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A Successful Church Name Change

February 13, 2006 by

ChristianityToday.com has the story of how a pastor at Manhasset Baptist Church successfully changed the church’s name to Shelter Rock Church. It’s a good example of the right reasons to change a church name and a process worth following.

Lessons learned:

  • First decide on the concept of changing the name. Don’t let potential names muck up the process. Decide whether or not your church is willing to change names, then work on finding a new name.
  • Having a clear mission statement helped big time. It was an easy step from the church’s mission (“To lead as many people as possible into a joyful and growing relationship with Jesus Christ,”) to the question “Is our name inhibiting our calling to reach our community?”
  • Get the help of former pastors. Every pastor since 1975 had wanted to change the name and their support proved helpful.
  • Theological questions will come up. Address them honestly and fairly.

In the end the church lost one person who considered the change a slide toward liberalism, but they also gained an influx of new visitors.

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks


When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998 and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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28 Responses to “A Successful Church Name Change”

  • Joe
    February 13, 2006

    Although I would not make it into a national article my church changed it’s name last year without losing a single person and we have grown by at least 20% since then.


  • Mark
    February 13, 2006

    What about a logo change? Anyone go throught a Successful transition from old to new. my church did it once and it wasn’t done right and now we are changing the vision of the church. i think it’s time for another one even if it’s only been a year since the last one. anythoughts?


  • carl
    February 14, 2006

    “First decide on the concept of changing the name. Don’t let potential names muck up the process.”
    I would slightly disagree. Our church changed its name because of a change in the congregation. Our church has grown by leaps and bounds, mostly (but not all) by foreign nationals. Greater than half of our church was born in another country.
    In respons to this we changed our name from “Boca First Assembly of God” to “Boca Church of All Nations.”
    I would discourage people for changing for change sake. But if the church is going in a different direction then it makes sense.


  • Todd
    February 14, 2006

    I’m trying to encourage my church to look at this issue. I attend a church of Christ, so there’s a ton of baggage associated with that name. My church isn’t the typical cofC (specifically we don’t think we’re the only ones who will be enjoying the golden streets of gloryland) so I don’t see a significant reason to maintain the name.
    The initial concern with changing the name is attracting cofC’ers who move to the area. While I’m not as worried about attracting them as those who are either unfamiliar or disenchanted with church, does anybody have suggestions on how to address this concern?


  • Brandon
    February 14, 2006

    I have one question on the church re-naming. Is there a legal process that the church would have to go through to get the name changed or is it just a vote from the members then it is official? Thanks for the help.


  • janna
    February 16, 2006

    Our 82 year old church just went through a name change. The ONE piece of advice I have for you is this: talk to the pastor/board about what they are wanting to change the name to and come up with a logo and branding BEFORE the name change is made official.
    We had our members vote and the name became official in July. It is almost March and we are still trying to come up with the right look. So my advice would be that the pastor or whoever is making that call should absolutely fill the media/marketing team in on the change so logo and branding can be IN PLACE and ready to go before it’s made official.
    That’s what we’ve learned through this anyway. :)


  • Dennis Cummins
    April 15, 2006

    We just went through a name change last year. We are about 15.5 years old and we went from South Hill Christian Center to ExperienceChurch.tv – This helped our marketing emensely. When we were the other name our URL was http://www.southhillcc.org – next to impossible to related to the name. Now our name is the URL.
    To change the name legally, we simply had to make a motion and vote on it. Then had to send the minutes to the state for their recognition of the change. Simple Skimple.
    I agree with the logo and name needing to come together before the change. Our logo is just as much our identity as our name…
    It went real smooth for us.


  • Dennis Cummins
    April 15, 2006

    We just went through a name change last year. We are about 15.5 years old and we went from South Hill Christian Center to ExperienceChurch.tv – This helped our marketing emensely. When we were the other name our URL was http://www.southhillcc.org – next to impossible to related to the name. Now our name is the URL.
    To change the name legally, we simply had to make a motion and vote on it. Then had to send the minutes to the state for their recognition of the change. Simple Skimple.
    I agree with the logo and name needing to come together before the change. Our logo is just as much our identity as our name…
    It went real smooth for us.


