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Monday, April 20, 2009

How To Choose A Church Name

Special update: I wrote a book for churches to give to first-time guests. It’s had a huge impact at bringing more people back as second-time guests and adding them into the church community. Get the Kindle version of Unforgettable: Your purpose in Christ here and the print version from Those outside the USA may need to order print copies from,, or
In my last post, 119 Cool Church Names, I explained my philosophy for selecting a church name. This last Sunday I announced the name to our core group. We surveyed Christians and unchurched people to find a name that would be attractive and acceptable to both. We wanted a one word name with the word "church" following it, and we wanted something original, hard to do these days. 

I had a number of people ask their friends which church they would be more likely to attend if they were invited by a friend or saw an advertisement. The four names we presented to our friends were:
  1. Message Church
  2. Crimson Church
  3. Destination Church
  4. Celebration Church 
Here are the results:

Message Church
Christians really liked this name. I personally liked it too. I got the idea when I glanced at my bookshelf and saw the Message paraphrase of The Bible by Eugene Peterson. Christians liked the simplicity and the theological strength of this name. It appeared to be a winner. However, nearly 100% of the unchurched and nonChristian people we asked about this name HATED it! It sounded preachy and redundant. Of course, those outside the church expect a church to have a message, and so, because it's in the very title of the church they felt like we REALLY had a message, perhaps a LONG and hell-bent message! This was eye opening. What Christians thought was a sound name with good meaning, nonChristians found repelling. This means Message Church is a poor choice if we want to attract unbelievers. 

Crimson Church
Christians were split on this name. Half the Christians we spoke to really liked it and half really didn't. It has some merit to be fair. It's artsy and young sounding, to help attract a new generation, and also has some strong theological meaning to it. Crimson is the color of blood. It represents the blood of Christ. Personally, I thought this could have worked well. However, most nonChristians disliked this name and found it suspicous. They didn't understand it. It gave them the feeling of being mystical and unclear. They felt immediately disconnected because it appears to be a name that Christians would understand, but they are somehow lacking in understanding. It is a barrier creating name. Some unchurched also felt that this sounded like a name for a TV Evangelist show! Yikes! That is a definate one to avoid. 

Destination Church
Over all this was well accepted. It was the second most popular pick among nonChristians. Christians also liked this name. There was a small percentage that thought it was a little bland or that the word had been overused, but this was a small group. It is true, tt has been used in some regards as a branding word, but it is not often used as the name of an organization. It still has originality. It has great theological meaning. Our destination is Jesus. Everything ultimately finds meaning in him. It speaks of purpose, clarity and goals. Most Christians thought it sounded strong and had lots of marketing potential. NonChristians shocked us with their opinion of this name. 90% of them really liked it. They understood it. It made sense to them and they thought it sounded pretty cool actually. Some even commented that they would expect to encounter spiritual truth at this church! Crazy! People from a relativistic society expecting truth! Amazing! This was the most favorable name for both Christians and nonChristians. 

Celebration Church
I personally disliked this name a lot. I thought it sounded happy clappy and weird. Nearly all Christians we surveyed thought the same thing. This name would potentially repell lots of new area Christians, which would not be a wise decision. However, and most surprisingly, this name was the MOST polular among nonChristians. Shocking! They liked it because it was positive and upbeat. They felt like church should be uplifting and so this name captured something good. They didn't really have the hangups that Christians had about it. In the end I felt it would not be smart to chose a name that Christians hated and nonChristians loved. We needed a cross over name. 

The Name?
The Newfrontiers Chicago Church Plant name will be Destination Church. There doesn't appear to be any churches in the world with this name, so it is highly original for a church name, and it is clear and attractive to both Christians and nonChristians. We feel it will be helpful for attracting city people, young families, students and young professionals. 

In the end a lot of this comes down to opinion. But the fact that this name doesn't turn people away is a positive. 

What do you think? 


Steve said...

Matt, Once again, I am blown away by your thorough approach to things. Great job. We are praying for you guys. Glad to hear about the meeting yesterday. Destination Church: I like it.

Jenn said...

I love it! What a great way to think about a naming project. Can't wait to make Destination Church a destination for us to see y'all soon!

Amie said...

I concur x 2! ...Destination Church ...yep's just so focused and roomy at the same time. I like-y like-y!

Phil Blount said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anders Svedstam said...

Really interesting! We´re in the "naming-process" in our churchplant here in Sweden and this gives us some good thoughts. And Destination Church is an attractant name. Blessings!