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Saddleback HSM Weekend in Review: Volume 244


Weekend Teaching Series: You Own the Weekend (Santa Margarita High School)
Sermon in a Sentence: Adam and Eve committed treason against God, so do we, but Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice on the tree on Calvary. Treeson.
Service Length: 71 minutes

Understandable Message: It was exciting to add a new school to You Own the Weekend series this year! we had enough students pull together from Santa Margarita to run the services and they did a fantastic job! The message was taught in 2 parts: Emerica talked about the story of Adam and Eve and introduced the theme of treason. Then Jonathan (pictured above) shared his story about his sins and treason against God and how he led other people astray at his high school. It was an incredible weekend, VERY powerful message and clear presentation of the Gospel to a crowd that included many new, non-churched students. So good!

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: The opener was fun, the atmosphere and stage decorations were great and despite having less students than some of the other schools there was a great energy to the room. Students were great greeters and everyone wore matching “Treeson” shirts they raised the funds for and had printed. The game Egg Roulette was a hit, and we definitely discovered a few more students who are good on stage!

Music Playlist: Let It Go [Demi Lovato cover], We Are the Free, Hosanna, Oceans, Scandal of Grace

Favorite Moment: I love You Own the Weekend. For sure my favorite series of the year! I haven’t been on stage in 6 weeks, and our youth ministry didn’t miss a beat. In fact, it improved! Ha!

Up next: Easter Sunday (Worship Together Weekend)

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Saddleback HSM Weekend in Review: Volume 243


Weekend Teaching Series: You Own the Weekend (Tesoro High School)
Sermon in a Sentence: God loves you … now.
Service Length: 64 minutes

Understandable Message: We haven’t had an adult on stage in 5 weeks. We’re in the thick of our annual You Own the Weekend series and this baby is running strong. Tons of new students. Tons of students involved. Tons of fun. Not that it hasn’t been work, just that the works is all behind the scenes and the stage time is all students. This weekend students from our local Tesoro High School took on the challenge of running a weekend from start to finish and did a great job communicating God’s love for everyone with a powerful message, a great video, fun and an awesome testimony. They were totally dialed in – their message was on point and loud and clear!

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: The opener was hilarious – a fun over the top version of the Hannah Montana classic Nobody’s Perfect. They did a great job of tying that into the message as well. Lots of warm greeters, amazing decorations and solid videos.

Music Playlist: Nobody’s Perfect [cover], Alive, Divine and Holy, Majesty, Grace

Favorite Moment: I loved Sheridan’s testimony video. Her mom came with her to a Worship Together Weekend recently and trusted in Jesus! She was baptized just a few weeks ago in a jacuzzi right before a major cancer operation, what an amazing story of God’s faithfulness and love. Amen.

Up next: You Own the Weekend (Santa Margarita High School, week 6 of 6 = series finale)

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Saddleback HSM Weekend in Review: Volume 240


Weekend Teaching Series: You Own the Weekend (Mission Viejo High School/Series Kick-Off)
Sermon in a Sentence: Despite our rebellion, the Lord still chooses to love us.
Service Length: 68 minutes

Understandable Message: The students of Mission Viejo decided that the students of their school really needed to hear the story of the Prodigal Son and what that story means for their life. They told it through a mix of message and testimony. It was a perfect Gospel message talking about our brokenness and His goodness. Super powerful!

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: They had a really fun lip-sync/pie night after service event that worked much like a karaoke night. We opened Spotify and told students that they could come and request a song. It was really fun to see the videos that students posted about it later in the week. Some students even prepared a full dance ahead of time. One student got a little to into it and threw his iPhone against a wall… needless to say it shattered.

Music Playlist: Let it Be Known, What Would I Have Done, Jesus Lead On, Closer, and Safe Place

Favorite Moment: Every year we choose 2-3 students to run point for their school’s weekend. This year, one of leaders was the third in her family to lead the weekend! It is so cool to see some serious legacy happening in our ministry.