  • Dennis Cummins
    April 15, 2006

    We just went through a name change last year. We are about 15.5 years old and we went from South Hill Christian Center to ExperienceChurch.tv – This helped our marketing emensely. When we were the other name our URL was http://www.southhillcc.org – next to impossible to related to the name. Now our name is the URL.
    To change the name legally, we simply had to make a motion and vote on it. Then had to send the minutes to the state for their recognition of the change. Simple Skimple.
    I agree with the logo and name needing to come together before the change. Our logo is just as much our identity as our name…
    It went real smooth for us.


  • Dennis Cummins
    April 15, 2006

    We just went through a name change last year. We are about 15.5 years old and we went from South Hill Christian Center to ExperienceChurch.tv – This helped our marketing emensely. When we were the other name our URL was http://www.southhillcc.org – next to impossible to related to the name. Now our name is the URL.
    To change the name legally, we simply had to make a motion and vote on it. Then had to send the minutes to the state for their recognition of the change. Simple Skimple.
    I agree with the logo and name needing to come together before the change. Our logo is just as much our identity as our name…
    It went real smooth for us.


  • Dennis Cummins
    April 15, 2006

    We just went through a name change last year. We are about 15.5 years old and we went from South Hill Christian Center to ExperienceChurch.tv – This helped our marketing emensely. When we were the other name our URL was http://www.southhillcc.org – next to impossible to related to the name. Now our name is the URL.
    To change the name legally, we simply had to make a motion and vote on it. Then had to send the minutes to the state for their recognition of the change. Simple Skimple.
    I agree with the logo and name needing to come together before the change. Our logo is just as much our identity as our name…
    It went real smooth for us.


  • Dennis Cummins
    April 15, 2006

    We just went through a name change last year. We are about 15.5 years old and we went from South Hill Christian Center to ExperienceChurch.tv – This helped our marketing emensely. When we were the other name our URL was http://www.southhillcc.org – next to impossible to related to the name. Now our name is the URL.
    To change the name legally, we simply had to make a motion and vote on it. Then had to send the minutes to the state for their recognition of the change. Simple Skimple.
    I agree with the logo and name needing to come together before the change. Our logo is just as much our identity as our name…
    It went real smooth for us.


  • Dennis Cummins
    April 15, 2006

    We just went through a name change last year. We are about 15.5 years old and we went from South Hill Christian Center to ExperienceChurch.tv – This helped our marketing emensely. When we were the other name our URL was http://www.southhillcc.org – next to impossible to related to the name. Now our name is the URL.
    To change the name legally, we simply had to make a motion and vote on it. Then had to send the minutes to the state for their recognition of the change. Simple Skimple.
    I agree with the logo and name needing to come together before the change. Our logo is just as much our identity as our name…
    It went real smooth for us.


  • mike
    November 26, 2006

    One piece of advice I would give is that church leadership should be sure that the congregation is o.k. with the idea of a name change. At our church a new pastor came in and within a matter of months he had changed the name of the church. There was no amount of significant preaching on the subject to prepare people. And the congregation was not involved in the process until the very last moment of the decision — that is within a week or two of the change. This resulted in an “identity crisis” for various members. The church eventually had a minor split. Much turmoil resulted and he eventually stepped down. The name of the church wasn’t the only issue, of course, but it played a big part in the crisis.


  • dmay
    May 13, 2007

    Once the name has been decided to change, then what? Can anyone provide thoughts or successful stories of how to communicate this and roll-out people. Where do we begin? What are next steps?


