That’s Some Wig!

Posted on: 08/31/10 2:21 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Even if you don’t know his name, you might have seen his hair. His name is Troy Polamalu and his long dark locks are often seen cascading from the back of his Pittsburgh Steelers helmet.

No, it’s not a wig. The three foot long mane is not only genuine, it’s now valued at $1 million dollars.

No joke. Yahoo news gives us the skinny:

You’d think that an All-Pro safety who missed 11 games in 2009 due to a knee injury would be most concerned about other body parts, but Pittsburgh Steelers superstar Troy Polamalu(notes) also has endorsements to consider. One of his endorsements is with the Head & Shoulders company, which makes sense when you consider Polamalu’s famed three-foot-long hair. It’s a tribute to his Samoan heritage, and it’s not something he plans to cut anytime soon.

Apparently the insurance carrier, Lloyd’s of London, has done publicity stunts like this before, insuring Tina Turner’s legs, Keith Richard’s fingers, Jimmy Durante’s nose, and Celine Dion’s pipes!

Do they insure J-lo’s badunkadunk?

If I was famous, I wonder what they’d insure of mine? My big mouth?

Christian Viral Videos

Posted on: 08/30/10 9:08 AM | by Jonathan McKee

I’ve seen my share of funny viral videos. Christians even have our own special collection of favorites. (Those old  dubbed Jesus videos, Jesus is my Friend by Sonseed…)

Mike, over at sent me a link to a recent article he posted on his blog titled “10 Unintentionally Hilarious Christian Music Videos.” Jesus is my Friend was one of them, Degarmo and Key’s old song “666” (wow… I remember listening to that one in youth group… was I really that stuck in the 80’s?), MC Hammer’s “Pray” (which I don’t think was that bad). A Stryper video even made the cut.

This was by far my favorite. Yikes!

Click here to watch if you don’t see the embedded video.

“…and it’s better than a bone.” Wow. That’s deep.

Click here for Mikes whole list

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On the Front Lines With Teenagers

Posted on: 08/26/10 9:11 AM | by Jonathan McKee

In my CONNECT workshop, I always teach a section called “Connecting on the Front Lines.” This is where the rubber meets the road– when we step out of our comfort zone to try to meet some kids on their turf… and we have NO IDEA what to say!

Have you ever been there? I have. It’s terrifying!

Michelle has too. She just emailed me this idea she uses when she’s on campus trying to connect with kids.

Hey Jonathan!

I just wanted to share an idea with you. I have been visiting our local middle school every week for the past three years. Something that works really well for me to meet students is to bring snack-size candy bars. I put a few on the table where I sit, and it doesn’t take long for kids to ask, “Hey, can I have a candy bar?” My response is always the same. “Yes, but there’s a catch. You have to tell me your name.” They do, and then I tell them my mine. Okay, so now I’m learning some names (and I do write them down and try to learn them!).

The next week, some of the same kids will approach (plus a few of their friends), and hopefully I remember their names (or at least a few names). So I tell them, “If I remember your name, you have to answer a question for me. If I don’t know your name, the candy is yours.” I bring a “Would You Rather?” book or another discussion starter book along with me. The kids love this! They run up every week yelling, “What’s my name? Ask me a question!”

Eventually, I had a small group of them that just wanted to answer questions, and the principal allowed them to skip the “free rec” time outside to sit with me in the cafeteria and talk.

I thought this might help some of those out there with a fear of going on campus to meet kids. This way is pain-free!

Thanks for a great site!

Michelle, Michigan

I love Michelle’s idea.

It’s tough out there on the front lines. That’s why I wrote CONNECT. Chapters 5 thru 8 talk specifically about going to the front lines to reach the three types of outreach kids on “their turf,” laying out the process step by step. Youth workers- Now is a great time to get this into the hands of your volunteers! (We have this book on sale right now on our site– lowest price on the web. We even have bulk package deals with a greater discount if you want to buy it for your whole team.)

“Wannabe Cool’ Christianity

Posted on: 08/25/10 8:45 AM | by Jonathan McKee

The Wall Street Journal posted an article recently talking about “Hipster” Christianity, an article that, in all honesty, was a little critical of churches today that are trying too hard to be “cool.”

