The OC Register continues its weekly feature on Pastor Rick, including this Saddleback history lesson from 1980 – present. Here’s a clip:
Growth also forced discipline upon the church’s trademark informality. Warren developed classes to move members through levels of spiritual commitment. He adopted the small group “cell” model, a system in which hundreds of individual worship groups supply members with the intimacy lacking in the larger church.
Such “shepherding/discipleship” techniques were common at churches (and some religious interest groups) across the country in the 1980s. The result was the megachurch: a collection of constantly changing “cells” grouped around a fixed nucleus of church hierarchy.
Today, there are more than 3,000 Saddleback small groups, often organized around mutual interests, such as mountain biking or singing. Church guidance is passed down through worship guidebooks, CD-ROM and DVD trainings, and e-learning modules distributed each week. Members dissatisfied with their small groups can choose a new one rather than abandon the church altogether.
Such flexibility keeps sheep in the fold, as does the regular polling performed by church staff after weekend services.
At a recent staff meeting, Gerald Sharon, the church’s production supervisor, remarked how a time change for a certain venue has “definitively” proven that “people choose their service time first and their style second.”
This year, Sharon spearheaded Saddleback’s first satellite campus in the gymnasium of San Clemente High School. The venue, like the eight others on campus, receives a satellite feed of the sermon but maintains a separate staff.