Let me tweak today’s title: Have you hugged your pastor lately? Okay, one more tweak: Have you hugged your pastor, EVER?

So you aren’t a big hugger. That’s okay (neither am I, as indicated by my awkward side hug above), because I’m not really talking about the physical act of hugging your pastor, rather what that physical act represents. A hug can represent affection, friendship, gratitude, camaraderie, and more. A hug is sort of an “I’m glad I know you, and that we are in this thing together” action.

So let me tweak today’s title: Have you told your pastor that you are glad you know him/her and that you are in this thing together lately? EVER?

If not, here are a few fun ideas:

* Take detailed notes of his next sermon. Write all over the bulletin/hand out, and drop it in his inbox with a letter saying something like, “Thanks, Pastor, for consisting preaching God’s word in such a powerful way.”

* Invite him to be a counselor at your next junior high sleepover. Chances are 99.9999% he will decline the offer. But it always feels good to be invited.

* Steal her car while she’s in a meeting and have it washed. For a couple extra bucks you can get Armor All put on the tires which adds a nice touch!

* Make a note of his birthday and anniversary. Send a congratulatory card.

* Drop a Starbucks or other gift card on her desk for no reason other than to say “I’m glad I know you, and that we are in this thing together.”

* Or, just give him a hug!

Reading this simple little post isn’t easy for some of you, and actually implementing an idea or two sounds almost foreign due to the fact that your relationship with your Pastor is strained or maybe nonexistent. There is no sense of affection, friendship, gratitude, camaraderie or, “I’m glad I know you, and that we are in this thing together”.

I’ve been there. And while it’s only one man’s experience, my experience is that when I have chosen to dwell on what’s lacking in my relationship with my Pastor, things seem to get worse. But a “hug” seems to go a long way.

This might be a good post for some of you with good relationships with your Pastor to share a few tips that have helped it along the way…



Some great posts from friends around the tragic Matthew Warren story of this past week. Matthew, the son of our pastor, battled with depression and took his own life on Friday morning. Needless to say this has been a challenging season for our people. The response has been incredible though, so proud of our church and of much of the greater Christian community. Here are some thoughts from friends.

From Doug Fields – Friends Show Up:

When my mom was in the hospital, then on hospice, and then when I had to deal with post-death details, I felt extremely exhausted and lonely.

During those three weeks, I realized that I’ve been an average friend to my friends who have experienced crisis. Here’s what happened in my situation: almost every one of my friends made contact, told me they were praying for me, family, mom, etc., and most said and/or wrote, If there’s anything I can do, let me know. It’s a very sweet and genuine gesture. Actually, it’s EXACTLY the type of gesture that I’ve expressed in the past. Exactly!

But here is what I learned during those three weeks that has changed my response: I’m not just offering up help, I’m showing up. (I’m embarrassed it took so long to learn.)

From Walt Mueller – Matthew Warren, His Family, And Guidelines For The Rest of Us:

  • Don’t speculate. Don’t speculate on what happened or the reasons behind it. Don’t speculate on the specific causes and circumstances. We don’t know. We won’t know. We don’t need to know.
  • Don’t simplify. This was a 27-year-old man whose story was just as complex as your story and my story. There are no easy answers here.
  • Don’t downplay depression. It’s not something a person can magically turn on and turn off with the flick of switch or a decision. If you’ve been there yourself or with someone you love, you know how powerful, deeply difficult, and complex depression is.

From Beth Moore – Sadness and Madness:

But even now at the hardest moment of their lives the Warrens can teach something vital if we are willing to learn. Their heartbreak demonstrates what has always been true but has never been more profoundly overlooked: these who serve us publicly also suffer privately. They are not caricatures. They are not just personalities. They are people living on a painful planet with the rest of us.

The Warrens will come forth like gold. The enemy will not win. They will fight the good fight. They will finish the race. They will keep the faith.

