Should a Church Include the Denomination in Their Name?

Greg Strand – March 19, 2013 3 Comments

Is it wise, or helpful or hurtful or ??? to include the denomination in a local church’s name? For those local churches that are a part of a denomination, many still do include the denominations name, but many are moving away from practice.

In a recent survey conducted by Grey Matter Research Consulting, they raised the question: “Should Protestant churches include or exclude a reference to their denomination in the church name?  There’s risk either way…”:

Here is the introduction.

When a church does not reference its denomination in the church name, unchurched people tend to see that church as less formal, rigid, and old-fashioned, but this also makes them feel more uncertain and wonder whether the church is trying to hide its beliefs.

And here is the “on the one hand . . . on the other”, noting the strengths and weaknesses of including the denomination’s name in the local church name.:

On one hand, when people see a church with a denominational reference in its name, they are over four times more likely to perceive that church as formal than if it has no such reference.  Denominational references are also three times more likely to make people see that church as old-fashioned, and almost three times more likely to make them feel it is structured and rigid, than if there is no denominational reference in the name.  The lack of a denominational reference is also three times more likely to lead people to feel that the church is open-minded.

On the other hand, including a denominational reference is more than twice as likely to help people feel the church is honest.  Excluding a denominational reference is more than twice as likely to give people feelings of uncertainty, and almost five times more likely to lead to thoughts that the church may be trying to hide what they believe.

What do you think? How do you read this? What do you consider to be strengths and weaknesses of including (or excluding) the denominational name?

For those who are a part of a denomination, it causes/forces us to think this through carefully before making a change.

And let’s remember, at the end of the day a title or reference must be lived out in the context of life together, relationships, lived under the Lordship of Christ in obedience to His Word. In the providence of God, a title or name might “bring someone in”, but it is the authentic Christian life lived in community that will “keep them there.”

Greg Strand

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Affectionately called “Walking Bible” by his youngest daughter, Greg Strand has a ministry history that goes back to 1982. Since that time, he has served in local church ministry in a variety of ministry capacities: youth pastor, associate pastor of adult ministries and senior pastor. He is currently the EFCA's Executive Director of Theology and Credentialing. Greg reads voraciously and never stops learning — a passion reflected in the overflowing bookshelves that spill from his library to multiple offices. And he could tell you about each of those books! His hunger for learning pales in contrast to his great love for God and for teaching the Word of God.

3 responses to Should a Church Include the Denomination in Their Name?

  1. We dropped the Evangelical Free from our name years ago, though we use the logo on our sign.

    For us it was that in our neck of the woods, the EFCA, as a denomination, is either unknown, or carries not really interest, and in fact the whole FREE thing really threw people off. Two families came thinking we were free of evangelicals, (seriously), kind of like sugar-free.

    And again here on the ‘left coast” if you’re seeking to reach the “nones” a denominational title has know real interest or draw. We do have a listing in the Yellow Pages (like anybody uses that book anymore) and we are listed there under Evangelical and Evangelical Free, just in case there is someone with a history in the EFCA and is seeking that. We also include our denominational information on our web-page.

    My take, which is worth little to most people, is that in the next 20 years we are going to see less and less denominational interest, especially among the young new leaders coming forth. I believe part of that is so much helpful information and support is available in our global networks that the need for a denomination will become less and less “required.” Like I said, just my uneducated guess.

  2. I feel in our culture today, people are more distrusting of big structure, and thus denominational names. In our instance, most have no understanding of the EFCA name, so we chose to call our selves a “community” church. It has served us well, as people from any denominational background, or no background find their way to our church. If people like Lutherans or Methodists really want that named church, they will drive to find one, but most will go to a church where they find spiritual help.

  3. Thank you for your comments,Randal and Chuck. At the end of the day, titles mean little; substance means much. And the substance must be the evangel, the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    This is one reason I like the Evangelical Free Church, as the gospel itself is identified in our name! But many don’t understand it so it can become a possible barrier or obstacle. So do what you with the name, but don’t compromise the gospel!

    The sad thing is that many approach the substance, the gospel, in the same way we might refer to a denominational name. Since the truth of the gospel is an obstacle or a barrier to some, it needs to be softened. It is then not only a matter of removing a denominational name, but it is a matter of removing the name church!

    One final thought. Even though the younger leaders, and not all of them, may not be as inclined to move towards denominational structure and connectedness, they will move in some direction to have connection. And what ends up happening, is that a new (denominational?) structure arises.

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