Our 2 Cents on Thor and More…

Posted on: 05/11/11 2:21 PM | by Jonathan McKee

This summer’s movie lineup is packed with films that will be drawing our teenagers to the theatre, and believe it or not… a lot of them look pretty clean.

David wrote an entire Youth Culture Window article (on the front page of our site now) giving you a glimpse of many of the May and June releases like Thor, Pirates3, Kung Fu Panda 2, Hangover 2, etc. (as you can see, some good, some bad). Part II of the article will be posted next week.

Todd and I already posted our “2 Cents” of the first film on the list, in our review of Thor, on our MOVIE REVIEWS & QUICK Q’s page right now. Here’s a snippet:

TODD’S WORD: I know it’s only May, but with the release of Thor, the summer movie season has officially begun, and once again it’s a Super Hero movie that is taking control of the box office.

JONATHAN’S WORD: Yeah, not a bad start. Thor was fun. It wasn’t anything I’d rush out to the theatre to see… but it was fun.

TODD’S WORD: Since 2000 Marvel Studios has released 24 films and two more coming out this summer (X-men: First Class and Captain America). No one can argue that they have had a few duds (Ghost Rider, Dare Devil and Elektra), but for the most part they have given us one huge summer blockbuster after another (Ironman, X-men, Spiderman and the Fantastic Four). No doubt about it, comic book heroes are box office gold, especially when you include DC Studios (Batman and Superman).

JONATHAN’S WORD: It’s an interesting genre. They’ve had some really great ones (The Spiderman films, the Ironman films), and, yes, a few duds. For me, Thor was a lot more like Fantastic Four. Just okay. I felt like it could have been so much more. It was hit and miss for me.

TODD’S WORD: Well, let’s break it down…

Click here for the rest of that review and its QUICK Q’s.

Three Buttons Every Parent Should Use

Posted on: 05/9/11 11:36 AM | by Jonathan McKee

This past weekend, on Mother’s Day, I spoke in all three services at a local church on the topic of parenting media saturated kids.

I decided to let my 13-year-old Ashley speak with me because I was talking specifically about teaching our kids lasting values, and I wanted to give them a glimpse of what that actually looks like. So Ashley shared candidly about what it’s like being a Christian kid living in a secular world that saturates teenagers with raunchy media. She talked openly about songs she likes, and how “racy songs” can be alluring to kids her age- especially when she hears them all day at school, sports, etc.

Ashley closed by encouraging these parents not to just try to be the “cool” parent that says yes to everything… instead, be the caring parent that cares enough to say “no, this doesn’t belong in our house.”

The audience really liked hearing from her (she did a great job). Then I chimed in and gave some application of what it looks like to build values into our kids “as we get up, as we walk along the road, as we go to bed…” Fun stuff.

This month, “More to Life” Magazine has posted and article I wrote for them on their MY HOME section of the web site, an article titled, “Three Buttons Every Parent Should Use.” This article gives a glimpse of some of what Ashley and I shared on Mother’s Day. Here’s just a peek:

Today’s parents often wonder if they’re truly making a difference in the lives of their kids, or if they should just throw in the towel. I assure you, don’t give up. Research unanimously reveals that parents who care enough to spend time with their kids and help their kids make good choices are the parents who become the number one influence in their kids’ lives. (I cite numerous examples of this research in my book, Candid Confessions of an Imperfect Parent).

Many parents might not be so quick to throw up their hands and quit if they were just given a few tools to help them navigate this intimidating arena of 21st century parenting. In a world of Facebook, iPods and MTV, how can we connect with our media-saturated teens and tweens?

I’ve found it extremely helpful to use three buttons…


Lame Tweet Guy Twitter Contest Winners

Posted on: 05/6/11 2:38 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Last week we decided to have ourselves a little contest, and I offered a choice of any of my books to 5 winners (all the details here). A few minutes ago we just randomly drew the 5 winners.

The contest was simple. Sign up to follow either LameTweetGuy or me at InJonathansHead on Twitter. Those who did that were entered.

This contest has been fun. Since the contest has been running, LameTweetGuy has been really busy tweeting some of the most interesting tweets such as:

I love yawning!
I just paid my water bill.
I’ve got hairy elbows!
How do remote controls work?

and my favorite…

Fruit gives me gas.