I love the Body of Christ. I don’t want want to get cynical. I don’t want to sit around and hate the haters or I become one. But this morning I just want to say this. We can love each other better. Let’s do. People have enough hurt. Let’s be careful with one another.


Pastor Rick sent this to our church late last week … would love your prayers for his family and our church:

To my dear Saddleback Family,

Over the past 33 years we’ve been together through every kind of crisis. Kay and I’ve been privileged to hold your hands as you faced a crisis or loss, stand with you at gravesides, and prayed for you when ill. Today, we need your prayer for us.

No words can express the anguished grief we feel right now. Our youngest son, Matthew, age 27, and a lifelong member of Saddleback, died today.

You who watched Matthew grow up knew he was an incredibly kind, gentle, and compassionate man. He had a brilliant intellect and a gift for sensing who was most in pain or most uncomfortable in a room. He’d then make a beeline to that person to engage and encourage them.

But only those closest knew that he struggled from birth with mental illness, dark holes of depression, and even suicidal thoughts. In spite of America’s best doctors, meds, counselors, and prayers for healing, the torture of mental illness never subsided. Today, after a fun evening together with Kay and me, in a momentary wave of despair at his home, he took his life.

Kay and I often marveled at his courage to keep moving in spite of relentless pain. I’ll never forget how, many years ago, after another approach had failed to give relief, Matthew said, Dad, I know I’m going to heaven. Why can’t I just die and end this pain? but he kept going for another decade.

Thank you for your love and prayers. We love you back.

Pastor Rick

One of the books that I have been recommending a lot to students recently is “Rick Warren’s Bible Study Methods” by… Rick Warren. In the book, Rick gives 12 different ways for us to dig into scripture. It is the perfect book for a student who wants to switch things up with their time in the Bible. The methods are:

1. Devotional- Meditate on a short piece of scripture and then find a personal life application for it.

2. Chapter Summary- Read a chapter of the Bible at least five times and then write down your thoughts about it.

3. Character Quality- Pick a character trait that you would like to have/grow in, then look at and study what the Bible says about it. Find out how you can apply that to your life!

4. Thematic- This is one of my favorites! Start by picking some theme of the Bible and write down a few questions you have about them and try to answer them by looking up the theme in various areas of the Bible.

5. Biographical- Choose a character from the Bible and read all that you can about them. Take notes about their traits and character and see how you can apply them to your own life.

6. Topical- Organize a list of scripture about a certain topic. Put it into an outline from that you’d be able to share with another person.

7. Word Study- Choose an important word from the Bible and see how it is used and how many times it comes up. Go and find out what the original meaning of the word is!

8. Book Background- With the use of Bible reference books, study the historical context of a book of the Bible to understand how the history affected the meaning.

9. Book Survey- Read an entire book of the Bible several times to get a good idea on what the book is about and then study the background of the book and take notes.

10. Chapter Analysis- Take a careful look at one particular chapter of the Bible. Take it apart word-by-word, verse-by-verse.

11. Book Synthesis- After you’ve used the Book Survey Method and the Chapter Analysis Method on every chapter of the book, summarize the contents and the main themes of a book.

12. Verse Analysis- Select a passage of Scripture and examine it in detail by asking questions, finding cross-references, and paraphrasing each verse. Record a possible application of each verse you study

I love this book because there is really something in here for everyone, no matter if they are in high school or seminary! Each method is unique in its approach and in its complexity. The methods are organized from simple to complex, so I usually advise that students start in the front and work their way back. So far, students have loved this book! It has helped many of them get out of their quiet time “slumps” because it shakes up the way that they have gotten used to looking at scripture. It is perfect for a student that is looking at taking their time in the Bible to the next level!

Some people that often hit “slumps” are college freshmen. This could be a really great gift for some of your recent graduates!

What is a resource that you have been giving your students recently?

