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Kay Warren is an evangelical leader, author, AIDS activist, and co-founder of Saddleback Church in Southern California. Along with her husband, Rick, Warren founded Saddleback in 1980 with just a[…]

From Christmas open houses to mega-church.

Question: How do you retain a sense of intimacy in your parish?

Warren: Well when the church was smaller, I had people in our home all the time. The first year of the church back in 1980, I think we had maybe 125 people. And I had each one of those people in our home for dinner that first year. And the first probably seven years of the church, I would do a Christmas open house. I’d start baking in October, stuff everything in my freezer and our neighbors’ freezers, and then do this open house for all the parishioners. And when it got to about 800 people coming through my little 1,200 square foot home, I had kind of reached my max. I couldn’t do it anymore. So I don’t have as much contact on that kind of where people are in my home basis. We actually do that more with our staff, which has several . . . We have several hundred people on our staff. So we’ll have the staff in our home for different events. I work a lot with our staff wives if their husbands are on staff. I spend a lot of time with them. And we make ourselves available on the weekends. We’re not the kind of people that just stay behind closed doors. If I’m there for a service, I’m out on the patio talking to people. I’m praying with people, shaking hands, hugging, kissing babies. I love to smell babies . . . newborn babies’ heads, so people are always bringing me babies. And I go, “Oh! Did you smell his head?” Because I just . . . I love . . . I love to be around those newborn babies. So I think that we’re really relational, and we like to stay in close contact as much as we can with the church as big as we are.

Recorded on: 12/11/07