Language is very important in the Church, it is used to communicate the values and the expectations we have as a ministry. So what you call your gathering matters. We decided earlier on to go with 'Hillsong Kids'; a simple obvious option which is not too era specific, nor will it sound awkward in 20 years.
As a side note, we do have names for our age groups (hillsongkids.com/services) but when I occasionally get confused about them, I know parents are unlikely to know all the age groups, or even care too deeply about them at the end of the day. They do help our kids look forward to growing up through Church life, but firmly remain as a means to an end.
In the 10+ years I have been involved in the children's ministry at Hillsong Church our team has never called what we do 'kids church', in fact the phrase is 'officially banned' (in the same manner that the comic sans font is banned, as is using 'z' instead of s… Eg. Kidz Rockz)
But we also don't lose our minds at other departments, staff and pastors who call it kids church every now and then, for they are covered by the grace and peace of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. In order to fully explore this reasoning, I narrowed it down to three big 'B' reasons, because alliteration is very spiritual:
My childhood was a colourful cavalcade of creativity from Jim Henson's muppets, I dreamt of visiting Disneyland, Macgyver saved the world each week from destruction with a Swiss army knife and I watched David Hasselhoff drive Kitt, a talking car, around on Knight Rider. Do not forget what it is like to be a child, in fact Jesus commanded it. (Matthew 18:3)
Have you ever been to a children’s hospital, Disneyland or even a toy store? If something is not helpful to fulfilling their mission, they create the new and change it. These businesses do not have a monopoly on creativity; you can be creative too! You do not have to name something by describing what it does.
Nostalgia from a bygone era does not need to inform your present reality as you seek to present the most dynamic experience you possibly can to the lives of your kids.
It's about Branding…
When I say branding I am referring to the image a given person gets in their mind when they hear the name of your Church or ministry. Your brand is your reputation, your communication and the perception (right or wrong) of people outside looking in.
Why wouldn't you want to communicate at every opportunity something fun and relevant to your kids and parents? We even try to address all our children as a group not as 'boys and girls' but Hillsong Kids, placing in their minds a positive connection with Church life, a reminder that they are part of something bigger than themselves.
It's not Biblical…
We work extremely hard to keep an atmosphere of family in such an expansive church, which covers a number of major cities in Australia. Language is very important in reinforcing we are one church, one family together.
We already have separate programs for our children and separating them further by calling them a 'Church' doesn't help that cause. We are part of the same church not a separate community. It's a little thing that makes a big difference as we try to teach our littlest, most impressionable ones that we are part of a bigger picture, a church that encompasses the world. They are not part of a different Church or even a smaller Church in part of the big one, just a specific 'room in the house'.
Get a ministry name and roll with it. If the one thing parents know is that their kids are a part of Hillsong Kids, then that's good enough for me!
David 'down with comic sans' Wakerley
P.S. Don't even get me started on Sunday School or VBS!