Question-300x300As summer is quickly coming to an end and fall is quickly approaching, I like to think about how the events or programs I oversee can be better. I also like to brainstorm new ones. My goal is to learn from my failures with summer events, so I don’t repeat them in the fall. Through failure I’ve grown to love the planning process a lot more. Here are 7 questions I ask myself based off of events/programs that I didn’t think all the way through.

  1. What’s the purpose of the event/program? – Knowing the purpose of the event I’m planning helps me gauge my target audience. Not every student will want to come to a worship event or discipleship event. Knowing the purpose allows me to go all out on promotion that is specifically created with the purpose of the event in mind.  My goal is to reach those I’ve identified as my potential taget.
  2. Will students want to come? –  I have to be careful that I don’t plan something based on my own preference but I plan something that will be great and fun for students. I’ve pulled core students in on the planning just to get their perspective on an event or program.
  3. Is there opportunity for building relationships? – I think of this question in terms of student to student or leader to student. Of course there will be both going on but being intentional about which one best fits the event takes the event to the next level.  A lot of times I push students to our events so they can get connected, so I have to think about that during the planning process.
  4. Is there follow-up or next steps needed? – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve missed the opportunity to challenge students to take the next step or follow-up with them because I didn’t think it through beforehand. I’ve been thinking about helping students follow-up with friends that they bring to events. This is definitely a question you want to ask yourself.
  5. Should it cost and is it the right amount? - I’m always thinking is there a way not to charge. Sometimes it’s doable, like the park day we do where we provide lunch, but this is not always the case. Some events or programs have no budget and students have to pay, which is ok, as long as it’s the right price point which has been thought through. Parents will definitely appreciate this step.
  6. Where can we cut cost? – Again I’m thinking about budget and parents. Budget money is coming from people who believe in the God given mission of the church. I definitely want to care about where their money is going. So where can we save money is the question.
  7. How can we help students invite their friends? – Students are connected non-stop with their friends through social media and text. We’ve had great success using these mediums to help them invite their friends.  The goal is to be as creative as you can be.  If you’re not that creative get some of your students to help you.  They will love it and you will have potentially started a new ministry.

Now, I know there are more than just seven questions, so what else can we think about in the planning process to make it the best event/program ever?  Would love to hear your thoughts!!!

hope it helps


My first year in ministry has been incredibly awesome, incredibly hard, and easily the best year I’ve had yet. It has been so great to look back and reflect on all of the successes and… not successes that I’ve had this year and see how much God has taught me along the way. I thought I would share a few of the big things that I have learned this year.

Look Around. I’m an ambitious person. I am always looking ahead at what is coming next and always looking at achieving my goals. This has been really helpful in my career, but at the same time, really challenging. It keeps me from pausing and embracing where I am. It seems like it’s so hard to be present. I found before I started working on it, I was rarely satisfied with where I was or what I had. It kept me from taking a break and trying to see what God was trying to teach at that moment, to see what opportunities He was trying to present. So I learned to not just look ahead, but around as well. I learned to try to find out the purpose God has for me in this stage of my life. It is far more important to achieve God’s goal for my life than my own.

Ministry is a Rhythm. A couple weeks ago, our church’s head pastor spoke to our Student Ministries Team. One for the most impactful things that he talked about was that ministry is a series of rhythms. Sometimes we take the things we want to spend our time doing (family time, personal time, ministry time, etc.) and prioritize it or faction it out. We try to make sure that at all times, every part of our life is getting attention. The problem is that isn’t how ministry works. Sometimes you need to spend more time in ministry. You will spend 60 hours in the office and have an event every night of the week, but that is okay. Its okay because you will (eventually) have a time where you don’t need to spend more time in ministry and you will have more time to spend more time by yourself, with your family, or whatever you need. Ministry is a series of ebbs and flows; give and take. This is guilt-free ministry.

Be Expectant. I was originally going to title this point as “Trust God,” but I think that “be expectant” does the idea more justice. Trusting God is an action, a great action, but being expectant is a mentality and a lifestyle. The last year was filled with uncertainty. Whether it was the success of an event or my future in general, I was so afraid that God wasn’t going to provide and I focused more on being okay with things not working out than expecting God to show up. I wasn’t praying the “big” prayers because I was afraid I’d be disappointed if it didn’t come through. Now don’t get me wrong, sometimes God doesn’t provide in the ways that we want and that can be disappointing, but He always provides in the ways that we need. We need to be praying those big prayers and expecting God to show up in big ways.

For most of you, your first year of ministry wasn’t very recent… but you are still learning! What are some of the biggest lessons God has taught you during your time in ministry?

Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Director at Saddleback HSM.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at or on twitter at @ColtonHarker.

HUGE rivalries this week in our local high schools – made another fun video to celebrate. This series will slow down after football season, but has been so much fun all fall!


(this review was written by AC since I was away this weekend – be sure to check out his blog, too!)

Weekend Teaching Series:  I Am __________ (week 3 of 3)
Sermon in a Sentence: Bullying is not just wrong it’s evil, and we are commanded as believers to standup for those who can’t do it on their own.

Service Length: 75 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend we covered Bullying. We had a guest speaker named Paul Coughlin.  He is the founder of The Protectors an organization that helps family’s, schools and churchs deal with the issue of bullying.  He gave our students a biblical perspective on bullying,  he really educated our students on what bullying is and what it is not.  Finally, he gave practical ways students could standup to bullying.  One of the ways he stressed was for our students to partner up with a friend at school and standup for each other.  Also, if they saw someone else being bullied that they would standup for that person together.  He also challenged students who wanted to do more to signup for more info on how to do more in their schools.  We had 60 plus students signup.  Very proud of our students for taking a stance against bullying.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We did a Taylor Swift cover as an opener “Mean”.  We played a couple of fun new videos – one was the 3rd episode of HSM’s Sports Minute featuring local school sports updates with a crazy twist and the other was an announcement video for our Halloween outreach event.

Music Playlist: Hosannah, Never Let Go, Our God

Favorite Moment: The song choices after the message this weekend were absolutely perfect. I really felt like the message continued right into the 3 songs – super powerful ending to the message!

Up next: Worship Together Weekend [1-off]

Here’s the final highlight video for the whole week from HSM Summer Camp. Such a great, exhausting week!


Quite possibly the best day of camp ever – I LOVE baptisms so much! One more day to go – last night at camp right now!


Weekend Teaching Series: Before and After: a study through Ephesians (series premiere, week 1 of 3)
Sermon in a Sentence: The person that I used to be and the person I am in Christ.
Service Length:
66 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend AC taught for the first time in HSM – he walked students through Ephesians 2 and how we were before Christ and the life-change that happens at salvation. He did a great job explaining sin, the traps of Satan and salvation by God’s grace. The highlight of the weekend was when he had a student come up and share the story of her life, including a recent departure from God’s path that cost her things she could never get back. Her story clearly illustrated the amazing grace of God and how

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: This weekend was really straightforward with lots of welcoming students, a fun recap of our recent Rwanda mission trip and our 80’s skate night from this past Friday.

Music Playlist: Somebody That I Used to Know (A capella cover), Here For You, Majesty, What Would I Have Done, Savior of the World

Favorite Moment: Cayla sharing her story was incredible – made the whole message come to life. Incredible testimony to God’s grace!

Up next: Before and After (week 2 of 3)

Weekend Teaching Series: You Own The Weekend (series premiere, week 1 of 5)
Sermon in a Sentence: Love God, love others.
Service Length: 65 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend was the kick off weekend to our annual “You Own The Weekend” series. During this series, each of the 5 major high schools in the area gets one weekend to “own.” They are in charge of everything from the control room to the podium! The first school to kick it off was Trabuco Hills High School, and they blew it out of the park! They focused on the first and second greatest commandments: Loving God, and loving others. They first taught on loving God, using a student speaker. He focused on how loving our God is and why/how we love in return. They then taught on loving others through the use of a speaker video (composed of 5 students sharing their thoughts and scripture). They spoke about how us loving others is only possible because our love of God. They also spoke about how and why we are called to love others! The whole weekend was brought home by a student sharing their testimony, as well as a TEACHER FROM THEIR SCHOOL sharing his story over video. It was so cool for the students to know that there is some at their school that supports them and wants to talk with them. It was a great weekend and an awesome kick start to the series!

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: Well, since it was Trabuco Hill’s weekend, there was a lot of school spirit decorations, as well as decorations that fit their “love” theme (which were just clearance Valentine’s day decorations. Boom.). There were also a couple great parody videos made by some of our talented video students.

Music Playlist: Perfect Love, Your Love Never Fails, Learn to Love, and My God is Love.

Favorite Moment: The whole weekend was a giant highlight for me because one of my favorite things is seeing students using their gifts and abilities to serve the Lord. It is great having opportunities like “You Own The Weekend” because they require so many different kinds of gifts and gives us the chance to mobilize a lot of students.

Up next: You Own The Weekend [Mission Viejo High School] (week 2 of 5)

(this post was guest written by Colton Harker, student leadership coordinator in HSM)