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One of the most important parts of a youth organization is finding an appropriate name. A good name indicates the definition and focus of the group and provides members with a sense of purpose. Selecting a name may be difficult because the name must be both engaging without being offensive to the group’s members or alienating to non-members who might wish to join.
Names for Religious Groups
When selecting a name for a religious youth group, the imagery and stories of sacred texts provide an important source of inspiration. Names that reference a revered figure or an event call attention to sacred history while reflecting the history and spirit of the group. For example, the Forge -- a student ministry in Colorado that takes its name from a verse in the book of Proverbs about the power that friends have to motivate each another -- devotes one night each month to letting a student share his faith story with the community. A Catholic youth ministry may look to the saints in the church’s tradition, such as St. Anthony of Egypt, who resisted temptation, or St. Joan of Arc, who was a brave warrior. In the Hindu tradition, Bheema was known for his superhuman strength, while Krishna and Drona were renowned for wisdom and cunning.
When collecting a list of potential names for an informal teen club such as a youth ministry or an after-school group, select those that project a sense of welcoming to nonmembers, while briefly conveying what visitors might expect when they attend meetings. Avoid using the word “group” in the official name as it suggests exclusivity and may signal to outsiders that they are unwelcome. Consider names that easily can be turned into slogans and catch phrases to promote the organization. For example, a youth advisory committee in Colorado dubbed itself YAC n' Snack because members like to talk and share food, and they adopted a yak as its mascot, which has drawn attention to the group and helped to recruit new members.
Community and School Youth Groups
When choosing a name for a secular organization, consider creating an acronym that precisely delineates the group's focus. Avoid acronyms that are cute but lacking in content. One example of an informative acronym is the Hoover Public Library's Hoover Advisory Board of Interactive Teens, or HABIT. Look for a name that members may continue to endorse even if their own understandings of the group evolves over time. The Society of Carnegie Adolescents for Library Enrichment, SCALE, eventually changed its name to the concise Carnegie Teen Advisory Board , C-TAB_.
Voting on Names
While a youth group for small children needs an older person who can select a name for it, the leader of a teen youth group may actively include young people in the process of name selection. Allow children the opportunity to brainstorm about what they would like to call their ministry. This reduces the possibility that an adult will select a name she thinks is cool or edgy, but the students themselves consider embarrassing. Select five or 10 of the best names and put it to a vote. Pass out printed handouts listing each name. Ask students to mark their three favorite options, placing a “1” next to the first choice and a “2” and “3” beside second and third choices, respectively. Collect the printouts and tally the votes, giving priority to the number-one choice on each ballot.
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