Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Five Terrible, Horrible Things About Campus Crusade for Christ's New Name and Why We Still Chose This One

This is probably a post in which I should remind people that the things I say here are my opinion and don't reflect the opinion of Campus Crusade for Christ, and is not endorsed, edited or approved by CCC. 

I was on the team of people who helped choose Campus Crusade for Christ's new name. Cru. That's right. For the last year I've been in meetings at the corporate headquarters in Orlando, I've been on all-day conference calls, I've looked at e-mails and logos and color-swatches and kept my mouth shut about what was going on for the sake of keeping it all under wraps. I didn't make the final call (I have no authority to make a decision like that), but I shared my opinion with our leadership along the way.

The name we landed on, Cru, was not my first choice. In fact, I remember early on in the process, when we still had about a thousand names on the "potentials" list, talking with another member of the team (I didn't get his permission to share this, so I won't use his name) and saying, "I hate that name. If there's one name it won't be, it's that one." He disliked it as well. And, in fact, it was eventually dropped from our list of names and was only added back in later because we needed one more name for a research project we were running, a sort of "benchmark" name, and a lot of our campuses have used the name in the past, so we threw it in because it's what a lot of people called us already.

Now, over time I've grown used to the name (I've known for a few months this was the way things were likely to go). In fact, I'd say I went from depressed to apathetic to excited as this name became more and more real. But, let's be honest, every name has some drawbacks. So let's get them out on the table, shall we? I'll list the worst things about the name and then we can talk about why it's maybe not so bad as it seems at first glance.

1) Rather than completely removing the most offensive word out of our old name, Cru abbreviates it and makes it our whole identity.

This was my initial objection to the name. I've seen several blog posts (mostly by non-Cru staff) and have heard a lot of people say, "When someone asks me what Cru means, I'll just have to say 'it's short for Crusade' and then we'll be back to the same place we were before." I thought this, too. But guess what? No one asks that. I've been testing it out, and so far not a single person has asked me what Cru means when I say that I work with a non-profit called Cru. They don't care what it means. Cru might as well be semantically unrelated to our previous name for all anyone cares. People care about what an organization does for them, not what its name means. So, assuming our name doesn't scare people away, we're going to be fine. When I realized this, I felt better about the name.

2) People are going to be confused by our name and think of other things that sound like Cru.

It's true. A lot of people are going to think of this:

Wine critics are going to think of this:

Oh hey, that one's not half bad. I suppose some people will think of this:

Okay, yes. It's going to be annoying how often we're going to get confused with rowing teams. And yes, it's going to be frustrating to occasionally hear jokes about vineyards and wine bars. I'm guessing we'll rarely hear  about Latin pop, but what do I know? Maybe it will be constant.

On the other hand, we won't get confused with this anymore:

Or this:

Let's keep the drawbacks in perspective, shall we?

3) Please oh please tell me that there aren't going to be constant Cru puns.

But there are. I've already seen "famous" Cru staff being called "Crulebrities." I'm sure we're going to hear about Cru Cuts (a movie ministry, maybe?), a submarine Cru, comparisons to Cru-ella DeVille by the critics. I'm sure there will be other, more creative (cruative?) puns to come.

I don't see much of an up side to this. Unless you happen to like puns, in which case, you're welcome.

4) The response of some Christians makes us all look ridiculous.

I debated whether to include this one. In the end I decided to include it because I think it's true, and I'm trying to be honest here.

This isn't really the name's fault, but the response in some quarters to the name change has made Christians look unintelligent, petty, and like they are people with a shallow belief system. I'm not saying they ARE those things, but that's the impression they give. A couple quick points on this:

* When someone says "dropping Christ from your name is evidence of dropping Christ" outsiders look at them and think, "Wow, their faith is shallow." If changing the name of your organization threatens your commitment to the things the organization stands for, then you have to wonder if you were committed in the first place. It also just seems silly given that the SAME PEOPLE go to churches without Christ in the name. "Oh, but it's dropping the name Christ that's wrong." Really? Is there a rule book somewhere about these things that I missed? If that's true, then the converse would be true, right? It would be superior to ADD Christ into the name of other organizations. If a single church or organization added Christ into their name in response to our name change, I would be amazed and actually respect that. But that's not going to happen.

