Service Programing vs. Relationships: Can You Do Both? (Part 1)

May 9, 2012 — 3 Comments

I’m a pastor. I am also in charge of programming our weekend services for our High School Ministry at Saddleback. Something that I want to do the best I possibly can. The pastor in me loves relational ministry: getting coffee, hanging out after services, and eating together. Jesus was all about having relationships with people. But I am also a programmer and need to focus on the program as part of my job. So I want the lights to be just right, I want the smoothest transitions possible, I want the sweet videos, I want a professionally ran service so it looks and feels smooth to create an experience for students to meet Jesus during services.

So which am I? A pastor? A programmer? A programming pastor? The way I like to think of it is…I am a pastor, who happens to programs a service.

I don’t think it is an “either/or” type of situation, which groups can think it is. The tendency is to think that we have one or the other. We either can focus on the programming side, making sure the service is flawless, with cool elements, and illustrations, but then the relationship side would suffer because all of our focus is on the service, and the ministry would be super shallow. Or there is the other way, where relationships takes completely over, where you will have really deep relationships with students, but the service will suffer and be sloppy and boring, and friends of the students wouldn’t want to come because they think it is “boring”. Now, I’m not saying this is true per say, I’m just saying this is the general assumption of the relational vs. programming issue.

The next few Wednesdays I want to unpack this issue. This is something I have been asking myself as well, something I have been wrestling with too, because I don’t think it should be an “either/or” thing, but it should be a “both/and” service, where it is possible to have a really planned and thought out amazing service and have unreal relational time with students and get to the core of their relationship with God and do both well.

I feel like this battle is within us and is constant. It may or may not be true for every ministry, but I know there is a balance that we need to be aware of.

Before we get into detail of what this looks like, what do you think? What are the benefits of having one over the other? Which one do you seem to focus on more as of right now? 


3 responses to Service Programing vs. Relationships: Can You Do Both? (Part 1)


    This is a great topic, Justin. Something I think all of us in ministry struggle with. I know for me personally, and it sounds like you too, I tend to spend hours programming any given event or service, because I want it to be amazing. But this limits my relational time. And with relational time, I have to fit in students, parents, other adults in the church, etc. So where can I fit all of this in an already booked schedule of meetings and such. I think it is very challenging to have this be a both/and, so I look forward to hearing more of what you have to say on this.


      Hey Noah

      Thanks for reading man! I appreciate it. To be honest I’m excited about this topic too. I’m still working through some stuff on it because it’s something, like you said, is a real thing for anyone planning a service. It’s hard to not to get completely sucked into it. You’re right when you say it’s not easy to have both relationships and great programming, but it’s not impossible and it takes being really intentional. Excited to have some dialogue.


    Reblogged this on jamiebrandonjr and commented:
    I finished a Monday series on “Relational Youth Ministry” ( and the new series is on “Creating the Environment” ( There is often a tension between relationship and programming that youth leaders feel, or at least should feel. Justin from Saddleback Church posted several articles on how to balance this tension well. This is the first one or three. Check it out.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s