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


Every series we take students through has an “arc” or a journey from point A to point B we want them to grow in. Here’s the series arc, as I call it, for our 40 days church-wide campaign called You Are Here. We took the adult curriculum, What On Earth Am I Here For and made it more student-friendly:

January 19/20 = You Are Here (week 1)
You matter To God! At some point of everyone’s life there are questions of ones purpose, meaning and importance in one’s life. Trust me, you are not alone. When we have those feelings they are just a lie the enemy feeds us, but the good news is that we matter to God. This week we will be looking at what exactly this means and how it applies to our lives.

January 26/27 = You Are Here (week 2)
When we think of music, our minds immediately go to music. That is only part true. Worship is something way more than singing songs; it is a life style and has way more importance in our lives than just singing. Worship is about surrendering, but surrendering to God is not about loosing, it’s about gaining. This week we will take a deeper look into what worship looks like.

February 2/3 = Worship Together Weekend (week 3)
This week at Worship Together Weekend we will continue our You Are Here series up in the Worship Center as a whole church family talking about fellowship. Being in Christian community is one of the keys to living a life for Jesus. It allows us to share our lives, experiences, services and suffering together as one body. There is nothing like being able to do life with people who love you and love God. How cool is it we’ll be all together for this weekend, too?

February 9/10 = You Are Here (week 4)
God doesn’t want us to just know Jesus Christ, he wants us to become like Jesus Christ. This has been God’s plan for us since the very beginning. How do we do that? We become disciples. Not only do we become disciples but a good disciple makes more disciples. We will be looking at how we can become better disciples of Christ and how God uses our life circumstances to become even more trusting in Him.

February 16/17 = You Are Here (week 5)
Everyone is called to do ministry, whether you know it or not. There is no such thing as a non-serving Christian. What matters in life is not how long you live but how you live your life. We want to help you find your SHAPE in how you can serve God and serve others while we are here on this earth.

February 23/24 = You Are Here (week 6)
We are supposed to tell others about Jesus and the hope that He brings them. But why this is such an important aspect in our walk with God? How do you do that without being “that guy” or “that girl”? It is our calling and responsibility to share Jesus and this week will be learning on how to effectively do so.


Here’s the bumper video created for our You Are Here series – the student version of the What On Earth Am I Here For church-wide campaign.


My boss Kurt put together a great post called Things Are Getting Sticky at Saddleback talking about the origin of something new we started this summer called Worship Together Weekends. Here’s a little of the backstory, head there for the full perspective:

  • About a year ago, I started really digging into the Sticky Faith research and asking myself some tough questions.
  • About 10 months ago, I started using my allotted “report back” time in our executive meetings to share some of my learnings, to let the senior leadership of my church know that I saw some changes on the horizon.
  • About 6 months ago, I suggested the radical idea (radical in our setting) of taking tangible steps to get our teenagers more involved in the overall life of the church. These ideas included combined missions trips, ministry teams, discipleship classes, etc.
  • At the same time, I suggested the idea of creating a monthly “Worship Together Weekend”. I pitched the idea that on the first full weekend of every month we cancel our JH and HS church services, completely shut down our youth building and encourage families to go to “big church” together. In essence I proposed that we spend 25% of our time NOT doing the type of ministry that our church has been built upon.


Some big news that starts this July – our church has decided to cancel student services once a month for what we’re calling “Worship Together Weekend.” It is a chance for everyone in the church to take time to worship together instead of age-specific programs and services.

We don’t know too much, honestly, we’re right in the middle of figuring that out. But here’s the scoop so far:

On the first full weekend of each month (beginning July 7/8) our junior high and high school ministries will join the adults of Saddleback for church services in the Worship Center. This is a chance for adults and teenagers to enjoy church with each other, as one big church family!

On the first full weekend of every month during the 4:30 and 6:30 services Saturday night and the 9 and 11:15 Sunday services.


  • July 7/8
  • August 4/5
  • September 1/2
  • October 6/7
  • November 3/4

Junior High and High School services in the Refinery are cancelled, and the Refinery will be closed during church services on Worship Together Weekends. If you don’t have somebody to sit with at Worship Together Weekend look for a friendly face in a Wildside or HSM T-shirt and we will set you up!