Cut Snoke completely. Have Kylo be ahead of the First Order (and rename them the New Empire or something) from the start. Have the fact that he trained with Luke be the reason he’s actually powerful and cunning enough to resurrect the Empire. I think that would make the First Order feel more natural and would more directly have the trio more involved since they all know they played a role in not just making Kylo what he is, but also for indirectly causing the Empire to rise again.
I like this a LOT. This may be the solution I needed to make combining Ep.7 and Ep.8 actually work. Rey can now go directly from Training with Luke to Crait.