Message Title: HSM Fall Kickoff Weekend
Sermon in a Sentence: In each of your 4 years in high school you will face challenges – we want to give a faith challenge to each class as well.

Weekend Scale of Difficulty: 8 out of 10. Lots of videos to create, a major musical opening number to perform. Tons of cleanup – ping pong balls and confetti, lots of pictures called for on screen, longer than usual program.

Service Length: 84 minutes
Understandable Message: We divided up the message into 4 sections this weekend. We had a 7-minute block for each of the classes of high school. Doug challenged the freshman class with a specific lesson about faith. I came in and spoke to sophomores and juniors, with Fields batting cleanup with seniors and then endcapping the whole message as well. The point of the talk was clear – wherever you are in high school, take a faith step/challenge. Don’t waste a minute of high school years – put into action your faith in Christ.

Volunteer/Student Involvement: Students were all over the place this weekend, it is always fun having the student choir there because of the high energy. Students played in the band and were featured in the videos. Every student got to play the crowd game as well. We still need to concentrate on volunteer involvement – we have tons of needs, but program is tumping people at times, which is a concern.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: The weekend was so fun – we opened with a video introducing our new HSM intern, Rebekah, then jumped into an over-the-top Cold Play cover song. We had given everyone a ping pong ball (they wrote their name on them), and they would win a prize when it landed closest to the bullseye of the target on stage on the count of 3. Great energy to the opening, completely disarming to a first-time student.

Music Playlist: Viva la Vida (+2 worship songs at the end)

Favorite Moment: There’s great power in a message that has been setup well. Doug brought the message home in the last few minutes of the talk as he challenged seniors (and really everyone) to own their faith and to grow on their own. It was a powerful moment for sure.

I shared this quick lesson at our small group training tonight. If you can use any of it, go for it!

Why small groups? The weekend worship service is the entry-level program (reach), and small groups help us accomplish the biblical purpose of fellowship (connect). Small groups are the key to the rest our discipleship process (grow, discover, honor). We want students in a safe, honest, accountable, spiritual relationship with a caring adult like you to help them progress spiritually.

Why are they at The Refinery? Meeting for the first 9 weeks in The Refinery will help unify our leadership team and build confidence in our rookie and newly promoted leaders. We want to spend time together in training each week, as well as help introduce new tools to help us measure our success. The focus on building a leadership team for the first 9 weeks will helps us go the distance the other 20 weeks left in the year. A stronger leader will make for a stronger group.

Why are we using a unified cirriculum? I’m excited to announce a 4-year small group cirriculum we can use to help all of our students be on the same page and headed in the same direction. We can now use small groups as a way to steer our collective ministry, as well as make sure we cover a full-spectrum of biblical teaching before a student graduates.

Why are we having family dinners? I love to eat, that’s why! Actually, I know that some of the best conversations happen over food – I want us to laugh, pray, eat, joke, learn and grow together. Some of my favorite memories of those moments happen at a dinner table. Let’s create a casual environment of friendship and mentoring and open up the conversation and help us all be better leaders.


It has been a few months since I posted some of the words or phrases people put into Google and subsequently end up on my blog (via Google Analytics). Here’s a handful [out of 1,000+] that I thought were interesting or funny in the past 30 days:

  • you own the weekend
  • doug fields twitter
  • healthy staff culture
  • matt edited from simply youth ministry podcast
  • bottles for bibles
  • chic-fil-a dodgeball
  • missile silos for sale
  • essence series, saddleback, hsm
  • female youth pastor
  • podcast saddleback obama mccain
  • reformation generation
  • saddleback church kyle loza
  • use my business degree
  • bob sahlin
  • business degree church
  • soul patch job interview
  • who stole my church
  • a girl sang at the staples center on August 7th, 2008
  • americans moving to dubai
  • annual youth ministry worker salaries
  • average employee capacity
  • blog movies spoiling youth
  • blogging against the pastor
  • can easy worship use a firewire port
  • chin puff
  • churches with more than one youth minister
  • darth vader snow deathstar
  • david archuleta crush
  • encouragement for young pastors
  • european guys wear capris
  • exit interview youth ministry
  • feeling used blog
  • fighting negativity in the church
  • find the google searches that lead to your blog
  • gay robot pancakes
  • god gave me the gift to play dodgeball
  • hot to shave a gotee
  • how can i keep attendance on my youth group
  • how to get 20000 gamerscore
  • pictures of jason castro without dreadlocks
  • rick warren nut
  • should pastors have a degree in ministry
  • tesh ministries
  • typical work week for youth pastors
  • what happens if you find an indian on a red tootsie pop wrapper
  • what is the real purpose of youth group
  • why run hot or cold water down the garbage disposal?
  • what does more than dodgeball mean


