Posts Tagged: Saddleback Church

My Saddleback Observations Part 6: What I Learned from What I Didn’t Like

While my overall experience at Saddleback was very positive and the Lord blessed my personal worship experience, there were three things I would change.  Two I feel are essential to worship and one is just a personal preference. 

Let us start with my personal preference just to get it out of the way:  The dress is so casual at Saddleback that if I wore a suit there I would definitely feel “out of place.”  Why would I change this?  Because I like to wear a suit!  Christina (my wife) on the other hand loved being able to dress down, and asked me if I knew how hard it was to try and corral kids in a dress?  Dresses aren’t my thing, so I had to admit I do not understand that challenge.

Okay now for the other two items.  There was only one prayer in the service.  It was Pastor Rick Warren’s closing prayer.  I didn’t like this, I believe if we say that prayer is important as believers and even Pastor Rick mentioned the power of prayer in order to change in his sermon, then we have to model it before our people and place great emphasis on it!  Maybe they do this at other times, but it is not evident in their worship service.  On a side note though, off of their patio (outdoor foyer) they do have a prayer garden and there are people that will pray with individuals and for individuals desiring prayer after the service.  I would still like to see a greater emphasis in the worship service.

The other item that I didn’t like is that giving was never even mentioned in the worship service and if I hadn’t seen the plate coming I would not have even known they were collecting offering.  Giving is an integral act of worship and again I believe this should be clearly affirmed in a worship service. 

Those are the negatives from our time at Saddleback all the rest was great!  Including a wonderful message on Biblical change from Romans 12:1-12.

I hope you have enjoyed the Saddleback Observations blogs. 

My Saddleback Observations Part 5: Finding a Seat

No one that was late had to find their own seat.  As I stated in a previous post, there were not very many that were late to the service, but of those that were, not a single one of them had to find their own seat.  An usher went down the row and quietly and respectfully asked folks if seats near them were open.  If they were, the usher motioned to the individuals and they came forward and sat down.  This is a very little thing but think of all the times people have gone into a church, seen a spot that looked open, they walk down to sit in that spot only to see that there are kids on the floor playing or that someone has saved those seats.  Then there is that awkward moment where they start scramble either looking for another seat or back to the rear of the sanctuary.  I always feel bad for these people.  This again is not anything that costs any money, it just takes coordinating and caring.  I think we have both of these resources in most our churches.

I believe we can learn sometimes as much by what people don’t do or do wrong as we can from the things folk do well.  So tomorrow I am going to share with y’all a few observations that Saddleback Church didn’t do that I hope we WILL do!



My Saddleback Observations Part 4: The Sabbath

When Christina and I walked into Saddleback’s Sanctuary I was amazed at how many people I saw! (I took the picture below about 10 minutes before the service started).  The seating capacity of the sanctuary is 3500 so I would estimate there were about 2000 folk in the main sanctuary (there are several other locations on campus that hold worshipers for different styles of worship: praise only, hymns only, hip hop, etc.. I’m not sure if these all go on Sabbath though or only on Sunday), plus folk at ten other campuses around Southern California that the sermon is fed live to. 

Here is why the large amount of people at this worship service struck me.  I have heard over the course of my ministry career that the reason more people don’t attend Seventh-day Adventist churches, is because they don’t want to go to church on Saturday.  I’m thinking this may be an excuse!  Because what I saw were a lot of people that were there on a Sabbath to worship.  In fact most large churches now have at least one Saturday service.  And most people I talk to their big obstacle of attending church is not that we have the worship service on Saturday.  Let me throw in a quick caveat: I do understand that the way we teach Sabbath is different, we believe Saturday is the day for worship, rather than just an option, and I recognize this could be a barrier for some.  But overall again as I talk to different folk that are guests at our church they aren’t hung-up on attending on Saturday, we think they are, because it gives us an out, but sorry that OUT doesn’t really exist anymore in most areas of this country (especially with folk 50 and under). 

