights Baptist Church in St. Paul changed its name to The Heights Church.  The change to a more modern-sounding name without a denominational reference was part of an effort to restart the 89-year-old church.

The Heights Church is not the only church dropping denominational references.  More and more churches are leaving denominational references out of their name, according to a recent National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) poll of its member churches. Of those that responded to the poll, 63 percent of churches did not have a denominational reference in their church name.

According to the NAE, Grey Matter Research and Consulting conducted a study last year to see how people viewed referencing denominations in church names. In general, the findings were favorable to church names without references to the denomination.

Unchurched people were more likely to see the churches as welcoming and to consider visiting a church without a denominational reference in its name. Both churchgoers and unchurched people were less likely to view them as “formal, rigid and old-fashioned,” according to the research group. “The lack of denominational reference is also three times more likely to lead people to feel that the church is open-minded,” according to the study referenced by the NAE.

Not all the findings were positive for church names without denominational affiliation. Most people saw leaving the denomination out of the church name as a sign that the church was covering up its beliefs. People were more likely to feel uncertain about these churches.  Churchgoers were more likely to see churches with denominational names as welcoming and places they would consider visiting.

More and more churches are not including denominational references in their name. According to Grey Matter Research and Consulting, the choice is likely to bring both positive and negative outcomes.

By staff writer Priscilla Lundquist

May 2, 2014