Thursday, August 04, 2011

Mourning the Loss of Campus Crusade for Christ

Previous posts on this topic: 

Name change overview 

Bill and Vonette Bright, the founders of CCC
Change is hard. It's harder for some of us than others. But for many of us, the change in name for Campus Crusade for Christ is a big deal. Some people came to Christ many years ago through an organization of that name. Some people, their first missions experience was with that organization. Others, it may be that their first job out of college was with a crazy group of young people out of UCLA who had started a cutting edge organization called Campus Crusade for Christ and believed that through God's power they could change the world.

In the midst of the name change, I thought it might be good to take a deep breath and acknowledge that whether the new name is good or bad, that change is hard. I've read some articles about organizational change, and most experts say that change in the workplace takes us through a process much like the grief in the midst of losing a loved one (though of course it is a smaller issue that is hopefully worked through more quickly). A lot of organizational psychologists will even use Elisabeth Kübler-Ross's "stages of grief" terminology to walk employees through what is happening.

For those who are unfamiliar with those stages, let me walk through them quickly, with some thoughts about how this might look related to the Campus Crusade name change for those of us who are heavily invested in the organization (whether staff, students, graduates, donors or friends of the ministry):

1) Shock and Denial. Basically, this involves refusing to believe what has happened. In this stage someone might say, "This can't be right, I'm sure it's all a mistake and the leadership will change their minds by January." During the big unveiling you could see this most clearly in the number of people on Twitter who were saying things like, "Cru? That's a joke, right?"

2) Guilt. Despite the fact that for the vast majority of us the name change is out of our hands, some people will feel bad that they didn't do something differently, something that would have made the old name work. Or maybe it's guilt that they didn't make the time to send in their thoughts about the name change, or their suggestion for the new name and they're wondering, maybe it would have all been different if I had just made the time to say what I thought, or said it more clearly....

3) Anger. I think this one is self-explanatory, and unfortunately it's most likely to be targeting our leadership. Again, this is one of the stages of grief, so I don't think it's something to be dismissed as evil or un-Christian. How we act during times of anger can be sinful, but experiencing anger in a moment like this is not something that can necessarily be controlled. How I've seen this play out so far has been angry phone calls and notes from CCC supporters, CCC staff venting about the leadership or the name or the process and some unfounded and nasty rumors that have gone around even before the name came out (i.e. "there's not really a process happening, they don't care about our opinions, there's a name that was already chosen years ago" etc... none of which is true.).

4) Acceptance. "So. This is really happening." This is the moment of realization, that something in the world has changed and must be dealt with, one way or another. 

5) Moving on. We can finally set the grief (mostly) aside and live in this new world that has been left to us. It might be the moment when the old logo gets dropped from your newsletter and the new one goes in, or when you stop flinching every time you see that new staff person who loves her "Cru" t-shirt and wears it EVERY SINGLE DAY. It doesn't mean, necessarily, that you like the new name. It just means that you can leave the conversation behind. You don't find yourself seeking out the other staff who are angry about the name change and standing outside meetings and venting about it any more. You just want to do your job, and it doesn't matter what the organization is called, at least, not so much that it distracts you any more.

From a personal side, let me share a couple of thoughts. 

I joined Campus Crusade for Christ in January of 1999. I didn't come to Christ through the organization, or do anything significant with them in college. After college I met this wonderful woman who became my girlfriend and later my wife who had amazing experiences in college through a few Crusade staff people who came out to their school once a week in what CCC called a "catalytic" campus... meaning it was largely run by students who were being coached by staff from a distance. Krista went on a year long overseas missions trip with CCC, and I went to visit her partway through it. Her team was full of, I think it's safe to say, ordinary people. People like me. Some of them had lesser social skills, maybe. Some of them had better. Some of them were people I would probably have befriended in other contexts and some of them weren't. Extroverts and introverts and singles and two married couples with kids and all of them together for one simple reason: they honestly believed the world would be a better place if more college students heard about Jesus Christ and had a chance to decide whether they wanted to follow him or not.

Krista and I joined staff after we were married, and over the years we've done a lot of amazing things with some incredible people. I saw a Buddhist guy become a Christian in one conversation... hard core Buddhist to hard core Christian in 30 minutes in a conversation with a staff guy named Brian Ricci. We walked through the loss of a student on a summer project in Santa Cruz with staff people like Mike and Sharon Mehaffie and Paul and Amy Mayer and a whole bunch of other amazing people. I've stood on the Great Wall, and been to Siberia and Costa Rica and Mexico City and Spain and Turkey and in al those places I've talked to ordinary people just like you and me from those countries and been able to thell them about Jesus, and talk about their questions and pray with them and be amazed that we serve a God who is not the God of America, but the God of the nations. Some of our closest friends in life, like Nicole Lewis and Shasta Kramer and all our East Asia stinters and our current team of WSN friends (I realize I can't start to name people in all these places because I'm going to leave some out) are people we've met on staff. I mean it. If you listed "top 30 friends" I'm guessing 25 of ours would be people we know from being on staff with this organization. That all happened in an organization called Campus Crusade for Christ.