So if people aren’t attending Seventh-day Adventist churches and the reason is not because of Sabbath versus Sunday worship?  Then why?  It is a question we need to be asking ourselves!  Yes accepting the Sabbath as a Holy Day may be challenging, but come on folk is it any more challenging than: A baby being born to a virgin and a carpenter growing-up and discovering that He used to be in Heaven and that His real dad isn’t that carpenter but is actually God in Heaven and He wasn’t conceived through intercourse but by the Holy Spirit planting Him in His mothers belly.  Then He walked this earth for 3 1/2 years and at the end of those years He was convicted of no crime and yet He was still hung-on a tree, and 3 days later an angel rolled away the stone and folded up His grave clothes.  Then He was picked up by some angels and went to Heaven.  And what He left behind were about 120 totally sold out followers of His and they were hanging out praying when tongues of fire came out of heaven and into the room they were in and they started speaking in languages so that whoever heard them whatever language they spoke they could be understood…and “about three thousand were added to their number that day” (Acts 2:41) and “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47).  I guess the Sabbath doesn’t seem like such an obstacle when I think of that message that Peter and the rest preached. 

So what could it be? 

My Saddleback Observations Part 3: Some Things I Learned in Their Foyer

The foyer at Saddleback church is very small and in fact they have seats out in their foyer I’ll comment on this more later.  But their real foyer is an outdoor foyer, which they call “The Patio”, this works in Lake Forest, CA., it was 78 degrees at the beginning of our church service there Sabbath. 

On the outdoor foyer they have canopies and under these canopies are tables where folk can sign-up for the primary ministries of the church (small groups and Celebrate Recovery) and or sign-up to volunteer in different areas, a lot of churches I have been to, beg for volunteers a couple times a year, these folk had it set-up so that whenever the Spirit moved someone to serve, there was immediate opportunity. 

I really appreciated the organization of the tables.  Everything was laid out very neatly and was easy for a person to peruse through. 

I also appreciated that all the volunteers helping with the ministries had name tags hung around their neck with the name of their ministry and or position title.  You looked at the name and then you looked up at the volunteer and they were all smiling infectiously!  They looked like very happy Christians…like they were happy to be serving.

The third thing I noticed and this stood (no pun intended) out for some reason.  Every volunteer behind the table was STANDING!  No one was sitting (that is not true there was one table and I will get to that in a minute).  I realized in that moment that standing is inviting.  Sitting can often be very closed, many of us sit with poor posture and this often times can create a closed position.  There was only one table where the people were sitting, it was the youth and jr. high table.  They were sitting and the volunteers looked disinterested and guess what? I never saw a single person at their table! 

I want to make a quick comment on Saddleback’s inside foyer.  The inside foyer has some extra seating and also there are some TV screens and the service is broadcast out to these extra seats.  The reason this caught my attention is that I know each week there are a number of mothers who at some point in my service end up sitting out in the foyer.  We have a sound system, but it often times gets turned off, but I was thinking it would be great if when these mothers, grandmothers, even fathers, and grandfathers need to leave the sanctuary for a ‘bit if they could still hear and SEE the worship service inside.  Sometimes these little amenities make the difference (though this is something that may cost a little money). 

So what can we learn, no matter what our size?  Have sign-ups for volunteers every week so that when God speaks to an individuals heart that they need to get involved, then there is an opportunity for them to get involved!  Second I learned that we need to always make sure we are standing-up, not sitting down, when wanting folks to take interest in what we have to show them at our ministry tables.  These are just a couple things any church can do no matter the size or resources.


My Saddleback Observations Part 2: On Time

Look at the picture above.  I want y’all to notice a couple things about this picture: notice how many folk are there and how few of seats are empty.  Something I observed Sabbath at the Saddleback Church was that people were there early and how few people came in late.  If folk wanted to be there, then they were there are on time!  Not 10 minutes late or 20 or even 30, but on time!  This observation obviously forced me to face the reality that this is not what happens in my church.  Maybe not in your’s either?  So why not?  Is this an indictment against our members or against our worship services?  Or maybe both? 

