One of the most frequently asked questions people ask through the blog is how to visit the Student Ministry at Saddleback Church. It is a great question and one that I’m happy to answer. We have visitors on a regular basis, and if you would follow this process, it would help a ton:

Plan to visit during a weekend
My favorite part of what we do is the weekend service – it is a normal part of most youth ministries and the easiest to see us in action. I would love to show you a small group, but it just isn’t possible. So much of what we do is grassroots or organic – so when you come to “see” something, this is usually the best place. Services are every weekend – 4:30 or 6:30 on Saturday nights, 9 or 11:15 on Sunday mornings. The services are all identical.

Spread yourself around a little
There’s a ton to see and do at Saddleback when you visit – so maybe plan on seeing the junior high ministry at 4:30pm on Saturday night, then HSM at 6:30pm right after. You’ll have lots of questions for when we connect after the services. Maybe try to hit an adult service on Sunday morning, then go detox and chill at the beach Sunday afternoon.

Please let the team know you’re here
There’s nothing worse than getting a thank you afterwards, and we never met! Please let someone know you’re coming, in advance if possible, so we can make sure you questions get answered and you’re taken care of. Part of our calling in youth ministry is to serve you, not just our students.

Know we’ll try to be as accomodating as possible
Usually if it involves buying any one of us a meal, we’ll be even more accomodating. It isn’t always possible for one-on-one interaction of significant length, but we’ll do our best. If you have particular questions or thougths, sometimes it is easier to pair you up with one particular person so you walk away with a few ideas or answers.

Do your best to fit in
When you’re here, do your best to fit in. Be discreet, don’t be “that guy” especially if you’re a camera junkie. Sit in the back, be cool. If you’re bringing students, spread the word.

Please … take everything you want
Anything you see … well, almost everything … is an idea you can steal or a pamphlet you can pick up. Some youth workers in town for a local missions conference this weekend picked up one of every pastoral care brochure and calendar we had – and that’s super cool. I would do the same if I visited your ministry!

Here’s the bottom line – we would be honored and humbled to have you come check out things at Saddleback sometime. Not to mention it IS California and was 80 degrees yesterday in the middle of winter. Just something to think about!


Deciding who goes on the mission trip can be just as difficult as deciding where you’re going. Sometimes it hard to get enough kids to fill all the spots you reserved (that’s another issue we’ll deal with in another post). But choosing the students that actually travel can be very key to the success of your mission trip.

Here’s a little secret — there isn’t a right answer…

There are a couple things to consider to consider. So you’re not completely off the hook.

  1. What is the nature of the service you will be providing? This can make a lot of difference concerning who you choose to attend. Are you leading a VBS for a sister urban ministry hoping to expand their evangelistic outreach into their community? Probably shouldn’t bring kids that don’t have a relationship with Jesus. Is your group working on homes in Appalachia? Then it might be perfectly fine to bring teenagers regardless of where they are in their faith journey.
  2. How do you define “mission trip”? Is it an experience designed for your group to develop relationships and build community -or- do you think of it as faith-stretching experience for those already committed to following Jesus. Whatever your definition, only bring students that match your ideal. Or else, you’ll set yourself of up for a lot of frustration.

How do you choose? Do you use criteria or come one come all? I would love to know what your process is like…

GUEST POST: The Speech

Josh Griffin —  January 22, 2011 — 1 Comment

Last night I watched a re-run from the TV show “The Practice” that had this scene that included a powerful speech that inspired this post to you today. Every so often one of the attorneys would need “the speech” to remind them that they should persevere. No matter if they are a prosecutor and are staring injustice in the face, or on the defensive side of the judicial system and troubled by an ethical dilemma, they eventually ask to hear “the speech.”

It reminded me of youth ministry – sometimes we need “the speech” too. So, for those who are nearing the end of the year and require “the speech” to keep going… here you go.

Dear servant of the Lord Jesus,

I don’t know you, and really, I don’t have to. You may be tired and ready to chuck it in… But you are making a difference. In your church or school, to the kids that God has called you to shepherd over, you are making a difference.
You may not think so. Or feel like it right now.

But you are.

You may be in a place of discouragement by your own design or by the actions of someone else… Keep going. You may feel overwhelmed or dangerously alone in your struggles… Don’t give up. You may be entrenched in an unsupportive congregation or under a problematic Senior Pastor… Hold on. Please.

You have a magnificent privilege in serving God.

Remember what He has done in your life. Remember when He has shown Himself to be faithful. Remember when He has come through. Remember the times in your life and ministry when God has shown you that He is worthy of your awe, praise and entire life. And remember what He has called you to do. To love Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. To love others like yourself. To go and make disciples in His name. So don’t give up.

Following Jesus works and telling this truth to teenagers is an amazing privilege (even if working for His people can be trying!). When a teen understands the Gospel for the first time or makes a breakthrough in their faith journey, you make a difference for the Kingdom of God. When you persevere with the kid who requires a lot of attention, you make a difference for the Kingdom of God. When you pour your life into your leaders, you make a difference for the Kingdom of God. If “the speeches” aim is to tell “why we do what we do,” then the bottom line is this… God has called you to speak of the great things He has done for the salvation of the world.

Do so fearlessly. Despite the obstacles and difficulties. Because you are making a difference.