But I love the author’s conclusion. Here’s just a snippet: (emphasis mine)

“And the further irony,” he adds, “is that the younger generations who are less impressed by whiz-bang technology, who often see through what is slick and glitzy, and who have been on the receiving end of enough marketing to nauseate them, are as likely to walk away from these oh-so-relevant churches as to walk into them.”

If the evangelical Christian leadership thinks that “cool Christianity” is a sustainable path forward, they are severely mistaken. As a twentysomething, I can say with confidence that when it comes to church, we don’t want cool as much as we want real.

If we are interested in Christianity in any sort of serious way, it is not because it’s easy or trendy or popular. It’s because Jesus himself is appealing, and what he says rings true. It’s because the world we inhabit is utterly phony, ephemeral, narcissistic, image-obsessed and sex-drenched—and we want an alternative. It’s not because we want more of the same.

The article (click here to read the entire article) is by Brett McCracken, author of the book, Hipster Christianity: Where Church and Cool Collide (Baker Books).

If you read the entire article, you’ll probably find McCracken a little critical of today’s churches. An example:

There are various ways that churches attempt to be cool. For some, it means trying to seem more culturally savvy. The pastor quotes Stephen Colbert or references Lady Gaga during his sermon, or a church sponsors a screening of the R-rated “No Country For Old Men.” For others, the emphasis is on looking cool, perhaps by giving the pastor a metrosexual makeover, with skinny jeans and an $80 haircut, or by insisting on trendy eco-friendly paper and helvetica-only fonts on all printed materials. Then there is the option of holding a worship service in a bar or nightclub (as is the case for L.A.’s Mosaic church, whose downtown location meets at a nightspot called Club Mayan).

A little harsh. But I think many of us have seen some of these elements “out of balance” on either extreme. For example. We, like the author of the article, have probably seen the church that seems to just “try too hard.” They concentrate so hard on looks and appeal, but are stingy when it comes to simply opening the scripture and teaching truth. But before we cast stones, we need to realize that this church might just be an “overreaction” to a church that has been dead for decades because they put people to sleep with bad teaching and a lack of relevance. (Most of us have sat through some of these services) There’s nothing wrong with quoting Stephen Colbert or referencing current music. These elements become “out of hand” when they monopolize a service and Jesus becomes lost in the shuffle.

This discussion has huge relevance in youth ministry circles. As McCracken points out, kids are savvy to being target-marketed with the “slick and glitzy.” Some of us need to sit back and take a deep look at our ministries, asking some tough questions. Does slick and glitzy trump relational ministry? Do we spend more time programming then hanging with kids? Are we better at presentation than connecting? (all red flags) But don’t ignore the opposite side of the spectrum. Do we lack good communicators that are gifted at teaching the scriptures? Do we not provide safe arenas where kids can feel safe to dialogue? Do we put kids to sleep? (all red flags as well)

I think many churches and youth ministries are searching for a balance here. It would be nice to be relevant to the culture the way the Apostle Paul was, but at the same time, not stray from the privilege of clearly introducing people to the love of Jesus. McCracken’s article is a good reminder of that. (and a good discussion peice for your next volunteer training)

McCracken is a graduate of Wheaton and UCLA, currently the managing editor for Biola University’s Biola Magazine and working on his Master’s in Theology at Talbot. He regularly writes movie reviews for Christianity Today and articles for Relevant Magazine. You can see an online video interview of him about his new book here.

Katy’s the Top Pick

Posted on: 08/23/10 4:00 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Katy Perry is going to be the top pick in most teenagers’ iPods this week with the Tuesday release of her new “explicit” album Teenage Dream. That’s why we released a Youth Culture Window article yesterday, not only giving you a peek into Katy’s world, but also providing you with a glimpse at the content you can expect from her.

Her album cover should tell parents enough. It’s a full body picture of her, lying naked on a cloud (with the Parental Advisory label on the bottom right). But unfortunately most kids will be downloading it anyway, and sadly… many parents really don’t care.

Her title song, Teenage Dream is already #1 on iTunes right now, and the very racy video is #2. My article goes into more details. Here’s just a snippet:

She’s the daughter of not one, but two, pastors. She says she’s a believer, and often prays…sometimes in tongues! She’s even released a gospel album.

Then why is it that she’s one of the worst role models for young people these days?

A Good Run
When she takes the stage nowadays, it’s as Katy Perry, even though she was born Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson in 1984. Regardless of what you call her, this young lady has had quite a run over the last two years.