Some questions to think on:

Do people not come on time because what takes place at the beginning of our worship services is not worth being there for?  I have heard myself say, “everything is a part of worship so people need to be there.”  That is a really DUMB statement!  Just because we planned it, doesn’t make it worth anything and us planning something doesn’t make it divine worship either. 

Do people not come on time because of their own Spiritual apathy? Church is not of priority enough in people’s lives for them to make sure they are on time, like they would be for work or school or a movie?  Would this mean that the folk at Saddleback have their Spiritual priorities more in line than we do?

Do people not come on time because of the actual TIME we have our worship service? Saddlebacks service started at 4:30 p.m..  There is nothing sacred about the 11 o’clock hour yet we have made it a sacred cow that if anyone touches they are chastised and sent out to be shot.  Should we rethink our start times for worship, would there be something that would be more conducive for families and more importantly for those we are trying to reach?

Do people not come on time because our worship services are to convoluted? Do we need to simplify and only focus on the necessary?  I noticed that Saddlebacks service was very simple.  1 song, announcements, 2 songs, sermon, prayer, dismiss.  It wasn’t that the service was short. Pastor Rick spoke still for 45-50 minutes, but the service seemed very simple. 

I would love your honest and frank perspectives on this! 

My Saddleback Observations Part 1: Their Greeters

So this past Sabbath Christina and I attended Saddleback Church’s Saturday service.  Over the next few days I wanted to share some observations with y’all.  Most things at Saddleback we could never duplicate because most our churches don’t have the resources.  There are however some small things, little touches that any church and any church member could do well with little or no money.  So enjoy my observations…and even a couple critiques that I will mention that affirmed the way we do things.

So today we start with things I observed about the greeters:

Christina and I arrived at the Saddleback campus and it is a campus!  I had been there before for a conference, but was interested to see if things that happened at the conference were stepped up a notch than the week in and week out activities of the church.  Would they still be as friendly?  Would there still be a large number of volunteers?  Would they still do their worship with excellence?  The answer to all three of these questions, was a resounding “yes”! 

Before Christina and I sat down we had been greeted four times by volunteers.  I want to share some things about this greeting that may help us and other churches with their process:

Greeters were positioned at their spots and they didn’t move from those spots!  Why did this matter? Because many churches I go into, a person never gets greeted or gets a side-glance greeting b/c greeters are so busy having conversations.  These people were not there to have conversations!  They were there to smile and welcome people.  So I like that they stay at their posts.  At the top of the steps from the parking lot. In the volunteer booth area.  At the doors to enter the foyer, and then the individual giving you the bulletin at the door to the sanctuary.  I counted only about 14 greeters this is very few considering more than 2000 folk pass by them for even their smallest service.  How does it work then?  Because they are strategically positioned and they hold their spots.  People can’t enter that church without passing a volunteer greeter.

Greeters were there to greet not to have conversations.  I mentioned this above but I want to expand on it.  The greeters basic purpose was to smile and say, “we are glad you are here.” In fact the first lady said, “I am glad you are here.” I thought her stating that in the singular pronoun “I”, rather than the “we” added a very personal touch. And on the way out there were several individuals that we passed by as we exited the sanctuary, again strategically positioned, that said, “we are glad you came, have a safe drive home” or “thank you for coming have a great evening!”  And everyone smiled a lot! 

Only one set of greeters gave out a bulletin and no one was missed because they were positioned right at the doors where everyone had to pass through and get one if they so desired. Also this was nice because the other greetings were casual and it didn’t feel like folk were saying “hi” only to get a bulletin into our hand. 

All of the things above any church can do.  If you are a small church you probably only have one or two entrances, which means you don’t need a ton of greeters.  If you’re a larger church this is even more important because there is no way the pastor can say “hi” or personally welcome each individual. We just need to help our greeters understand the importance of greeting!  That the worship service actually starts with the greeting!  I felt appreciated and that is a good thing, especially at church:)

Tomorrow I’ll share with you what I noticed about Saddleback’s Patio (basically their outdoor foyer).



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