Hiking in the Sierras

Posted on: 07/30/11 2:58 PM | by Jonathan McKee

This week Lori, myself, my two girls and their friend Trevor went hiking in the Sierra mountains. (Anyone recognize that backpack on Trevor’s back?)

I live in a suburb of Sacramento. If you looked at Sacramento on a topographical map, you’d see that we are in the huge valley that runs in the middle of California. We sit right at the foot of the Sierra mountains. I can be at Lake Tahoe in about 90 minutes if I go East (and I can be in San Francisco if I go 90 minutes west).

One of great things about Sacramento is being so close to good skiing, hiking, fishing, etc. My family likes hiking, backpacking, etc., so Wednesday we decided to go on a little 6 or 7 mile hike.

My son Alec was working, so we took the girls and they invited their friend Trevor. (You’ve seen pictures of Trevor before. He’s a good family friend and the same young buck that took Alyssa to homecoming last year. Nice kid!) We drove about an hour to the base of the trail, and after the girls made fun of Lori and my hiking shoes (yes, they even had to take a picture of how goofy our legs looked), we set off on the trail.

I love hiking with the kids because there’s no distractions, no TV, no video games, no iPods (yes, they could bring some… but we don’t do electronics on hike days), just conversation.

We found a nice little lake and the three kids ended up swimming for a while, then drying out in the sun for the hike home. Pretty cool experience swimming in a lake that’s not accessible to anyone that’s no willing to hike at least three miles, climbing 1200 feet of elevation.

On the way home Lori suggested In and Out Burger… another great thing about California!

Good day!

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Balancing Family and Ministry

Posted on: 07/28/11 8:22 PM | by Jonathan McKee

I remember when my wife had enough. The kids were young, I was working 70 hours a week running ministry out of our house, teenagers were over all the time, volunteers were always visiting… and my wife Lori was getting ignored.

One day she just picked up the kids and headed for the door.

I wrote about this event long ago (click here for that article) and reflected on it many times. I was able to “talk her down.” Lori stayed, I made some big changes, and we’ve now been married over 20 years.

I often ask Lori, “Were you really gonna leave me?” She answers me candidly. “I don’t know what I was gonna do. I was just tired of raising the kids alone and seeing you in passing, three minutes at a time.”

The crazy thing was, I really didn’t know better. As a young 20-something with a heart for ministry I made a huge mistake that many young ministers do– I made my ministry a higher priority than my marriage. I justified it, considering it all as a sacrifice we needed to be willing to take.

I was dead wrong.

Sadly, many of us don’t know any better because we’ve never been taught anything different. Take it from me. I learned through the school of hard knocks.

I’m not alone. I hear overworked ministers sharing the same stories again and again. Their families are being neglected, all in God’s name.

One of my friends who felt this pain is author and youth ministry guru Tim Schmoyer. Tim has been there, in the trenches, trying to balance family and ministry. Now, Tim and his wife have felt a calling to minister to youth workers who are feeling this struggle. That’s why the two of them have developed a website called MinistryFamily.com

I’ve been eagerly awaiting this website since I first heard Tim talk about it. I think the part I’m most excited about is hearing from Dana, Tim’s wife. Dana is writing articles (like this one, When Churches Want to Be a Higher Priority Than Your Spouse) and sharing real life stories from the perspectives of a youth pastor’s wife. Dana and Tim together are seeking to help ministers make God and family first. Healthy ministry will flow out of those two things.

This is a difficult balance to find. I’ve seen some youth pastors who barely work 30 hour weeks, claiming, “My family is first.” (Newsflash, that’s called laziness)  More than that, I see the opposite extreme– overworked youth workers whose families are standing alone in the sidelines. Tim and Dana’s new website is a place to help youth workers find that balance.

Be sure and give it a peek at www.MinistryFamily.com …and if you like what you see, forward it to a friend.