Up next: You Own the Weekend (Capo Valley High School)

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Awkward Interviews for Mission Owns the Weekend

Fun little video that some of our Mission students put together for You Own the Weekend. Fun, simple and all them! Don’t know what You Own the Weekend is? Check it out here!


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“He is Alive” Music Video

One of our favorite songs in our youth group is “He is Alive” by Saddleback HSM’s Cluster of Students. It turned out so great – and you can check out more of their music, including chord charts and more right here.


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4 Reasons Why Students Lead Workshops

This weekend we leave for our Winter Retreat. I am so pumped about it for many reasons. One of the main ones is that we have student lead workshops. After one of our sessions students will break out into different meeting areas of the camp and they will be lead in a workshop by one of their fellow students. There will be 5 workshops and they will run 20 minutes. Students will get to choose 2 of the 5 workshops to go to. It really is a great time to see what students have felt God put on their hearts to share with their peers. They step up big time.

Here are 4 main reasons why I favor student lead workshops:

One-on-one discipleship

  • Each of our student workshop leaders is partnered with one of our staff members. Staff’s job is to coach and mentor them and to help them develop their workshop during the weeks prior to camp. It is such a great time for some student leaders to get great one-on-one discipleship and help them process all they would like to teach peers. Most of the workshops have to deal with personal stories and as they work through them it can turn into a great ministering moment.

Teaches responsibility

  • In the weeks leading up to camp, there are deadlines for students to meet. They know that leading a workshop is a privilege and it will take some work to get it rolling and to meet the standard we have set for them. To be honest, we set a pretty high standard and when we do, students step up and meet it. For the student who I am working with, I have given her certain deadlines with different goals to make sure she is one track to developing a message that is both engaging and teachable to other students. I have them write down their main points they want to give backed up with Scripture, then I have them weave in their personal touches in essay form and then we will refine, change, work on making it great.

Helps them process

  • Like I stated before, workshop topics are usually personal to the student teaching it. We have had some on anxiety, business, what to do when God seems far etc. And these are usually things the students have dealt with or still are dealing with in their own lives. When we have them write it all out the who, what, when, where, why and the points they want to make it makes them have to think about it and then talk about it. When they are talking about it it makes them think about it more and it helps them process it fully first before getting up in front of others. When they can process it first it first ministers to them and this is huge.

Students listen to students

  • Every time we do a student lead workshop students respond in a huge way. I will spent hours praying over, studying for, practicing a message and it will not get the same response as student lead workshop or testimonies get. They are powerful. They are powerful because students speaking to students is one of the most powerful things in our line of work. They listen more intently. They relate better. God works through them in a way I have never been able to understand…and it’s awesome. If you don’t have students sharing in your ministry regularly, I recommend it highly. Watch what happens.

Needless to say, Winter Retreat is going to be so good. I pray God moves in a mighty way. I would love it and appreciate prayers for life change as we head up this weekend!

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Sophomore Music Video

This past weekend we enjoyed a fun new music video that our sophomores won because they brought the most cans in our canned food drive over the holidays. Fun stuff!


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Saddleback HSM Weekend in Review: Volume 236


Weekend Teaching Series: Best Year Ever (1-off)
Sermon in a Sentence: Looking back on 2013 and looking forward to what God has in store for the year ahead.
Service Length: 75 minutes

Understandable Message: The year that it was … lots of things happened in the year behind us – some famous people were born, like the Royal Baby, and some famous people died, like Paul Walker and Nelson Mandela. Some new records were set and we got another new iPhone … Miley Cyrus twerked … and we finally found out what that crazy fox said. What will the New Year bring? Undoubtedly lots of new births and deaths, some new gadget and new dance craze, but it also brings all sorts of potential and hope. Where do we start, how do we make this the best year ever? We turn to the Bible and Jesus’ words to find out about forgiveness, dedication and serving others.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: This weekend we played the sequel to Awesome or Awful and it was incredible! That game was one of our best in 2013 and it was fun to bring it back, up the ante yet again and have a blast kicking off the New Year as a student ministry. We had lots of student greeters, a great group of students serving on camera and in the control room and the best student band we’ve had up there in a long time. Students did SO much. Love

Music Playlist: Wake, How He Loves, Scandal of Grace, Christ in Me

Favorite Moment: It is so fun being all together again after a few weeks off for the holidays. Attendance is great, energy is great and students are open to making real change in their lives. My favorite moment came when I got texts from 3 (!!) students talking about the people they were going to forgive after the challenge from the sermon. Yeah!