Exciting stuff. (What do you expect from a guy named LameTweetGuy).

In the meantime, I’ve tweeted about Gaga’s new Judas video, “Three Buttons Every Parent Should Use,” What youth groups can do to have return visitors, some $10 and $15 training opportunities in KS and PA…. and more.

So a big thanks to our new followers. Here’s the 5 winners:

@Daveryfl, from New Port Richey, FL
@Mkranz86, from Michigan
@uthpastor, from Boerne, TX
@truthroots, from North Carolina
@jaredmburk, from PA

You 5, be sure to email me using the CONTACT US tab at the top right of this blog and tell me your name, full mailing address and which of these 8 books of mine you want me to mail to you.

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Gaining Trust, Connecting, Sharing…

Posted on: 05/5/11 3:10 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Yesterday I shared with you a snippet or two from an interview I did where I was asked about everything from “taking care of visitors to our youth group” to “spiritual growth in today’s teenagers.”

You can catch my responses to those questions in yesterday’s blog, PART I.

Here’s the remainder of my answers during that interview. PART II:

Michael – OK
-What are some of the best ways to gain the trust of new unchurched students?

Go beyond shaking hands and exchanging names. Actually take an interest in them. Sit with them. Invite them to join us in our small group. “We’re going to coffee afterwards- come with us.” “Text me- I’ll text you this week.”

I could go on, but honestly, my entire book CONNECT is devoted to helping us learn how to do this.

Jason – Dallas
– In your book “Connect” you talk a lot about getting to know kids on a one-on-one basis. Do you believe its possible to become so connected with students that they see you more as a peer and you lose your influence in their lives

I think parents struggle with this as well. “If I spend too much time being their buddy, will I not be seen as their parent?”

I wonder if Christ was accused of that when he descended to earth to become human.

There’s no danger in humbling yourself to be relational- to listen, to laugh, to play. The only danger would be if you lower your standards and try to be something you’re not, or allow yourself to do something inappropriate in effort to “be accepted.” This is a twisting of a good thing. There’s never anything wrong with a coach, a parent, a teacher, or a youth worker spending time listening to a kid share their heart, throwing a Frisbee, cheering together at a football game, laughing through a comedy. I bet more kids wish their dads would be there to do these activities. These activities actually earn trust and help the kid respect dad, or coach, or pastor Jason when he has to put the foot down and say, “Sorry, but you’re not going to do that.”

Ashley – WI
-How can we equip and train our youth to witness and share the gospel with nonbelievers in their everyday lives?

I think the reason most kids don’t share their faith is because they have nothing to share.

If we allow God to fill our cup, he’ll overflow it so much that it will spill everywhere and get everyone around us smelling like coffee.

My friend Kierra is so in love with God. She’s not an evangelist by any means. She’s just in love with God. Everywhere she go, she literally “reeks” God. She can’t help but talk about him. She went into a computer store to get her Dell fixed… as you need to do with any PC. A Muslim guy worked the counter. After talking with Kierra for just two minutes, he couldn’t help but say, “You’re really religious, yes?” It’s not because she wore cross ear rings or a shirt that said, “Kiss me, I’m Christian.” It’s because she couldn’t even turn in her computer without talking about how much she prayed that it would be fixable and how much she needed it for ministry, etc.

Next thing she knows, she’s in a conversation about God.

Everybody worships something. Think about it. What do you worship? Movies? Cars? Yourself?

We’ve all met people who worship their cars. All they can talk about is cars. You can’t have a conversation with this person without it touching the subject of automobiles.

Some people are hung up with their own sexuality. They can’t finish a sentence without talking about who they are sexually.

Kierra was that way with God. And guess what… she ended up talking with people about God.

We need to introduce people into a loving God, let them experience who he is so that God’s hope will be overflowing out of them. It’s only then that verses like I Peter 3:15-18 make sense when

1 Peter 3:15 (NIV)
15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
So many people miss that in the verse. They concentrate on the “always be prepared” and they miss the golden nugget of how the conversation will start in the first place. “ask you to give a a reason for the hope that you have…”

Why would someone ask you to give a reason for the hope that you have???

Because they see it!

Now that they see it… now talk!