Increase in Alcohol Use by Girls

Posted on: 07/28/11 12:53 AM | by Jonathan McKee

A few weeks ago a parent pulled me aside after one of my parent workshops asking me for advice. She began telling me about her daughter’s drinking problem. Her daughter was 16-years-old and attended a local Christian school.

Sadly, this parent isn’t alone.

David wrote about this phenomena in this week’s Youth Culture Window article on our website: Liquor and Lip Gloss. Here’s just a snippet:

It’s been hypothesized for a few years that girls now drink more alcohol than guys, and for more serious reasons, as well. These findings from The Partnership for a Drug Free America hint at an increase in alcohol use by girls over the past decade that’s been slow, but steady. The result is that the number of middle school and high school girls who say they drink sits at 59% while boys continue to hover around the 52% mark. (Equally important was the research team’s discovery that girls are more likely than guys to drink and use drugs as a way to avoid problems and relieve stress.)

But now, the latest studies on “binge-drinking” by teens make the situation even more serious…

This article was eye-opening. CLICK HERE for the entire article.

Alcohol is just one area where parents are becoming lackadaisical, hoping and assuming that their kids aren’t making bad choices. Meanwhile, young people are hearing from every other source that drinking is not only okay, but it’s fun, and usually involves no regrets (As Katy Perry put it in her hit song Last Friday Night, “I’m pretty sure it ruled!” More on that song HERE). Interesting… when I talk with parents inside and outside of the church, most of them don’t have a clue that their kids are listening to songs like this either.

Let me share some good news. I’ve done the research, and the research is clear: parents that are present in their kids lives can make a huge difference. I talk about this more in this article on StudentMinistry.org where I guest blogged this week… the article was called, When Parents Don’t Have a Clue. I encourage you to take a peek.

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Why Captain America is a Better Hero

Posted on: 07/25/11 9:46 PM | by Jonathan McKee

As I sit and type this, my 13-year-old is with her friends at the movie theaters. I don’t blame her– movies are a fun choice on 90+ degree summer days. Summer movies are almost a rite of passage for some teenagers. Sadly, there isn’t always a good selection of appropriate movies available.

If Transformers III is any indication of what kids are supposed to watch these days, then we’re all in trouble (my rant about that film here). Sex, eye-candy, bad-attitude and crude humor are commonplace for most films today.

Well, don’t be discouraged, a new hero has emerged in a film that is much more about internal character than muscles and moves! I’m talking about the newly released, Captain America, with Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving and more.

The following email was in my inbox this morning:

I know it JUST came out, but have you had time to review “Captain America” yet? I’d planned to do a “guys night out to the movies” with my middle school and high school boys and their dads. I’d like to see Captain America. BUT not if it is not a “good” idea. Just wondering your take on the movie. -Jeff Smith, Wilson, NC

My answer to Jeff is an enthusiastic, “Yes, take them to see it!”

Lori and I took my 18-year-old son Alec and his girlfriend to see it on opening night and we were NOT disappointed one bit. The film was not only entertaining, it was wholesome and fun for the entire family (unlike Transformers III).

Many of you have seen the preview for Captain America (I won’t give anything away that the preview doesn’t), where we see a small, physically weak guy who really wants to serve his country, but keeps being rejected because of his size. The movie asks great questions: what kind of soldiers do we want? What is more important, brawn or bravery… internal or external?

In one scene, the professor in charge of the whole “Captain America” experiment was talking with Captain America and he told him, “Promise me that you will stay who you are. Not a perfect soldier but a perfect man.” It was really amazing to see these kind of values on the big screen. I was waiting for someone to quote I Samuel 16:7, “People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

The film providing some really touching moments in addition to all the action. We all were thoroughly entertained from the first minute.

I gotta admit. Most of these hero films in the “Avengers” series have been pretty good. I look forward to next summer when we’re going to see all the characters together (Hulk, Ironman, Thor and Captain America). NOTE: If you go see the film, make sure you wait through the credits for a little “Easter egg.”

