If you’re interested in college ministry at all, you’re interested in this: The country’s best-known, best-branded college ministry (by far) will change its name in 2012. Campus Crusade for Christ will officially become “cru” nationwide.
(I was going to post about something college ministries can learn from Justin Bieber – really – but I’ll save that for this week’s Fridea. Check back in a couple of days!)
Campus Crusade has done a good job with their announcement page for this change, including the official press release and a very strong Q&A page. It’s interesting to note not only the whys (and the hows) of the name-change, but also to read between the lines and see some of the concerns others have already expressed.
the why of the change
In their words,
There’s only one reason we’d change. We want to do a better job of connecting people to God’s love and forgiveness. It’s all about helping people experience the good news that Jesus offers.
Since 2009, Campus Crusade for Christ International has been officially looking at making a change for its U.S. mission, but various levels have felt this need for a much longer time. The key issues involve both “campus” and “crusade.” The former is a problem because Campus Crusade does have much work beyond college campuses.
But for the huge part of U.S. Campus Crusade that is collegiate work, it’s the word “Crusade” that has been problematic. (I wrote on those “unexpected shiftings of vocabular connotations” back in 2009.) While “crusade” actually has a much more general meaning, newer generations may not associate the word with anything other than the historical Crusades. And when you add the fact that Campus Crusade sends lots of students to the mission field each year, the level of concern increases all the more.
Very interestingly, they write
Our surveys show that, in the U.S., twenty percent of the people willing to consider the gospel are less interested in talking with us after they hear the name. We are changing the name for the sake of more effective ministry.
my first thoughts
From my viewpoint – not only of Crusade but also in broader Evangelical campus ministry – here are some first reflections on this far-reaching decision in the world of College Ministry.
1. The name. I knew this change was coming, and my best guess was they’d land on one of three options:
- Cru, since it is the common nickname across many campuses.
- CRU – as an acronym – since it keeps the common nickname but adds meaning. It could be something like “Christ Reaching the University” (at least for the campus work).
- Campus for Christ, which is the Canadian name already and is (obviously) stinkin’ close.
Officially, the new name is “cru” for the logo and “Cru” in normal sentences. (“Lowercase letters are used in the logo to “avoid confusion as an acronym or abbreviation.”)
2. A tough situation. When it comes down to it, I think they had to change the name. (That 20% statistic alone is enough to sway me!) So once that decision was reached, it’s sensible to go with something derived from what they’ve had, and something already connected to many of their chapters (which they call “movements”).
But having to change at all still makes things tough. There’s no college ministry out there with nearly the name recognition among outsiders; pastors and parents seem far more likely to know to tell their students to “look for Campus Crusade!” than anything else.
As a point of comparison, second prize in “brand recognition” probably goes to the Baptist Student Union… the former name of the Southern Baptist Convention’s campus-based ministry. BSU is now called “Baptist Collegiate Ministries” nationally and all sorts of different things state-by-state. Yet those outside the world of college ministry continue to point students to “BSU,” even though that name is only used in a few states. (You can read about their situation here.)
So Cru is likely to face something similar for a long, long time: As students, donors, and others come looking for “Campus Crusade for Christ,” they won’t find what they’re looking for (immediately, at least). That’s a huge loss from a branding perspective.
3. Growing in Cru vs. Rowing in Crew. While it may sound silly, there will be places the new name will cause confusion with rowing teams. “Cru” and “Crew” are homophones, obviously. So at campuses where “rowing crew” is a big deal – yes, there are such campuses – this may cause a bit of a hiccup. Remember The Social Network? (Fortunately, Cru is known as “Real Life” in Boston!)
The funny thing is, Cru will now share this difficulty with InterVarsity, whose name has long caused some to assume an athletic connection.
4. Internal pressures. No matter what we outside the Campus Crusade family think about the name-change, I imagine it’s probably a bit nightmarish dealing with detractors from throughout the staff and donor base. (The FAQ makes clear what some of the concerns are.)
We should pray for our Cru brothers and sisters as they, again, do the best they can with a tough situation. And we should pray for those on the local level; it’s never fun being told you have to change your name, even if you can see why. Those who haven’t already shifted to “Cru” or something else entirely probably have reasons for keeping the status quo, so I’m sure there will be some level of grumpiness and difficulty!
5. The larger campus missionary community? In describing the process, Cru noted that they solicited ideas from thousands within the organization. The decision itself involved 30 staff members from throughout the organization, as well as input from two outside agencies. All of that is superb.
What I missed in reading the site, however, was any mention of discussing this with those outside the Campus Crusade family. (Of course, they might have involved staff from IV, Navigators, Chi Alpha, etc., but I didn’t see it mentioned.)
Rightly or wrongly, one of the biggest concerns I hear about local Cru ministries is the classic “They’re just interested in doing their own thing” complaint. It seems like both the name-change process and the announcement were big chances for this largest of campus ministries to clarify that they see themselves as members of a much larger community of those “reaching the campus tribes.” But hopefully this was a part of the process; if so, maybe they’ll note that at some point.
6. God cares about names. I really appreciate the emphasis they’ve placed on God needing to direct this process (especially in the video announcements). In the end, the decision may seem “simple,” but it’s good for all of us to remember that God cares about directing us in our individual ministries, too – whether we’re picking a name, designing a T-shirt, or writing a blog. We should be praying about it all!
7. Of course, they’re phasing it in. Don’t be surprised if “Campus Crusade for Christ” is still used at your campus for semesters or even years to come. The page states they’re waiting until “early 2012” so they can make sure “Cru has high name recognition with our stakeholders.”
But I imagine (and hope) there will be major leeway given to those “on the ground” to phase this in. The tough thing about a major change at the campus level is that word-of-mouth and branding are so key. The nice thing, though, is that within 3 years no one even remembers there was a change!
More tomorrow. This is a big moment in the history of our field. I’ve got additional thoughts & links in the next post. Further, if you’re interested in getting to know Cru better, here are my reflections after attending the DFW Winter Conf, and part two is here. (One of the best ways to get to know a college ministry is to participate in what it sees as a cornerstone activity.)