Yesterday I posted the first half of the frequently asked questions about our large group program at Saddleback Student Ministries. We’ve been assembling them for the Radicalis Conference here on campus this week – our student ministries track is jammed packed with info and thought I would share some here on the blog as well. Here’s the other half of the questions, hopefully these will be helpful to you in some way, too:


6. How often do you (as the primary leader of the ministry) teach?
a. Wildside — although he is our Student Ministries Pastor, Kurt teaches 50% of the time in Wildside and the remaining 50% are split up amongst the Wildside team
b. HSM — I speak a little over half of the time, we spread out the rest over guest speakers (mostly internal) and students during You Own the Weekend.
c. Crave – Pastor Brad speaks about 35 weeks a year

7. What roles do volunteers play in your service?
a. Wildside — volunteers lead our music, run games, give announcements, lead grade groups, host sections, run audio/video, etc.
b. HSM – volunteers greet, work crowd, keep order, do announcements, etc. We use student leaders equally or perhaps even more than adults at this level program.
c. Crave – message research, worship leaders, greeters, tear-down/setup, ushers, A / V, 1st time attender’s party and more.

8. What percentage of the service is made up of music?
a. Wildside — approximately 20% of our service is worship through music
b. HSM — we usually have 3-5 songs each service.
c. Crave – approximately 30%

9. Do you use secular music at all? And if so, how?
a. Wildside — Yes. We use appropriate secular music as opening songs, videos, music videos, background music, games, etc.
b. HSM — we use it every weekend during the countdown, often for opening cover songs, sometimes behind games/announcements, etc.
c. Crave – Rarely; we sometimes play it before and after the service just so non-believers hear something familiar.

10. What is your follow-up strategy for connecting with students after the service?
a. Wildside — We aren’t great at follow-up, mostly because we don’t do check-in/out, and thus have a tough time getting accurate contact info on our students. We do encourage our leaders to take note of grade group attendance as best they can, but with four services that gets tough.
b. HSM — our large group time is totally anonymous, if a student gives us their information on a response card we take it very seriously. If a student trusts Christ, we send out a new believer’s packet. If a student checks the “first time” box we send out a little card. Those are the pulse of our ministry, response cards are like gold to this level service.
c. Crave – We email, Facebook and sometimes call those who’ve made commitments or are seeking greater involvement.


This week at Saddleback’s Radicalis Conference some friends and I are doing a session in the youth ministry track about our large group gatherings (our weekend services). We put together a FAQ to go in the notebook to help answer some questions about our ministry. Here’s the first 5 questions if it is of any interest to you:

[Wildside = Junior High, HSM = High School Ministry, Crave = college-age ministry]

1. How long is your typical large group gathering service?
a. Wildside — 1 hour and 15 minutes
b. HSM — 65-75 minutes
c. Crave – 1.5 hours

2. How long is your typical sermon/message?
a. Wildside — we average approximately 20-25 minutes
b. HSM 25-35 minutes
c. Crave – 30 minutes

3. How far in advance do you map out your teaching calendar?
a. Wildside — for the most part, we have a two year calendar that we continually teach thru (we are 7th and 8th grade only)
b. HSM — we do a year in advance during planning, but adjust as needed
c. Crave – 6 to 9 months

4. How frequently are you teaching topically versus exegetically?
a. Wildside — our goal is to teach 1/3 topical (JH survival), 1/3 exegetical (doctrine), and 1/3 other
b. HSM — we are largely topical and felt need, but try to get through a couple books of the Bible each year as well
c. Crave – 70% topical and 30% exegetical

5. How extensive is your stage design/theming of your large group program?
a. Wildside — we go in seasons; sometimes we do nothing and other times we go all out, but a lot of that depends on how the series/topic lends to stage setup
b. HSM — this is a great place to use volunteers. We have a group of students that help create designs as well. It also largely depends on budget, the length of the series, and whether a series is conducive to it.
c. Crave – Less is more for us. We rarely do any stage design.


I was asked by a friend recently what three gifts any youth pastor would want from their senior pastor. First of all, I thought, “Huh, I just had Christmas and a birthday and I didn’t get ANYTHING from Pastor Rick.” Then I remembered I didn’t get him anything either, or have any idea when his birthday even was in the first place. Yikes.

After that little rabbit trail, I thought about how good of a question it was, and that I should blog about my responses and ask you to weigh in as well. If my senior pastor could give me 3 things (and it wasn’t something like an iPad, because I’d gladly take that, too) I would want these:

More than anything else, I want to be given the leadership of the ministry. I want to be trusted with the vision and decisions of the ministry. I want a senior pastor who believes in me and trusts me to follow God’s Spirit and his/her leadership in accomplishing that vision.