We’ll post our official review of Captain America on our MOVIE REVIEWS & QUICK Q’s page today with some discussion questions you can ask, using I Samuel 16:7.

This is a great film to watch with your family or youth group and discuss afterwards over ice cream!

Top 10 Words/Phrases You Don’t Want to Use Anymore

Posted on: 07/21/11 1:58 PM | by Jonathan McKee

I recently heard a pastor tell his congregation, “God wants us to be a tool.” The high school kids sitting in front of me exploded in laughter.
Allow me to quote the great Inigo Montoya (“Princess Bride”). “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
It’s hard to keep up with the slang and talk that young people use today. Just when we think we’re beginning to understand them, they start using brand new words, and the vocabulary we use becomes “so yesterday.”
I probably won’t be the first person to tell you that you shouldn’t feel the pressure to try to be current and sound like someone you’re not (This is something I talked about in my discussion starter book, What’s a Fo’ Sheezy?), but at the same time, it might be good to at least familiarize yourself with current slang enough to know what NOT to say. An obvious example would be a little over a decade ago when we first realized that we shouldn’t tell our kids to “be sure and wear their thongs” around the pool because we were worried about them getting athlete’s foot.
Here’s 10 phrases we might want to kill from our vocabulary permanently because of the chuckles they’ll bring from this generation.
I just want to be a tool!
You probably should avoid this nice little metaphor from now on. A “tool” is basically a slang term for the male genitals. So when we might want to communicate to our kids that we can be an instrument used by God, don’t tell them that you want to be a guy’s junk. That brings up another word…
I remember the good ol’ days when the word “junk” meant trash. Now it usually refers to a guy’s “package.” Guys will commonly be heard referring to their “junk.” For instance, if they got hit with a dodge ball between the legs, they’ll say, “You hit me in the junk!” This phrase seems most common when talking about male genitals, but even Kesha in her hit song Tik Tokrefers to guys trying to touch her “junk.” Years prior you would hear the term “junk in the trunk” referring to someone with a big booty. Some would argue that in certain contexts, junk still means booty. But most often, it’s around the corner from there. (I wonder what lies in the future for junkyards?)

My friend and I hooked up after dinner.
No you didn’t. You “hung out” together. You “kicked it” over at his place. You didn’t “hook up” with him, unless you had some sort of casual sexual encounter with no strings attached. Stop saying “hook up” unless you’re a member of the Jersey Shore cast.
No, this doesn’t just stand for “For The Win” anymore. Kids know this to mean, F*** The World (probably some credit should be given to Lil Wayne for the popularity of this phrase). This acronym isn’t as well knows as FML (made popular by this website), but it is known in many circles. My buddy Dan Manns, a youth worker in NY, recently had a bad experience with this one.

 “We were playing a game and I said the winning team’s name followed by the phrase ‘FTW’ which I had always associated with ‘For The Win.’ However, after saying that phrase the room went hush and there was a noticeable pallor that set in the faces of many of the students and leaders—the whole atmosphere had changed once I said that. I noticed this and quickly added “For the Win” hoping that I didn’t say anything too offensive. It was too late…”

It wouldn’t kill ya to eliminate “For the Win” from your vocabulary.

That’s gay
Sadly, this term was commonplace in previous decades; I wish the term were totally extinct. It’s not. I still hear kids (and even some adults) frequent the term. This term is just insensitive. If you ever want to completely close the doors to having a positive influence in the life of someone experimenting with same-sex relationships… just use terms like this. If by chance this term is floating around in your vocabulary, hit the delete button on this one.

