Changing Your Church’s Name

Over the last few weeks, I have been asked a couple of times about churches changing their names, specifically removing “Baptist” from their name. Many churches are doing this and I believe that the trend will continue for some of the reasons that I will share. From the personal experience of having led a name change, I can tell you that a wise pastor treads these waters carefully and intentionally. Let me give you several areas to consider when it comes to processing this discussion.

Cultural Denominational Disconnect

Early American immigration history is at the heart of the vast denominational diversity in America. A denominational identity helped people connect with their cultural religious identity. Even 30 years ago many rural communities’ dominant denominational representation was reflective of the immigrant migrations of the late 1800’s and 1900’s. Northeastern Kansas, where my family settled as immigrants, was predominantly Lutheran because it was a center of the German immigrant communities. After WWII and perhaps even before that, America was losing that European nationalism with the homogenization of our culture.

Add to this the secularization of the American culture over the last 30 to 50 years. Our post-Christian culture has produced an ever increasing number of people who have no religious, let alone denominational, identity. For many past generations there was at least distant relationship with the church, if nothing else as the place where weddings and funerals took place. Even that is now waning in our culture.

In The Rise of the Nones, James Emery White notes that those who identify themselves as having no religious affiliation are increasing at a surprising rate. The Pew Research Center notes, “In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults.”

Because of this ongoing disconnect from the church, a non-religious individual’s understanding of the church and denominational branding has been formed by the media rather than by experiential knowledge. We know that the media, in general, does not paint a positive picture of the church. Baptist, along with many other denominational identifiers like Assembly of God and to a lesser degree Evangelical Free Church, are defined or judged by the unchurched by this media bias. Baptists are perceived by many in the public spectrum in a very negative framework, thus at times invoking a barrier to connecting with them.

Guilt by Association

For me the impetus to CONTEMPLATE DROPPING “Baptist” from the name of the church I was pastoring was the protesting by the Westboro Baptist church at the Matthew Shepard murder trials and their protesting at the funerals of military personal who were killed in the line of duty. People in our community made it clear that they understood that since they were Baptist and we were Baptist we must have been supportive of what they were doing.

One would need to assess the community’s perception of your church’s identity, part of which is your denominational connection, if that is part of your branding. This is not an easy task as many of the people in our church are insulated from the unchurched in the community.

Again, as we continue to generationally distance ourselves from the perceived American Christian culture from years past (each generation being increasingly identified as nones), our unchurched culture has an increasing deficit of understanding of the denominational distinctions. Even more important is their lumping all “Christian” faith groups together. For the unchurched there is little or no difference between any denomination, let alone those we in the church would identify as a cult. Their only perception is that some denominations are more negative or judgmental toward those who are not part of their group. 

Missional Focus

Most new church plants do not communicate a denominational identity. Tom Rainer notes that Newer churches are consistently using descriptors in their names other than denominational affiliation. Some are focusing on their location. Others are at least implying a distinctive doctrinal leaning. And still others are using more trendy and less common terms.”

New churches understand that evangelism and growth are essential to the life (ongoing existence) of the church. As one church planter noted, “It is really only churched people who are looking for a specific denomination’s name and researching what a church believes when deciding whether or not to visit. Our church isn’t targeting churched people at all. I can’t tell you how many of our friends came to our church because of a relationship they had with us or someone else and found out only at our membership class that we are affiliated with a denomination.”

One of the reasons that church plants avoid denominational, or even traditional terminology, is that they want to create open doors of gospel opportunity. They understand that the branding of their ministries which includes their name, social network or media presence, facilities and other things are doors of relational opportunity to fulfill their Great Commission mission.

Paul noted this missional strategy in 1 Corinthians 9:19-22, “… To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.” He understood there were individuals that were in the sphere of his missional influence and he did whatever he could to remove any barriers to his being able to communicate the gospel to them. He declared his missionary identity in the missional strategy.

In the ministry where we changed the church’s name we did so because even though we were reaching people across denominational heritages, there were still those in the community for whom the name Baptist was an insurmountable hurdle. Our people were not willing to allow a word in our name to be a stumbling stone to the people in the community knowing Jesus. It was not easy to part with their First Baptist Church name. The name was full of fond memories and had a deep rich meaning to many, but there was a greater good to be had in giving that up, removing any barrier to people coming to faith in Christ.

How do you prepare a church that is deeply vested in a name for this type of change?

First of all mission and vison should drive the conversation. Mission relates to purpose and the purpose of the church is a relationally redemptive purpose. Vision goes to painting a picture of what it will look like when we are living out our purpose in our community. A well-crafted and communicated vision of what can be will always make what is unacceptable, a motivation for change. Leverage the influence of the board as vision communicators. If they cannot be excited about the vision, how can you expect the congregation to be supportive?

