For years, youth workers have come to Saddleback to check out our weekend youth services. We absolutely love hosting folks, but have come to realize that most of what people hope to discover can be easily answered without a costly trip. Here are answers to a few of the most common questions asked about our weekend:

Wildside = Junior High Ministry, Grades 7-8
HSM = High School Ministry, Grades 9-12

1. How long is your typical large group gathering service?
a. Wildside – 1 hour and 15 minutes. However, we purposely start a few minutes late and end a few minutes early to allow for hanging out and a relaxed environment.

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b. HSM – We typically plan for a 65-75 minute service, and it runs over a little bit from here. This past weekend, we had a service that went over 80 minutes, but when we debriefed it – it never “felt” long so we let it ride. Rarely is there a service that is less than an hour.

2. How long is your typical sermon/message?
a. Wildside – We work really hard to land right around 20 minutes. We figure that if you can’t say it in 20 minutes, it’s because you are over-thinking it OR you are under-thinking it and not working hard enough to be clear, simple and concise.

b. HSM – In our high school ministry we plan for a 30-35 minute talk – I don’t think there is a magic number but I would love to stay right in this window. Once again, keeping students attention is the key – I like to break up the talk into 7-minute chunks with “commercial breaks” for an object lesson, story, humor or testimony. Everyone is different, but this is working for us!

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 through (we are 7th and 8th grade only). The “biggie” topics stay the same, while others rotate in and out. We try to break our teaching series into three categories: “Bible education/doctrine”, “Junior High Survival Skills”, and “Felt Need”.

b. In HSM we do a teaching calendar (fancy name for an Excel spreadsheet) a whole year in advance from September to September. Without a doubt we also need to be flexible and adjust as needed – our pastor called for a church-wide campaign and we dutifully adjusted our calendar as needed. I do think planning the big picture is important, it will help you visualize the discipleship journey you are taking your students on.

4. How frequently are you teaching topically versus exegetically?
a. Wildside – As I mentioned above, our goal is to teach 1/3 topical (JH survival), 1/3 exegetical (doctrine), and 1/3 felt)

b. In HSM we are largely topical and concentrate on felt needs. We do plan to get through a couple books of the Bible each year as well.

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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. We’ve never been a huge set-building ministry, but we have a group of students and volunteers that occasionally help us theme out the youth room for a series. I really like this and think it helps deepen the experience, but know it isn’t nearly as essential as other elements I can’t let fall through the cracks. It also largely depends on cost, the length of the series, and whether a series is conducive to it.

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