Hit that
Guys commonly will check out a girl and say, “Oh, I’d like to hit that,” stating a desire to have sex with her. Consequently, the word “hit” has been corrupted. As much as I know this, I commonly forget and mess this one up. Literally yesterday I was picking up my daughters from youth group. As I was leaving, their friend Jeffrey jumped in front of my car. He innocently turned his backside toward my headlights, laughing and daring me to hit him. My 13-year-old said, “You should have hit him right in the butt, Dad!” Before thinking, I rolled down the window and yelled, “I really wanted to hit that!” Awkward.

Tap that
“Tap that” has the exact same meaning as “hit that.” Similarly, it has corrupted most uses of the word “tap.” How many times have you sat in a meeting where someone says, “Now we need to start tapping into that resource”? Maybe that doesn’t sound so bad, but soon people start talking about resources we’d like to tap into. In my last book, I tried to explain to the editor why we couldn’t keep a sentence that said, “She had resources that everyone wanted to tap.” Sigh.

I’ll go down
Please don’t. People used to “go down” in history, or “go down” in flames. If someone held a record for most homeruns they might have “gone down” as having the best record. Now days, you don’t want to announce “going down.” For most young people, “going down” brings oral sex to mind. My buddy Jason used the term with a friend when they risked grabbing some Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups from his mom’s kitchen. Knowing he might get in trouble, Jason said, “I’m willing to go down for those.” Let’s just say that Jason had some explaining to do.

That’s what she said
Sometimes you’ll find yourself verifying what someone said in everyday conversation. When you do, you probably would avoid some chuckles if you steered clear of the phrase, “that’s what she said.” When I worked construction years ago, this was the joke frequently used by anyone who wasn’t creative enough to use actual humor. The phrase hasn’t gone away, maybe because of people like Steve Carell who are keeping the joke alive, or maybe just because the world is full of people that are really trying hard to be funny.

I don’t care if your mom bought a new bike rack, cooked a rack of lamb, or prepared the yummiest rack of ribs you’ve ever tasted… don’t compliment her on her rack. Look it up.


Partner– sure, it might be common in the business world, but today it means so much more!

Oral Oral reports, oral exams. Sure, they’re common. But be careful when saying, “Today she’ll do the written; tomorrow she’ll do the oral.”

Back door– Not a good idea to put this on a flier. You never want to tell kids to go in the back door, enter through the rear… enough said.

Anything that rhymes with “eezy” or “izzle”- Snoop Dog can still get away with this… but you can’t. Stop it.

WHAT ABOUT YOU? What words/phrases did we miss? Jump on and comment- let us in on the verbal catastrophes you’ve experienced.

HT to my friends David Smith, Daniel Manns, Jason Talley and Adam Wormann

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Yelling Works... Temporarily

Posted on: 07/20/11 11:00 AM | by Jonathan McKee

If you aren’t a regular visitor of our TheSource4Parents.com page, then you might have not noticed a candid little article I just wrote in the WEEKLY PARENTING HELP box on the front page. Several times a month we add a new article to our front page with exactly what the title says, “Parenting Help.” (If “weekly” isn’t enough, then you’ll notice that we have an entire page of PARENTING HELP easily accessible from the ARTICLES, HELP & ADVICE dropdown menu at the top of the page.)

So, this week, the page features a brand new article of mine titled, Yelling Works… Temporarily.

Here’s a snippet:  (or jump to the actual article and share it, like it, rate it, or add a comment)

My daughters were monsters this weekend!

No, not Lady Gaga fans (Gaga calls her fans her “little monsters”), but literal monsters! My daughters we grumpy, mean and at each other’s throats every second.

We tried to intervene but it did no good.

“Ashley, please stop talking to your sister that way.”

“Don’t talk to me, talk with Alyssa, she’s the one being the jerk!”

This, of course, catalyzed a retort from Alyssa. “Who’s the idiot that just borrowed my shirt without asking for the 10th time!”

Nothing was working. They were on a rampage.

The question is always, how to respond. As a guy with an Irish temper, I always have to be careful. The easy route is to simply raise my voice to a painful volume and yell, “That’s it! Shut up right now or you’re both gonna be doing yardwork until midnight!”