* The people who say they think the change is "politically correct" reveal what appears to be a politically motivated faith. Cru doesn't make decisions based on politics. Ever. We don't back certain politicians or bills or laws. It is disconcerting how many Christians are watching our name change through a political lens, saying things about how it's evidence we're losing the culture war, etc, etc. It's simply not something we consider. Our organization exists to tell people about Christ, not to win at politics.

* Non-Christians watch the whole conversation with confused uncertainty. Things I've heard from them:
"Why are Christians attacking you for making your name less offensive? Do they want to offend people?"
"Do all Christians form their opinions by watching Fox News?"
"Why are people accusing your leadership of lying about why the name is changing?"
"Do Christians really think they can tell another person's motives and whether they're good or not without talking to those people?"
"Why isn't it sufficient that you have a cross in the logo? Doesn't that show a commitment to Christ?"

The problem is not so much the positions being taken (that's fine if that's your opinion), but the shrill, hysterical tone taken on by many. It's refreshing when someone comes to us with an honest question about things, instead of shouting THIS IS EVIDENCE OF YOUR APOSTASY. Yes, some people have said that. Oy vey, Christians, pull it together.

5) Loss of financial support.

Whatever name we changed to, the experts told us to expect a short term drop in financial support for the organization. This is because change is hard, and people use the change as a reason to move on. It doesn't matter if we had changed our name to "God's Knights" or "Christ Christ for Christ" this would still be the situation.

However, in light of the fact that we believe this change will widen the population of people who will hear the gospel from us, this is an acceptable loss. I'm proud of our leadership, actually, for making a decision that goes against the "bottom line." It's tempting to make decisions based on our finances, and I think it's amazing that our leadership made a decision based not on money but on effectiveness and potential for spreading the good news about Jesus Christ.

So, in conclusion: there are some real disadvantages to the new name. I honestly believe they are lesser disadvantages than our previous name had, and that many of these current difficulties can be overcome or lived with.

While I was writing this post I got a note from a friend on facebook who said this:

Matt, I have been a Young Life staff/volunteer/supporter for over 40 years. While YL may be a bit more descriptive than "CRU", it's not definitive. Often mistaken for a Life Ins. Co.. The strength is in the work! You and your counterparts in "CRU" will continue to make the work of Christ first and foremost. God and your good efforts will make the name "CRU" shine as a beacon for Christ. Bless you all!!!

That's a good reminder of what matters most... continuing to make the work of Christ first and foremost. I pray that will be true for all followers of Christ (regardless of the names of our organizations!).

Previous posts on this topic: 

Name change overview 


  1. I think I'm going to add the name of Christ to my name in response to Cru dropping it.... Seth "Jesus Christ" Caddell... actually that might not be a good idea.

    Great post though Matt. Way to keep things in perspective.

  2. Throwing away 60 years of name recognition is not good business.

  3. Shanti9:45 AM

    Mikalatos, as always, I appreciate your thoughts. You're right. I'd rather be confused with a Latin pop artist (that guy's not bad) than skirt-wearing-murders any day. Pull it together, indeed! One bummer though: "Crewcuts" is the name of J.Crew's line for children... need to go back to the drawing board on that one.

  4. Shanti9:46 AM


    ... how do you edit on this thing?

  5. Nicely put Matt, although "Christ Christ for Christ" is kinda catchy.

  6. Steve says, "Throwing away 60 years of name recognition is not good business."
    Two responses to that. First, Cru is not a business. We are not "in the business" of maintaining a reputation at the expense of alienating those whom we seek to reach.
    Secondly, a name change is not always "bad business". Ever heard of Verizon? For years (well over 70 years) they were known as GTE. Then they merged with Bell Atlantic and changed their name to Verizon. I'd say that has worked out ok for them. Bottom line: name changes aren't bad in and of themselves. It's what you make of the name change that matters.

  7. Oh, Matt Mikalatos like you even more than before. Thanks for writing this and writing so well.

  8. Awesome post. As a student within Cru, it really showed me, and I'm sure others, a lot of light on the subject. And it is a great resource to share a humble and valid perspective to those who disagree with the name change. Thanks!

  9. Good post, Matt. I was just noticing that some of my friends on Facebook like Jesus and I was invited to like him too. By not clicking that am I indirectly saying that I don't like Jesus?