Up next: Summer Camp STORIES Weekend (1-off)

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Saddleback HSM Weekend In Review: Volume 235


Weekend Teaching Series: HSM’s 1st Annual Christmas Play (1-off)
Sermon in a Sentence: Experience the true meaning of Christmas … with a science fiction twist.
Service Length: 59 minutes

Understandable Message: The weekend we had our 1st ever Christmas play! I’ve been calling it our big experiment of the fall … until today, where I’ve started to call it “1st annual.” It was a HUGE hit and we had some of our biggest attendance of the year. Families, friends and regulars all came to see the show – so fun! The play called Christmas in Space was written by a former student, Mike Rosenbaum and the entire cast was made up of our students. We had casting calls back in early fall and they’ve been practicing non-stop for weeks. The result was incredible: a seriously fun, entertaining and poignant look at the heart of the Christmas story. In between each section of the play, our student ban played some fun Christmas songs with modern Top 40 tunes, which were a great touch, too.

The play was about a youth group who was putting on a Christmas play with a science fiction theme. Through all sorts of issues and problems the real meaning of Christmas shines through and all of the characters experience Jesus in their journey through the futuristic pageant’s mishaps. Overall it was incredible – we’re already planning next year’s Christmas production. Awesome!

Up next: Christmas services with Pastor Rick Warren

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Setting The Thermostat In Ministry

Now I know some people will laugh at this but whatever, judge me if you want. It dropped down to the 50′s in temperature and it was “freezing” so my wife and I set the thermostat (I live in Orange County, CA people. I’m used to going to the beach in February). Judge not, because it gave me this great thought about why I love thermostats. They can be set at a certain, consistent temperature.

In ministry there will be hot streaks where ministry is just on fire, it’s hot. Students are inviting friends, all of your sermons are killing it, all of your events are awesome, and you are even coming in under budget. Then there will be seasons in which things feel cold. Your numbers are down, all your events bombed and it feel like God is not even there in your group. Temperatures in ministry will always go up and down, but something I have noticed in ministry is that you can set a certain, constant temperature in ministry. There are some things you need in your ministry to make sure you set your tone and temperature so during the hot days you will be able to handle the heat and during the cold days you will be able to survive and get through them.

Thermostat setters in ministry are:

The leader’s quiet time - Something that will set the temperature of any ministry is the leader’s walk with the Lord. Chances are if the leader is not consistent and intimate in their own walk with the Lord their ministry is suffering in some similar way. When a leader is empty you can see it in how they interact with students, how they teach and preach and how they care of others in ministry. they could get through it without, but it’s a noticeable difference when they are feeding themselves. As the leader you set the tone of your ministry.

Consistent caring adult leaders - When there are caring adults in your ministry who are there loving on students when they walk in the door there is a set temperature of ministry there. When a student knows that when they walk into the room and they have multiple adults who care for them and want to pour into their lives, it’s a game changer. I add “consistent” in there because one of the best gifts we can give a student is time. Consistent time is huge for a student whose life is constantly changing. That is a set temperature in ministry.

1- on-1 time with students - There is something that is so special about a good 1-on-1 time with a student. Whether it is taking a student out for lunch, on your errands, or talking to students between services, that time to them is invaluable. Making time to meet with students as the pastor, or making it a high value for leaders to be doing the same thing (so you can cover more students and make sure all students can get this time) is thermostat type of ministry. If you can have a pulse on the lives of the majority of your students because you know what is going on in their lives, it will benefit every aspect of ministry. Your students will feel loved and cared for, you will know what students are going through and you can form teaching series and curriculum around those things and much more.

