Should Ashley Download Pumped Up Kicks?

Posted on: 09/30/11 9:00 AM | by Jonathan McKee

My 14-year-old daughter Ashley wants to download the popular song Pumped Up Kicks. Okay, you’ve heard me repeated tell you my two cents on plenty of music. This time let’s change it up. You tell me… should I let her download it?

The other day my wife and I were shoe shopping (Lori loves shoes… and I love Lori) and we heard the song come on in the store. Lori said, “I really like this song. I keep hearing it everywhere I go. It has a great sound!”

I laughed and agreed. “It is really catchy.” But then I asked her, “Do you know what it’s saying?”

She looked at me with an expression of, “Oh no… is this one of those bad songs too?”

Sometimes it’s not fun being the guy who’s always researching the content of the top music, TV shows and movies teenagers are watching. Especially with songs like this. At times I feel like a teenager and want to just say, “I don’t listen to the lyrics!”

Lori had never heard all the lyrics. She told me, “Isn’t this just about some kids with “pumped up kicks?”

I told her… “Keep listening.”

She tried for like 5 seconds and couldn’t make out the words.

I gave her a line or two:

Yeah, he found a six shooter gun.
In his dad’s closet hidden in a box of fun things, and I don’t even know what.
But he’s coming for you, yeah he’s coming for you.

[Chorus x2:]
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks you’d better run, better run, outrun my gun.
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks you’d better run, better run, faster than my bullet.

I did a little research on the song because parents have been asking me about the song’s meaning at my workshops lately. The song is basically about a kid who has had enough, he grabs a gun out of his dad’s closet and goes on a shooting rampage trying to shoot the kids with the “pumped up kicks” (really nice shoes, possibly the rich popular kids that bullied him).

Mark foster, the band’s front man, in a radio interview said “I was trying to get inside the head of an isolated, psychotic kid.” Foster claimed “the lyrics were written to bring awareness to the issue of gun violence amongst youth.”

I’m sure songs like this help “bring awareness” Mark. Thanks!

So soon enough Ashley asked me, “Dad, can I download Pumped up Kicks.”

Here’s where all my teaching has real world application in my life. Chapter Six of my parenting book is actually titled, “Dad, Can I Download This Song.” It’s something I hear in my house almost weekly.

In this case I asked Ashley, “Did you read the lyrics?”

“Yeah, I didn’t understand them.” Then she cut to the chase, as Ashley always does. “So can I have it?”

I tried to give her a little bit of information for her decision-making. “Well, the song is about a young man who has had enough and decided to gun down all the other kids that have possibly bullied him or think they’re better than him.” Then I did one of my favorite parenting moves. I returned the question to her. “So… do you think you should listen to that over and over again?

“But Dad, I’m not going to shoot everyone. I just like the song!”

So what do you think. Should Ashley be able to download Pumped Up Kicks?

Now is the Time

Posted on: 09/28/11 9:48 AM | by Jonathan McKee

A couple times a year I like to offer some ridiculous deals on my books. Now is that time.

I like to offer deals that cater to current needs. It’s funny to observe how different resources are used during different times of the year. For example… right now I’m seeing a bunch of youth pastors ordering my Connect book in bulk for each of their leaders (especially since I provide a free ppt and a free training video that go along with the book so they can use it as a training tool to equip their leaders to connect with teenagers). I’m also seeing a lot of parents buying my Candid Confessions book in bulk for their small groups or “care groups” (probably because each chapter provides small group questions at the end so “cell groups” can discuss what they read at a weekly gathering).

So it seems that now is the time to stock up on these bulk items. So here’s what I’m gonna do:

  • I already offer the lowest prices on my books on the net. 30% to 40% off all my books when you buy them on my site.
  • You already can save even more money when you buy my books as package deals (we offer six packs of each book on my site and a “youth workers 7-pack,” a collection of all of my books, saving you a ton).
  • THE ICING ON THE CAKE- right now, I’ll throw in a 7th book with every 6-pack ordered. Just select any of my “6-packs” on our book order page. So if you order 6 of my Connect books… I’ll throw in a 7th for free. If you order 12 of my 10-Minute Talks books (retailed at $24.99 each, they are less than $15 each in my 6-pack)… I’ll throw in two more 10-Minute Talks.

No special code, nothing extra required. We are just throwing in a 7th book with every 6-pack! It’s that simple.

Jump on it. Now is the time to get these books in bulk!


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Lessons on Communication from Juror #2

Posted on: 09/26/11 11:12 AM | by Jonathan McKee

“Did he have the “intent” to sell drugs, beyond reasonable doubt?”

That was the question I had to ponder most of the week last week, then deliberate with 11 other jurors for several hours. I learned several lessons on jury duty last week as Jurur #2, most of them about communication. I’m going to share two important truths about communication, lessons that might help both parents and youth workers trying to communicate with young people. But first let me share a little about this case.

It was an interesting week, emotionally draining as well. Maybe it’s because I really love teenagers, and the jury I sat on was for a case where a young man’s future rested in our hands.