    God's knight,


  10. Thanks Mikalatos, Appreciate your insight- thanks for giving us a view from inside the discussion that happened. I think I've gone thru the same process as you with response to the name. Wanted to mention... I've heard of at least a couple of situations where people have asked, "What does Cru stand for?" and answering that question well is important. The key is distancing ourselves from the word Crusade when it's tempting to fall back into old habits of linking Cru to it (those who have previous experience with Cru at least). I wonder if it would be helpful to hit that topic a little more. How would you answer that question if someone did ask...? Thanks again man. -Shawn

  11. Anonymous4:11 PM

    Christ Christ for Christ. Ha Ha. That's hilarious.

  12. Ryan Barber5:01 PM

    Good article; funny and well written. I have been out of the Crusade arena for some time (Class '03) and thought it odd that the name was changing when I recently found out. I never had any trouble with it. I've read the reasons; less offensive, opening the lines of communication, etc. but it still did not make sense to me. I was always under the training that CCC was philisophically and theologically a Calvinist organization (did I not get that right from my 4 years in CCC?). Our Commission was to simply spread the Gospel and the Four Laws were easy to learn and use to get the word out. The name change doesn't matter as the elected are already elected. We could be called "The Great One Horned Owl Mice Eater Club" and still have the same results. Our Commission (as Christians, not just Crusaders) is to spread the Gospel out of obedience and Jesus/Holy Spirit/Father do the rest. Am I missing something where a name change will affect the "total saved" tally?

  13. Hey gang,

    Sorry I was out most of the day so I'm just getting to comments now. Thanks to everyone who has commented so far!

    @steve gotthardt If we stick with looking at things in a business framework (though certainly The Lowedown is correct that we don't really operate cleanly in that framework), you're generally right. We spent a lot of time looking at "brand equity" which is, of course, all the good things about your reputation and name. Campus Crusade for Christ has a lot of that, actually. The name is well respected and beloved within a lot of Christian contexts, our staff, many churches, and our donor base. The place where we are lacking a lot of equity (or even have negative connotations) is with those outside the Christian community, who are, in many ways, our core audience. So, we have to weigh out whether our current involved constituency and the excellent things there are outweighed by the difficulty in reaching a core "outsider" audience and hopefully helping them become insiders (i.e. become Christians). I honestly think that those who love Campus Crusade for Christ in the Christian community will continue to love us as Cru, because we're going to be doing the same things we've always done. And I think that we'll find it easier to engage with non-believers and bring them into the community of faith. Anyway... I wouldn't usually use that sort of business terminology, but in the business framework that's how I look at it.

    @shawn McGrath... that's a valid question. Let me think about it for a bit. I honestly haven't run over anyone who has asked me that yet (other than CCC staff). I think right now the tag line on the Cru website could be a good start: "Cru is a caring community passionate about connecting people to Jesus Christ."

    @Ryan Actually, CCC is not Calvinist. Certainly there are people within it who are, but our statement of faith organizationally doesn't take a stand either way on the question. You can see that here: We have lots of staff from a lot of different philosophical and spiritual backgrounds, and plenty of Calvinsts and Something-Other-Than-Calvinists co-existing pretty much peacefully. I think from a Calvinist point of view, though, you would still have the obligation not only to be obedient to share the gospel but also to share it to the best of your ability, trusting that the Holy Spirit will ultimately be the one who contextualizes the gospel but doing your best to present the gospel as clearly as you able regardless... which is where our name change comes in. Does that make sense?

  14. I wonder if each campus will end up making CRU into their tag lines. Like "Campus Revival Initiative" or something, you know?? I think it may take some getting used to when we approach students and faculty on campus to say, "We're with Cru, part of ... uh, CRU" rather than just saying it's a shortened version of Campus Crusade for Christ.

    On another train of thought, I think that the mere shortening of the 'offensive' word -- Crusade -- is pretty sweet! I mean, people still argue about the purpose behind the Crusades and whether or not those people were really saved and debates still rage about the theology and heart behind that section of history.

    Why should that not continue?? Shouldn't people still talk about what CRU staff members and CRU students are doing around the world on in our dorms??

    -- My point is this: If we are bold enough to obey our ONLY task in sharing the Good News, who will talk about our name rather than the message we present??

    I think you have presented very valid points and I hope this didn't step on too many toes. =] I look forward to reading more of your posts.

    -Jennifer Lovejoy

  15. Give it 4 to 6 weeks and no one will much care about the name change. It's how things work. Some will still grumble. Others will wonder what Cru "means." I bet some will find a way to make it an acronym to answer the "what does it mean" questions. In the end, I bet most will associate it with the word "crew" and wonder what the "crew" does. So on and so forth. In the end, it's what you accomplish on campuses that will make or break the organization.

