Yesterday, I looked at the difficulties faced by Campus Crusade for Christ in light of the negative connotation of the word “crusade.” I found that interesting in my travels around the country, so I thought you might, too!
Probably the biggest branding difficulty in the world of college ministry right now belongs to the Southern Baptists. In case you’re unaware, their campus ministries collectively are officially called “Baptist Collegiate Ministries” at this point in time. But that name is far from standardized nationwide.
brand difficulties and the BSU (BCM, BSM, etc., etc., etc.)
BCM used to be known as BSU – Baptist Student Union. And as far as I can tell, that name was pretty standard on campuses throughout the country. In fact, that branding “stuck” so well that I regularly hear about “BSU” from those inside and outside college ministry circles.
The problem is, only a few states’ Baptist college ministries actually use the “BSU” name anymore.
It seems that a while back, various states began stepping away from the “Baptist Student Union” designation. I’ve heard of three (possible) reasons for this:
- no longer wanting students and leaders to think of their ministries as simply “student unions for Baptist students”
- confusion with the Black Student Union
- growing disuse of the term “student union” in general
- not wanting to be solely identified as the ministry of a certain denomination
Since any state and any local campus ministry is free to decide its name, over time the above reasons (or others) have led to various names. These names now include:
- Baptist Campus Ministry / -ies
- Baptist Collegiate Ministry / -ies
- Baptist Student Ministry / -ies
- Christian Challenge
- Northwest Collegiate Ministries
- Baptist Student Union
- and various names of individual local ministries
This is no critique of anybody’s choices in this matter, but it’s instructive for anyone who might be thinking about names for college ministries or “branding” issues.
In the case of the SBC, I think this is a real challenge (in large part because they’re so widespread). Whether they realize it or not, pastors, youth pastors, parents, and others may be ineffective when they hope to point new college students to the SBC ministry on their new campus. The name they know may have changed, or the name they know may not be in use in that state.