The accused in this case was a young man who was caught with numerous “dime bags” of marijuana, loitering in a know location for drug dealing, thus the charge of “intent to sell.”

The lawyers told us right out of the blocks that the word “intent” was going to be the key to this case. Everything else was cut and dry. He was there, he had the drugs on his person, he had sold there before… the evidence was clear. The question was simply, “Did this kid just buy this stuff, or was he there to sell it?”

“The people” (the young lady who worked at the DA’s office- the one accusing the boy of intent) presented hours upon hours of evidence and testimony attempting to prove that his conduct that evening was that of someone who sells drugs, nothing else. We needed to be convinced “beyond reasonable doubt.”

The “defense” for the young man tried to raise more than “reasonable doubt” by raising questions in our minds. “Could he just have been a buyer?”

This was really tough for us as jurors. The police, the experts and everyone with experience in the matter produced an immaculate case leaving very little doubt that the defendant was there to sell. (Who buys that many bags, then just hangs out there waiting to get busted? I felt like the defense had a good opportunity to raise some doubt in our minds. But she fumbled, big time.

Accordingly, LESSON ONE in communication: Keep your message short!

No, I’m not just talking to youth workers here (I’ve spent numerous blogs talking about the importance of keeping our messages short), I’m also addressing parents. I know that I tend to lectured on and on when my kids get into trouble. Sometimes it’s just more effective to keep it short and memorable.

This defense lawyer had the opportunity to focus her attention on the few facts that could have really helped her case. She could have raised some serious doubt by simply asking, “How do we know that he wasn’t waiting for a ride?” “How do we know he wasn’t buying for all his buddies and going to a party?” She could have focused on the simple facts that would have raised questions in all the jurors’ minds. Instead, she rattled on and on, going through every detail, asking the police experts questions that backfired, only cementing the DA’s case (information that really helped us with our decision actually). Sadly for her client, she was the best advocate for “the people.” Her longwinded presentation didn’t raise questions. It cemented facts and evidence against her client.

How many times have we said something in 30 minutes that we could have said in one sentence?

As a parent I can recall numerous lectures where a simple sentence or two would have sufficed. Skip the long lecture. Try this 10-second response: “So what do you think I should do when you tell me your chores are done and then I discover that they repeatedly aren’t done? That’s what I’d like you to ponder when you are vacuuming the entire house today. Then have an answer for me by the time you’re done, or I can probably think of some other chores that would help stimulate your thinking.”

On several of the days, the defense could have benefitted from mere silence.

And that brings me to LESSON TWO, one I was reminded of once we went to deliberation: People like listeners better than talkers.

I’m a talker. I’ve always been a talker. I have to work hard at not trying to solve everything verbally and at times just… shutting up! I wasn’t alone in this room.

When we went back to the jury room, we didn’t know much about each other. There were ten women and two men, myself included. Within minutes, we quickly discovered that the room was FULL of talkers—people who obviously aren’t given much air time at home and saw this as an opportunity to finally be heard by a captive audience (emphasis on held “captive”)!

The first thing we needed to do was select a foreman. I told them that I had experience running meetings and offered to take the role if no one else would. I did this because I can’t stand chaos, and if our foreman ran a “free for all” meeting, I would have slit my wrists for sure within an hour.

Once they elected me foreman, I began by saying, “Well, would you like to take a quick vote to see where we all stand, or do some of you really want to talk some things out first?” I was thinking for sure that we would vote, but no less than 5 vocal people said, “I need to talk this out.” So I began opening up the table for discussion… and wow! We had some talkers at the table.

After an hour or so of deliberation, I tried to summarize some thoughts of people and address the direction we needed to go. It was then that I realized that I needed to keep my “summaries” and responses short. Simply reading the non-verbal cues of those around the table, I quickly surmised that people liked it better when I asked a simple question then let them talk.

This was a little weird for me. I do a lot of workshops where “I have the floor.” People want to know what I have to say.

Not in this room.

Listening had to trump talking, big time! People prefer talking than listening.

The same is always true when we talk with our kids. A few well placed questions always go further than a lecture. (Kind of cool that we have a collection of great conversation-starting questions that we collected from all of you in this blog last week.)

After much deliberation, we found the young man guilty. It was a tough decision, one I really struggled with, but I think it was the correct one. We truly found the evidence to be beyond reasonable doubt.

I’ve thought of the young man daily since Thursday when he was convicted. I continue to pray for him.

Conversation Starter WINNERS

Posted on: 09/22/11 9:46 PM | by Jonathan McKee

This week we had a resourceful little contest that truly made us all winners, because not only am I giving away cool prizes to 10 different people, but all of us now get the benefit of a page full of great ideas for conversation starters! Check them all out. Really good stuff. Thank you all for participating (over 100 comments).

I’m tired (a week at jury duty- finished today, sentencing a young man to prison. So sad. I’m truly emotionally drained), so I won’t delay. Let’s get right to the winners.