  16. Anonymous8:44 AM

    We actually call the handouts at our weekly meetings "cru cuts" and did so all 5 years I was in school! haha

  17. Justin Devine2:59 PM

    Hey Matt, you may or may not remember me from my time as a CCC Intern, we did a few things together at Winter Conferences and such, and I once one a rigged movie trivia (rigged for me to lose) contest, a night after winning a real one that I believe you hosted. Anyway I loved my years spent with CCC as a student and Law student. When I cut out of Law school to do ministry,naturally I joined staff as an intern for the subsequent two years. (I know interning is not the same as joining staff but do the same(more) work right?) The reason that I pursued my current vocation (Youth Director) over joining staff was because of what I felt was a huge organizational leadership disconnect from staff, as well as an even greater one from students. Especially as far as things were concerned at the U of O. In my time with Crusade there are four people I met who I would follow their guidance on just about any spiritual topic, You, Mike Alverts, Carolyn Culbertson, and Dave Hunter. However, I feel like, you guys really missed the boat on this name change. I spent 7 years on the U of O campus and 6.5 of that involved with CCC. Let me tell you everyone there will ask 1. So you are on the rowing team? 2. Cru what does that mean? or What is that short for? I know this because it happened to every student I ever met who called are organization Cru. I never minded because I like the conversation about the word Crusade, and it was easy to navigate. Further more anytime we were not clear about who we were or what we were doing at an outreach on campus we had dozens of people accusing us of being sneaky and a "bait and switch" based group. This will happen even more now and will really affect campuses where the population is adverse to Christ at the outset. I don't dislike this name change Matt, I loath it, and It only further validates my feelings about the leadership of an organization that cares so little about improving it doesn't actually do an exit interview. I have since avidly supported staff and rallied former students to do the same, but this makes me want out. I think this change underestimates and insults the intelligence of its "target audience". Blah I have so much more to say, but I am probably just in my anger stage!---Justin Devine

  18. Anonymous12:10 AM

    From the official FAQ: "The word “campus” does not adequately represent all our ministries in the United States and confuses our constituency as well as potential partners." After reading that, I think it is a bit disingenuous to say the name change was because CCC is more than just a campus ministry and to choose a name that was used almost primarily by the campus ministry. Anyway, there's no such thing as bad publicity.

  19. @justin Hey, friend. Yes, of course, I remember you! If you have more to say, feel free to say it. I will say that we didn't just randomly choose a name without talking to people about it... we did more research on five names, talking to people from diverse backgrounds within and without the organization, Christian and non-Christian and the vast majority of people found Cru to be a name that they felt good about entering spiritual conversation with someone from that organization. So I don't think it underestimates or insults the intelligence of our target audience, because we talked with a lot of people in the target audience. And I think that since our name will actually be Cru (Cru won't be a nickname for CCC) I'm not sure why it would be a bait and switch... any more than if InterVarsity or Navigators did an outreach using their names, even though they don't mention God in the name....

    Anyway, it sounds like you might have a lot more than the name change that you're upset about, and I'm available if you'd like to talk about that some time.

  20. @anonymous The word "Cru" doesn't imply campus just because some campuses used it. The word "campus" in our current name does. So when Family Life says "a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ" it's confusing for people... is Family Life for college students? If it isn't, then why is it a "campus" ministry?

    If Family Life says it's "a ministry of Cru Global" or "Cru" that doesn't in any way communicate campus to the listeners.

    It seems to me that by using the word disingenuous you're implying some sort of deceit or unspoken agenda on the part of the decision makers? Is that what you mean to say?

    I would point out, also, that the "campus" issue isn't positioned as the only reason for the name change... but it is certainly one of them.

  21. Thanks for the post, Matt! I'd like to send it to a supporter who stopped giving due to the change, but I think it might come across as a bit harsh (I'm thinking of point #4.)
    As a proofreader, I would like to note that the new name is "Cru" when used in a sentence, and all-lowercase "cru" in the mark. It has been stated that it will not be all-caps "CRU" to prevent people thinking it's an acronym. Some of the commenters seem to like it as an all-caps name.

  22. Dave, feel free to edit as you please and drop point 4 and anything else you think will offend rather than edify. :)