PS. When I need it, can you give me “the speech?” I’d really appreciate it. And so will your fellow workers.

Graham Baldock is a Youth Pastor from Sydney, Australia and has a youth ministry blog work checking out at

Random Randomness

Kurt Johnston —  January 22, 2011 — 5 Comments

Posted by Kurt Johnston

- This weekend, for the first time ever, I am teaching on the End Times…sorta. It is the last part of our “Beginning and End” series and I am giving a very broad overview of what “the end” holds for us. Here are my main points:

1) Jesus will come back someday

2) The world as we know it will come to an end someday

3) But the end is really just a new beginning

When and How will this all happen? In God’s time and in God’s way!

- Today is my 45th birthday. For some reason, I have always had a tough time with the “5′s” (25, 35 and now…45) because it forces me to realize that technically I now have to “round up” instead of rounding down. Ouch.

- I am toying with the idea of changing our purpose statement to be a more accurate description of why our ministry exists and our current Purpose-driven paradigm. I actually like what I have landed on so far and should be ready to reveal it sometime soon.

- My tweet earlier today: “JH Ministry Tip: treat parents like students by going to them instead of expecting them to come to you.”, has resulted in a few emails asking me, “Okay…but how?” To be honest…I’m not sure! This tweet was the result of our poorly attended parent meeting which has got me wondering if we need to change our strategy and become more relationally proactive with parents. Not sure what that looks like, exactly. If you have had success please share your insights in the comments!

I was reading an article called Bullying & Blessings by Shawn Michael Shoup on the Youth Specialties web site and this statement stood out to me, “it is our privilege and calling to bless where others have cursed.” In Cameron Lee’s book “Unexpected Blessing” there is a lot of that kind of thought about blessing others & receiving blessings back. I had a very hard time taking away only two keys thoughts (which is something I make myself to on a book review) from the book because there is so many. But I did narrow it down two these two thoughts that I think would motivate me to read it again.

In chapter six, “Mercy versus the rationalizations of self-interest” Cameron says a very convicting statement that I think summarizes one of the key ideas for the book, “if we are to purse purity of heart, we must honestly admit that we hunger for so many other things besides God.” In my life as a middle school guy I often think how much nicer it would be to have the next best thing – to minister to the kids of course – that I lose focus of just that — ministering to the kids. In the first chapter Cameron hits on this hard by saying, “Our gratitude for what we already have becomes dulled by the knowledge of what we could have.” I need to constantly praise my heavenly Father for how well He takes care of me and take my focus off of the stuff I have.

Unexpected blessings come when one decides to put oneself aside and focus on God. Cameron quotes a wonderful thought from Frederick Buechner, “compassionate love begins to change from a moral exercise, from a matter of gritting our teeth and doing our good deed for the day, into a joyous, spontaneous, self-forgetting response to the most real aspect of all reality.” Some times when I don’t feel close to God I still choice to worship him and spend time in his Word. The thoughts from Cameron Lee in his book really helped me realize the importance of not stopping.

I believe God has so much more for everyone but we get so caught up in ourselves & our stuff that we miss the blessings God has for us. “Blessed are those who heed everything the Beatitudes teach and are persecuted for it, not because it is somehow blessed in itself to suffer persecution but simply because the Beatitudes point the way to the kind of life that God blesses.” This is a great read for anyone in middles school ministry and I would recommend it.

boys, boys, boys

Neely McQueen —  January 21, 2011 — Leave a comment

If you spend any time with girls…than you spend time talking about boys!

For the most part, I am a “don’t date till your in college” girl, which makes me a huge hit with the girls!! But I still enjoying the conversations we have about guys…I feel like I can get so much insight on a girl by knowing more about the boy that she is crushing on. And it’s a great gateway conversation into what a girl should really want in future guy/husband.

In 99 Things, one of my former girl’s shares her story:

When I was in eighth grade, and starting to think about guys and dating, I was challenged by one of my church leaders to write out a very honest list of what I saw as my ideal future boyfriend and future husband. This list was supposed to include everything from the small inconsequential things, like “has curly hair”, to the deep meaningful things, like “strong man of God”. When I wrote that list, I was very honest with what I wanted and what I felt God had in store for me. Because of this, the list came to be a standard for any relationships and guys that came my way. I kept it in mind when I thought about dating guys, and it kept me from making some poor dating choices. In high school, when I knew myself a bit better, I decided to write the list again. It was good to refresh in my mind the standard I set for myself and improve a bit on the last list. I found it most important to write the list or work on it when I wasn’t involved with a guy and wouldn’t be unknowingly writing him into my list because I liked him so much. I am in college now and have kept those lists in my head as dating possibilities have come in and out of my life. I am thankful that I have been picky and stuck to the standard that God placed on my heart. It has saved me a lot of heart ache and time wasted on pointless relationships and blessed me with a relationship that makes me happy and that I know makes God very happy. – Olivia 20

What’s your favorite encouragement that you give to girls regarding boys?

I posted the other day about Dagger Bibles – they got a lot of interest and offered to be this week’s sponsor of MTDB Instant Winner. So I’ve got 3 Dagger Bibles to giveaway to the first 3 comments on this post. Win one now!


Another video from our recent Parent Night. A simple “thank you” from our junior high and high school students to our parents.