One of our long-time HSM volunteers (like 15 years long) Dennis Beckner recently took a big step of faith to start his own T-shirt company to help youth groups print their own shirts. He started Mission Shirts and has been doing really well so far – we just recently started using him as well and I told him if we had a good experience I would make sure to mention him here on the blog (hhaha, no pressure there, right?).

He delivered so here’s my recommendation to you: when you print up shirts, I think he can come up with a good deal for your ministry. He also donates some of the proceeds of each order to sending students on mission trips, which is super cool. I asked him to give MTDB a special deal so he’ll throw in a free 1-color decal with every T-shirt you order. I love the decals – they look great on my office window, the back of the car, notebooks, etc. You can email Dennis to talk through what you’re looking for right away.

Note: This offer is exclusive to readers so it is not available on Mission Shirts’ website. Email Mission Shirts to get started!


The Landing is a program that meets every Friday night to help students who are dealing with hurts, hangups and destructive habits. I asked Dennis Beckner, the director of The Landing here at Saddleback (and youth ministry blogger), to talk through some of the frequently asked questions about the program to help hurting students in case it would be helpful to you if you use the resource kit/program or not.

Is there a parental release form for The Landing?
There is a parental release form in the curriculum kit. We, however, do not use it at Saddleback Church. The biggest reason is some students would actually get in trouble or have to reveal information to their parents if their parents knew they attended.

How much counseling training do your volunteer leaders have?
Our volunteers are not professional counselors. They are only operating in a layman capacity. We do not pretend to offer professional counseling through this program. Students also voluntarily participate at no cost.

Have you had any troublemakers or issues where you needed security at The Landing?
Another layer of security we have is our security team. Security team sounds like a big church thing. Of course a big church like Saddleback would have that. While our security team is great, they are mostly volunteer police veterans who act as consultants when we need a little guidance or help. They’ve helped us report some problems to the authorities when mandated reporting issues come up. They’re a great safety net.

How do you train your youth leaders to help care for hurting students? You can download a free 74-page document that outlines our training, application, and several resources we’ve created since before we got started until last August when we had our Celebrate Recovery Summit. You’ll find that and a wealth of other resources by going to my blog where I’m giving away a ton of free stuff. You’ll see several freebies, nuggets of wisdom and guest posts on the topic.

What was your main focus during your early trainings?
1. Here’s what Celebrate Recovery is. Here’s our vision for students in recovery. Here’s what volunteering will look like.
2. Mandated reporting. We had a police officer come in and explain California’s laws on who is a mandated reporter, what must be reported and how to report it. The police officer happened to be one of our High School ministry volunteers. He shared not only the law, but the heart behind why a youth worker would want to report for ethical reasons as well as legal reasons.
3. Relational ministry. We discussed the youth ministry angle, what to expect when working with students and how to be a relational leader. We also walked through the first night which happend 3 days after this meeting and gave out leader T-shirts.

For more information on The Landing and see if it might be a good fit for your ministry context, hit up the link right here.


Great idea from one of our HSM Life Group Leaders over on his blog – he has an awesome take on how to thank host homes for opening up their home for the small group year. Good, good stuff – here’s some, more if you follow the link:

Here’s where the title of this post comes in. We used our host home for several years. During that time, I estimate hundreds of students have attended small group there. All of us have made connections with God there and had our lives improved in various ways.

In a scene kind of like the last scene in It’s A Wonderful Life, we wanted to communicate all of the great things that happened as a result of the generously opened home during the years we met there. One of our leaders, Sarah, the one who’s ditching us to move to Sacramento, (hi, Sarah — she reads this blog) — Sarah put together a great photo album/scrap book. On each page a student wrote a note to the home owners. Each note started with, “In your home, I…” and they continued writing how their lives were enhanced through their small group experience there.


Here are a few things that are working well for our ministry right now in social media:

1. iPray. It’s a closed group that students have to request to join. They can post what they need prayer for and pray for each other.

2. Groups. Before or after almost every event there seems to be a group started for it. Before the event groups are started to promote the event. After events like camp, groups are started to help students find each other on Facebook and stay connected.

3. Pictures. EVERY week I take pictures (even if it’s just a few) at our weekend service or at Chick fil A afterward and throw them up on Facebook. Students love it. Not everybody can get away with that, though. It’s kind of funny. A friend dressed up as me at our Halloween party last year and was taking tons of pictures. People kind of freaked out a little until they realized he was just being me for Halloween. I don’t know how to explain that, but there’s something to be learned about having a person known for taking pics in your ministry. We’ve never made me an “official” photographer, people have just gotten used to me doing it.

4. Tag. I usually tag at least one student in each picture and they usually tag each other from there. Always tag your ministry in each picture. As students tag each other, they might see your ministry tagged. That’s just one more door for people to check you out.

5. Open profile. Have your ministry’s profile open to the general public. People should be able to see everything there is to see without being friended with your ministry. I suggest having a profile instead of a page for your ministry. There’s more stuff you can do that way.

6. Daily activity. Go on once a day and wish people happy birthday. That’s a great way for friends of friends to see your ministry. It’s also a great way to have an extra touch in the lives of students… especially students who have stopped coming.

7. Troubleshooting. Look for concerns. If you see students who post status updates that show they are hurting or are posting inappropriate content, shoot them a Facebook email to touch base, encourage, invite out for a Coke. Be careful not to jump on their case if they’re posting inappropriate content. Address it in a redemptive way.

Dennis Beckner has been a volunteer youth worker for 10 years in the high school ministry at Saddleback Church and now runs Celebrate Recovery for Students on Friday nights. Check out his blog for fellow youth workers at

Weekend Teaching Series: The Landing (1-off)
Sermon in a Sentence: God is big enough for your hurts, hangups and addictions.
Service Length: 67 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend the message was taught by 9 people sharing their testimonies – 3 students on video and 5 students live and then Johnny Baker, co-author and founder of The Landing (Saddleback Church’s new Celebrate Recovery program designed for students). amazing stories of life change through God’s Spirit and Christian community.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We opened with a simple video promoting the landing using the iPod Touch game Flight Control but other than that – the service was really straightforward. Lots of student greeters, lots of warmth, but not a ton of opening elements of fun. We had a huge killball event planned for after the service, so the style of service was more “we’re gonna have tons of fun in a minute” but for not let’s focus on some big-time God stuff.

Music Playlist: Salvation is Here, Overcome, Beautiful Things, You Hold Me Now

Favorite Moment: For some reason, I really needed this weekend. The student stories really encouraged and inspired me personally. Refreshing and awesome services.

Up Next: I <3 Christmas (series premiere, week 1 of 2)

The Landing is a recovery program for students in crisis. Get more details here!