Message Title: Flooded (featuring Josh Pease)
Sermon in a Sentence: We’re sunk when we try to live on our own power because God wants us to do our good works through him instead of for him.

Key Verse: Jesus looked at them intently and said, ‘Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.’ Mark 10:27

Weekend Scale of Difficulty: 4 out of 10. Pretty simple weekend, very few elements. One glitch in starting a video, but it turned into a funny bit.

Attendance: up 4% from last weekend, up 76% from the same weekend last year
Service Length: 70 minutes
Understandable Message: A Josh Pease used a story about getting his car stuck on a flooded street to illustrate how silly it is when we try to get unstuck in life on our own power while completely ignoring God’s ability and willingness to help. This was a strong message that was easy to understand and apply. Josh’s use of the illustration had two key attributes: it was memorable, it was immediately applicable to the student’s lives.

Volunteer/Student Involvement: B/B Volunteers were actively involved at the tables and greeting students. Students led in the band, and handed out programs and pens as people entered. Still noticed that many student leaders had isolated themselves to the separate balcony. A few students, however, stepped up.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: B The video of the cameras trying to keep up with Josh Pease at the beginning was very entertaining. It could probably be tied to the theme of the service, but I’m not sure that was the point. It seemed to be just an element of fun to reinforce the point that church doesn’t have to be boring; it can be fun.

Music Playlist: The Grateful, Salvation is Here, All I Need Is You Lord, Hosanna – Dominik dominated this weekend. He’s got great talent combined with a powerful passion for worship.

Favorite Moment: The most powerful moment of the night was near the end of Josh’s message. He finished telling the story of being stuck in the flood with his car. Nobody was around to help him. He didn’t want to turn to God for help because he was intentionally trying to keep God out of his life. The situation helped him realize that he can’t do everything on his own and that he needs God. The story of Josh reconnecting with God was powerful. The miraculous resolution to the crisis was even secondary to Josh’s telling how God had his attention and bonded with him in that moment.

Overall grade: B+

(this report was written by HSM volunteer Dennis Beckner)

We finished up a fresh parent night the other night and wanted to give some highlights in case something would benefit your ministry. I shared some on last week’s Simply Youth Ministry Podcast, and have gotten a few emails about it so thought I would share the idea fully here:

  • 7:05 - everyone meets together – Overview/Vision/Heart of High School Ministry. At the end of this opening we divided up into “tour groups” that went to 5 different stations – informal sessions that introduced people and gave an inside look at our programs. This was a “meet-and-greet-look-under-the-hood” type of night.
  • 7:15 - tour stop #1 - Weekend worship ServiceVisual - the point person explained what a weekend looks like, explained when we meet and identified the target of the service.
  • 7:25 - tour stop #2 - Small Groups - Relational - the point person explained that this is how our students get connected, that this is the next step from the weekend, and how a caring volunteer shares life with a group of students.
  • 7:35 - tour stop #3 - SHAPE - Educational - the point person here explained what SHAPE means and how one of our goals is to help their student take a step to get involved in serving in a ministry at the church.
  • 7:45 - tour stop #4 - PEACE (missions) - Experiential - the tour guide here talked about how we’re going after three areas – we want to reach people, serve the community and go to the world with the message of Jesus. Basically here’s where we’re headed in getting people here and sending people out from here.
  • 7:55 - tour stop #5 - Volunteers - Influential - The final stop on the tour was to ask them to join us! We explained our screening and training process so they feel safe, but also showed them opportunities where they could serve.
  • 8:05 - everyone meets together – Q&A, coffee and treats. And if you visited all of the stations – a coupon for 50% off our fall retreat.