On May 6, 2008, her smash hit “I Kissed a Girl” was released and quickly hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 (where it stayed for seven weeks). Her follow-up song “Hot N Cold” peaked at #3 on the charts very soon after.

More recently she’s offered the world her version of summertime pop in “California Gurls.” (No I didn’t misspell her title; that’s her way of invoking the Beach Boys without paying royalties.) It sits at #3 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.

August 2010 is proving a watershed month for Perry as well. On August 9, she hosted FOX’s annual Teen Choice Awards. Her latest photo op is the August 19 cover of Rolling Stone, where the lead feature article tells of “The Hard Road & Hot Times of a Fallen Angel.” Perry’s latest hit “Teenage Dream” is riding the #9 position on Billboard’s Hot 100 (and, depending on the day you look, usually #2 on iTunes’ song and video charts). Her highly anticipated new album (also titled Teenage Dream) drops this Tuesday, August 24.

Now you see why “it’s good to be Katy Perry.”

But does that make Katy Perry good for our kids?


Keep your eyes on Katy… our kids already do.


My Girls and Kool Aid

Posted on: 08/19/10 9:23 PM | by Jonathan McKee

It’s the last week of summer break for my three kids, and yesterday my two girls got creative with a camera. I’m not sure the point, if any… but it sure looks like they were having fun.

First they designed one of our water pitchers to look like the Kool Aid pitcher. Then they took pictures comic book style of them posing with the container, drinking it, etc.

Here’s Glimpse (here’s two of the pics full size, then thumbnails of just a few of the pics to get the comic strip effect)

I love that Kool Aid pitcher!

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Complaining about Reviewing “Kick-Ass”

Posted on: 08/18/10 3:13 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Yes… I spelled it.

You see, yesterday I received an email questioning my motivation for reviewing the film, “Kick Ass.” Here’s just a snippet:

I have to question your motivation. Is it possible that your viewing of the film was not intended as a mission to expose and target the R-rated content of the film, but rather to satisfy your own curiosity about it?

Wow. Nice.

First… I have to admit that I haven’t even seen this film. My good friend Todd who does movie reviews for us reviewed this one. And no, I promise you, it wasn’t “to satisfy his own curiosity.” It’s because I told him to review it.

Here’s the skinny:

Many of you are familiar with the fact that a movie bearing the title “Kick Ass” was released on video this month. This film is very popular with teenagers and even was nominated for a few Teen Choice Awards, including “Choice Action Adventure Movie.” As a matter of fact, the film beat all the competition when it was released on video. The Hollywood Reporter reveals:

Lionsgate’s “Kick-Ass” kicked aside all competitors on the home video charts its debut week, taking the No. 1 spot on the national sales, Blu-ray Disc sales and rental charts…  “Kick-Ass” was the week’s clear Blu-ray winner, easily defeating last week’s top seller, Warner’s “Clash of the Titans,” which finished at No. 2, and “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” which landed at No. 3. The title also tied “Avatar’s” record in Blu-ray percentage sales for a No. 1 release this year, selling nearly half of its units (49%) in the high-definition format.

Bottom line: Kids are watching this film, a movie rated R by the MPAA for “strong brutal violence throughout, pervasive language, sexual content, nudity and some drug use – some involving children.”

Despite this rating, I heard numerous church kids talking about how much that they wanted to see this film. Many of them saw it. Nice that this kind of film is popular with the kids, huh?

Because of its popularity with teens and tweens, we went ahead and reviewed this film on our MOVIE REVIEWS page so parents and youth workers would know what to expect. This really bummed out one of our readers. More on that in a minute.

We don’t review every film that comes out. We don’t feel the need to review “Saw 17” … we think most parents know that this is probably one to skip. But we like to provide you with our two cents of films that have a large following in pop culture. Other Christian movie review sites do the same.

