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The Case of Plentiful Workers

Alan Nelson

In a church culture where recruiting volunteers is often a mystery, one church has cracked the case!

You might be skeptical if I tell you that Coastlands Church in Aptos, California, has successfully recruited 60 percent of its congregation to serve in children's ministry. But it's true--and you'll be encouraged to know that Coastlands is a church that may look a lot like your church. It's in a typical, middle-class, diverse community. Children's Ministry Magazine did some detective work, sending me to the church to interview Senior Pastor Todd Millikan, Children's Pastor Priska Martinez, and five others from the children's ministry team. Let's get to the bottom of this intriguing case.


Just the Facts

You read it right: Coastlands has about 60 percent of its adult congregation involved in some aspect of children's ministry. That's impressive by any standard, but especially considering the church averages 550 to 600 in weekend attendance, including 100 children (infants through fifth grade).

"Children's ministry and serving really are a part of our culture," explains Senior Pastor Millikan. "If you're going to be a part of Coastlands, you'll discover that we value children and we also believe that serving is a part of your spiritual growth. It's just who we are."

How do they do it? It's a straightforward strategy: Coastlands has intentionally built a culture where kids and service are highly valued--and they go hand in hand. Here's what we uncovered about this unique ministry culture.

• ICUs-The key to the structure of Coastlands' high volunteer rate is its small group program. The church has formed Inner Congregational Units (ICUs), their version of small groups that meet twice monthly. Every ICU leader is responsible for the teaching and care of his or her group. The groups vary in size, from five to 15 members. All ICUs are assigned to serve in one of six children's ministry classrooms in the church's three weekend worship services.

• Services-Coastlands found that Saturday evening services are more popular than Sunday morning services. So they have three service times: Saturdays at 5 and 7 p.m. and Sundays at 10 a.m. Between evening services, the church serves a meal for people to fellowship and form relationships, which helps build bonds for service.

• Serving-One thing Coastlands is known for is being a "two-service church," meaning that church members attend one service and serve in another.

"This is part of our core values," children's pastor Martinez explains. "We call it the STAR principle: servanthood, teachability, accountability, and repentance. In giving our life away, there's so much life found."

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