Starting next year, one of the most robust ministries on American college campuses will officially be known by a new name. Campus Crusade for Christ in the U.S. is changing its name to Cru.
Established in 1951 by Bill and Vonette Bright, the evangelical parachurch organization is manned by more than 25,000 staff members who operate 29 different ministries in 191 countries.
“The U.S. ministry hopes the new name will overcome existing barriers and perceptions inherent in the original name,” according to a statement released by the ministry.
Cru isn’t an acronym or unfamiliar shorthand. Many evangelicals already refer to the group simply as “Crusade.”
“It’s become a flash word for a lot of people. It harkens back to other periods of time and has a negative connotation for lots of people across the world, especially in the Middle East,” said Steve Sellers, vice president for the U.S. for Campus Crusade for Christ, as reported by Christianity Today “In the ‘50s, crusade was the evangelistic term in the United States. Over time, different words take on different meanings to different groups.”
The new name was unveiled last week during the ministry’s biennial conference for U.S. staff held in Fort Collins, Colo. Its board approved beginning the process to change the name in 2009 and the recommendation of Cru earlier this year.
The new name was chosen out of a pool of 1,600 which was narrowed down to five. Ideas came from donors, volunteers, staff and the general public.
“We kept going back to people to try to better understand what it is they best appreciate about our organization,” Sellers said during a telephone interview this week. “In light of our commitment to our mission, we sought their input as well as spending a lot of time in prayer before we selected a name.”
While the process for choosing the new name ramped up in recent years, its roots date back to what Bill Bright, who died in 2003, expressed decades ago.
“From the beginning, Bill was open to changing our name. He never felt it was set in stone. In fact, he actually considered changing the name 20 or 25 years ago,” Vonette Bright said in a news release. “We want to remove any obstacle to people hearing about the most important person who ever lived—Jesus Christ.”
“Most of the international ministries affiliated with Cru use a name other than Campus Crusade for Christ,” Religion News Service reported. “Its Canadian affiliate is called Power to Change and European ministries use the name Agape.”
Beyond campuses, its outreach and $490 million annual revenue happen via book sales, distribution of evangelical tracts and sales of the Jesus Film, which is available in 1,129 languages, according to Christianity Today .
“Our surveys show that, in the U.S., 20 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,” explained the group’s Web site.
When asked about the timing and whether it reflected a new direction, Sellers said the ministry seeks to increase its effectiveness and relevance. The name is different but its mission hasn’t changed, he said.
“Our commitment is to Jesus Christ and we debated long and hard about whether to keep the name in the name,” he said. “We concluded that our organization is about helping people know him. … To put it in the name of the organization isn’t the most important issue. The real question is is the organization being effective in communicating what Jesus Christ stands for?”