And if we started to list all the names of the people who have heard the gospel through Campus Crusade for Christ, and then all the people who have become Christians through it, and then all the people who have grown closer to Christ because of this organization, it would be a long and impressive list. Not because the organization itself is amazing, but because for the last sixty years there have been people who have been doing their best to follow Jesus who have been a part of Campus Crusade for Christ, and God has done some miraculous, literally miraculous, things.

And now, Campus Crusade for Christ, this organization we love and that has been like a home to many of us, is changing its name to Cru.

There is reason to mourn that. It is okay to cry about that. It's okay to be angry. It's okay to be in shock and hope that's not the case.

For me, when the team of people looking at all the research and the potential names got down to our list of ten, I remember looking at the list with a feeling of shock and depression. We had started with over 1,600 names and these were the final ten and I remember thinking, "So. That's it. That's the best we can do. It's one of those ten names and I don't really like any of them that much."

As I moved through the stages of grief, I eventually came to a place of acceptance. We got down to five names and frankly some of my least favorite were on the list. But I remember this one day thinking to myself, "You know, even if the name ends up being my absolute least favorite name, it's not going to change what I do. It's not going to change who I serve or what I am called to do. I might not like the names on the list, but I can live with any of them." For me, that was the breakthrough into acceptance. There was a feeling of peace. I could do this.

Soon after that, it became really clear from our conversations, from the research, and from our prayers that we were going to recommend to the board that Campus Crusade for Christ become Cru. And this name, a name I hadn't really cared for in the beginning, sparked a little something in me. This tiny spark of hope. This barely visible seed of a thought: "What if this name really turns out to be a good thing?" What if it means more people hearing the gospel? And the more I thought about it, the more I realized: that could really be the case! This might really be something amazing with huge, life-giving ramifications. The down sides of of the new name might actually be better than the downsides of our much loved current name.

That was my process. I'm not saying it will be yours, or that it should be yours. I am saying this: if you are grieving the loss of our name, grieve well. Behave with love and generosity toward our leadership and one another, but grieve it fully and honestly. 

If you're fine with the name and excited about it, I would say be patient with those who are grieving. Listen to them well when they talk about "the good old days" of Campus Crusade for Christ. Be honest about your excitement, but don't expect everyone to share it. 

Let's give one another the time we need in this whole process. 

I shared in Colorado how Phil Knight, the founder of Nike, saw the first sketch of what would become the most recognized logo on the planet, the Nike Swoosh and said, "I don't love it. Maybe it will grow on me." I hope we can approach this name change with the same honesty and at least that much positivity. If all you can say is, "Maybe it will grow on me" I think that is a generous and excellent thing to say.

In the meantime, my friends, here is a reminder of our name and our shield... a name and shield which for many people has been the first thing they've seen at the entrance to the kingdom of God, and which many faithful men and women have served under in the last sixty years. Let's remember it fondly and treat it with respect:


  1. Vincent9:21 PM

    Awww, Matt, you made me tear up with that last paragraph!

  2. Judy Nelson6:51 AM

    This is so, so, so good, Matt!

  3. Thanks Judy and Vincent.

  4. My brother is on staff with Cru, so he's dealing with unhappy contributors right at the moment. While I don't particularly care what they call it, my brother informs me that "Cru" is what all the students and staff have been calling it for years anyway. I just think it's ironic that they claimed the word "crusade" was offensive - and then decide on Cru; cru being the first three letters of the word "crusade."

  5. David8:38 AM

    A note about the shield logo at the end of this post: that is actually the logo of the Campus Ministry alone, not Campus Crusade for Christ's U.S. ministries. The word "Campus" is emphasized by being rendered In a different color. Many CCC staff have thought that it was an updated version of the corporate logo, but that was not the case. The shield logo with the squared edges is the overall ministry logo, soon to be replaced by the cru logo.

  6. David8:43 AM

    The current, historical CCC logo can be seen at upper left on

  7. David6:48 PM

    Did my earlier comment get through about the logo shown at the end of your post? (I had noted the logo above is for the Campus Ministry, and is not the soon-to-be-replaced corporate logo that's been around for decades.)