Doug Fields

22 Sep

I received an email from Doug Fields yesterday, that stated he will be stepping down from the staff at Saddleback Church. Saddleback is the place I called home from numerous years. I still remember decades ago, when Saddleback met in the Trabuco Hills High School gym. Now their student ministry would not fit in that very same gym. I have met and talked with Doug on several occasions. Although he would not fit the typical mentor role, I still saw him as just that. Doug has played a big part in my becoming a youth pastor. It was God who put it on my heart, but He used Doug to refine me. Through books, conferences, podcasts, always answering emailed questions, He helped shape me into the leader that I am today. I know I am not the only one whom Doug has touched with his genuine love for God, leaders, and students. The good news is, Doug is not retiring from youth ministry. Stepping down from the staff position will allow him to focus on speaking, writing, and hopefully getting a more consistent podcast! I am excited for he and Cathy. Below is the follow up email that went out church wide. I just would like to say, with all my heart, thank you Doug.


Dear Saddleback Family,

As you know from watching our years of kidding and teasing each other from the pulpit, Doug Fields is one of my best friends and I love him like a brother. We have so much fun together! He really is as funny and sharp and brilliant as he is when he’s on stage preaching a sermon that I’ve written for him. (Just kidding about that last part!)

For several months now, Pastor Doug has been feeling the tug of the Holy Spirit in his heart to do something new in the next season of his ministry. I want you to know what’s happening with him. In today’s media culture, we sometimes feel the suspicion that we may not be getting the whole story” behind the news. Because of that, I asked Doug to write this week’s News & Views to hear directly from him and I’ll add my comments at the end his letter!

Love Letter To Our Church Family Pastor Doug Fields

For the last several months I have sensed God leading me to something new and different. After a lot of prayer with Cathy, my family, Pastor Rick, and others, I have decided to resign from my role as a Saddleback pastor in order to follow God’s lead. This step of faith has been difficult and I’m already feeling the painful loss. But, as difficult as it is, both Cathy and I are confident and excited in God’s leading.

As you might expect, Pastor Rick has been wonderful to me during the decision making process. He has been a pastor to me and I’m grateful for him. He gave me two months to continue to pray and be certain of this decision and even told me I could write my own job description to keep me on staff-that was so gracious. And once I was confident of God’s will, Rick gave me his unconditional support. Neither Rick nor any of the other pastors wanted me to leave staff, but they obviously understand how God can prompt us toward something new.

What am I going to do? Well, there’s not another specific job” that I’m departing to, but I am leaving staff to pursue some incredible opportunities to express my writing and teaching gifts. What I’m really doing is what I’ve taught you to do-listen for God’s whisper and obey it! Several people have said, You’re crazy to leave a secure Saddleback Church job during this unstable market.” Humanly speaking, they’re right… following God doesn’t always make sense, but I know I need to do the right thing: listen and obey.

I can’t even begin to put into words how grateful I am for my 18 years serving at our church. I came here as a 28 year old youth pastor with a desire to love God, love others and help build Saddleback Church. I have so many great memories and friendships and wonderful feelings confirming God used me here. These have been incredible years for me! From working with teenagers to teaching adults to building the Refinery to starting Fuel to becoming closer to Jesus to hiding all of Rick’s disgusting Hawaiian shirts. It has been quite a ride! I am a better person and deeper thinker and a more committed follower of Jesus because of my job and my interactions with the wonderful people at Saddleback Church. When I think of our church I know I am richly blessed indeed. If you didn’t get to read my dedication to you in my book Refuel, here’s what I said”.

DEDICATION: I would like to dedicate this book to the people who call Saddleback Church their home. I love being one of your pastors! I love teaching you the Bible. I love your passion for learning. I love your concern for your neighbors. I love your commitment to pursuing God in all areas of your lives. I love your dedication to giving-and giving generously. I love talking to you and hearing about what God is doing in your lives. I love you!

As a family, Saddleback Church will continue to be our church home. Our best friends are here… our small group… and our ministry is here. I’m not resigning from church, just my staff position. My kids will be involved in the high school ministry, Cathy is leading a small group of teenage girls, and I will occasionally fill-in and preach for Pastor Rick and teach in the high school ministry.

Well, there it is–that’s the whole story in a nutshell. Rick and I and the other church Elders wanted you to hear this news directly from me. Unfortunately, many times when a pastor leaves a staff position there are crazy rumors that start flying around. That shouldn’t happen here, because there’s nothing wrong and I’m not upset about anything…actually, I’m thrilled to be able to leave with integrity and strong leadership support. So, now you can say you heard it straight from the horse’s mouth (or the donkey’s…whichever you prefer).

This weekend, I’ll have the privilege of teaching part 3 in our Life’s Healing Choices series. Then, after our current series, Rick has asked me to preach a 3 week series in November. So we’ll still be seeing one another… the biggest difference is that I won’t have to attend meetings anymore…yeah!

I can’t wait to see your smiling face this weekend as we open up God’s Word and celebrate together!

So blessed! Pastor Doug

My words of praise – from Pastor Rick

I love Doug Fields with all my heart! In my opinion he has been the greatest Student Pastor in history. He and Cathy are dear friends and we’ve been through so much together while building Saddleback Church.

Let’s review: (1) Doug & family are NOT moving away. They’ll continue serving in ministry here. (2) Doug is resigning his staff role as one of our pastors and will no longer have to carry the responsibilities and meetings of being a pastor. He’s going to write and speak and serve the Lord. (3) Doug will continue to help me with preaching. He’s actually speaking 4 of the next 9 weeks. Beyond that, there’s no other back story!”

When the beautiful Refinery was finished, I knew that Doug felt this was the capstone of the most successful youth ministry in America. Doug has raised up and mentored a generation of Student Pastors who are now taking leadership of our next generation of student ministry to the next level, and God is leading Doug to another challenge.

Over the past 30 years, I’ve had literally hundreds of people join our church staff, become dear friends while serving with us, and then, after a while, leave our staff for a variety of reasons. As a young pastor in the ‘80s, I felt only grief when staff left. But now my understanding of how God works in peoples’ lives is bigger. I’ve learned this important truth: God calls people through Saddleback, not to Saddleback. What that means is that God calls just the right person, at just the right time, to both serve our church and to learn from our church. Then he sends them out to other places as missionaries. We now have former Saddleback staff serving as missionaries in other churches and ministries all around the world. I call them our purpose driven agents!”

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