Monday, April 29, 2013

How important is your name?

The Bible teaches, “A good name is more desirable than great riches. (Proverbs 22:1)”

Parents will carefully choose a child's name. It is usually the first important decision they make about their child. Businesses will hire the best marketing firm they can afford to name a new product line; one that will make their product fly off the shelf. New church starts are as concerned about finding the right name as prospective parents and big corporations. They try to find a name that says something about their church and will attract people to it.

Often a number of churches will select similar or identical names. This indicates either a movement of the Holy Spirit or a human tendency to follow popular fads. The fact that some churches with hip names survive and others fail, is a sign that there is more to a church than a name.

It is popular today remove a church's denominational label from it's name. Some view their denominational identity as a liability but, rather than withdrawing, they remain in the denomination and pull a religious bait and switch.

Despite the popularity of some very large non-denominational churches, the fact is that most people who attend church regularly do so at a church with a denominational label. Moreover, many large, successful churches use their denomination in their names. Again, there is more to a church than a name.

Whether it is a person, a product, a company or a church, a good name is a product of positive actions. It is maintained by protecting its reputation. One well-known church name is Willow Creek Community Church. According to Senior Pastor, Bill Hybels, its name was selected hastily at a lawyer's office while completing some initial legal documents. They named the church after the Willow Creek Theater where they were meeting.

Name changes are often needed in a church or business whose reputation has been stained by scandal. Otherwise a change must be carefully weighed against the costs. First there is the obvious cost of replacing the signage, stationary and business cards. Don't forget forms, brochures, banners, etc.

Second, there is the political cost of convincing the church membership that a name change is a good idea. Some members will have emotional ties to the name and others just cannot handle any change. Will it be worth the residual ill will?

Finally, there is the marketing cost. Unless you are making a clean break with the past, how are you going to let your friends know that you're still the same church but with a different name? It takes time and money to create name recognition. It is naive to think that people will flock to your church just because you have a “cool” name.

The best type of marketing, whether church or business, is word of mouth. That can be free for a church whose members believe in their church's mission, feel the presence of God in worship and grow spiritually through church activities. It is better to spend your physical and spiritual energies (and finances) on things that will build your churches reputation than on a name change.

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; 
bind them around your neck, 
write them on the tablet of your heart. 
Then you will win favor and a good name 
in the sight of God and man.
 Proverbs 3:3-4 (NIV)

1 comment:

Diana Aranda-Curtis said...

This is very true and I can relate to name change because I grew up thinking that being Hispanic was the worse thing one could be. And because I was a shame of my name, I started to write my name as Diane and not Diana. I hated when people would call my name at my doctor appointments because they would enunciate Diana with such a Spanish annunciation. I was Diane for almost 40 years before I realize that my name did not matter. What matter is who I was and how I treated others. My name said nothing about who I was; it only gave me an identity. :)