  • Dave B.
    November 12, 2007

    I’m against changing church names in general. I think people naively think that simply changing their name will bring people in the door, and in the short term, they may be right.
    I imagine most advocates of name changes would say “we’re only changing our name, everything else will stay the same”. If that’s true, why change your name at all? I asked my mom once what she thought about the church name changing phenomenon sweeping America, and she had a refreshingly honest reply, “it seems dishonest”.
    Seems like churches are afraid or embarrassed about who they are, so much so they are changing who they are to accommodate non believers. A Christian changing something about themselves to make their beliefs more palatable to non believers? Sad.
    Church marketing, logos, names. Boy has the American church lost it’s way.


    • Nutmeg
      January 26, 2013

      I am sorry. But the church I recently started attending has changed its name. There was no word to the congregation or the public in thinking about this. I heard a slip of words by the pastor about loosing its biggest stakeholder and they will prevail and ‘advance’…hence the name change I think. The reasons they gave the paper are wishy washy and not much depth to it. The words don’t even ring true with ‘gateway to God’ and such. I think changing a name in what is preceived to be sudden, sends out a message of distrust. How am I to have faith in this church? I was already struggling with the concept of this church as being over the top with dramatics and theatrics, but was trying to keep an open mind.


  • Brett Moore
    November 13, 2007

    Dave B. –
    Are you serious? Are you even listening to what you are saying?
    “A Christian changing something about themselves to make their beliefs more palatable to non believers? Sad.”
    Have you ever read the Bible? There was this guy named Jesus who changed something about Himself to be more “palatable” to non believers. I.E. he who was God became man…Wow, I think you are the one who has lost his way.


    • Ronnie R
      May 16, 2011

      I am not sure I would go that far to say Christ changed to make Himself more palatable to man. The fact is that God (yes, Jesus is God) is perfect; He is complete; which means if He were to change Himself, He would have to do so to something incomplete. Jesus took on the form of a humble servant to bring the Gospel to you and I – yes; but it goes much further than that. He became a man to make an ultimate sacrifice, fulfilling the law of God handed down to Israel, providing the ultimate atonement for sin – forgiveness, cleansing, and a new life – all through His death; and a promised resurrection from His rising back to life. All of that was said, not to digress from the current topic, but to keep clear the reason Jesus came to this earth – not to make a change, but to provide the Way!

      With that out of the way, I am the pastor of a church who is considering a name change. I must say that this topic and the discussion that has followed has been helpful in weeding out the improper reasons for such a move. I believe that a name should identify with the church’s mission and culture. I also believe that changing the name will not change the culture. I agree with the person who said that some might fall into an identity crisis from that type of change. My church is 7 years old – I don’t think we have to worry much about that happening. Yet, it could create a sense of church instability in the minds of the community – changing its name so early in life. I certainly do not doubt the attraction new names can provide to people in the community. However, if the outside change does not reflect an inward change, we will simply discourage people from ever coming back.

      I have to ask myself, “Why make the change?” I also have to ask if we can make the same changes with our current name. But most importantly, since it is the localized body of Christ, and Christ is its Head, I need to spend much time asking Him what He thinks we should do. Whatever Jesus says – well…we really can’t go wrong when we follow Him.


  • Salonge
    June 5, 2008

    We changed our church name in 2003 and incorporated with the state. We are being told now that we have to petition the court in order to change the title. Can anyone verify this is true?


  • Lee H
    January 8, 2009

    It think name changing is not in itself sinful, but the motives could be and thus it could be the wrong decision. Name change to be palatable is probably wrong. Your actions as a church should make you palatable. However, we can never lose sight that the world will reject the gospel. To change your name to hide your a “Baptist” or the like is deceptive. I have seen churches that grow keeping their denominational name even in an area not positively oriented to that denomination.
    Most importantly, Brett Moore’s comment,
    “Jesus who changed something about Himself to be more “palatable” to non believers. I.E. he who was God became man..”
    to argue for name change is an example of the legitimate fear of the many. Jesus did not come to be more palatable, but to be the substitutionary atonement for our sin. This above use is a gross Scripture twist to justify a position. The fear is just that, the gospel and God’s word is lost in the need to be “palatable.”