Secondly, when possible, celebrate the past as the reflection of the outward focused mission and vision. In most cases you can point to times in a church’s past where they stepped out in faith to be obedient to a Great Commission, Great Commandment purpose. Point the congregation to changes that they have made in the past that have brought about good results.

Give people time. I love the quote from Resilient Ministry regarding leadership. Harvard professors Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky have summarized that “exercising leadership might be understood as disappointing people at a rate they can absorb.” Wise leaders will bring people along, they will have thought through an intentional strategy. Introduce it as an idea that leadership is considering. Have multiple meetings where the leadership puts it on the table to have people express their thoughts and feelings. With that validate people’s apprehensions and feelings; often times people need the opportunity to express themselves before they can consider the value of the proposed change.

How To Build a Total Online Church Presence

total online church presenceAt DayByDay Church Marketing, we believe every local church is uniquely gifted in its ability to share the gospel and multiply disciples who make disciples. There is a distinctive audience who is waiting to hear that message as only your church can tell it.

In this context, church marketing’s purpose is to help you reach those who will best respond to how your church shares the gospel.

And one of the best ways to do that is through creation of a Total Online Presence as taught by John Jantsch, founder of Duct Tape Marketing®.

While we are always cautious about treating a church or ministry like a business, many of the strategies we implement as Duct Tape Marketing Consultants will serve your church quite effectively.

At its most powerful, marketing is a well-integrated system whose parts function as a seamless whole. As a Certified Duct Tape Marketing Consultancy, DayByDay Church Marketing exists to help you put marketing in the service of your church or ministry.

While each church is unique, there is a model that provides the most reliable way to efficiently lay a foundation from which you can grow your online presence.
Your online church presence is the linchpin of your marketing system. And while each church is unique, there is a model that provides the most reliable way to efficiently lay a foundation from which you can grow your online presence.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll outline how to build the online presence that best enables you to reach the audience most suited to your church or ministry’s unique way of fulfilling the Great Commission.

Our hope is to provide you with the big picture thinking behind the system. This “Strategy First” approach enables you to make better decisions about what online tools and tactics will best serve your church’s mission, vision, values and goals.

Today, we’re going to provide a quick overview of the various components that make up your church or ministry’s Total Online Presence™.

church online presence1 Your Content Platform:

We take a strong “Listen First” approach when it comes to producing content. Understanding the conversation the people you want to reach are having about their faith (or lack of faith), about Jesus, and about your church is the first step.

The content you produce helps you get found and begin a conversation with the audience most open to your message and story, and who you are best suited to serve.

Build a sound content platform and all your marketing efforts will be enhanced.

Start by building a “social listening station” using tools like Google Alerts, HootSuite, TweetDeck, Trackur, Social Mention or Sprout Social.

From this point you can gain insight into your audience, other churches, ministries, and important groups, such as key journalists.

You can also begin the important task of understanding what motivates your audience to find you by doing keyword research.

Think of keywords being like chapters in your total body of content plan.

Use tools such as Google Keyword Tool or Wordtracker, to help you show up when people search online for a church or ministry. Create blog posts around these chapters, and create an editorial calendar to fortify your content platform.

Once you start consistently creating content, you can produce valuable short bible studies, FAQs, and eBooks that form a pivotal element in how people come to know, like, and trust you.

organic-seo2 Organic SEO:

Having someone type a search phrase that is key to your business and finding a blog post or page from your site is the ultimate payoff and, long-term, may be the difference between the success or failure of your content initiatives.

Search Engine Optimization can be complex and time consuming, but will pay off in more website visits from people who have entered a key search phrase that lands them on your blog post or web page.

Most organizations can generate significant results by you focusing on just three elements.

Produce keyword rich, educational content – we covered this above, but search engines live on blog posts and other educational content.

Make it easy on the search engines – Make the on-page elements, such as your blog titles, URLs, ALT image attributes, subtitles and internal links, work for you.

If you use WordPress, the Yoast SEO plugin is a must-have! This plugin helps you easily optimize every post and page on your website and blog with very little effort.

It also will produce an XML sitemaps that make it easy for search engines to grab your latest news and information.

Check out Search Engine News for a great primer on writing for SEO.

Draw lots of links naturally from other sites.

Simply writing great content will start this process, but so will writing guest posts (like I’m doing here), uploading content to places like YouTube and SlideShare, making thoughtful comments on other blogs, submitting online press releases and amplifying your content in social networks.

email-marketing3 Email Marketing:

Most churches and many ministries underutilize email marketing, because they associate it with spam.

But there’s a great practice used by reputable businesses that can help you build an email list of people who are eager to hear from you, and contribute to your church or ministry.

It’s called a “double opt-in.” This is a process that asks someone who’s entered their email on your site or landing page to confirm they want to receive emails from you.

Most autoresponders, like Mailchimp, Aweber, and Constant Contact allow this option and also provide clear instructions on every email you send how the recipient may unsubscribe from your list.