Regardless, I received an interesting piece of criticism yesterday by email. I felt compelled to share this particular piece of lunacy with you all. Here it is in totality, unedited, so I can’t be accused of misrepresenting this fellow:

I am saddened and extremely disappointed to see a review for the film “Kick-A**” on this very website. Aside from the fact that you have taken no steps to eliminate or hide the profanity present in the title for readers of this Christian resource (however pointless that may seem to some), the very fact that you felt compelled to post a review of this “trash” is beyond me. We as youth workers do not have to subject ourselves to every piece of mainstream entertainment just because our teens are clamoring to see it. Common sense should have indicated that the film is not intended for a teenage – or more accurately – Christian audience. This is not the first time that I have wondered to myself “What were they thinking?” upon reading movie reviews for objectionable films on this site. But in this case, the sheer lack of judgment has moved me to respond. In Christian love, I have to question your motivation. Is it possible that your viewing of the film was not intended as a mission to expose and target the R-rated content of the film, but rather to satisfy your own curiosity about it? Anyone curious about the film’s content could read any of a hundred mainstream movie reviews to determine whether or not the film is appropriate for their child to see. Simpler solution: look at the rating box, which includes a description of the content that earned the rating. Instead, you paid for the experience, making you a part of the paying audience that Hollywood is looking for when deciding whether or not to greenlight a sequel. Do you feel that your presence at the film could be seen as a witness to a lost teen? Would Jesus be satisfied with the argument that you were subjecting yourself to the film only as a service to better inform your readers? Please consider the perspective of a long-time – and perhaps former – reader.


Thanks for your two cents Pat. My response will be quick.

First. Please make sure you send your “loving response” to Dr. James Dobson also, because his Plugged In site reviewed the film as well. (I’ve always wondered about that Dobson guy!)

Second, Perhaps Christians should consider ‘picking their battles.’ If you find that you can’t even say the movie title “Kick-Ass”…. Wow! Personally, I regularly encounter kids that are addicted to porn, fascinated by Satan and completely comfortable with vile lyrics in their iPod. These kids need Jesus.

People need someone to tell them truth–they don’t need Pharisees telling them which words they can and cannot say. Honestly, this movie has much bigger issues than the word “Ass” in the title. If you read our review of the film, you’ll see what some of those issues are.

Thirdly, please call Zondervan, Tyndale and others, and see if we can get some of the Bible edited too. That book included way too many explicit references. Maybe we should start with these verses:

Proverbs 5:19 (NIV)
19 A loving doe, a graceful deer– may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love.

Ezekiel 23:19-20 (NIV)
19 Yet she became more and more promiscuous as she recalled the days of her youth, when she was a prostitute in Egypt. 20 There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses.

Crazy Bible. I wonder what the motivations of those authors were.

As for your threat to become a former reader… I just have to warn you… if the word “ass” disturbs you, it’s probably a good decision to stop reading any of my articles, blogs or books right now. Because I will always tell parents and adult leaders what Katy Perry says (and it’s much worse than “ass”), what Lady Gaga does, and I’ll even show some pictures if I think they’ll help adults realize what their kids are watching. (This is always a tough call– I always ask my wife, “Do you think we can show this picture of Christina Aguilera? Or might this be distracting to some?” It’s a hard balance: educating, but not distracting)

So thanks for your “loving criticism.” Please don’t read the article about Katy Perry coming out this Sunday (now upon our Youth Culture Window page. You’ll pop a blood vessel. I promise!

When Our Kids Don’t Want to Reach Out

Posted on: 08/16/10 4:53 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Last weekend at my CONNECT workshop in Amarillo, TX, a youth pastor named Chris asked me a great question: What do you do when your Christian kids don’t want to reach out to their friends? (At the end of this blog I ask for your response to this question- I encourage you to comment)

This question was rather timely and almost pinched a nerve with me, because the week prior I had just talked with one of my publishers about the possibilities of me writing a book to students about reaching out to their friends (basically, a student version of my Do They Run… book). The publisher literally said, “Sorry, I just don’t see today’s kids buying a book about how to reach their friends.” (Wow. True or not… what a stigma!)

I didn’t attempt to give Chris a quick & simple answer. I really don’t see one “cookie cutter” approach that kids can try on (“Reach your friends in these 3 simple steps!”) But I was able to offer him some ideas that might help him “light the fire” under the butts of students and get them thinking about ministry.

First, I told him that he should take the spiritual pulse of his students and particularly identify his “Stagnant” and “Growing” kids. (For those who haven’t read my book CONNECT where I lay out how to do this spiritual inventory, I provide a quick free video of the “Six Types of Kids” on our web site. Anyone can do this inventory as described in my book, or as demonstrated in this free video of “The Stickynotes Exercise”.) Unlike the “Looking for Ministry” kids, these other two kids aren’t excited about reaching out to their friends. Once you identify your Stagnant and Growing kids, you begin investing in them, helping them grow spiritually and discover their giftedness.

