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

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.


For World AIDS Day this week we held a student design contest for a T-shirt that would be printed up and given to every high school student in our ministry. It was really fun – thought it would be good to share the idea and show you the winning design (above):

High school students! The HIV&AIDS Initiative at Saddleback Church is sponsoring a design contest and will print 2,000 T-shirts that will be distributed for free to high school students. The goal is to raise awareness about HIV&AIDS and to increase service hours to those infected and affected in Orange County.

Here are some sobering statistics to help you process and may be used in the “Getting to Zero*” design:

  • Nearly 30 million people have died from HIV&AIDS.
  • More than 34 million people are living with HIV&AIDS around the world.
  • In the US, 1.2 million people are living with HIV&AIDS.
  • In Orange County, there are over 6,600 people living with HIV&AIDS.
  • Every day 5,000 people die because of HIV&AIDS.
  • Saddleback’s HIV website is

*Getting to Zero is a 3-year global campaign to get to zero new HIV infections, zero AIDS-related deaths, zero babies born HIV+, and zero stigma. Saddleback Church is on board with this campaign and in addition we are working alongside Rwandan leadership to help reach their goal of emptying their orphanages – getting to zero children in orphanages by 2014. That means 3,300 children need permanent families and homes in the next two years!

TO ENTER: Simply share your design on the Saddleback HSM Facebook wall! All entries must be posted on or before November 14th, 2012. The winning entry will be featured on and the designer will receive the new iPad mini!

The contest was great – and the shirts turned out really well (we used Mission Shirts to print them) and everyone is wearing them this week in their schools and inviting friends to church to hear Kay Warren speak on the subject in big church as part of Worship Together Weekend at Saddleback. Awesome!


Weekend Teaching Series: UFC Weekend w/Mark Munoz (1-off)
Service Length:
82 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend we invited Mark Munoz, an incredible Ultimate Fighter, to come share his story and testimony for Christ with our students. He talked about his upbringing, how God used painful situations in his life to shape his journey into wrestling and how God is using him and his influence to further God’s Kingdom. Really fun stuff, spoke to a ton of students who came just to see him and left with a new relationship with Christ.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: This weekend we had a fun musical opener, a couple of quick videos (one we ripped from YouTube and one promoting Winter Camp) some great songs and not much else to give time for the speaker.

Music Playlist: Survival Song, We Are the Free, Hosanna, With Everything

Favorite Moment: Mark Munoz did a good job speaking – but was INCREDIBLE doing question and answer and hanging with students afterwards. He is one of the most accomplished fighters in the UFC, and is humble and completely likeable. He isn’t on the “speaking circuit” but I promise you he will be because God used him in big ways in our ministry!

Up next: Worship Together Weekend: World AIDS Day (1-off)

Weekend Teaching Series: Stuff Jesus Didn’t Say (week 2 of 2)

Service Length: 74 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend we had Kay Warren (Pastor Rick Warren’s wife) speak at all 4 services to high school students. She had offered a few weeks ago at an HIV/AIDS meeting we were at so I quickly adjusted the calendar to get her in right away – it was SO great! Not only was it an incredible message about following Jesus, it was great to have support from the leadership of our church. She taught about Jesus talking to the crowd, but specifically referencing the disciples in the crowd. She challenged students to rise up out of the crowd and be fully committed disciples. Not that the path of the disciples is easy – it requires dangerous surrender, a disturbing and surrender to the mission He has chosen for you. Powerful stuff!

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: This weekend we left it pretty clean except for one fun music video called “A Whole ‘Notha Level” by my friend AC and one of our students. Hilarious student-made video that helped everyone have a smile on their face.

Music Playlist: Take It All, The Earth is Yours, God Above All, All I Am/Learn to Love/All for Love/With Everything Medley

Favorite Moment: This weekend Kay gave away a TON of copies of her book, Dangerous Surrender, to whoever promised to read it and ask God what He wanted to do with their lives. We gave away so many she had to get more on Sunday morning! Having her in our high school ministry is such a treat – great weekend.

Up next: Worship Together Weekend (November)

We’ve been doing a canned food drive for the month of October in our youth ministry – seems like this time of year our supplies run low and requests are at their highest. So we’re helping our our food bank! This year we pitted the classes against each other, and will make a music video honoring the winning class. Should be fun – the lead has bounced back and forth a few times.

Good cause, good prize. Always need both when planning a serve opportunity like this. Of course, I’ll make sure to post the video here next month when it comes out, too!


A few months ago we talked about our first steps in helping our students develop a more Sticky Faith. We interviewed Kara Powell about how to help students have a faith that lasts beyond graduation and how churches are working to build communities that are integrated to a degree but still have effective age-specific ministries as well. If you missed the interview please check it out right here.

The second half of that week we talked about what our church was introducing that very week: Worship Together Weekends. The plan was to cancel youth services once a month in order to encourage families to attend the adult worship services together. The hope was that exposing our teenagers to the larger church experience at Saddleback would help them feel like part of the overall church family, not just part of the youth group.

We’ve been getting a ton of questions about it and many have asked for an update, so here we go!

So far, so good!
The first several weeks of Worship Together have been really great—by cancelling youth services the first weekend we actually also happened to coincide with several holidays (July 4th, Labor Day, etc.) so having the joint services was helpful on the lower-attended weekends anyhow. The real test is probably still coming soon, but it has been great so far.

We have a student section.
Yes, we have a section that is specifically designed for students—but we encourage students to sit with their families and friends first before heading there. Some choose to be there and our student ministry team is very present at all services that weekend, meeting parents, greeting, or on stage for announcements or welcome.

No momentum has been lost.
You would think that cancelling youth group once a month would kill momentum, but we haven’t had adverse affects yet. We communicate with texting and Facebook almost exclusively with our students so they know exactly what’s happening each weekend if we’re on or off. Hasn’t been confusing at all, which is a slight miracle.

So where will we go from here? We committed to a one-year experiment, and so far it seems like everybody is pleased with the results, and we’re excited to hear about other churches that are experimenting with new ideas to help students STICK!

Are you trying new things to develop Sticky Faith in your students?

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

(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]