How NOT to Name Your Youth Group

Many thanks to Youth Specialties for choosing this post to trend on their Website, August 2014!
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Here beginneth the rant…

Lts xart wiv da obViouz…. we’re not five year old delinquents and the s and t keys are not missing from our keyboards.

Starting names randomly with ‘X’ and misspelling words does not make the brand cooler or more ‘uth’ friendly. It just makes us look stupid and out of touch. Xube, Xcite, Xcel, Xnite, Xplode, Xtreme… these sound like adult shops, not youth clubs!

Then there are the fire metaphors. Ignite, flame, nflame, blaze, purge… I know we want to raise passionate young people but do we really want to raise pyromaniacs? I’m sure ignite sounds cool (just like the other fifteen thousand youth clubs with that name) but what is it we are insinuating the youth club does exactly? I know there is an argument for the Holy Spirit coming down in fire… but the consuming fire that the Bible talks about might not be the fun passionate experience we’re thinking of when we came up with the name.

Then of course we have the onomatopoeic names, the louder and more zappy the better. Surge, blast, blaze, boom.. it sounds like we’re selling high speed internet.

There is also our habit of putting ‘club’ (or worse ‘squad’) after everything – just in case we didn’t get that’s what it was. Bible club, Jonah club, God Squad etc.

Finally – when all other ideas are exhausted we just mix them up:
“Hey mate, you coming to the Xblaze klub tonight?”  “No man, I’m at the zappy, flamers Xcite nite.” Awkward much?

So here’s some dos:

Spell properly!
Pick a name that represents who you are
Use words that reflect what the vibes and activities of your community look like
Be creative and think ‘outta-da-box… man’
Think longevity
Think easy to remember and brand adaptable
Think how it will translate to other generations
Think how it would look in other fonts
Get your youth group to help out (biggie!)
Try to aim slightly above the age group, not way below it
Look for something that can be spoken out loud without blushing or putting on an American accent
Think of something you can say without hand signals
Use words recognizable to people outside the Church
Think of community driven words and phrases…. rather than torture chamber driven words and phrases (strap in to da surge zone tonite!)

Get back to me (comment!) if you have any other ideas, or want to get some other horrible names off your chest!

Here endeth the rant.

5 replies
  1. Matt Sinar
    Matt Sinar says:

    Hi Tim,

    Whilst I agree on some of these points, I disagree with some too. I also dislike incorrect spellings of words, but think that for the sake of a youth group name it’s fine to go with alternative spellings – the likes of Xcite, Xcel, Xplode, Xtreme are all acceptable re-spellings on one condition. (I wouldn’t actually use any of those names in either their correct spelling or incorrect spellings, but am using them as an example) – the one condition would be the youth themselves. One of your rules is: ‘Do get your youth group to help out’. If you ask for their input, and they all suggest and love “Xtreme” as a name for the group rather than “Extreme”, then would we not let go of the grammar-police side of our personalities for the sake of facilitating more belonging and ownership over their youth group?

    I also suspect your bias away from flame-related group names is based more on how common they are than anything else. I have a youth group called Ignite, and whilst my first reaction was to try and avoid it because it’s pretty common and maybe a little clichéd, it actually described the aims of the group really well – it’s a group for young/new Christians to be able to invite their friends to have fun and hopefully begin their journey of faith. We’re hoping that through the group God will ignite the spark of faith in their lives which will go on to become that consuming fire that you talk about. But it IS spelled correctly; DOES represent who we are and what we’re trying to achieve, IS memorable and brand-adaptable, DOES translate to other generations, DOES look fine in other fonts, IS a name the group are excited about (most importantly, I believe), CAN be spoken out loud without cringing, CAN be communicated without hand gestures (I enjoyed reading that rule!), and IS a word recognised outside churches.

    So whilst I do agree with the majority of your rules, I’d certainly want to change the order of importance – ‘Get your youth group’s opinion’ would be number one – they don’t want to come to a group whose name they cringe at. (After all, what’s the point in naming a group? Do we believe we’ll entice young people in just with a cool name? If so, we seriously underestimate their intelligence! Ultimately, I don’t think it really matters what a group is called unless the name actively puts young people off.) And ‘Do spell correctly’ would be at the bottom of my list in order of importance – again, is it just being spelled incorrectly because we’ve made the decision that it might look cooler to young people and we’re trying to lure them in with a ‘cool’ name (if we do that you’re absolutely right, and we’re missing the point completely!), or is it spelled incorrectly because our young people specifically think it’s a cool adaptation that they want to actively associate themselves with?

    In summary, I agree with a lot of those rules but disagree with some of the specific examples you’ve given, and would re-arrange them in order of importance. But thanks for the food for thought and causing me to re-think why we give our groups names.

    Reply
    • timgough
      timgough says:

      Hi Buddy – Great to hear from you & thanks or interacting with my blog!

      Of course, I agree with you. I’m being deliberately provocative – trying to instigate thought and discussion rather than legislation. 😉

      If you’ve thought about it properly and within community then name away!

      It’s great to hear an example of a group putting that amount of thought and effort into a name – well done.

      Tim

      p.s. You’re right about me being biased against over-used names, but I’m still sure that many groups using fire metaphors are using cultures version (passion/umpth) rather than the Bibles (purifying/consuming). It’s almost like calling your group ‘hardship’ or ‘trial’ – they’re important parts of sanctification, but not all that enjoyable!

      Reply

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