Our church, First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, is in the process of choosing a new name for the church. We are considering 72 possible names and will narrow the list down to 12 next week. I received a letter from one of our members offering some input on the factors that go into choosing a new name. I thought it was well written and wanted to share it with a broader audience. I left the author’s name out so no one would be biased in reading the thoughts.
April 4, 2016
Pastor Mark Wheeler
First Central Baptist Church
50 Broadway St.
Chicopee, MA 01020
Dear Pastor Wheeler,
I would like to start by thanking you for publishing the list of suggested names for our church and the details of how the new name shall be chosen. While I am sure that the gravity of this decision is well understood among yourself and the elders, I do feel that there are some aspects to the new name that should be prayerfully considered. As the name change is a decision that has a long-term impact on the church, the new name should reflect a focus on the future growth of the church. As such, I have detailed below certain points that I believe should be brought into consideration when selecting the new name for our church.
1. Leave no remnants of the past
Many of the suggested names for our church include keeping ‘First Central’ in the title. While ‘First Central’ may have sentimental significance for some of the long-time members and attendees of the church, it is hard to imagine that simply removing the Baptist denomination from the title will have a material impact on the way we are perceived by the community and attract new members. As we discussed following the Easter service, the name change provides a natural time to reach out to the community and re-brand ourselves. A strategic outreach can serve as a catalyst to the growth we so desperately need. This would be a futile task if the name remains First Central. If we are going to change the name of the church, we should start with a clean slate.
2. Keep it Short and Simple
The name of any organization, a church or otherwise, must be short and simple. The simpler the name, the easier it is to invite your friends and neighbors. If someone who has never attended the church hears about it through a friend, they will inevitably search for the church online to learn more about it. If they cannot remember the name because it is too long or difficult, they will not come. The last thing we want is for the new name to prove to be an impediment to growth. If you want evidence of the success of simple names, think of the names of highly successful organizations: Apple, Macy’s, IBM, to name a few.
3. Do not incorporate local geography
While many churches wed their name to the local geography, this can be a barrier to future growth. My hope for the church is that, with time, the church body will grow beyond our wildest dreams to the point that Sunday services are overflowing with new visitors who want to hear more about Christ and become a part of our church family, at which point our church on Broadway Street in Chicopee Falls will no longer serve our growing needs.
As Chicopee, particularly Chicopee Falls, lacks an abundance of undeveloped land, there is always the possibility that the church would relocate to a nearby municipality. A church with the name “Chicopee …” or “Chicopee Falls …” would no longer be appropriate if the church were to move outside of Chicopee. Should we ever need to find a new home for our church, we want the name to carry with us. It is important that the name not reflect where the church is or has been, but rather where the church can be.
I hope that this letter finds you well and that it may help in the process of considering the name that would allow us to best fulfill our purpose of Building a Community to Change the World.