Oh… and as for the question, how can we train and equip… that’s how. Get them to “reek” hope! But yes.. then when someone asks them, “What’s different about you?” “What’s that hope?” then we need to be ready to answer. So read a book like my DO THEY RUN WHEN THEY SEE YOU COMING? Which is all about sharing our faith with “unchurched” people. Or Greg Stier’s “DARE TO SHARE” book. Great ways to articulate your faith.

If you enjoyed this, you can listen to the entire podcast here on the Students and Culture website.

Students and Culture Interview

Posted on: 05/4/11 10:19 AM | by Jonathan McKee

I was interviewed recently on the Students and Culture podcast… some of you might have wanted an opportunity to peek in on that interview. For those that don’t have the time to listen to it, I’ve provided some of the highlights of it transcripted below.

Fun conversation. I start by giving a brief (60 second) history of THE SOURCE FOR YOUTH MINISTRY and how it came to be (by accident, actually). Then we chatted about churches reaching beyond their church walls… then I answered the following questions:

  – What is the best thing student groups can do to have return visitors?

  – If you only had one lesson left to teach a group of students, what would you teach and why?

  – What are some of the best ways to gain the trust of new unchurched students?

  – In your book “Connect” you talk a lot about getting to know kids on a one-on-one basis. Do you believe it’s possible to become so connected with students that they see you more as a peer and you lose your influence in their lives?

  – How can we equip and train our youth to witness and share the gospel with nonbelievers in their everyday lives?

You can listen to the podcast here on the Students and Culture website, or if you would prefer to just read the highlights, here’s a snippet of what I answered to those questions:

Jason – OK asked:
-What is the best thing student groups can do to have return visitors?

First- this question assumes that people are actually visiting! An aside… I think we need to be proactive to think of outreach as reaching more than those who actually DO show up. But yes, let’s definitely try to KEEP the ones that actually DO show up.

Last year a church brought me in to train their student leaders, but I first got an opportunity to attend their morning youth service. The first thing I did was simply sit in the back of the room and observe. I especially paid attention to “the door.” I tell youth workers this all the time. If you ever get a chance to just take a week where you can just sit in the back and watch the door– you’ll learn a lot. It’s fun to watch kids come in and look around. You can almost see what they’re thinking. “Where do I go? Are any of my friends here?” Sometimes, after a moments hesitation, you’ll actually see kids turn around a leave.”

What are we doing to make people think, “I belong!” I’m welcome here. I’m safe.

In my new book MINISTRY BY TEENAGERS, David gives an example of a youth ministry that decided to be proactive about making new kids feel like they belong. They did this with colored name tags, of all thing…  our book is full of ideas to do just that.

Noah – KY
– If you only had one lesson left to teach a group of students, what would you teach and why?

It depends on the students I’m talking to. I know that might sound like a copout answer, but I just need to at least know who I’m talking to. For example, am I speaking to a bunch of unchurched kids on campus? Or am I speaking at a Christian camp?

ON CAMPUS- I think I’d give them a talk that basically address the feeling we all get when we’ve tried to find fulfillment in all the temporary thrills of life, and when they don’t work, we finally proclaim, “There’s gotta be more than this!!” Basically, I speak to them about the unfulfilling temporary vs. the permanent love of God that comes through knowing Jesus Christ in a personal relationship.That passage so accurately describes the lies of this world, “lies that sound like the truth.”

AT A CAMP- I’d probably talk about the importance of letting God sit in the driver’s seat of our life- and what that actually looks like. I’m speaking in layman’s terms here. This is actually a lesson on how we need to give the Holy Spirit control. How the fruits of the spirit are not things we are to “TRY” to do, but qualities that flow from us when we let the Spirit in our life- when we “let God drive.” When we let him control the radio… you get the idea.

Noah – KY asked a second question:
– What do you see as the biggest deterrent to spiritual growth in today’s teens?

We allow ourselves to be distracted by the world’s lies. In Ephesians, Paul talks about what it will be like when we mature in Christ. He says…

Ephesians 4:14-15 (NLT)
14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.
15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church

We get comfy like David (II Samuel 11) did when he decided to give in to laziness- sleep in while his men were fighting. Give into lust- and turn on late night cable tv- women bathing- great view from the rooftops. Feed those desires- invite her over. Give into adultery. Sleep with her. Give into deception- plan a coverup where it looks like Uriah got her pregnant. And finally… commit murder.