An engaged email list, eager to hear from you, is the most valuable marketing asset you can build.

500 responsive email followers trumps 2,500 Twitter followers every day when it comes to actually promoting the things that engage your audience. Focus on building a list of email subscribers that want to hear from you and social media will become a tool set to help you do more of that.

social media

4 Social Media Marketing

This is certainly an area where you should consider strategy before tactics. The first step is to understand how your ideal audience uses social media and how you can use social media to somehow serve them better.

If you do that, you’ll provide immediate value to your audience.

Create Twitter lists of influencers and active social participants you want to reach and add their social profiles monitoring and add them to your church management software. Add a tool like Rapportive to your email.

Then claim and build your profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, Picasa, SlideShare and Pinterest.

Your plan to work and engage your audience in all of these networks may not be clear yet, but the first step is to claim the free real estate so you can start exploring.

Start by sharing and re-sharing your and other people’s content. Building connections and discover best practices in each individual network, so you can begin to amplify your content and start finding ways to drive audiences to your eBooks, study guides, and newsletter.

plan your advertising5 Online Advertising:

Many churches and ministries waste money on advertising and then conclude it doesn’t work.

Pay per click advertising can be very effective when done right. One of our favorite things about it is that a platform like Google AdWords and Facebook allow you to test your thinking a dollar at a time.

Here’s our take on how to make ads pay – Use your ads to drive content awareness instead of simply to sell.

Drive Facebook users to obtain a copy of your eBook or a free study first and then stay in touch.
The basics of PPC are this: Use lots of punchy, vivid copy, but test, revise and test.

Create tightly focused ad groups with highly relevant ad copy, work negative keywords out of your list.

Test some more.

responsive web design6 Mobile and Location:

Mobile is more of a behavior than a tool. The first step is to analyze what behaviors your audience exhibits before you dive into or dismiss Foursquare or text messaging.

Be assured your customers are reading content, searching and using reviews to make decisions on mobile devices.

Claim your location based profiles in places such as Foursquare and Yelp .

Create mobile and tablet friendly viewing options with tools such as WPTouch, Tekora or GoMobi. Or better make sure your website is responsive, no matter what the device.

Start creating mobile specific content like event promotion pages that take advantage of the growing use of mobile devices as a major part of the decision process.

website analytics7 Analytics and Conversion:

Like many stage-based processes there is a cyclical aspect as well.

For some, creating benchmarks and key performance indicators is really the first step. So, if you’re one of those folks you can start here, because no matter where you are in the process this stage will always evolve.

Many people can’t start the process of measuring success until they are measuring in real time or can’t start the process of tweaking and testing until all of the elements are in place.

As you build make certain you install tracking code from tools such as Google Analytics, Spring Metrics or KissMetrics so you can begin to build the data to test and refine from.

We suggest starting by setting up an Google Analytics account. Google is great at providing tons of free training to help you understand what you’re looking at.

Then you can start building conversion goals, funnels and events, tracking your ads and split testing your landing pages, opt-in pages and sales pages to discover ways to increase conversion.

When you start to view it as a system, marketing your church becomes much less overwhelming.

In the coming weeks, we’ll break down each of these seven essential stages to help you build a Total Online Presence that will serve your church or ministry and enable you to more effectively share the Greatest Story Ever Told with the audience you are most suited to reach.

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About Andy Catsimanes

Andy Catsimanes is the founder of DayByDay Marketing and DayByDay Church Marketing (coming soon!) , dedicated to helping SMBs, churches, and non-profits identify and implement workable marketing systems for predictable growth.

Andy’s a Certified Duct Tape Marketing Consultant, direct response copywriter, and experienced WordPress professional. In his spare time, he volunteers as an ally for Circles® USA. For more articles like this, subscribe to the DayByDay Marketing Blog, or connect via LinkedIn or Twitter.

9-Point Church Website Health Checklist

Church Websites Have Come a Long Way in a Very Short Time

website healthIt’s easier than ever to put up an attractive, welcoming website even if you aren’t a designer.

But if your church is like many others, chances are once the website is up; you don’t spend a lot of time on it.

That may be a mistake. Websites get stale, things break, or sites crash. If you don’t have regular website upkeep built into your weekly routine, those problems can go unattended to the detriment of your visitors’ experience, or perhaps even your reputation.

I recently visited a ministry website that had been infested with malware. Sitting at the top of the home page was a very inappropriate message for all to see. Definitely not a great first impression!

Your website sets the first impression for an increasing number of potential new visitors to your church.

Why wouldn’t you want to maintain it with the same care you put into your worship service and building upkeep?

Here’s a quick, but by no means exhaustive list of things that should be looked at on a regular basis:

mobile responsive1. Mobile Friendly: This aspect of church web design has rapidly become one of the most important considerations for any website.

