Henderson MB Church in Henderson, Nebraska, has changed its name to Living Hope Church.
According to Pastor Luke Haidle, the decision was made to rebrand in order to remove barriers when engaging with others outside of the congregation.
“Over the past few years, our congregational members have been accumulating stories of the word ‘Mennonite’ creating a barrier to spiritual conversations or inviting people to church,” Haidle says. “When others heard ‘Mennonite,’ they pictured Amish culture and refused to come.”
One of the three oldest Mennonite Brethren churches in the U.S. and Canada, Henderson MB was founded in 1878 and has a history of both local and international missions.
Soon after its founding, Henderson MB established four “station churches” in Nebraska—like satellite campuses—that looked to Henderson MB for leadership, vision, communion and preaching. The congregation sent church planters to places like Minnesota as well.
In the last 10 to 15 years, however, the church’s name began to present an obstacle to this continued vision for outreach, Haidle says. This included both a lack of understanding from people outside the church and a difficulty in communicating from within.
“We began to face a crisis where our name, which once created a bridge, was now creating a barrier,” Haidle says, adding that some members of the congregation struggled to talk about what it means to be “Mennonite” or “Mennonite Brethren,” with typical responses tending toward heritage, not theology.
“The question would be, ‘What’s a Mennonite?’ and then the answer would be Russia and German and verenika and all these other kinds of things,” Haidle says. “What happened in that moment is they killed the gospel, because what they said is that this church is for an ethnic people group and it’s not open to you.”
At the request of the church’s Leadership Team, Haidle began researching the possibility of rebranding in January 2018. Haidle reached out to other churches that have gone through rebranding. He studied the significance of a name, saying research indicates that including the denomination in a church name is most valuable for a mainline denomination in a larger city. For Haidle, the process involved more than a name change, and he also researched how a new logo and color and font schemes could work together to convey a message.
“Renaming is, ‘Let’s change the sign,’” Haidle says. “But (we) took the approach that to say in rebranding, we’re not just changing the sign. We’re saying, what’s the first thing you want to communicate in a hopefully longer conversation.”
The church voted to rebrand in Fall 2018 and voted to adopt the new name in Spring 2019.
The official transition to Living Hope Church happened Nov. 17, 2019, during the church’s three-weekend Harvest Missions Festival, which included themes of “Honoring the past” on Nov. 10 and “Celebrating the future” on Nov. 17, and concluded with a meal and guest speaker Nov. 24.
“If you look at the 140-year history of this church, they have made some bold moves for the sake of the gospel,” Haidle says. “This is another such step of faith, born out of a desire to see God’s kingdom expand in Nebraska.”
The church maintains its Mennonite Brethren affiliation and beliefs. Haidle says he preached a sermon intended to equip people to talk more effectively and efficiently about what it means to be Mennonite Brethren.
“We remain faithful to the district, to the denomination and to our Mennonite Brethren beliefs,” Haidle says. “But for the sake of the gospel, we wanted to remove as many barriers as we could. We will still talk about Mennonite Brethren on the website and from the pulpit but always in places where it can be explained a bit further.”