These things are some things that I think need to be set in place in order for a ministry to be a “thermostat” ministry. Making sure there is a constant, set temperature of ministry is a great thing to have when we all know too well how there are cold spots and heat waves in ministry.

What are some other thermostat settings in ministry you feel would set the tone?

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Saddleback HSM Weekend In Review: Volume 234


Weekend Teaching Series: Baptism Weekend (1-off)
Sermon in a Sentence: Baptism is a beautiful symbol of being welcomed into God’s family!
Service Length: 55 minutes

Understandable Message: The weekend in youth group I tried to tell the Christmas story and weave in the teachings about baptism for a special 1-off before our 1st annual Christmas play. I talked about how the story of Jesus coming to earth at Christmas wasn’t just about Him being welcomed into Mary and Joseph’s family, but that it was about a larger narrative of everyone being welcomed into God’s family through salvation in Him. It was great fun to share the Gospel with our students and also have baptisms at the end of the service, too!

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We did an “announcement” like we haven’t done in a while: we called it Storytime with Justin where he read a fake Children’s story that had lots of info about our upcoming Winter Retreat in it. Kinda hard to explain but a fun creative way to do announcements. Made everyone laugh, especially seeing Justin in front of a LED screen fireplace and in an adult onesie. We also played a fun round of Sit Down If and students were involved in every part of the service, greeting, promoting the Christmas Toy Drive and more!

Music Playlist: Carol of the Bells (a cappella), Go/Joy to the World Medley, We Are the Free, O Come All Ye Faithful

Favorite Moment: Baptisms are my absolute favorite part of ministry! Fun even doing them out in the cold, and hearing everyone cheer as the students came up out of the water. Never get tired of it!

Up next: Christmas in Space (1-off, 1st annual HSM Christmas production)

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Saddleback HSM Weekend In Review: Volume 233


Weekend Teaching Series: Armed and Dangerous (1-off)
Sermon in a Sentence: Put on the whole armor of God.
Service Length: 73 minutes

Understandable Message: The weekend after Thanksgiving I asked my friend Aaron Crumbey (everyone calls him AC and you can check out his blog here) to teach our youth services. He talked from Ephesians 6 the classes message on the whole armor of God. He did a great job – AC is a great pastoral care leader in our ministry, so when he speaks to students it is obvious from his stories that he is heavily invested in their lives. I love having different voices speak to our students!

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We played “The Last Game You’ll Ever Play” that involved a little shock buzzer from Amazon, which was both hilarious and entertaining. Everyone loved this simple game, and for sure were glad that they weren’t picked to play. Even for a holiday weekend we had great energy and students excited to be there. We also featured a 5-station World AIDS Day tour in our gym, so had lots of students volunteering at all services as well.

Music Playlist: Jesus Lead On, All I Am, Tear Down the Walls

Favorite Moment: I loved watching students pray for requests in the World AIDS Day walkthrough. It was a great moment to think outside of themselves and to care for those inflicted with this disease. There was a cool social media Photo Booth as well where student leaders would write statistics or facts on their hands/arms and they could take pictures for Instagram. Strong!

Up next: Baptism Celebration Weekend (1-off)

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My Youth Ministry Timeline

I posted earlier this week some questions to help you journal, celebrate and reflect on the story of your youth ministry timeline. Even writing those thought-provoking questions challenged me to journal where I’ve come in youth ministry – what were the highs and lows that shaped me over the years.