It works, mind you. They actually will be quiet when I do that. But yelling is a temporary fix if you think about it. It gets you what you want for the moment. When I yell, my girls know I’ve had enough. They know I’m serious. They don’t want to poke Papa-Bear at this point. But unfortunately, yelling is just a short-term solution. Within a minute several things happen:

  • My girls are both mad at me for yelling at them.
  • I’m feeling guilty.
  • They don’t even see their own inappropriate behavior anymore because they are too busy focusing on my angry outburst.

Oh yeah… yelling has one other cancerous result: my wife is now disappointed in me! (Is there anything worse? Not in my house. Disappointment is the ultimate punishment. I’d take “anger” any day.)

Maybe that’s just me. Perhaps no one else is ever tempted to just bark out a fatal, “shut up!!” at times. But for those of you who, like me, struggle with how to respond to hormonal teenage girls on rampage, I’m slowly learning a few truths…


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Video Interview About Student Leadership

Posted on: 07/18/11 2:01 PM | by Jonathan McKee

A month or so ago I was interviewed by a pretty tech-savy young youth worker named Robbie Mackenzie– a fun conversation. Robbie had read my book, Ministry by Teenagers, and had some questions about developing teenagers who want to grow and serve. He interviewed me via Skype (pretty cool), asking me about teenagers doing ministry, growing in their faith, and what that actually looks like.

Here’s a few of his questions: 

  1. Why do we even need teenage leadership?
  2. What are some snares that Satan throws at student leaders?
  3. Training is so important. How do you do that with teenagers?
  4. What are some other resources that can help youth leaders out when it comes to helping kids grow in their faith and start doing ministry?
  5. Let’s say I’m a newbie at youth ministry and I don’t know what to do at all. What one thing would you tell them?

Here’s the video. (By the end of the video, are you as intrigued as I am watching my hyperactive foot? Wow!!!)

Which Title Do You Like?

Posted on: 07/16/11 9:42 AM | by Jonathan McKee

I want your opinion!

(Okay… I know this is a Saturday, but I figure that some of you can chime in on Monday when you get around to it.)

I’m working on the script for a DVD curriculum for YS/Zondervan. It’s a video training that will be sort of a student version of my Do They Run When They See You Coming? book that won the outreach award a few years back. Basically, training young people to reach out to their friends without scaring them away. Evangelism 101 for students, if you will.

I’m brainstorming titles and wondered what you thought. First thought was to keep the Do They Run When They See You Coming? title. But I didn’t think that students would necessarily identify with that. Plus, this curriculum will have a student book that comes along with it and I don’t want it to be something that they’d be embarrassed to have on their desk at school, etc.

So here’s a couple thoughts. I’m really favoring the main title THE REASON. I’m picturing a book where in faded print you could see part of the theme verse, I Peter 3:15 and 16, with the words “the reason” standing out. 

Maybe something like this:  (this is just my quick mock up- I’m sure it would look much better)

But with all books, we need to consider several titles. So here’s some thoughts. Which do you like? Or any other ideas?

The Reason
Give the Reason
As You Are Going… (using the Great Commission theme)
Teenagers Reaching Teenagers

Reaching Out to Your Friends without Scaring ‘Em Away
Reaching Out to Your Friends without Scaring ‘Em
An Authentic Faith Opening Doors to Authentic Conversations
Sharing Hope with Your Friends without Scaring ‘Em

Thoughts??? I’d love your feedback so I can pass it on to the marketing team. Use this blog’s COMMENT feature so we all can read your thoughts.

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10 Lessons I Learned on My Family Vacation

Posted on: 07/14/11 10:05 AM | by Jonathan McKee

As you know from my previous blog entry, last Sunday morning I loaded up the whole family and headed to Southern California for my son’s registration/orientation for college, and for a short little family vacation.

It was on this trip that I learned a few shreds of wisdom that I’ll pass on to you.


