We’re making some little name shifts in our youth ministry these days – moving away from calling events by catchy, cool names and calling them by far less cute but very clear names.

Over and over again it feels obvious that insider names are nice for the core kids, but completely alienating for outsiders and confusing for people who bounce in and out. If you’re using a cool name for your youth event, plan on explaining it to parents and new students. If you’re using a Greek word for your small groups, your effort to please your hermeneutics professor will be lost on a 13-year old incoming freshman.

Clear wins every time. Here’s a few examples of what I’m talking about:

HSM Summer Camp
We used to call our summer camp by the destination camp we were attending, so we would call it Hume Lake or Camp Ojai. I love the traditions, but think it requires explanation to adults and clarity when a student shares their testimony about what happened there. Why not just call it camp? So now we call it HSM Summer Camp, enabling us to be very clear about what it is and less about the actual location. It also allows us to change camps without losing momentum or rebranding.

HSM Winter Retreat
This one had a great name originally – Chi Alpha (which means Christ First or Christs’ Ambassadors) – but honestly it wasn’t working in our culture. The students that attended last year loved the event, but when talking about it they would inevitably call it a “spiritual growth retreat” or “discipleship retreat” – so why didn’t we? Now that I think about it – even “discipleship” might not be clear, maybe we should even be considering a more student-friendly and clear word like “grow.”

We’re simply called HSM
I know that “the high school ministry at Saddleback Church” or “HSM” isn’t the sexiest name on the block. I hear of youth group names like IGNITE, maXimum or Warriors of L.I.G.H.T. and I think how boring ours sounds. But the clarity is worth it. Even within our own church, and I love our college ministry (Crave) and junior high ministry (Wildside), but they have to be constantly explained to outsiders.

So that’s what I’m thinking, and where we’re moving these days. Anyone agree/disagree? I’d LOVE to be convinced of the value in creating brand and identities with creative and unique names for groups and events.

JG