OK, maybe it didn’t work quite this well as it looks right now on this blog post, but it was solid. Yes, it was more work … but way more effective, too.


Weekend Teaching Series: Save the Planet (2 of 3)
Message Title: Caring for the Environment
Sermon in a Sentence: God’s first instruction to Adam was to care for creation. We should do the same.

Key Verse: The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. Genesis 2:15

Weekend Scale of Difficulty: 7 out of 10. Every week we get new bells and whistles as the building nears final completion. We purchased some new HD worship backgrounds this week that looked really sharp, too.

Attendance: up 8% from the previous weekend, up 66% from the same weekend last year
Service Length: 64 minutes
Understandable Message: B+ Part of my goal was to “reclaim” caring for the environment from the far left. My heart behind this talk is that it was God’s idea to care for the planet, and it is about time we started to take that seriously.

Volunteer/Student Involvement: C/C Students filled in a few roles this week – but it was a pretty staff driven weekend. There was a fun student video called “10 ways to save water” that played really well and we did have some students checking out different roles they could fill in the future.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: B The fun was basically within the message, we played a clip from Wall-E and at the beginning had a person riding around the stage in an electric scooter.

Music Playlist: Everlasting God, Breathe on Me, Wonderful Maker, God of Wonders

Favorite Moment: Easily my favorite moment was having a student come on stage and break a cinderblock on stage that represented the way we treat the earth. It was a fun (if dangerous for the first row and for the guitars on stage – doh!) moment in the service that I think was very memorable.

Notes: For a 4th of July weekend, I couldn’t have been more pleased with the turnout and the tone of the weekend. We kicked off the new Bottles for Bibles campaign this weekend as well. Go HSM!

Overall grade: B

Here’s the last 3 albums I picked up, this time 3 different CDs landed on my desk, so nothing actually from iTunes. Here’s the new stuff I’m listening to:

  • Songseeker 2008 (from the Saddleback Worship Conference). Good collection of new songs written by the attendees of the event. There’s a couple of really solid songs on the album. B
  • Hillsong Live – This is Our God. The annual worship album from Hillsong – excellent as always. A
  • Chris Sligh – Running Back to You. I’ve been a big fan of Chris, and his first album post-American Idol is excellent. A


I want students walking away from the weekend worship service (our entry level program) with the big idea. I want them to “get” the sermon in a sentence – stuck in their heads with creativity, skill and passion. I want visual learners to get it, note takers to get it, freshman and seniors to get it, I want the uninterested to be drawn in and the regulars engaged week after week.

With that in mind, I’ve felt more and more lately that the sermon, while perhaps king of the weekend, is only a part of the message. Essentially, I guess I’m trying to say that “the message” isn’t the only message. Here’s some thoughts on the breakdown of the weekend in terms of the message:

The sermon/talk – definitely 40-50% of the overall message rests on the speaker. In our current format, the speaker is the most focused part of the night on the series subject. He or she takes God’s Word and applies it directly and formally to the lives of high school students. Knowing their significance, series topics and speaker choice are a very big deal.

The music/worship – a strong 20-30% of the night’s message to me falls into this category. The songs that are picked, the lyrics of songs, prayer, other elements of worship – all should point toward the message. The right songs and the right tempo of the music are crucial to the overall message of the night. Singing God of Wonders or Let Me Sing during this Save the Planet series have reinforced the importance of this part of the message.

The atmosphere – 10-15% of the night’s message falls on the atmosphere. Did we create an atmosphere that leads people to the message? Are there banners, signage and a clear bulletin all consistent with the message? Does the weekend look thrown together or does it look planned out and prepared in advance? Is there an air of excellence – are we treating the topic of the night the respect it deserves? A good atmosphere sets up a great speaker. The opposite is also true.

The programming – In my mind, programming lands at 15-20% of the message of the night. If you know me at all, you know I love programming and highly value it. Why? Because I believe it is a crucial part of the message. The clip from Wall-E during the opening of the night sets the tone for caring for creation. The cinderblock we smashed as an example of the way we treat the earth will be remembered for a long time.

I understand the importance of the message. I understand God chose preachers and they should … well, preach. But I also understand that the message is way, way bigger than the 30-minute talk.