Loyalty equals longevity. If you want me to stay in the trenches for the long run, stick with me. I’ll probably need your defense (hey, I’m a youth worker) and covet your partnership and friendship in the heat of the spiritual battle. A quick way to run a youth pastor out of town is to be disloyal.

I hesitate to put this one out there on the list – but it is a HUGE gift to be well-taken care of as a pastor/family and a HUGE gift to have money for scholarships and programming. I put it last for a reason, but also included it for a reason, too. Take care of your people and they will take care of your people.

My hope is that you as a youth worker read this, nod your head and add another “gift” in the comments. That way, when your senior pastor Googles their way to this post, they’ll have lots of ideas and put one or two of them into practice.

What is another amazing gift a senior pastor can give their youth worker?


Saddleback was recently given some amazing property a few miles from the main campus. In dreaming about what to do with it, Pastor Rick came up with the Saddleback School of Leadership. If all goes as planned, it’ll open this Fall.

Right now they’re identifying people who have a heart for church planting and are working to develop the core programs. If you want to give input input to what should be included, take this 10-minute survey. Cool!


And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. -Acts 2:42

For two weeks HSM is going to offer a unique way of having students give an offering.

We’re in the middle of a church-wide campaign that includes a significant offering component at the end. Pastor Rick has been talking quite a bit about Acts 2:42, the “sell their possessions and give to those in need” and sharing how in the early days of Saddleback people literally downsized their houses and gave the difference to the church. We’ve taken this verse very literally in the past, and while I love it, the application to the present-day life of teenager doesn’t seem very relevant.

So this weekend we’re going to launch what we hope is a very student-friendly, modern day take on Acts 2:42. While students can still literally tithe and/or give an offering in an envelope, we’re also going to let them bring in items to sell. Here’s the idea:

Want to participate in the offering but don’t have money? Here’s how: donate something of our own to the giving campaign. First get your parent’s permission, then bring in any item worth $50 or more and give it away at the eBay offering table. We’ll take each of the items and put them on eBay and find new owners for your stuff with all of the proceeds going directly to the campaign.

The opportunity to give will run for just 2 weeks, Nov 6/7 and 13/14 and students from the Oh Snaps! photography ministry will take pictures of the items as they come in and another student leader will help write up the product description. The whole process will be done by students and overseen by an adult, with 100% of the proceeds go to the 2020: The Future is Now offering.

When I announce it this weekend, I’m going to give away 2 things myself to the campaign: one that is easy to give away, and one that is more of a sacrifice. I’m going to give away my copy of Avatar: the Video Game for the Xbox 360. Easy, the game is average at best and I’ve already beat it. But I’m also going to give something away as a sacrifice, one that I’ll feel a little more: my brand new copy of Halo: Reach. I want to make sure students hear that we don’t just give out of abundance, but we give out of sacrifice as well. Why am I doing this again? Hahahha …

So we’ll see how it goes! Could be a total flop, but I think even just using this concept as a teaching point could be valuable for our students and might be worth it alone. If it takes off, it could be something really special.


Weekend Teaching Series: LAUNCH: Ready for Re-Entry (week 4 of 5)
Sermon in a Sentence: Launching into a successful school year requires dedication, investment and using the gifts God has given you for Him.
Service Length: 79 minutes
Main passage: Luke 5:1-11

Understandable Message: This week we had the final summer guest speaker teach our entry-level program. David Hughes grew up in the ministry and has become a long-time volunteer and most recently a seminary student. He did a great job introducing himself to our students and challenging them to follow Jesus’ call on their life. He focused on Jesus calling the disciples, causes their boats to overflow with fish and them leaving everything to follow Him. In some ways our lives become a cycle of faithfulness – God entrusts us with more, and we find joy when we use everything in our lives for God.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We had a text poll from as well as a simple Race This! game featuring Spaceships – we divided up the crowd into 3 sections and the winning section got a candy shower. We haven’t used Race This! much in high school, but it definitely worked with the crowd and tied in nicely to the theme. We sprinkled in a few announcements and a fun video promoting the Shake It! greeting ministry, too.

Music Playlist: My Heart (Paramore cover), Awesome God, The Stand

Favorite Moment: This was a bittersweet weekend – we said goodbye to a couple of great members of our HSM team. Becka finished up her 2-year internship this week and has been an absolute star the whole time. Robby was asked by Pastor Rick to head up a new campus in Huntington Beach that will launch this Christmas. VERY proud of both of them, and VERY hard to see them go. Shoot.

