In a church culture where recruiting
volunteers is often a mystery, one church has cracked the
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
• 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.”