Rebranding your youth ministry can be a difficult endeavor. It isn’t just adults and seniors who don’t like change.
When our youth ministry went from Army 6:12 to WestCo Youth there were some concerns from our students, there was push back, but ultimately there was acceptance and fruit.
We learned some valuable lessons that I'd love to share with others. Here they are:
Give it time
If you’ve just joined your church’s youth ministry you’ll want to pump the brakes on making any sudden and extreme changes. Your priority should be to learn the culture, respect the tradition, appreciate God’s history of moving through the church, and recognize that some of your students have grown up in children’s ministry waiting for the day when they could be a part of “Christ Xplosion Youth.” Not only that, there may be students in your youth ministry whose favorite youth pastor branded the youth group and those students have “ownership” of the youth ministry as well as sentimental attachment to it.
Test the waters
There's no reason to go through this whole process if the authority over you that leads and guides you and pays you (if you're fortunate) isn’t on board. Some churches have heavily invested into their youth ministry and are happy to have some brand recognition throughout their middle schools and high schools. Rebranding may simply not be in your cards.
Ask God & Others
What's born of the Flesh is flesh and what's born of the Spirit is Spirit so when it comes to the identity of your youth group - ask God if it's something He’s open to changing. What sense do you get from the Holy Spirit? Is this within His will? God also speaks through His church - what do your Christian brothers and sisters in Christ have to say? What is their counsel? In the midst of this, check your motives: Are you rebranding because you want to build your kingdom or because you want to build Christ's kingdom?
Also be sure to check out:
8 reasons to rebrand
Okay, so you tested the waters and your senior pastor or church board is open to the idea of rebranding. That doesn’t mean they’ll approve of “Chubby Bunny Ministries” or whatever you have in mind. Show respect, know your place, be humble and flexible and stay teachable. Keep the conversation open between you and your senior pastor and don’t be a maverick.
What follows are optional strategies for you to pick and choose from. Don't feel like you have to do them all.
Change the logo, not the name
Instead of changing everything all at once, introduce change slowly. Update your logo to something more modern and change the name slightly. We went from Army 6:12 to Army Six Twelve and changed our militant logo to a lion head (something that emphasized the spiritual battle rather than the physical). Most importantly, this paved the way for future changes and helped our students transition and learn that branding wasn’t off limits.
Include your students in the decision
Include your students but don’t give up control. Ending up with a name for your youth ministry that's totally ridiculous isn’t out of the question if you put your students in charge. When a British government agency let the internet vote to name a $287 million ship they were left with: Boaty Mcboatface. When 4chan took over a Mountain Dew campaign to vote for the name of a new flavor vote corporation was left with “Hitler Did Nothing Wrong.” Not a great name for a soft drink.
So let your students submit ideas and even listen to them offer critiques and concerns for your favorite name ideas. Hear them and let them know they’re being heard. Give them all of your great reasons for why your favorite names are your favorite and why your least favorite names are your least favorite. This also helps if you have youth leaders or a youth leader committee that helps you make decisions.
Make your rebrand part of a message or series
When my friend rebranded his youth ministry to “The Well.” He did an entire message on the woman at the well and how He wanted his youth ministry to be a place where people could be refreshed, where people could find a place, and where people could meet Jesus. By the time the message was over and the vision was cast his students were totally on board with the name change and not one person complained.
If you’ve really sought God and have spiritual reasons for wanting to change your youth ministry name, chances are it’ll translate really well into a message.
Give out swag
If your youth ministry went through a name change and students have a bunch of old irrelevant shirts with your past name and logo that they used to love wearing they might feel cheated. Launching a rebrand while at the same time giving your students stickers, t shirts, phone wallpaper graphics, and whatever else will go a long way in generating buzz and momentum.
Identify key influencers
Who are the alphas in your youth group? Who sets the tone and tells the other students what’s cool, what’s fun, and what trips to go on? You know the ones who have the most influence. Identify them early on and make them a part of your process. If you have they’ll approval you’ll more easily win the whole group's approval. Working against them could prove exhausting.
Set aside a day to go public
Tell your youth group first. Then, have a day that week when you can set aside plenty of time to change your brand on Facebook, instagram, twitter, email, MailChimp, and whatever else. Don’t forget parents: they need to be informed about this change too. As a matter of fact, take advantage of this news and use it as an excuse to reach out to all your parents and youth both past and present.
What else have you done to make sure your rebrand goes smoothly and even increases the momentum of your youth group?