We talked about this concept much of the weekend at the training workshop: when our “right column” kids take an interest in reaching our “left column” kids.

Here’s just a few of the ideas I went on to share with Chris about how to help these kids not only grow spiritually, but also to challenge them to reach out to others:

– Teach about reaching out. This may sound oversimplified, but sometimes we tend to ignore passages about evangelism. Why not teach about passages like Matthew 9 when Jesus declares that he came to reach sinners, not those who think they’re already good enough. How about passages like I Peter 3:15-18 where we see a balance of “words” and “action.” Or how about teaching Galatians 3 to share how God intended to reach “all nations” from the beginning. (You can hear my sermon about this in Episode #5 of our free podcast here)

– Take our students to conferences where they will be encouraged and equipped to reach out. The best of these conferences are those that Dare 2 Share does across the county. These conferences are amazing, as is their speaker, Greg Stier. If you want to hear a taste of Greg, take a listen to him and I discussing the Great Commission in our last podcast together.

– Give our students opportunities to serve. Take them to a convalescent home or a homeless shelter to help someone face to face. Encourage them to not only get their hands dirty, but engage in conversations. (I speak to this balance of words and actions my CONNECT book in chapter 3, titled, The One-on-one Intentions Debate: All About Love or All About Evangelism.)

Begin a student leadership team. Equip kids to serve and reach out. Teach them to discover and use their spiritual gifts. David and I just finished our book on this subject, a book titled, Ministry BY Students. It comes out from YS/Zondervan in a couple of months (and will be available on our site).

Many of us probably identify with Chris’ question. I definitely don’t have all the answers. Feel free to use the comment feature below to share some of your own ideas on the subject.

Inside Katy Perry

Posted on: 08/13/10 2:20 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Katy Perry has been in the limelight quite a bit lately, hosting the Teen Choice Awards on Fox on Monday night, on the current cover of Rolling Stone magazine, breaking records with her summer hit California Gurls, and now watching her song Teenage Dream climb the charts (it’s the #3 most downloaded song on iTunes as I write this, and #9 on Billboard’s Hot 100).

I read the Rolling Stone interview over the weekend, called up my buddy David R. Smith (who writes many of our Youth Culture Window articles) and told him, “We’ve got to chime in on this to our readers.”

So David has been working on a nice little piece about Katy Perry… you’ll see it soon.

It’s fascinating. Here’s a girl that was raised in a strict (and dare I say “weird”) religious home…. she wasn’t allowed to say “deviled eggs” they had to call them “angeled eggs,” no TV, no secular music. So… whenever she was away from home at her friends’ house… she says she was glued to MTV.


Rolling Stone portrays her as a “good girl,” actually comparing her to Taylor Swift. But a paragraph later she is spouting off the f-word, joking like she’s going to show her pubic hair to prove her “real hair color,” and making sexual references that sadly, probably wouldn’t make many kids in this culture wince.

The lyrics of her new song speak pretty loudly as well. I already ranted a bit about that in my expose’ about the Teen Choice Awards where she sang Teenage Dream, singing:

We drove to Cali
And got drunk on the beach
Got a motel and
Built a floor out of sheets
I finally found you
My missing puzzle piece
I’m complete

Let’s go all the way tonight
No regrets, just love
We can dance until we die
You and I
We’ll be young forever…

All that to an audience of teens and tweens.

What a “good girl.”

Sad. Katy is really talented and seems like a lot of fun. But she’s learned what sells and she’s not worried about who’s becoming corrupted, or sexualized along the way.

Keep your eyes open for our entire Youth Culture Window article on her in another week.

Using Kesha to talk about true love

Posted on: 08/11/10 7:28 PM | by Jonathan McKee

I don’t know if you’ve noticed… but we’ve been pumping out a ton of free curriculum and discussions on TheSource4YM’s MUSIC DISCUSSIONS page and MOVIE CLIP DISCUSSIONS page this summer.

This week we just added a new discussion using Kesha’s song, Your Love is My Drug to springboard a conversation about focusing on the true definition of love given by God.

Most of our kids are familiar with Kesha and this song… this is a great chance to ask them, “Have you thought about what she’s saying?”

Our discussion provides small group questions, scripture and a wrap up.

Find that and others on our MUSIC DISCUSSIONS page.