  • A. Reeves
    February 14, 2009

    I’m less interested in the pseudo religous nonsense (“Change your name?! GASP!) than I am about DATA.
    Anyone have reliable data on church growth (or shrinkage) after changing from a denominational name to a non-denom?
    We go to a Baptist church which desparately needs a name change. BTW, before you flame me…last time I checked, Jesus wasn’t a Baptist. I also seem to recall he changed the names of a few folks…


  • Michael Elder
    July 5, 2010

    I became Pastor of an older Baptist Church just three months ago where I had been Associate Pastor for almost four years. Several years ago they had merged with another church and simply combined the two names., thus making one real long name. Sadly, a over zealous and obnoxious Pastor from years gone by had a bad reputation in the surrounding neighborhood closest to the church. I believe a name change is in order and I have discussed it with the body.

    My main concern is in the legality of the name change and how it effects a land sale that is emanate.We have eighty acres that we have put up for sale and another ten that could be as well. What steps would we need to take to change the name on the land title?


    • Rev. Karen Buchholz
      October 17, 2010

      The legality of the name change is tied up in your church’s charter. IF you have lined out what the board can and cannot do, how many votes it takes to pass, etc., you can do whatever you want within those guidelines. So, if you want a name change, and your charter doesn’t cover the details of the power of the board, fix that first. For instance, if you have a board of 6, does it take 4, 5, or 6 to accept a change, does the president vote, is the president a non-voting tie-breaker…? In Indiana, it costs $10 to file changes to our church charter. In that case, you’d pay $10 to change the rulings in your charter. After that is legally done, vote on the name change, then pay another $10 to file that change. We are in the process of changing our name right now. It came up in a board meeting a little over a year ago. We’ve been talking to the congregation about it, talking to our spiritual community in surrounding towns, and discussing it openly in the community on Facebook. In about 2 hours, I’ll be in front of the congregation, running an open forum discussion to finalize our thoughts. The vote will either take place today or next Sunday – in preparation for making the formal, public announcement on November 7th.

      Back to your specific question, though, contact the state agency that maintains church charters. Ask them about YOUR state’s rules…then follow them. In Indiana, there is no need to go through the courts so long as your charter’s rules are clearly written regarding votes on changes. Hope that helps. Good luck with whatever change your CONGREGATION decides to make.


  • David Viland
    September 7, 2010

    Legal Requirements of a name change typcially only involve filing with your secretary of state. Many times an organization’s/church’s name change does not change the official name in the articles/by-laws, but only at the DBA (Doing Business As) level. If you change the legal name of the church, then you should refile your articles of incorporation with the state. But doing a DBA filing is a much easier process. Call your Secretary of State’s office, they will send you the form. There may be a small filing fee, but aside from that it’s a relatively easy process – from the filing requirment that is.


  • G Roger Howe
    June 9, 2011

    Changed a church name to “The Church by the Zebra” they then changed it to a Pelican Crossing. We followed, but then found that because they had added a cycle crossing it should be called a Toucan (Two can cross). We went back to the old name, but the changes did get us some free publicity in the local press and the church had grown and was known by then.


  • Chris
    January 28, 2013

    We’re not a church but our name “Disciple Day” (http://discipleday.com) is of huge value to us. Wasn’t Saul Paul? Wasn’t Simon Peter? The Bible seems to make it clear that names can be changed. If your church is “reborn” – that is given a new identity – then perhaps a name change is a good idea. We’ve already gotten some flak about our site http://churchten.com (shameless marketing) because it has the term CHURCH but is not a church… But our identity remains the same so we do not change it.


  • Concerned
    August 25, 2014

    Our elders are in agreement to change the name of our church. The members have not been told. I’m concerned that without sensitive involvement of the members, there will be backlash. Really looking for some wisdom here. Members can’t vote–but I feel their voice should be considered? Thanks for any insight you have that would help as I, and others, are praying through this…



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