Church Renaming: A New Coat of Paint or a Re-Envisioning?

What’s in a name?

It’s an old adage.

It flows from Shakespeare’s famed play, “Romeo and Juliet.”  The actual line is,

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Most are familiar with Shakespeare’s tale of “star-cross’d” lovers.  Though members of two warring families, Juliet tells Romeo that names are meaningless, and shouldn’t stand in the way of their love.  After all, she loves the man who is Romeo Montague – not the Montague name.  Such titles are irrelevant.  It is the substance of the person that matters.

Apparently some church leaders aren’t so sure.

I’ve noticed a growing trend, at least in my own city, of churches renaming themselves in an apparent effort to invigorate a plateaued or even declining situation.  Usually it is a church start that has been going at it for a few years, hasn’t caught fire, so the thinking is that it’s best to reboot.

Two churches in our area are on their third name.

I wish them well.  I really do.  There’s not a snarky bone in my body toward their situation.

But I hope they are doing more than rebranding.  I hope they are doing more than a new logo, new website, or new location.  I hope they are not simply renaming the church, but rethinking it.  Because a new name – actually, any name – is not substantive.

Why?

That’s easy.

No one goes to a church for its name! 

A bad name might work against you, but that’s not usually the case in the church renaming phenomenon I’m observing.  Nor is a bout of bad publicity that makes you want to distance yourself from a public relations disaster usually at hand.

No, the trend I see is oriented to jumpstarting a dead battery.  The goal is a quick fix, an “easy” button, to reverse an adverse situation.

But that’s not what is going to happen.

It’s like putting a new coat of paint on a house that just won’t sell.  The paint may freshen up a drive-by, but that’s about all.  The house is still…well, the house it was.  It has the same square footage, the same floor plan, and the same number of bedrooms and bathrooms.

Even if you switch neighborhoods (translation: change the location of your church), it’s still the same house.  Either it has appeal, or it does not.

The truth is that many of these renamed churches need more than a new name.  They need a new…well, lots of things.  Let’s assume they are praying diligently and presenting the gospel faithfully.  That still might leave room for:

  • A new leadership style or level of leadership ability
  • A new communicator or level of teaching/communication in terms of gifting
  • A new emphasis on outreach and/or bridge-building to the unchurched, or a new strategy
  • A new approach to musical style or worship
  • A new emphasis on excellence in children’s ministry and service to marriage and family
  • A new commitment toward learning how to effectively explain the gospel to a “nones” world
  • A new…

Well, you get my point.

What’s in a name?”

The answer will always remain the same:

“Not much.”

But what’s in the substance of a person…or a church?

Everything.

Just ask Juliet.

Or better yet, ask the person who tried your church and never came back.

Read more from James here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 
A great question! Unfortunately, the Church Unique Kit is no longer available in print form. We are working on revising it and updating it into an online experience, but that project is at least six months out. An alternative is to come to an upcoming certification class. There is one May 15-18 in Houston, and October 23-26 in Atlanta.
 
— VRcurator
 

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