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Hi...I'm a lay leader at Bellevue CRC in the state of Washington, and I'm trying to gather some information for CRC churches going through a name change process. Has your church undergone a name change? How did you go about it? I would love to hear from you. 

Thanks so much!



Hi Dale,

I helped lead a church in central WA through a name change a few years ago. We talked to people at two other churches in our Classis who had changed their names in prior 15+ years. The legal part was easy, you fill out a form with the secretary of state Search for Articles of Amendment Nonprofit Corporation and pay the $20 amendment fee.

All three churches (45-100+ years old) removed CRC from their names and did not use the word “Reformed” in their new name in an attempt to be more “unchurched” friendly. All three churches wanted to reach new people. However, none of the churches made other substantial changes. In the end, the name changes did not make much difference to the trajectory of the ministry. The churches did not reach new people more successfully than in their past. Years later, two of the three churches had declined even more and then made more drastic changes such that the ministries are now substantially different, including more name changes.


A little research I saved from our process…

In the book, Surprising Insights from the Unchurched, Thom Rainer (2001) wrote…

p.38, Myth – the un-churched are turned off by denominational names in the church name. More than 80% don’t care and 10% more don’t know.


Study findings (2013) released by Grey Matter Research (Phoenix, Arizona) among a demographically representative sample of 773 American adults examine the impact of including or excluding a denominational reference in church names. Most churches that are part of a denomination include a denominational reference in their name, but some avoid such references, selecting names such as Saddleback Church or Community Church of Joy. What impact does that have?

In the study, Grey Matter Research asked both the unchurched and people who regularly attend a denominational Protestant church about the impact of a church including a denominational reference in its name.  Interestingly, there are only a few places where churchgoers and the unchurched disagree. The research reveals that the decision to include or exclude a denominational reference in the name is a two-edged sword, with advantages and disadvantages to both choices.

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. 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. 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.

…People who attend a denominational Protestant church believe (by a margin of 33% to 20%) that a church with its denomination in its name would be more welcoming to visitors. But the unchurched, by a very similar margin, have exactly the opposite perception (30% to 19%). In each case, about half feel the name will NOT impact how they perceive the church.


Also, we asked the other CRC church leaders... What would you suggest to a council member of a CRC church considering a name change? (They responded...)

“It was good but it wasn’t that big of a deal”

“We’re still who we are.” If the name is a stumbling block, we should change it.

You must change more than your name… Whether that’s with worship or whatever, just changing the name is meaningless or pointless. Be clear about why you are changing and then see what else you can add or change to complement the new name.

Give everybody an opportunity to propose a name. Talk about what part of the name would appeal to someone who isn’t going to a church. This would give more buy-in to the name change. Be intentional with getting people to think about whatever change you intend to make.

Get the congregation involved. Pray a lot for a start. Pray that the congregation can have ownership and know that they’ve been part of the process and that they’re an important part of any change and if it will be a meaningful change.



In summary, be sure you know why you want to make a change and what result you seek. And more importantly, know that you will need to change a LOT more than the church name if you want your ministry to change.

May God give you and your leaders wisdom in your discussions,



We've seen churches up here in Canada go through name changes and one interesting theme has emerged: many have changed their name to reflect the neighbourhood or community they find themselves in. This is a wonderful way to honour your local community and (among other ways) become embedded in your local context. Here are some that come to mind:

1. Water Street Church, Guelph, ON - formerly First CRC

2. Jennings Creek CRC, Lindsay, ON - formerly Lindsay CRC

3. Talbot Street CRC, London, ON - formerly First CRC

A thorough examination of WHY you are considering a name change is always a good place to start. Blessings on this endeavour!

Church names are interesting in and of themselves. Often denominations will have historic preferences. They may be named after the community, after  saint or historical figure important to the tradition, a biblical place name. Some simply number them. In recent decades there has been a move in some protestant quarters to shy away from naming after saints and biblical places as they have little or no meaning. So names are chosen that are seen to be more “friendly.”


Here at Hebron CRC here has been some talk about changing the name. There are mixed reactions. At a planning retreat is was suggested that the name remain but that “A place of refuge” be added to it to make it a bit more meaningful. The problem, of course, is threefold. First, “place of refuge” is not what Hebron means. Second, while ancient Hebron was one of original cities of refuge, it was refuge for those guilty of unintentional homicide. It protected them from any blood revenge. Third, were the phrase to be added, what would we be saying? Refuge from what? Would the congregation live that phrase out in any significant way? Would it have any real meaning or simply be a catchy phrase.


I have been involved in two name selection processes, one for a new congregation and one for a congregation that had another amalgamate with it. The first name chosen after several submissions, discussions and voting was “Celebration.” It was, at the time unique. It also reflected what we wanted to be: a place of celebrating our faith. It contrasted with the more somber religious expressions around. The second the name change, after a similar process chose Fellowship. It reflected fort our desire to work hard to create a single congregation from two, to seek to embrace one another’s practices and honor one another traditions. It also reflected the congregations welcoming programs and desire to interact with the community in an intentional and consistent way and to create relationships.


As with any change I would ask and clarify why a name change is being considered, what benefit is being perceived. In choosing a name I would want to ask what the name says or will say about the congregation. Will the life and ministry of the church live up to what is on the sign? I would also be sensitive to longtime members and listen to them. They often will have a sentimental attachment to the present name. It may have meaning for them that it does not have for others. So listening, empathizing, explaining carefully the rationale is essential to preserving the unity of the body. Allow time for the decision making process to work itself out before actually deciding and changing. Some people will be on board quickly. The majority are likely to take some time. Patience is a virtue.

Hi Dale,

As council chairman for our international congregation in Ethiopia, I was part of our name change process here, just last year. Our old name was the International Lutheran Church (ILC) and it was constantly getting confused with IEC (International Evangelical Church) which is a much bigger church then ours. Plus we were missing foreigners who were unfamiliar with what it means to be Lutheran (at least half of our members are not Lutheran, including me), but were not from a denominational background, or anyone new to church.

We put together a google document with our mission and vision and included a few bullet points on what it means to be a brand. Then we shared it with anyone in the congregation who wanted to be included, though in the end not all of them participated. There was a place to make a name suggestion and include a reason (if they had one) or how it related to our vision. We had a good number of responses and some people just endorsed what someone had said, which was fine.

The council then took all of those suggestions and we talked through each one, how it would be understood (including in our case within the context of different local languages as well as culturally), how it would be branded (we did not want another acronym), and was it mobile (we did not want to be locked into our location). 

We ended up with the name Redeemer International Congregation (of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus - the denomination), but just as Redeemer for short. Because we had allowed a lot of input, when we brought our recommendation back to the congregation for approval we simply explained how we had gone about our discussion and we had full approval for the new name. It was a good experience and then has been great to bring new focus into our congregation.

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