I wanted to share a few of my notes as I went through this process, not in perfect order and I’ve certainly missed some significant ones intentionally or unintentionally because I have many more memories than I could possibly write down. Here’s a glimpse of my youth ministry story … hope you’ll do some processing this week and journal yours as well:

  • helped lead our youth group at my home church
  • served in a local church in college
  • had my first experience volunteering as a youth worker
  • volunteering as the youth worker at a church plant as a college student, paid $50/week
  • my father explains he never wanted me to be confused by his voice if/when God called me into ministry, he wanted me to know it was God’s voice so I would never question my calling
  • life-changing conversation about life mission/calling with significant mentors
  • got married and started full-time in youth ministry (same year!)
  • was asked, “Where is the youth leader?” at an event and decided to grow a goatee to look older
  • so many epic fails, in particular the TP-incident. Still amazed I wasn’t fired, served with some gracious leaders
  • quit youth ministry for the first time, never left the church / position
  • read 1st book on youth ministry, Purpose Driven Youth Ministry
  • attended 1st youth ministry conference
  • saw God heal some incredibly-broken relationships
  • I did the funeral for a baby with severe complications who died in my arms
  • created the Steak-Out, a monthly BBQ volunteer meeting
  • did ministry with some amazing friends/volunteers
  • asking God for what was next, year of discomfort, questions
  • trying to leave well, transition, patience
  • found out we were pregnant with #3 on the move to CA
  • realized my story was so many youth pastor’s story and I could help/relate
  • came on staff at Saddleback Church to help with Purpose Driven YM
  • volunteered in the high school ministry at Saddleback Church
  • helped run church conferences, student leadership events
  • traveled with Pastor Rick to the Superdome during Hurricane Katrina
  • helped with the Extend the Vision Campaign for our church
  • started blogging every day about youth ministry
  • became the high school pastor at Saddleback Church
  • started our “State of HSM” meeting every December
  • the opening of the Refinery Student Building
  • partnered with incredible teammates and friends
  • first hire, amazing team-member still with me!
  • wrote my 1st book!
  • departure of Doug Fields from Saddleback
  • changed Small Groups to Life Groups to focus on “doing life together”
  • 1st summer camp on our own
  • big changes to summer calendar that have now become traditions
  • went to Africa 5 times in 3 years
  • did the funerals for both victims of a rare double homicide in Lake Forest
  • important changes, leadership challenges
  • started Download Youth Ministry with 2 of my very best friends
  • serving at a church I love, with people I love


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There Is Nothing Small About Small Groups

Small groups are exactly that, small. They make the bigger group that meets in a corporate setting feel like a much small place. Everyone one loves the big setting, the fun, the music, the energy, the games and the messages etc. Small groups seem to bring it down to a much more relatable setting, which is the point. Even though small groups are exactly that, there is really nothing small about the impact they have on students. If a small group is lead well, a small group can have an anything but small impact on the students who are in it.

Some areas in which small groups are not so small are that students are:

Growing in faith- Groups are talking about and owning their faith. It is our goal with the curriculum we provide for our students, they will become a full fledged follower of Jesus on their own standing by the time they leave high school. Students from the moment they enter a small group begin to grow in their faith which can have a huge impact in their live and the lives around them.

Growing in community - Small group community is one of my favorite things. I still talk with guys I was in a high school small group with. The group I am in now I know will be producing a growing faith and life long friendships. Students, because they are meeting every week for 4 years (ideally), are going to know each other really well. They have the chance to be real, open, and honest with each other and the relationships that come from small groups is HUGE.

Growing in discipline - The fact they are meeting every week shows discipline. the fact they are committing to study is HUGE. They are making a decision to pray for each other every week is HUGE They are reading God’s living Word every week, which is HUGE. Being a disciple of Jesus has is in the word “discipline” and groups are teaching it every time they meet. This is HUGE for high school students to learn.

Changing for eternity - I do not know what else could be as huge as this. There is nothing small about this. Year after year we see students fully dedicating their lives to Jesus because they experience Him in group as they are studying Him and then they begin to express it in their lives though service and then other’s eternities are changed because of them. There is nothing small about it.

Small groups may be the name of it, but there is NOTHING small about the impact they make in student’s lives.

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Introducing the New Planking: Slothing

Planking is over and done with … but our youth group is introducing something new. We’re hoping it takes over the world. We launched it this past weekend, so far the response has been incredible. Help keep it going – here’s a video to get you started!


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