Leaving Baptist in Your Church Name Won’t Scare People Away

Americans favor Baptist, Catholic churches more than nondenominational congregations.

It’s a tricky line to walk. Naming your denomination may come across as more “rigid” or “old-fashioned,” but leaving the name out can appear sneaky or unstable, according to a 2013 Grey Matter Research study. Either way, a church’s name isn’t going to drastically change the way the public perceives it, according to a new study from the Nashville-based LifeWay Research.

 

Last year, the National Association of Evangelicals asked its members if they included denominational affiliation in the name of their church. Well over half—63 percent—said they did not.

It’s a tricky line to walk. Naming your denomination may come across as more “rigid” or “old-fashioned,” but leaving the name out can appear sneaky or unstable, according to a 2013 Grey Matter Research study.

Either way, a church’s name isn’t going to drastically change the way the public perceives it, according to a new study from the Nashville-based LifeWay Research.

Among LifeWay’s findings: About half of Americans view denominational names favorably, while the other half feel either negatively or indifferently.

“It would depend on who you’re trying to reach,” said Scott McConnell, vice president of LifeWay Research. “But some denominational groups have as much ‘brand equity’ as nondenominational churches, which have been growing the fastest.”

Churches began dropping denominations from their names in the 1980s, says Ed Stetzer, the executive director of LifeWay Research.

“I’ve started multiple churches, none of which had a denomination in the name,” he said. “It wasn’t even a conversation. It was just an assumption that we’re trying to reach unchurched people so we don’t want to have additional barriers.”

Not all denominations are viewed equally.

Baptist (61%) scored the most favorably in LifeWay’s phone survey of 1,000 Americans, followed by Catholic (57%), nondenominational (53%), Methodist (52%), Southern Baptist (49%), Presbyterian (46%), Lutheran (46%), Assemblies of God (45%), and Pentecostal (38%).

“When considering the popularity of the Baptist [name], you have to remember that the most common church name in the US is First Baptist, which means there are a lot of Baptists answering the question,” said Stetzer. “African Americans also have a strong Baptist presence too.”

Roughly 7 in 10 African Americans (73%) viewed the Baptist denominational name favorably, compared with and 6 in 10 whites (64%) and 4 in 10 Hispanics (47%).

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