Even if you aren’t a techie, chances are a significant cohort of your congregation and potential website visitors are.
Since Google has recently announced it will reward mobile friendly sites with higher rankings in mobile search, it makes sense to ensure your church or ministry website is up to date.

Here’s a handy tool you can use to determine if your site is mobile friendly.

2. Location, Service Dates and Times: This is a huge one for churches! A 2012 survey by Grey Matter Research discovered that “checking location and service times” was by far the number one reason people visited a church website.

At the very least you should have the service times displayed in the footer of every page on your website. Consider adding it to the header as well.

And since it’s relatively easy to embed a Google map on your website, there’s no reason not to have a page that displays a map to your location.

3. Most Visited Pages: Since we’re talking about frequently visited pages, here are some more results from the study quoted above…

Reasons people go to a church’s website:
  • Check to see the times of services: 43%
  • Check what activities are offered: 29%
  • Look for a map or directions to the church’s location: 28%
  • Watch streaming video: 26%
  • Listen to streaming audio: 26%
  • Check to see what the church’s religious beliefs are: 22%
  • Request prayer: 18%
  • Downloading a podcast: 15%
  • Checking what denomination or group the church belongs to: 15%
  • Send a message to the pastor or leader: 12%
  • Post on a bulletin board or forum: 5%

Check any of the pages above that are also on your website. Better yet, set up Google analytics on your site to get firsthand information about your website visitors’ habits.

Use those insights to create a better user experience.

4. Forms working properly: This one hits home!

Our website recently experienced a loss of functionality on our contact forms. I had set up a very robust system that allowed messages to pass to specific individuals instead of all being routed through the church office.

Unfortunately, one of the forms began to malfunction, which meant some messages weren’t getting through.

I was able to create a workaround until I get the functionality restored, but the thought that even one person’s message didn’t get through is unnerving, to say the least.

5. Page speed: Along with mobile friendliness, this is a heavily weighted factor in the search engines. And user experience is greatly diminished if your pages are slow to load.

The good news is there are some fairly easy fixes, like installing caching functionality (if you have a WordPress site, it’s even easier), optimizing image file size, and using a Content Delivery Network (CDN) like CloudFlare to help up your site’s load speed.

Here is a free tool you can use to check and diagnose your website’s load time.

above-the-fold6. Most Important Content Above the Fold: Those of you that still remember newspapers know that “above the fold” refers to the part of the paper visible when it’s folded in half widthwise. Newspapers typically put their most attention grabbing images, headlines, and stories above the fold.

The takeaway for your website is that whatever is taking up space on your viewer’s screen when your site first loads should grab the visitor’s attention. Many churches, including my home church have a sliding carousel or “slider” as the first element the viewer sees.

Some recent web usability studies indicate that sliders aren’t always the best way to promote your most important messaging, especially if you want them to take a specific action, like clicking a link. Consider replacing the slider with a static image and see if you get an increase in engagement.

7. Easy to Read Events Calendar: Many events calendars I see on church websites are cluttered, confusing, and overly complicated.

Google Calendar is a great tool, but it’s not the most elegant looking thing.

Consider using a grid or poster board layout for your calendar and then solicit feedback to see if your members like it better.

8. Timely Calendar Updates: Just as bad as a confusing calendar is one that isn’t updated in a timely fashion. Ideally updates should happen as soon as an event date is set.

At the very least you should update your calendar and events listings by midweek. That way, any announcements that refer to upcoming events can be acted upon when necessary.

It’s also a good idea to have more than one person capable of updating the events or calendars or have an automatic update capacity, so you’re not dependent on a single person.

Really, human redundancy or cross-training on website tasks is always a good idea, as long as everyone remains in the loop about who’s doing what.

seo9. On page SEO: SEO may sound intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be when it comes to a church context. SEO is a skill and expert SEOs are very much in demand, but there are a host of things you can do within your website to help you stand out in local search.

We mentioned image optimization above in the context of improving site speed, but there are also ways to optimize images for search, such as including appropriate alt tags.

You should also think about your page titles and urls, as well as your tags. If you don’t know what that means, there are plenty of resources you can find by googling “on-page seo.” is one of my favorite sites to learn seo.

And if you have a WordPress site, I HIGHLY recommend getting the Yoast SEO plugin (formerly WordPress SEO). There’s a paid version, but the free version is quite robust and you can really improve your site SEO in a matter of minutes just by following the instructions in the plugin settings menu.

Well, that was quite a bit of material for our first blog post!

In the coming weeks I’ll be providing regular posts on church and ministry marketing. If you have a question you’d like answered, feel free to email me at

Andy Catsimanes
Andy Catsimanes is a marketing strategist, WordPress professional, and direct response copywriter. Connect with Andy on Linked In, or Follow DayByDay Marketing on Facebook