In the UK, there’s a product called Ronseal. It’s a popular varnish/wood stain product available in most hardware stores. Their advertising strap line is really well known: it’s supposed to be simple, straight-forward, and down-to-earth.

“Ronseal: It does exactly what it says on the tin.”

In January, we’re planning on starting a new youth activity in our church, aimed at young people in our community around the ages on 10-15. So far it hasn’t got a name, so I’ve been thinking a bit lately about branding in youth work: can it be helpful or is it just pointless?

Niddrie Community Church has had a history of unimaginative names for youth activities: Tuesday Club, and Thursday Club are classic examples. I have to confess, I would also tend to adopt the ‘Ronseal’ approach to naming our new initiatives. Surely our group names should do exactly what it says on the tin and reflect the nature of the group. Surely young people ought to know what they’re coming to.

When we first had the idea of starting a bike project, after some thought we decided on what was hardly a revolutionary name: The Bike Project. For quite some time, I had been keen to start a youth café. We were able to successfully launch it in March 2010, calling it Youth Café. Up until recently, Ellis and I ran a nice little group for boys on a Friday afternoon. Whatever we come up with for these 10-15 year olds in the new year will be replacing this little group that was known simply as Friday Boys.

Having grown up in the church over the last 20 years, I’ve come across lots of funky youth group names. I’m not sure where this trend came from. They tend to be either (a) onomatopoeic, (b) a clever play on words, (c) make novel use of numerals, (d) be an obscure acronym, or (e) an ethereal noun/verb (such as ‘Ignite’ or ‘Space’). Here’s some of my favourite youth group names…

  1. AWESOME – Assembly of Wesleyan Eternal Sons Of Methodist Evangelicals
  2. SCUM – stands for ‘School Christian Union Meeting’
  3. Girls On Top – … erm, connotations…
  4. Fuel – come and fill up your tank!
  5. Root66 – rooted in the Word of God; that’s right, all 66 books!
  6. Cliffy Cliff and the Funky Bunch – ???
  7. SWITCH – stands for ‘Sundays, Wednesdays In The Church Hall’
  8. tHis – stands for ‘totally His’
  9. Flipside – cause youth ministry’s cool
  10. MYASS – stands for ‘Miguel’s Young Adult Sunday School’ (erm….connotations…)
  11. 3:6Teen – obviously pointing to John 3:16
  12. X-STREAM – stands for ‘X-Sinners Totally Radical Empowering All Mankind’

Branding isn’t just about coming up with the right name though. We should be familiar, at least subconsciously, with the concept of branding in our consumerist society. Corporations and organisations spend millions of pounds on their brand or identity. Branding will include your name, and usually a logo, perhaps even a slogan or strap-line like ‘Because you’re worth it’ or ‘It does exactly what it says on the tin!’ These days, a name can also depend on the availability of the corresponding .com web domain.

The branding must give the ‘consumer’ an idea of what you’re about. So, whatever you decide to call your group, you need to be aware of what the name, logo and slogan will communicate to your young people. One suggestion I picked up from Bible College was that if I want my young people to have more ownership of the group, I should consider allowing them to (re)name the group(s) – let them be the creative ones. Maybe worth a thought…

One of the biggest considerations for us would be what the young people think? Do they even care what it’s called, or is it just the youth workers? Most of the time, our the young people that come to the Youth Café still just call it ‘the club’ or ‘the youth group!’

Would young people be more or less likely to come to a branded activity? Almost all of our youth work is evangelistic, and so we want to reach a broad range of young people in the community with the good news of Jesus Christ. We want them to know that we’re Christians and that our faith is central to all we do. I don’t think they really care what it’s called as long as we’re available to them.

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Comments
  1. When I joined my church as their youth minister, we looked at the branding of youth groups as it was my first issue i spotted with them…they had branded their youth as JCY (for Jesus Christ Youth) in a lot of situations I also think about what does 14 year jerry think about this (Jerry being a lad i made up to think about how a non christian young person who has to attends church feels about the issue) and i went well he certainly won’t like that…why should he go to something which the name states is only for young people who believe in Jesus.

    I also thought about how it affects new young people who are new to the church and even new to faith…well to me any name which is overtly Christian will be a put off and can in some situations drag them away from church.

    within my first few weeks we set up a youth vision and included the youth in deciding where they wanted the youth work in church to go and we totally re branded all youth so we now have

    S.M.S (Sunday morning session) it’s exactly what it is, a Sunday morning session (much better i think that sunday school!)

    4D (4 dimensional) 4D is our Youth club/gathering social. this was taken out of the youth vision as one of our youth said we want to 4D in our faith (as in we don’t just want to see things happen we want to feel them like in a 4D movie… we thought this was clever and so it became the brand for social gatherings as it is also the place where we challenge our older youth to bring along their friends and so they might become part of the group and then eventually become a Christian!

    and then we have K’neX (our youth small group) our church has a small group system called connect and I saw a need for our youth to have one that worked for them but none of them would attend a connect group so K’neX was formed…the name comes from the toy and becasue it sounds like connect and we want to connect our youth with each other,The church and Christ!

    I think branded youth is good if done in away that still connects youth to the church and is linked in with church, and that fits in with your vision for the youth, if you are about grabbing non Christian teens and getting them to meet Christ then you’re name /brand has to be non-confrontational although I’d like to meet the person who came up with SCUM and Girls on top? something says they didn’t really think that one through

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