This year we’ve trying a fun new idea that we’ve been cooking for small groups – we’ve just launched HSM’s Life Group Leagues!

From time to time throughout the small group year we’re going to host a few casual sports nights here at the church where groups can participate in some fun activities like volleyball, ping pong or basketball. The games are all for fun, not highly competitive and simply give small groups a chance to take a break from the pace of the year and have some fun together.

I’ve always liked the idea of intramural sports in college and wondered if it would translate to high school ministry. We’re off to a great start so far – thought the idea might be a good one to share here, too!


Phil (on our HSM team) is the captain of event planning. He posted the 5 Keys to Event Planning on his blog yesterday and thought you might benefit from the link. Here’s a couple of them, head there for the complete thought:

1. Know the purpose of the event
Why are you doing what you are doing? You need to figure this out early on. It may be an event that you’ve come up with yourself or one that you’re planning for another team member. If it’s the latter, ask! If it’s the former, check that there is a point and it isn’t simply something that you will find fun (though hopefully that will play at least a part). Write a mission statement, one sentence that sums up the event that can come back to to help you stay on track.
Even for a simple parent reception ask yourself what the intended outcome is…do you hope to meet parents yourself, present something to them, help them connect to each other, honor them as ministry partners or just take a moment to pray.
Never put an event on the calendar simply because it was there last year.

2. Know WHO the event is for
Parents, Students, Staff, Volunteers, Newcomers, well connected students, Christians, the whole youth group…
This is vital. If you plan a camp and invite non-Christians then your teaching must reflect that. If you want to run a discipleship retreat, figure out how to attract the specific demographic you’re after and tailor the retreat for them.

3. Work out a budget
Do this early on. Don’t fall into the mindset of “money doesn’t govern my ministry” because in many situations (like on the paper report you present to your senior pastor) it does!
Start with the big costs like Venue, Transportation and catering and then add in the next level of costs like a guest speaker etc.
Remember to ask questions when booking all of these, never assume anything – your budget will hate you for it. Check what you should tip a bus driver (I always ask to have the tip included in the contract), factor in room tax, check to see what A/V equipment is available and whether there is an extra charge. Don’t feel like you’re asking too many questions, remember, you are the client!


There are a couple of questions I get quite often from youth workers thinking about making some shifts in their specific youth ministry context. I thought it might be good to share my typical answers to them in case you were wondering the same thing or looking for someone to dialogue about them right about now. Here you go!

I need help with small groups! Happy to help – start with a search on the blog for the term “life groups” or “small groups” and browse through a bunch of the stuff I’ve written about them for the past couple of years. Hopefully something in there is what you’re looking for. You can also contact Jessica Torres, the HSM small groups coordinator here at Saddleback. She’ll work to answer specific questions you may have and let you in on the trends we’re seeing and stuff that is and isn’t working that might be helpful. You might also want to consider picking up the great book Small Groups from Start to Finish, by Doug Fields and Matt McGill. It is a great tool that can help you navigate launching groups in your youth ministry, too!

I’m thinking about starting a youth ministry internship at my church! That’s awesome – we need more churches helping the next generation of youth workers to get their hands dirty and serve in the local church. Check out everything we do here at Saddleback for internships – you can get most all of the info on what we hope and plan for our interns to experience by clicking here. You could definitely send your best and brightest our way – we’ve been blessed to really help a bunch of youth workers get their start with 2-years of jam-packed experience. And you can also email Jamie McNeff who can walk you through other specific questions you may have, too.


Today HSM was proud to welcome Parker Stech to the team. Parker (and his wife Holly) are small group leaders and Parker brings a lot of technical skills to the table. He’s a solid video guy, with cool Flash tricks up his sleeve – most importantly he gets it: he has a pastor’s heart in the body of a geek. Super excited to welcome him to the HSM team here at Saddleback!


This is Hope Schoen — the latest addition to the HSM team! Hope just came aboard through Saddleback’s 2-year internship program. She was a volunteer at summer camp and a recent graduate of Biola University – we’re so excited to have her on the team!

Do you know someone who is looking for a year or two of concentrated, in the trenches youth ministry experience? I’ve got one open spot on the HSM team right now, send them my way!


Weekend Teaching Series: iServe Weekend (1-off)
Sermon in a Sentence: We were created to serve others – band together to overcome fears, look for opportunities to meet a need and use your S.H.A.P.E.
Service Length: 51 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend I used a classic outline that walked students through a basic understanding of servanthood as it relates to our faith. I wanted them to understand they were gifted and how God uses our Spiritual Gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality and Experiences in making us to be His servants. The message was shorter than normal so students had time to visit the “join a ministry” fair we setup outside the youth room.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: There were a ton of students around this weekend – mainly because they were manning the ministry fair booths after the service. This created a high-energy atmosphere for sure. There was only a short program this week, that included a good video interviewing students about being involved in ministry and what it means to them. We also introduced Hope, a new 2-year intern. Yeah!

Music Playlist: Solution, The Earth is Yours, Our God, To the Ends of the Earth

Favorite Moment: This weekend my friends Robby (formerly on the HSM team) and Ryanne had a great idea – what if we challenged students to help start one of the new Saddleback campuses launching this Christmas. What if we asked a group of students to not just be a part of a church, but to help start one! Very excited about the students’ response to the challenge to come to HSM on Saturday night, and serve at a new campus Sunday morning. So cool!

Up Next: 2020 – the Future is Now (Saddleback’s 6-week church-wide campaign)

This weekend in HSM we did a super short official service – and gave students time to check out and sign up for a ministry in our “join a ministry” fair. We called it the iServe weekend, and encouraged students to take their time to walk through the “figure S” of tables we had set up as they left the youth room. It was an incredible weekend – LOTS of students signed up to pitch in!

Here are a few of the ministries we promoted this weekend:

Great fun – hoping to really jump start ministry right out of the gate this school year!


Met a youth worker Chris from Authentic Youth at the Fantastical Conference – we were talking about the blog and he said he loved the idea a while back about the message outline hooks – and brought me one of theirs, too! Taffy (our student worship pastor at Saddleback) and I have had a blast meeting so many great youth workers this week. How cool!