Up Next: LAUNCH series finale [Fall Back to School Kickoff]

I was reading Terrace’s blog recently and also came across a slightly older post from Matt Cleaver talking about the must-read books for youth workers. And while this isn’t necessarily a definitive list by any means, I thought it might be interesting to post the books that have had the most shaping effect on my youth ministry philosophy and vision.

Purpose Driven Church – Rick Warren
This is the book that opened my eyes to church as it could be. Sitting at a summer camp in upstate New York, I read and imagined church in a whole new way. The Great Commandment and the Great Commission bonded together to reveal biblical purpose for the church. Life-changing read.

Handbook on Counseling Youth – Josh McDowell
An oldie, but a goodie. This book was a gift to me early in youth ministry career – and just this past week I gave copies of it to my team. Tons of topics, great questions, Scripture and counseling help for real issues. I hope the book gets a makeover soon and will include more help for newer issues that are gripping teenagers.

Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry – Doug Fields
The first of two great books from Doug Fields that made me into the youth worker I am today. Probably time for me to read it again – just solid reminders to help you start right.

Purpose Driven Youth Ministry – Doug Fields
The definitive book on youth ministry. It will get you thinking, challenge that thinking, and push your thinking toward a biblical model for success and health. So much of what we do in HSM still resonates directly from this foundation. I’ve had multiple copies, all dog-eared, underlined and worn. The best of the list.

Sustainable Youth Ministry – Mark DeVries
Maybe the 3rd best book written about youth ministry. A more recent title to make the list, I love the clarity and direction it provides youth workers in what it takes to survive the calling in the long run. Good, good, stuff.

The Heart of a Great Pastor – H.B. London
This book arrived at a time when I was feeling particularly vulnerable and ready to quit. The idea of “blooming where you’re planted” hit me that God called me to the place I was serving at, not to be looking for what was next or greener on the other side of the fence.

The Dip – Seth Godin
The Dip is a little book all about the phenomenon where after initial success there is a dip before an even larger gain. Fighting through the Dip or knowing when it is time to give up is crucial in youth ministry.

Linchpin – Seth Godin
A brand new book that is gripping me right now. The idea that God created you as an artist and an individual for His work – that you aren’t just a mindless cog in a wheel within the church. Takes a bit of translating since it is a business book, but worth it!

Made to Stick – Chip and Dan Heath
If you’re a communicator, you’ll want to know how to have your messages stick. I also loved Speaking to Teenagers, but this non-youth ministry specific book really stuck with me, too.

The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team – Patrick Lencioni
Working in a larger church now I’m focusing on more team-based learnings, this book is one of the best. Told in his now trademarked business fable style, the book will walk you through the most common traps that trip up teams.

How about you? Read any life-changing books lately?


Quite a few emails and comments from people this summer about the new self-service Pastoral Care brochure racks we launched for our High School Ministry. Honestly, it has taken a whole lot longer to produce each brochure than we originally thought, and they’ve gone a lot faster than I expected – so it’s been totally worth it. Anyhow, some youth workers were recently asking about publishing a topic list of the different pamphlets, so here’s the list of ideas as of today. I wish we could have done them all, but some ideas had to get cut and only a few are [done].

Pastoral Care Issues
1. Relationships, Dating [done]
2. Sexual Temptations/Porn [done]
3. Identity/Value/Worth [done]
4. Bullies
5. Anger
6. Peer Pressure
7. Insecurity
8. Loneliness
9. Marriage/Divorce
10. Death
11. Feeling Lost/Purposeless
12. Unplanned Pregnancy/Abortion [done]
13. Gender Issues
14. Domestic Violence/Sexual Abuse
15. Addiction
16. Parents
17. Eating Disorders [done]
18. Academic Problems
19. Stress
20. Depression
21. Homosexuality [done]
22. Cutting [done]
23. Grief [done]
24. Forgiveness
25. Suicide [done]
26. Stealing

Christian Life
1. Habits
2. Following Jesus [done]
3. Salvation
4. Serving
6. Purposes [done]
7. What It Means to be a Christian
8. Baptism [done]
9. Communion [done]
10. Small Groups
11. How to Get Connected
12. M Video Games/M Music/R Movies

13. Alcohol/Drugs [done]
14. How To Grow/A Few Ways to Grow

1. The Bible [done]
2. God [done]
3. Heaven/Hell [done]
4. Is Jesus the Only Way [done]
5. Theology Terms
6. Environment [done]
7. Humanity
8. Sin

HSM General/Funny
1. Snuggies
2. Fun In the Refinery
3. HSM Insider Terms
4. Ninjas
5. Star Wars
6. Pirates vs. Ninjas

7. Fashion Don’ts [done]

What are we missing? Leave a comment!