I’ll post the rest of it in my next blog.

You can listen to the entire interview here.

My Mistake- 4 Soul Surfer Myths Debunked

Posted on: 05/2/11 1:07 PM | by Jonathan McKee

I have to apologize about Soul Surfer.

This is actually an unusual apology. Usually when I’m apologizing about Christian films, I’m apologizing for how lame they are (sorry, just keeping it real). With Soul Surfer, that’s the furthest from the truth. I finally saw the film this past weekend with my family, and we all were completely blow away. It was not only truly inspiring, it was just a well done film. Wow.

I have to apologize, because it took me a few weeks to get this review to you. I was invited to a screening before the release, but couldn’t attend. I sent one of my other guys– a great writer and friend. He thought the film was okay, but a little cheesy. After posting his review, I took some heat.

My mistake was not dropping everything and going to see the film for myself on the day of the release. A film like this can be a really important tool for Christian youth workers and parents and the entire Christian community. I should have jumped in and provided my own opinion on the matter (after all, we’re all entitled to our opinions, and they differ).

On April 13th I posted a more positive opinion of the film from Todd Pearage, my main movie review guy. He loved the film and thought it was a great movie to bring kids to.

Todd wasn’t alone. The film is still in the top 10 at the box office (#7 this past weekend, only beat out by newer releases) and has more than made its money back. Let me tell you, audiences vote with their wallets, and they’re still voting “yes” in regards to Soul Surfer.

So finally, this past weekend, I grabbed my family and said, “Let’s go see this film.”

I’ll be honest. My kids weren’t that excited to go see it. My 17-year-old son even asked, “Do we have to?”

2 hours later, we were amazed. My whole family thoroughly enjoyed it. None of us regretted seeing it. Truly, a pleasant surprise.

Let me address a few myths about this film- opinions you shouldn’t believe:

MYTH 1: “It’s cheesy.” Sorry, don’t believe the hype. Soul Surfer isn’t anything close to cheesy. The producers actually paid for great talent and used an experienced director that did the film justice. More about that in my review of the film that I just posted today.

MYTH 2: “Lame effects.” I had heard that some of the digital effects looked fake. What effects? Honestly. I was looking out for bad effects, some of the ones my friend Matt Furby had mentioned (AnnaSophia Robb’s face digitally added to another surfer’s body), and I didn’t see anything noticeable. You want to see a bad digital effect of that type, go to one of the greatest digital effects films of the last 20 years, Titanic and look at Kate Winslet’s face as she’s running down the hallway of the ship flooded with water. That was a bad superimposed effect (and I still loved the movie). I didn’t see any effects even close to as bad as that in Soul Surfer.

MYTH 3: “Bad acting.” Nope. Not this film. The lead roles were all played by seasoned actors, and the bit parts were quality as well. Some of the guy surfers talked a little bit robotic… but I asked my kids if they thought those guys were bad actors, and they said, “Dad, they’re surfers. They sound like that!”

MYTH 4: “Gratuitous Bikini Shots.” Sorry. I’ve read numerous blogs and opinions talking about how inappropriate it was to show these girls in bikinis. First, consider the source. That being said, listen to my opinion. The film was very tasteful. Yes, there were bikinis. Yes, Bethany wears bikinis in real life. But the shots were tasteful. Hollywood has provided plenty of films with mere “eye-candy” as a selling point. For example, the surfing movie Blue Crush, a film full of “eye-candy” and sexual situations (I actually refer to that movie in this youth ministry programming article, “How to Make Your Movie Night Flop“). Soul Surfer is miles from this. And realize, my opinion is that of a father of two teenage daughters. I don’t let them wear two-piece swimsuits at school, at youth group, around any other teenage crowds. I do let them wear them with their other girl friends at my parents’ pool (when no guys are around to gawk). I’m also the guy who writes articles about the sexualization of young girls and how our society is over-sexualized. Soul Surfer isn’t even close.

So let me go on the record. Soul Surfer was amazing. If you haven’t seen it– do. It’s so worth it. That’s probably why it’s making more than its money back in the box office (which speaks loudly for a Christian film). I’m going to be buying this film when it’s released on BluRay.

Check out my detailed review of the film on our MOVIE REVIEWS & QUICK Q’s page HERE!