One of the biggest opportunities that I see many church planters miss is the “Name That Church Party.”  Planters do not necessarily miss on naming their new church--as much as they do in using the naming experience for outreach.

 

During the gathering stage of planting most leaders struggle with getting people together.  Let’s face it, an “Information meeting” doesn’t sound that attractive.  “Launch team meeting” or “Core Group Get Together” are not much more tempting titles either.     

 

One event that tends to bring folks out is the “Name That Church Party”--people who are not necessarily interested in spiritual things can be persuaded to help with a name.  The more we can publicize and invite folks (and it is easier to invite people to a “Name That Church Party” than to an “Information Meeting”) the better the event will be.

 

The Name That Church parties I have led usually started with pizza or snacks, and an informal time of connecting.  Then we’d do some sort of basic introductions, a quick vision of the church and launch into brainstorming.

 

People need to be reminded that with brainstorming, there are no bad ideas.  We would use “Post-It” notes, write down every idea that was suggested and put the notes on a wall or a huge whiteboard (for one party we bought a 4 by 8 white board from Home Depot for a few dollars.  It fell off the car on the ride home, so we went back and bought another one!)  Every idea is posted in the brainstorming time.  I remember “Church-in-the-Box” and even “Jack-in-the-Church” being suggested.  Usually getting 100-120 possible names is fairly easy to do.

 

The next step is to whittle the ideas down to a workable number.  Having each person vote on his or her top three usually gets the list down to a dozen or so.  Further voting and discussing is used to pare the number down to 4-6.  Those top four to six names will go on the “Name That Church Survey.”  

 

The “Name That Church Survey” is fairly simple.  Just a few questions:

 

1.      Based on name alone, which of these do you like best for a new church in town?

2.      Do you regularly attend a church in town?

3.     Would you like the results of this survey?

4.     Can we have your name, email, phone… (this serves as a great contact list!)

 

Everyone at the party is asked to take a few dozen surveys and use them with their friends, co-workers, family…A follow up meeting is scheduled 1-3 weeks out where the results of the survey are gathered, reported and the name is announced.

 

So, those who came to the “Name That Church Party” are immediately invested in the new church, they are actually put to work, and expected to come back for the follow up--it’s a great outreach tool.

 

Plus the survey is one of the easiest conversation starters ever.  I used it with every server in every restaurant I went into--I did this for several months.  (We used the survey for months after we named our church just because it was such a great conversation starter and a great way to gather a list of interested people.)

 

The survey also helped us get to know the area.  When we started a church in Benicia, a waterfront town in the Bay Area of Northern California, the favorite name of the launch team was Bay View Church.  When we did the survey we discovered that a church with that name had failed a few years earlier and it left a bitter feeling with some folks in the area.  We learned that a company called Bay View had just laid-off quite a few local workers and it wasn’t a positive label.  The top answer to our survey was “New Harbor Community Church.”  Folks commented on the harbor term as a safe place (being from Southern California I thought of the Harbor Freeway and lots of traffic, so it wasn’t my favorite) over and over again.  Also, the term “Community” kept coming up as a real positive for that town.  We were surprised at the survey, but the choice was obvious.

 

I know that many planters feel almost married to a name.  “God gave me ‘Solomon’s Couch” as the name for this church!” they insist.  Fine, we have learned from our national elections that it is possible to ask people to vote even if we’ve already decided the outcome.   I encourage planters to use the party and the survey for outreach, but if they want to count or not count “hanging chads” to make sure their choice wins, they can do that.

 

I also recommend reading the book, “Hello, My Name Is Awesome” by Alexandra Watkins before the final determination on a name is made.

 

But the outreach possibilities with using a “Name That Church Party” and “Name That Church Survey” are huge--don’t miss out.

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