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Sticky Faith At Saddleback: UPDATE

 —  December 17, 2012 — 2 Comments


Six months ago, we broke new ground at Saddleback in our attempt to help our students develop a Sticky Faith. We introduced the idea of what we call Worship Together Weekends, where we cancel our youth group program once a month and encourage families to attend the adult worship service together. I wrote all about it here.

Tomorrow I’m giving a little 6-month update to our executive team about our learnings, etc. and figured some of you might be interested as well. I haven’t put together the formal presentation yet so these are just some bullet-point thoughts that I’m sure will find their way into it:

Overall, I would grade Worship Together Weekend (WTW) as a success. Not a massive success…and there is still work for us to do, but it has been successful. A few reasons:

– On average, 73% of our teenagers are attending church on WTW.

– Out of a couple thousand families of teenagers, our youth offices have had three negative phone calls, emails etc. from parents. Certainly there are concerned parents who haven’t reached out….but only THREE?

– To the contrary we have had lots and lots and lots of parents pull us aside during WTW and share how much they love the idea…even if their teenager doesn’t!

– Our team has had numerous conversations with teenagers who have grown up at Saddleback and have stated that until WTW began they had never stepped foot in the worship center.

– These weekends (for the most part) feel fairly intergenerational. Students are helping lead worship, are featured in the announcement videos, etc.

Some areas we can improve:

– The majority of our students haven’t bought into the concept. In our youth gatherings, when we announce that WTW is coming next weekend, there is palpable sense that we just sucked the fun out of the room!

– Our adult weekend speakers, for the most part, have not done a good job of acknowledging the presence of the students in their messages. They typically greet the youth group in their intro…then proceed to preach a completely adult-centric message.

– We need to message and brand the weekends more effectively and consistently. They are becoming routine (in a good way) but still don’t feel like a vital part of Saddleback’s DNA.

We aren’t there yet….we have a long road ahead of us….and I’m not married to the WTW experiment. What I am married to, however, is the desire to help or teenagers feel more and more like highly valued, highly important members of our church family.

I’m going to let Josh Griffin know about this post and ask him to either add his thoughts in the comments or write his own post at morethandodgeball.com

Kurt Johnston

Kurt Johnston


Kurt Johnston leads the student ministries team at Saddleback Church in Southern California. His ministry of choice, however, is junior high, where he spends approximately 83.4% of his time.

2 responses to Sticky Faith At Saddleback: UPDATE

  1. We stepped back and analyzed our services about a year and a half ago and decided that we needed to make a change as well. Instead of doing once per month we decided to do worship together and then head off to teaching. Our goal was to see more post graduates engaged in our church. While there was great buy in from the parents we have seen a steady decline in high school numbers on Sunday mornings and have seen a few of the post graduates stick around.

    I am trying to figure out a happy medium between providing a service that is all about teenagers which may not be the healthiest and doing something that might be actually losing them in the process. So, like you, we are working out many of the kinks as we go along. I like the post! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Kurt,

    I had a meeting with my SSM Corona volunteers last night. One of the things that we talked about was how well Worship Together Weekend was working for us at the Corona Campus. We had a few positive and a few negative thoughts.

    First, I’ll list the positives –

    No setup or tear down. This may sound like we’re being lazy, but it takes 2 hours to setup and 1 hour to tear down our room each week. We’ve been trying to use this extra time to spend talking with the students parents on our patio.
    No lesson or programming preparation Again, this may sound lazy, but with only one person that teaches on a regular basis and being part time, this one week break builds some breathing room into our schedule.
    The parents like it. Many of the parents really enjoy having their student in church with them once in a while.
    We find new students. We’ve found a few students who had been attending the regular service and have been able to get to know them and invite them to our SSM events.
    Great worship We don’t always have worship in our service and when we do it’s not great. It’s good for the students to truly worship together with the rest of the church.

    There were a few negatives:

    Some topics didn’t apply. This is to be expected but we had one guest speaker in particular that was not really suited for this audience.
    We lose some momentum. It seems like the next weekend is always lower for us. To help overcome this, we’ve started having a pancake Sunday every Sunday after Worship Together Weekend.
    Creates some reluctance for students to invite friends One student told us that she wanted to invite her friends to church but didn’t because she couldn’t remember if it was Worship Together Weekend or not.
    Hard to plan a series Many of our series are 4 weeks long, so it makes it a little weird to do 3 parts of the series and then finish the series after a week break.

    Those are the main points that I can think of when it comes to Worship Together Weekend. There is also one big benefit that I forgot to mention, I get to go to church with my wife one weekend a month. I usually go to the 9am service but she brings the kids to the 11am service so she can help out in SSM. So at least once a month we get to go to church together.

    Hope this helps.

    Neb Milbourn
    Pastor of Student Ministries
    Saddleback Corona

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