Do you know how to rename your church?
Renaming your church is no small decision. But once you’ve decided to rename your church, it’s hard to know where to begin choosing a new name or how to communicate it with the community in a way that gets people excited.
Bob Ingle is the lead pastor of Waypoint Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in the west suburbs of St. Louis.
Last week, we talked about how he got his staff and key leadership on board with moving away from their old name — First Baptist Church of Harvester — and trying something new. (Watch the video or read the article here.)
After prayerful and intentional engagement with his team, the staff and congregation agreed renaming the church would help them reach more people. Only then did they move forward to select and launch a new name.
Waypoint’s heart and practical approach make a lot of sense to us. They did this right.
Here is what we believe were the keys to their success. Bob and his team:
- Got the “yes” vote to move forward with a name change before choosing a new name
- Involved people in the entire process
- Used ten filters to narrow down name options
- Created swag that would get people excited and connected to the new name
- Constructed a creative and intentional strategy for online engagement
(FYI, we edited some of the quotes below for clarity and flow.)
Ten filters to use when renaming your church
Choosing the right name was necessary; they approached renaming the church both prayerfully and pragmatically.
Bob, Ryan, and the rest of the leadership team wanted to involve the congregation, so they called for name submissions. There were tons of options, and that could have been overwhelming.
But the church applied these ten filters to simplify the process.
- Are there negative double meanings in name, abbreviations, or nicknames?
- Is this name already used by another local or well-known church?
“We were First Baptist Church Harvester, and there was another large church down the road called Harvester Christian Church that was known as ‘Harvester.’ We were often confused for one another.”
- Is it unique? Are there competing references to well-known companies or brands?
- Is it limited by location or physical appearance?
- Is it easy to say and spell?
- Will end up colloquially abbreviated or shortened?
From Ryan: “We experienced this. ‘First Baptist Church Harvester’ became ‘Harvester’ and then ‘FBCH.’ We lost brand notoriety with those iterations and sent confusing messages to the community because our signs didn’t say either of those.”
- Will it stand on its own without the word “church”?
“This is where we lost our runner-up name, Together Church. We loved the connection to the vision and the branding potential of Together Church. But couldn’t get past this sentence: ‘Welcome to Together.’ We would always need to use the word ‘church’ to make that name work.”
- Are the web domains available?
- Is it easy to brand?
- Is there a strong connection to the ministry’s mission, vision, and purpose?
Bob said, “These filters were a game-changer for us. Every name would go down through the filters and CLUNK, hit bottom with an obvious no. We knew right away, ok — that's not it.”
In the end, there was only one name that got through all ten of their filters: Waypoint Church.
Renaming the church was not about finding something trendy or novel. In the end, it helped them reach more people.
Since First Baptist Church Harvester had been an established congregation for more than fifty years, friends and neighbors were curious about the new name. It gave people a chance to share the message of Jesus.
Bob shared, “I've had numerous people say, ‘I've shared the gospel more in the last two years with people than I have my whole life.’”
Launch Day: Involve everyone and be intentional
The Waypoint staff wanted to get people excited about the new name and involve everyone in the rollout.
Their communications team created a thoughtful and fun plan that accomplished several goals at once.
SWAG (Stuff We All Get!)
Create and give away things people will be excited about wearing and using. SWAG strategy should not just be about putting your logo on a t-shirt and a pen.
Waypoint was very intentional with every part of this renaming process. The team did not want to spend time, energy, effort, and money creating standard promotional pieces unless people were excited about the items.
They focused on products that were a visual expression of the church and the new vision, something they knew people would be excited and proud to wear.
“The approach was if people are going to be our driving force in promotion, if we can put something beautiful, that is exciting, that is high quality in their hands. If we can put a brand that they can get excited about in their hands, that's going to be the fuel for those sharing it,” said Ryan Wiess, Waypoint Church’s Communications Director
Create opportunities for online engagement that will help you reach practical needs.
Waypoint used the rollout of their new name to help drive engagement on their social channels. At the same time, they established some of the “techy things” they needed for the long run, like their Google searchability — all the way down to the correct pin name in Google Maps.
Renaming the church created momentum for the vision
Renaming Waypoint ultimately set them up to succeed in reaching more people with the gospel. They are now working toward a multi-site strategy and started a game-changer coffee shop.
By changing their name from First Baptist Church Harvester, Waypoint could reach beyond their small suburb, and the word "Baptist" no longer stood between them and non-Baptists. Along with the coffee shop, it's a signal to the whole community that says, "You can come and hang out here."
If you’re thinking about renaming your church — or even just renewing your vision — it starts with identifying who you are and who you want to reach. We’ve developed a questionnaire to set you on that path.