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Church names get shorter and catchier
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The Rev. Rick Goodspeed at The Springs Church said the name came from the idea of something new and washed clean, a spring. He also said many churches are de-emphasizing their denominational tie in their literature or on their signs in order to avoid preconceived ideas of what the church may be like. The Springs is a United Methodist congregation. - photo by Tom Reed

For a business, having a catchy name to draw in more customers isn't a groundbreaking idea.

But adding a catchy name to attract more people into a church? Now, that may be a new one.

It's something seen more often these days, as many new local churches have opted for shorter names.

Church names like The Springs, The Ridge, Explosion Church and The Rock are helping usher in a modern era of churches, where denominations are less as important as someone's relationship with God.

"I think that the church's walls are being broken down every day and denominations are - although important - most people don't understand what denominationalism is all about," said the Rev. Rick Goodspeed of The Springs in Flowery Branch. "If you really talk to people who are Baptist and who are Methodist, you'll find that there is so much commonality, the issue is personal theology - where are you in your relationship or you're understanding of who God is."

Therefore, Goodspeed said, it's more about creating a community.

"And when we start talking about those things, things just start coming together. It's more about a community than it is about a denomination."

The Rev. David Edmondson, pastor at The Rock Church in Flowery Branch, said the modern names reflect changes a church has to make in a modern world.

"We live in a multimedia world, a fast pace and very contemporary society, so knowing this, we the church have to make the necessary changes to reach the people of this world," Edmondson said in an e-mail. "Most churches are trying to make the names of their ministries short, catchy, relevant but biblically based. With all of the information we have entering our eyes and minds while driving down the road it is hard for us to process a church or business that takes five minutes to read the name."

Not all churches have found that the shorter church name is the best way to go.

For the Rev. Randall Popham and his congregation, a change in church name wasn't the best fit. Popham is pastor at Lanier Hills Church, which tried out a shorter name — The Hills.

"We've kind of been going by The Hills and Lanier Hills, and I think we are actually going to go back to Lanier Hills Church," he said. "Because The Hills could be anything. It could be a subdivision, it could be a TV show, it could be a club. It could be anything."

You don't want to get too far away from the original purpose, he said - to let people know you're a church.

"And we are moving away from that simple name ... because we want people to know that it's a church," he said. "We are trying to keep any insider language out."

In Popham's own survey of church names, he found people need to know what the name means.

"It's newer churches, contemporary churches, and they are just trying to get away from being too ‘churchy,'" he said. "What we've found is most people that are going to go to church are probably looking for a church and they are seeking out a church."

For a new church thinking of a name, often members will start out by brainstorming.

At The Springs, Goodspeed said the name came from discussions members had about the church's place in the community.

"Well, it was just the people that were gathering to start the church, they went ahead and did a visioning session to come up with where they really feel like the ministry need was for them and the community," Goodspeed said. "They came up with the idea that we need God to refresh our souls, we need to be washed and something fresh and new and the idea came up of a spring."

But are these shorter names distancing themselves from a certain denomination? Edmondson said yes and no.

"There are a lot of ministries that are ‘dropping' the name of denominations from their signs and literature," he said. "It is not that they have left the denomination or their beliefs have changed, but they are trying to drop the stigma or preconceived notions that the churches are stuck in the same ruts we were in 50 years ago.

"Most churches I would say are just trying to proclaim the fact that we are not stuck in irrelevant, uncultured, old fashioned ways of doing things."

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