The Case of Plentiful Workers


In Search of a Motive

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Coastlands’ strategy for getting people involved in children’s
ministry is foundational to the church’s greater vision, and it has
benefits that are twofold.

• Adult spiritual formation-One of Coastlands’
biggest goals for its children-first culture actually revolves
around big people. Adult spiritual formation is one of the driving
factors behind the church’s culture.

“We believe and teach that you grow most when you’re serving,”
Millikan explains.

But what about gifting and passion? Aren’t these important aspects
of spiritual formation?

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“We believe that growth happens most when people come to realize
finding fulfillment isn’t about them. Ministry to children teaches
humility and sacrifice. Only then can we learn what Jesus wants us
to become as his followers,” says Millikan.

Jessie Engelhardt, a volunteer who recently became a paid staff
member overseeing weekend coordination of ICU leaders, said, “We
say that some of the little things you at first might not be crazy
about at Coastlands are the things you grow to love. For example,
we intentionally have people sit close together during the worship
service. At first people don’t like it, but then they come to enjoy
it. The same thing has been true for some serving in children’s
ministry. At first, they aren’t sure about it, but after a while
they wouldn’t consider doing anything else.”

• Leadership development-Another goal of
Coastlands’ children’s ministry strategy is leadership development.
ICU leaders are responsible to cast the vision to engage their
groups in ministry. This is at its core a leadership challenge;
it’s not always easy to gather a service team to step up in
addition to the normal ICU meeting to serve in a ministry they may
not feel equipped to do. Attempting–and meeting–this challenge is
a large part of what develops ICU leaders in their skills and
abilities. The result is stronger people who are able to lead in
areas beyond ICU and children’s ministry.

Unsolved Mysteries

Sixty percent is an amazing statistic-but Coastlands is quick to
point out that they still face their share of challenges.

• Elevating perceived value-“Holding to this
principle of service takes a lot of work,” Martinez admits. “The
hardest thing is keeping a heart of passion and not obligation. We
constantly remind people in personal conversations and meetings
that kids are a gift from God. There are still Sundays when people
don’t show up or ICU leaders fail to communicate who is and isn’t
coming. But because of how we’ve organized service teams and our
sheer numbers, we’re able to quickly adjust and cover our

“We have about seven women in our ICU,” says volunteer Patty Clark.
“When we began serving, we only had one or two involved in
children’s ministry. But then we began talking in our group about
how we could serve the kids, and we began praying for them. Now we
have five serving. They realize it’s more than just showing up and
being a baby sitter. We love our kids.”

• Missing worship-Even though the church
encourages people to attend a worship service and serve during
another, the pastors know that some people who serve can’t always
make it to the worship service. This is considered okay because
they’re involved in ministry and small group community with fellow
ICU members.

“Kids are the best way to grow adults,” says Senior Pastor
Millikan. “Jesus said if you receive a child, you’ve received me. I
think being with children is better than hearing a sermon.”

• Safety and training upkeep-Even with such a
large number of adults involved, the church does background checks
on each participant. Training is typically on the job as new
members observe those more experienced. Staff train by wandering
around, peeking into classrooms to encourage, giving one-on-one
teaching tips, and making sure everything’s going well.

• Competition between ministries-It seems that
with all the emphasis on children’s ministry, other ministry area
leaders might feel as though they’re in competition, but through
its positive culture, the church has been able to avoid this

“Staff and ministry leaders understand this is a priority for us,”
says Millikan, “so we don’t have people vying for attention or
complaining that children’s ministry gets more promotion than other


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