Following the initial strategic planning weekend with the Unstuck Group (February 2017), the idea of rebranding and restructuring was listed as phase 5 in the action item process. As the different teams took specific steps in the area of technology and facility/mission alignment, those on the teams began to conclude that rebranding should be phase 1 in the process rather than phase 5.
This suggestion was visited during the April 2018 refresh weekend with the Unstuck Group and it seemed a good idea to the teams to realign the priorities accordingly. Since the refresh weekend, the teams realigned and began researching what rebranding entailed.
A brand is more than a logo, color scheme, font, or website. Your brand is your story. The design of a logo, color scheme and font communicate the story. The website and social media sites communicate the story – including the website domain name and social media tags. The design of a building and what’s on the walls in the halls communicate the story – including the signs inside and outside.
Everything tells the story!
As a church, we are entrusted with the greatest story in all of history. As a church, we have a great story of communicating the greatest story in all of history. We want to brand the church’s story in such a way that we are most effective in communicating the greatest message in history.
As we consider how we brand – how we tell the story – we believe now is the time to consider changing the name of the church to more effectively communicate the story.
One of the first questions you may ask is, “Why would we want to change the name of the church?” Well, we’re so glad you asked – here are three core reasons why.
#1 – Effectiveness in Mission
Our mission is inviting people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. While we are interested in helping all people grow in relationship with Jesus Christ, we recognize the reality that there are people all around us who are completely disconnected from God and church.
There are just over 120,000 people who live within an 8-mile radius of this property – and 35% of them have no connection to church at all. How many of them are really looking for a congregational church? If they aren’t looking for a church with a congregational story, is there a more effective way in name to connect and engage with them?
This idea has come up many times in the last 12 years – I can’t personally speak about before that because I wasn’t here. One of those times was during the Visioneering process in 2012-2013. One of the team was a long time CCC member named Ann Kegley who responded to the idea in this way: “I don’t care what you call us – as long as we’re reaching people for Jesus, you can call us whatever you want.”
If a name change will make us more effective in mission, shouldn’t we consider it? If a name change will more effectively communicate the church’s story to communicate the greatest story, shouldn’t we consider it?
#2 – Create Identity Clarity, Not Confusion
As we strive to engage people to invite them into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ, how many of them are really looking for a congregational church? I’ve asked that question of a number of people recently and the most common answer I’ve heard is, “Probably none.” If “probably none” are looking for a congregational church, why is that the defining character of the story we communicate?
One of the reasons “probably none” are looking for a congregational church is because they don’t know what one is – and they don’t care! When they don’t know and don’t care, they simply dismiss! Congregational creates confusion instead of clarity in the mind of someone disconnected from God and church.
A number of years ago, I was in a conversation with a longtime member of CCC, John Devore (who has since passed away) and he asked me the question, “What’s the deal with congregational these days?” When he clarified what he meant by the question, we had a good conversation around this confusion/clarity idea which ended with him saying, “It seems to be we’d be just as well to drop congregational out of our name altogether.” I told him I didn’t disagree but I’d let him start that one. He said, “Well, that’d be all right – you just tell me what you need started and I’ll start it for you.”
The name is often the first opportunity we have to connect someone to the story! It is the first opportunity that we have to engage people. Congregational isn’t a clear enough identity marker to connect and engage people to make them want to stop and see instead of driving on by.
By the way, congregational isn’t a theology; it’s a polity (a way to govern). Is that the defining trait we want to clearly communicate about who we are and why we do what we do?
#3 – Culture Has Changed
We now live in a culture in which followers of Jesus are the minority and the fastest rising church affiliation is the “nones” (those who say they have no affiliation). Simply put, the church no longer holds the place in the culture that it once did.
The church no longer holds a cultural monopoly nor does it serve as the social hub of the community – or even spiritual for that matter. The church is now a discretionary choice in how people spend their time. In staggering numbers, people are now choosing other options stating the church has nothing to offer them.
As people navigate the church through the lens of discretionary time, some experts say they will take a second or less to read about you based on how they connect (or don’t) with the name and will decide within the first 4-8 seconds what they think of you.
The mission of the church occurs now in a culture that is radically different than it was 100 years ago – even 10 years ago. If a name will have the potential to make us more effective, shouldn’t we consider it?
One of the cultural changes isn’t an unfamiliar idea to us. It but seems a little silly in this context but we couldn’t ignore the significance of it as we researched this idea. The reality is that simple is good.
People gravitate to using less syllables – years ago we developed shorthand; now we LOL, SMH, and BTW, or we just use an emoji. Community Congregational Church is 10 syllables that even people who’ve been here a long time trip over, right? And that doesn’t even factor in website domains and social media handle – the simpler the better.
A simple, clear name can sometimes cut through the chaos of a very cluttered and confusing world.
As a name-change for CCC is considered, there are a few things it’s important to clarify that don’t change.
- The mission of the church doesn’t change.
- The message of the church doesn’t change.
- The vision of the church doesn’t change.
- Love-Grow-Serve doesn’t change.
- The core values don’t change.
- The core beliefs don’t change.
What changes is how we brand the church to communicate the story to invite people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.
One of the questions you might be asking in your mind is, “What will the new name be?” The answer is, “We don’t know.” The NEXT/Unstuck teams didn’t want to come with a name all picked out – instead they wanted to come with a process for picking a name that reflects that we are grateful for our past and expectant for our future, a name that is timeless not trendy.
If the church makes the decision to pursue a name change in an all-church meeting on Sunday, December 9, 2018, the next steps in the process will include getting name suggestions from people, establishing a team to narrow down the names, getting experts around the table, and choosing a new name at the all-church meeting on Sunday, February 24, 2019. Then the exciting step of determining a “new brand” launch date will take place and all the branding elements (logo, website, social media, signage, etc.) will be aligned with a new name.
In the meantime, over the next 3 weeks, there will be opportunities for small group info/Q&A sessions (Monday, November 19 @4:00pm and Monday, November 26 @ 7:00pm) as well as one-on-one conversations to discover more about the rationale behind this big idea.
This is both the biggest and the smallest change we have considered. It is the biggest because it is a one-step change that happens all at once. It is the smallest because mission, vision, values, beliefs, strategy, etc. don’t change. What changes is how the church identifies itself to engage and connect with a radically different culture.
We don’t want to reach people because we want our church to grow – we want to reach people because people matter to God and are disconnected from him. We don’t believe a name change will be a magic bullet where it happens and people flock through the doors the next Sunday. Instead, we believe it is a strategic positioning in relationship to the community to invite people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.