The Strength of Stories

Josh Griffin —  January 12, 2012 — 1 Comment

I have preached a lot of sermons and heard even more in my life in the church and each time as I prepare, my hope is that each time I prepare, that some part of what I am teaching would go from head knowledge to heart and God would speak through my teaching and He would transform lives as a result.

This unfortunately is not always that case and sometimes those well-prepped and researched talks fall on arid and crumbly soil. While this can be really discouraging, what amazes me is the fact that while sermons can often be forgotten or tuned out, there is something powerful and disarming about a student or leader sharing their testimony. Make them part of you youth program and here’s why:

Stories are personal and real: What I love about testimonies is that they are a story that isn’t over, they are in process and there is something exciting about that. For students to hear where their friends are really at, what they have struggled with, been through and experienced and how God has been faithful through all of it, they hear that. Students crave authenticity and can smell disingenuous people a mile away; testimonies are a window into the inner workings or someone’s very personal Christian walk.

Stories are hard to refute: When I am talking to my non-Christian friends or skeptical students, they often have well-rehearsed arguments about why God can’t exist and have opinions on the validity of the Bible. They can refute God to certain extent, but cannot deny what He has done in someone’s life. Tangible encounters with God, sudden and dramatic heart change, miraculous healing, freedom from sin. All of these are part of student’s story, and those are hard to argue against.

Stories bring the Bible to life: For students who are new in their faith or just seeking, the Bible is a not a book that they know well or at all. So when we teach from it, it’s not always easy for them to understand how the Bible can actually impact and affect their life. But when you hear students sharing stories about their life verses and how God used a certain scripture to transform their heart and life. Stories bring the Bible to life for other students.


Here’s one of the student testimonies from STORIES weekend in HSM a couple weeks ago. This was the first story of the weekend, powerful stuff and a great point to God’s grace!


Weekend Teaching Series: Stories Weekend (1-off)
Sermon in a Sentence: Students share their lives, experiences and faith with their peers.
Service Length: 80 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend we didn’t have a typical message – it was time for another Stories weekend. This weekend 6 students shared their stories combined with great music made for an awesome weekend. The students shared on many topics drawn from their experiences, including eating disorders, self-image, faith, loves, abuse, sumer camp highs, salvation, walk with God, worship, serving and much more. The stories were inspiring and incredible – I would highly recommend you trying out a service like this in your youth group!

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: This weekend we played a modified version of this “no services” video that played great as well as a new video promoting The Landing (Celebrate Recovery for students). The opener this week was a super fun rendition of the 12 Days of Christmas with a whole group of energetic students on stage, too. Students in the band, did lights, sound, cameras, control room, greeting and speaking!

Music Playlist: 12 Days of Christmas, I Found a Love, Hosanna, Burning Ones, With Everything

Favorite Moment: Without a doubt it is the students sharing – the attention when a student takes the stage is absolutely incredible. There was no pastor on stage this weekend, but there was plenty of preaching!

Up next: Good Neighbor Weekend (no HSM services – more details later this week)

Jade’s Story

Josh Griffin —  September 29, 2011 — Leave a comment

Stumbled on this video of Jade’s story … she was a senior in high school when this happened and is just back from a season serving in Kitale, Kenya. Amazing young woman, so proud of her. Hat tip to Shane McCann for the video work. Nice.


Here’s a quick look at the sermons and series we’re taking on for the rest of the year in our high school ministry here at Saddleback. Really excited about this fall!

No HSM [9/11 services in big church]
Secrets (week 1 of 2)
Secrets (week 2 of 2)

Facebook Official: Relationships, Friendships, Love and Status Updates (week 1 of 4)
Facebook Official (week 2 of 4)
Facebook Official (week 3 of 4)
Facebook Official (week 4 of 4)

Do Something: Don’t Just Listen … Do (week 1 of 3)
Do Something (week 2 of 3)
Do Something (week 3 of 3)
1-off for Thanksgiving

STORIES: 1-off testimony weekend
Christmas (week 1 of 2)
Christmas (week 2 of 2)
No HSM [Christmas]
No HSM [New Year]


Above is a picture my niece Hayley gave her “papa” for his 70th birthday. To the outside observer it’s a cute picture. Something any child may give to mom, dad, or “pa pa” so they can hang it up on the refrigerator. But, when you dig a little deeper in to the history of this drawing, you’ll find out that it is so much more than merely a “cute” picture.

Hayley was born pre-maturely with a hole in her heart. She had to have open heart surgery before she was a year old to repair this hole. This has caused some physical problems for her as she has gotten older: low muscle tone and sensory integration disorder. Because of this she has been in physical and occupational therapy for 2 years.

The “cute” picture above is the culmination of $75,000 spent on over a thousand hours of therapy for Hayley. Just two years ago this picture would never have happened. It would have been nothing more than a few scribbles on a piece of paper. But, hard work, persistence and dedication has paid off with words, a face, and a smile. Sure, for someone on the outside, it’s a cute picture, and that’s nice and all. But for those on the inside this picture represents so much more.

Those of us in youth ministry have a unique opportunity to be on “the inside.” Each of our teenagers has a story. When we’re willing to dig just a little deeper in to a life, we’ll often find stories … stories of successes and failures, joys and pains, fear and courage … there is always more to their life than what we see on the outside. That teenager who is one of the leaders in your ministry may have had countless hours of somebody pouring in to their life, guiding them and helping them become a leader while that “one” … and we all have that “one” … who causes problems or who seemingly just doesn’t care about anything may represent a life of hurt and pain and they are acting out because no one has spent time trying to invest in them. Understanding this means we won’t be so quick to criticize but more willing to listen. We won’t be as quick to expect a non-believing student to act as a passionate Christ-follower.

As we learn to do youth ministry together, let me encourage you to be willing to dig a little deeper in to the lives of others and to realize that each life has a deeper story. Part of our role is to help students see how their story is woven in to the God’s greater story. But unless we’re willing to dig a little deeper, we’ll never have the opportunity to do that!

Rich Yauger is a husband, dad, and youth pastor. He’s been trying to point teenagers to Jesus at Grace Community Church in Goshen, IN for 9 years and blogs a bit at and Twitter’s at @rich_yauger.

Here is one of the student testimonies from this past weekend in HSM. It was part of our occasional STORIES weekend where students share what God is doing in their lives. Good stuff, if you want to see the other 5, hit up this link, too.


Weekend Teaching Series: Stories (1-off)
Sermon in a Sentence:
Real-life stories of life change from core kids who are making a difference by serving and sharing their faith.
Service Length: 62 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend was all about students sharing their stories. We typically do a couple “stories” weekends a year, but this time we concentrated on students raised in Christian homes that were living out their faith. I’ve noticed from time to time that when we ask someone to share, they have a great story – drugs, alcohol, messed up home, etc. So this time we looked at the core kids who have typical Christian, even stereotypical environments to be raised in and used that as a basis to encourage their peers in their faith. The result was an extremely positive service that had great messages about sharing your faith, getting involved in ministry, purity, sportsmanship and more. Really terrific.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: This weekend we had lots of student greeters and students running the band, lights, cameras, sound, etc. They program included another push for HSM Summer Camp, and a interview with the lady who runs Saddleback’s food bank. Solid program that clocked in right at the hour mark.

Music Playlist: The Earth is Yours, Like an Avalanche, With Everything, Beautiful Things, Your Name High

Favorite Moment: I think my favorite moment was the students sharing and how positive the message was from the weekend. Everyone has a story – it was great to hear how God is working in our core students lives and to have them as an example to other students. So good.

Up Next: Communion (1-off)