1. Free hotel breakfasts are often exactly what you would expect for that price. Does anyone actually know what egg supplement is? And how many hours can a piece of sausage really survive in a chafing dish?

2. DVR’s rule! One night, after a fun day at the ocean, our family sat down and clicked on the TV in the hotel. We never watch live TV at home– we always use a DVR so we can forward through commercials. Well, in the hotel we watched about 30 minutes of America’s Got Talent. The show wasn’t bad, but… WOW! Commercials are sooooooooooo lame! How do people watch live TV?

3. There is no such thing as an atheist surfer. Playing in the waves, I was once again amazed at the awesome power of the ocean (and this wasn’t even a storm. These were just normal day to day waves). I went out in the waves at Huntington beach, boogie boarding and body surfing for about 2 hours with my kids. We got literally TOSSED, SLAMMED and DRAGGED by the waves. A couple times I saw one coming in and thought, “I got this!” Then the wave slapped me to the ground and dragged me through the sand like I was a rag doll. Which leads me to lesson number 4…

4. When showering and cleaning up after your ocean experience, you will discover sand in the most bizarre places. Enough said.

5. Family trips catalyst sibling friendships. As Lori and I sat on the side of one of the hotel pools, we watched our three kids actually play together in the pool. With no other friends to hang out with, our three kids leaned on each other, laughing together and playing together. It was really fun to watch as a parent. Sure there were little squabbles throughout the trip, but by enlarge, they really bonded with each other on this trip.

6. Don’t feed your kids a huge nacho platter before a long car ride.

7. Fourteen hours at Disneyland is like running a marathon. I’ve run a couple marathons, and now I’ve spent 14 hours at Disneyland. I’m trying to resolve in my mind which is more tiring. Hmmmmmm…. I’m still thinking!!!

8. ASIMO just points to creation. ASIMO is a robot that Honda is developing- an amazing little robot that can walk up and down stairs, turn, run 4 miles an hour, etc. Pretty cool little multimillion-dollar gadget that they displayed in Tomorrowland at Disneyland. But as we watched the ASIMO demonstration of this “the world’s most advanced humanoid robot,” I just couldn’t help but admire God’s creation. It was such an amazing contrast. Here it is 2011. Humans have had thousands of years to give it a shot and they are pretty excited about this robot that can “walk” and “run.” (Oooooooo, wow!)  But my 100 pound dog would barge in the door and knock that robot on its butt in 2 seconds flat. Give scientist another 10 years and they’ll try to fix that too. The more I watched their demonstration, the more I was impressed with God’s design of us!

9. I’m 41, and Space Mountain is still cool!

10. Vacations are fun, but somehow home always feels better.

Back to work…

Registering Alec

Posted on: 07/9/11 3:18 PM | by Jonathan McKee

It’s official. I’m old.

This weekend we go down to Southern California and officially register my 18-year-old son for college, pay our first payment (Mama Mia!!!), watch him pick his classes, etc.

I’ve only got a little more than a month left with my boy at home! (Sniff, sniff) My talk about this process is slowly becoming a reality.

Many of you have been hearing tidbits over the years from me about Alec and his quest for a college. You might remember literally almost 2 years ago when Alec and I looked at several Christian colleges 300 miles south of our home. Since then he’s been on several speaking trips with me (one where he took the stage and talked to young people about Bullying), another trip looking at schools… and last year he finally made up his mind.

So Monday we’ll be at Vanguard University for registration and orientation. Then near the end of August he’ll be driving down there to start school.

I’m looking forward to this little family trip. All five of us are going, then we’re gonna visit Mickey and Goofy, hit the beach… have a little family time. My girls really enjoyed visiting the schools last time (we visited Westmont, Biola, Vanguard and more). It really started them thinking about their future. We’ve had some good conversations since then.

Pray for our travel… and that Alyssa doesn’t barf on Space Mountain!

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