Too Many "Celebration" Churches? Competition for Contemporary Names Growing ~ Praxis Habitus - On Race Religion & Culture

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Too Many "Celebration" Churches? Competition for Contemporary Names Growing

The experience of one church in Florida indicates competition for good church names may be ratcheting up. Contemporary church names are in demand -- so much so that smaller churches are having to give up their "cool" names as larger churches take them over.

Too Many "Celebrations"

I read an interesting article on the trouble with generic, contemporary church names in the Florida-Times Union paper. It starts,

Running a successful church requires cutting-edge marketing and branding as much as it does innovative preaching and ministry.

We've seen this trend of branding through church names. In an effort to break away from stereotypes, local churches dump stodgy labels from their names and take on new, "contemporary" ones. What's surprising from the experience of the church in this article is this:

We may have come to a point where there are too many churches with the same "contemporary" name. From the article:

The Fellowship at Celebration Baptist Church has learned that the hard way during the past decade as a similarly named congregation has become synonymous with the word "Celebration." As a result, the East Arlington congregation is changing its name on Thursday to FaithBridge Church.

...Necessary because another congregation in town - Celebration Church pastored by Stovall Weems - has grown so big, so fast in the past decade that it simply owns that name.
So, here we have one contemporary church "trumped" by another more successful contemporary church with the same name. The experience of this church made me think about the whole issue of contemporary church naming.

"Name-Changed" Congregations

There are many churches today that appear to be new but may actually be "old" churches in disguise. They successfully reinvented themselves with a new name. I'm calling these "Name-Changed Congregations."

Many of you know I wrote about another "name-changed" congregation, Mosaic in Los Angeles. It was founded in the 1930s as The First Southern Baptist Church of East Los Angeles and became The Church on Brady in the 1970s.

The Church on Brady, which became Mosaic in 1998, may be the first church to drop the "Southern Baptist" moniker. Motivated to help people know where the church was located (on Brady Street) and to avoid backlash against stereotypes (Latino Catholics in the area avoided Baptist churches), the new church name helped to steadily grow the congregation from 90 to over 500 members.

Dropping denominational names was considered quite innovative. It successfully re-established The Church on Brady as a new entity, with bold leadership and a fresh vision.

Baptists "Ultra-Preachy and Judgmental"

The lack of denominational labels is not as surprising today. Many church leaders believe certain labels are liabilities to their mission. For example, FaithBridge Church is dropping "Baptist from the name,
"Baptist" is being dropped - the word only - because denomination names are a turn-off to the mostly younger, largely unchurched singles and families.
And another church I wrote about, Oasis Christian Center, decided to avoid the word "Church" in their name altogether.

The One Word Church Name

Back in Los Angeles, I believe changing the name from The Church on Brady to Mosaic pushed the trend of contemporary church names.

Although I can't absolutely prove it, I believe Mosaic in Los Angeles may be the first church to adopt a "One Word Church Name" without the word "Church" in the title. The lead pastor continues to be adamant. The name of the church is Mosaic, not Mosaic Church. Other "One Word Churches" include Flood, Impact, Epic, Lift, and Elevation.

Circulating Church Names? Or Inventing New Ones?

We may be coming to a new round of innovations in church naming.

Will denominations re-claim their church signs? Perhaps. But I instead see churches reconsidering church naming. "Community," "Celebration" or "Fellowship" may mark churches as "soooo 1990's."

This reminds me a bit of internet domain names and free email addresses. As the obvious names were taken up, new ones were invented.

What do you think?

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