Monday, August 01, 2011

Campus Crusade for Christ name change: The criteria we used and why they matter

Before you change your name, you need to know who you are. Most of us are given our names, and while a lot of parents give us a middle name to switch to, sometimes you can grow up feeling that your name has stopped representing who you are. That's how Richard Smith of Carlisle decided to change his name to "Stormhammer Deathclaw Firebrand" last May (I'm not joking... you can look him up).

Before we get to the criteria that Campus Crusade for Christ used during our renaming process, I thought it would be important to take a look at our "who we are" statement that we used to remind ourselves what we wanted people to know about who we are.

Here it is (all slides in this post are taken from this talk where Steve Sellers, CCC's vice president of the Americas, announced the name change):

In case you can't see the picture clearly, it says: WE ARE a caring community - passionate about connecting people to Jesus Christ - so they can experience Christ's life-changing presence and the opportunities to share Him with others.

Notice three main aspects of the statement above:

1) a caring community

2) connecting people to Christ/opportunities for others to share about him (evangelism remains a central part of what we do)

3) Life change. Campus Crusade for Christ has been and will continue to be about seeing people's lives transformed by the presence of Christ in their lives. As you can see, this continues to fit well with our mission and statement of faith.

A few news outlets chose to use our name change as an opportunity to manufacture controversy in the hopes of generating more traffic to their sites, but as you can clearly see in this "brand identity" slide, from the very beginning changing the name has been centered on the same values Campus Crusade for Christ was founded on.

Now, let's take a closer look at the criteria used in the naming concepts:

1. Can be used with the new brand strategy concepts. 

The "brand strategy concepts" could be a post all by itself, but basically it boils down to the brand identity above... that our name wouldn't conflict with our promise to be a caring community, to seek life change for people around us through connecting them to Christ, and that we would teach others to do the same.

For me, one of the saddest things from the research was when we'd hear a comment like, "I wish there was an organization that would care about me and help me to find answers to my spiritual questions." Our name prevented outsiders from seeing us that way... they saw us as a people with a cause who would treat them as something expendable. We wanted to make sure that our new name would allow people to look beyond that misconception and see that we would love them, connect them to Christ and teach them to do the same with others.

2. Leads to greater interest and encourages target audience to ask additional questions without being "overly religious."

For me, this boils down to the "airplane test." When Krista and I first joined staff with Campus Crusade for Christ, I was excited to tell people that I was a missionary (something we had been working toward for over a year). I remember being on the plane ride home, and the man next to me asked, "What's your business?" I told him that I was with a Christian non-profit called Campus Crusade for Christ and he immediately, without another word, turned away from me and held his newspaper up over his face. To my dismay, this was a common reaction... people would withdraw (often in a socially awkward or rude way) as soon as they heard our name.

Other staff I've spoken with have stopped using the name of the organization, at least in the early parts of a conversation. Many of us in the campus ministry say something like, "A Christian non-profit that works with college students." We do this not because we're ashamed of our name, but because we'd like to actually have a meaningful conversation with someone instead of being treated like a pariah.

I've been giving the new name the "airplane test" and here's how it plays:

Stranger: What do you do?

Me: I work with a Christian non-profit called "Cru."

Stranger: That's interesting. What does Cru do?

Aside from the unfortunate "Cru do" rhyme, I think we can all admit this is a great leap forward in keeping the conversation open and actually having a meaningful spiritual conversation.

3. Usable with all ministries and also allows for expansion over time.

One of the major drawbacks of our current name is the "campus" piece. While our ministry started on campus and the idea of "reach the campus today and the world tomorrow" continues to be central for us, God has blessed our ministry in allowing it to expand to many, many other places. The Jesus Film Project, for instance, is an important part of our ministry which is not well represented by the word campus. Our Military Ministry, Athletes in Action, Josh McDowell ministries, Family Life, Here's Life Inner City (and our ministries to professionals, politicians, the UN, Hollywood and so on) are all insufficiently represented in our current name. This creates a feeling of disassociation for many of our staff, who feel that the name doesn't include them, and creates confusion for outsiders, who don't realize that our organization has many ministries that aren't focused on college students. Our new name needed to be inclusive of all we currently do and flexible enough to allow us to expand in the future.

4. Taps into Campus Crusade's existing brand equities.

There are some really great things about our current name, and there are some great connections to our ministries which we don't want to lose. Our sixty year history of service is not something we want to lose, so if there was a name which somehow connected to our heritage, we wanted to make sure it had a leg up on the competition (when we look at names later this week you'll see how this played out).

5. Is uniquely ownable.

There was one name I really liked that we couldn't use because there's an organization of 50 who already use the name. Could we have bought it from them? Steamrolled them because we're a bigger organization? Sure, we probably could have. But it didn't seem like it was the best route. Likewise, one of the the early ideas I was really fond of was using "Life" in all our names... we already have Family Life and Here's Life Inner City, and in Australia our campus ministry is called Campus Life (EDIT: Actually, it's called Student Life. Campus Life is yet another organization). Our other ministries could have gone that way also... Military Life, Hollywood Life, whatever. The only real problem is our friends in Young Life. We get confused for one another already, and taking a name so close to theirs would only add to the confusion and frustration.

Add to that the fact that people have been trying to think up names for their Christian organizations for about 2,000 years and you start to realize how many names have been "taken" and how even the most original names are echoes or repeats or semantically close to others that are already out there.

So, there you have it... five criteria we used in the naming process. Tomorrow we'll talk about something that's been creating a decent amount of conversation within the ministry. Cru: why did we choose a name "without any meaning"? 

In the meantime... what do you think of the five criteria? Would you have added any? Dropped any? Any questions about the criteria and how they effected our name change or process?


  1. Actually in Australia (and NZ, UK and Poland) the campus ministry is called Student LIfe. Campus Life is a completely different Christian ministry that in the antipodes often gets confused with Campus Crusade for Christ.

  2. Karl, I'm so sorry. I've worked a good bit with Student Life and can't believe I accidentally called them Campus Life. I suppose that goes to my point, though... it would have been confusing for the U.S. Campus Crusade ministry to change our name to Campus Life. Or Student Life.

    I've added a little note above to fix that!