unexpected shiftings of vocabular connotations

I brought up the issue of college ministry names (and changing the names of college ministries) last week in a discussion on longevity. So I thought I’d follow that tangent a bit and look at a couple of college ministries in light of their tricky name-histories. (And it just so happens, these ministries are probably THE two most widely known college ministries in the U.S.)

Recognizing the histories and challenges of other ministries of course gives us wisdom about our own. So you might find this interesting, just as I did as I learned about it throughout the my year of research in 2007-2008.

When a name becomes… problematic

From the standpoint of an outside observer, Campus Crusade for Christ seems to be facing a nationwide challenge in regards to its name. This is a fairly new concern, so it’s going to be interesting to see how it pans out. It’s also an interesting case, since it’s a result of Campus Crusade being caught by nothing but the “unexpected shiftings of vocabular connotations.”

Obviously, the word “crusade” has long had a more general meaning than its use in describing the historical “Crusades.” For instance, its most famous use in recent times is probably in the Billy Graham Crusades. Those who don’t recognize the word’s generic meaning (including college students) can make some pretty obnoxious statements about it being a “stupid choice” for a name.

Regardless of actual meanings, however, the word “crusade” is more and more rarely used for any other purpose than to discuss the historic, infamous Crusades (and people have become more sensitive to such things). So that has caused difficulties. As a result, some Campus Crusade ministries have felt the need (understandably) to change their name. “Cru” is the simple result in many cases, but there has been a variety of responses – many of which sound nothing like the original name.

(I’m sure there are occasionally other reasons for local name-changes, too. This is one reason I happen to know about.)

Why is that a problem?

One of the primary concerns comes as Christians help students make the transition from high school. Well-meaning pastors and others encourage their youth group graduates to check out Campus Crusade ministries all the time. Sadly, those students may bypass the very ministry they’d been encouraged to find – because it’s called “Real Life” or something.

Of course, this non-uniform name-changing could ultimately diminish the incredibly strong branding Campus Crusade for Christ has built over the last several decades. Honestly, that kind of bums me out. But I’ll be watching intently to see Crusade’s response to this stuff; based on their track record, they might just have something pretty smart up their sleeve.

Tomorrow, the tricky case faced by the Southern Baptist college ministries. [Here’s that post.]

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5 Comments

  1. Ben, as a 5-year student of BCM/BSU @ IndianaState, I can’t wait for tomorrow’s post…

    My current ministry is called theBRIDGE college ministry (still BCM in a way, LOL).. I’m very interested in your thoughts on the non-uniform, uniform-ish system the SBC has gone to.

  2. Hannah

    In Canada, we’ve recognized that problem with ‘Crusade’ as well. About 5 years now, we’ve transitioned our campus ministry to Campus for Christ. Still tho, there are the branding problems from people who are looking for ‘Crusade’, but it is similar enough that people seem to be able to find us on campus.

  3. Tufo and Hannah, both of those responses seem really smart.

    I’m not sure, Tufo, if y’all decided that so you’d be “BCM,” but that does seem like it could help students who are looking for it! But certainly in the case of “Campus for Christ,” I think that’s brilliant. At the very least, I would think students would do a double-take and inquire… which is all we really need!

    Thanks for the info!

  4. Pingback: a big moment in college ministry history: campus crusade gets a new name « Exploring College Ministry blog (daily notes about our field)

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