This past year St. David's Presbyterian Church in Kelowna changed its name to Mountainview. From what I can gather the name change was part of a broader attempt to make the church more accessible to the surrounding community. In an era where Biblical knowledge is minimal and few people care about church denominations, losing a religious and denominational moniker may prove fruitful for this community.
The Session of St. Andrew's has had some discussion about our own name. Do those who drive by our building know who St. Andrew is? Can they spell 'Presbyterian'? Does our name sound inviting or exclusive? ("I'm not a Presbyterian so I guess I won't go there...") Moving in another direction, is it confusing to have three buildings in Kamloops with the name St. Andrew's?
We have discussed these questions, but we don't know the answer.
Enter Thompson Rivers University.
Early in the New Year, I began a conversation with TRU's Chair of the Department of Marketing & International Business. I was wondering whether they might help us answer these questions. To make a long story short the question of our name/brand in Kamloops is now a class project for a Brand Management and Marketing Research Class. They will be investigating whether our name is helping or hindering our image in Kamloops. This investigation will invite conversations with us and with our neighbours. It will result in suggestions for us to consider without creating any obligations on our behalf.
The class will be visiting our worship service this coming Sunday (February 16) to learn more about our community. Afterwards, they will be meeting with a small group to ask questions and further this learning. If you'd like to be part of this discussion please let me know.
But even if our name is judged to be a hindrance, it is not our biggest challenge. In the 21st century Canada, the church has an image problem. Some consider us country clubs that are simply focused on the needs of members. Others would go further to say that we are parasitic, picking other people's pockets simply to stay alive.
As we move forward into the next decade I think the biggest challenge is not simply helping people see what God is doing among us, but participating in what God is doing in our neighbourhood. Of course, this isn't an either/or but a both/and. We need to welcome people in, even as we mobilize for going out.