I had my team at THE SOURCE look at all 100+ comments and each send me their favorites. It’s funny how many of us chose the exact same ones. In all honesty, 8 out of 10 of these winners were chosen by at least three people alike on our team (all youth workers and parents who regularly are conversating with kids).

Here’s the winners, some comments by me, followed by some instructions for each winner to claim their prizes.


To start us off, I have to go straight to Kerri S who asked (count em’) four amazingly insightful questions. We could really give her four prizes… but that would be lame for everyone else. So we’ll just give her one and give nine other people prizes!  🙂

One of her questions was literally picked by my entire team. That was:

  • If you could go back in time and tell yourself one thing before you started high school, what would it be?

Awesome question Kerri. Myself and my team also loved her other three questions:

  • If you could change one thing about your high school, what would it be
  • What do you think is one of the biggest misconceptions people have about teenagers?
  • Complete the statement- My life would be better if…

The rest of the winners:

Jeremy Smith asked a great question, chosen by most of my team: Is there anything you would willingly give your life for?

Chelsea asked: You have to eat the exact same meal for the next 12 months. What do you pick?

Mike asked: What’s the best birthday present you could ever imagine receiving, and who would you want to receive it from?

Michelle asked: If you could know the date of your death, would you want to?

There were several questions that talked about do-overs (if you could change one thing this week, today, this year, in your life…). Matt Pilla was the first to ask it, so we’re giving him the prize. He asked: If you could go back and change one thing about this week, what would it be?

Jason England asked: You’ve just sat down to use the restroom when you notice there is no toilet paper. What do you use and why? Gross, but hilarious.

Carl Eliason asked: If you were stuck in an elevator for 24 hours with one person, who would you like that person to be? Great question. Much like the desert island scenario.

Beaty Bass asked a million questions… and what do you know, one of them was chosen by several of my team: What was the last thing you cried about? Great question (My wife loved that one. She said it would have been a great one for her small group of girls). Your perseverance was worth it Beaty!!!

And finally, Kevin Hand asked an oldy but goody that still works really well with young people: If you were stranded on a desert island and you could take 3 items, what items would you take and why?

Okay… for the 10 winners… here’s how you claim your prize. Follow instructions carefully:

1. Use the CONTACT US button at the top of this blog to email me.

2. Give me your full name, the same email address you entered when you entered your comment, and the question you asked (so I can identify you).

3. Tell me the NAME and full ADDRESS where you want your prize mailed to (we’ll send it via USPS).

4. Tell me which prize you prefer, the BluRay or the book (and which book, Connect, or Candid Confessions…) The first to email will get the prize they request…first come, first serve.

That’s it! Thanks again for participating!

Parental Overreactions

Posted on: 09/21/11 10:46 AM | by Jonathan McKee

How should parents respond when they realize that their kids are absorbing a steady dose of inappropriate media?

It’s like this. Parents stumble upon their teenager’s iPod or discover a ticket stub, quickly realizing that Chris and Natalie aren’t showing good media discernment. Sometimes it happens when parents read an article or attend a seminar, finally reviewing the lyrics of certain artists or catching a glimpse of a TV show’s content.The natural reaction? Overreaction.

I see it happen every time I do my parenting workshop. Parents wanna go home and solve everything that night!

I don’t blame them. When parents get a peek into the content behind much of today’s pop-youth-culture, it can be distressing. I spend the first chunk of my workshop unveiling the messages that kids are absorbing from today’s pop-youth-culture. Funny… before my workshop parents always tell me, “I have a pretty good idea what my kids are seeing and hearing.” Then, in my workshop I not only show them a quick tour of the weeks’ top music charts and some of the most popular TV shows that young people watch, I also show them research showing how media is actually affecting young people today. Parents always approach me afterwards saying, “I had no idea!”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to convey that all teenagers have Lil Wayne, Katy Perry or Gaga in their “most recently played” list on their iPod. I’m just saying that today most of our kids, public schooled, home-schooled and everything in between, will at least stumble across inappropriate media content. Have we as parents prepared our kids how to respond?

The question I always propose to parents about halfway through my workshop is, “So what do we do now? How can we not only set appropriate guidelines, but teach our kids discernment, building eternal values in this temporary-thrill world?”

The first piece of advice I give parents is, “Don’t over-react.”

Tendency after one of these parenting seminars is to go home, rip every cord out of the wall, cancel cable, throw computers out windows… not a good response. Our kids will not only hate us, they’ll think we’re insane.

I propose this: Pray for one week before you respond.

I’ll be honest. Parents hate this.

I was in a workshop in Texas and an overwhelmed mom candidly asked me, “After you showed us all of that, you expect us to just sit and wait a week while our kids go and watch all of that?!!”

The audience looked at me like, Yeah! What now Mr. Parent advice guy!!!

She went on. “So when we finish dinner and all my kids go to their separate rooms to watch all those shows and listen to all that music while I do dishes… I’m supposed to just let them?”

Interesting, because this mom’s question shows us an accurate glimpse into so many American homes today:

  • Parent doing dishes while kids sit on their butts
  • TV’s and media in every bedroom
  • Kids watching whatever they want, unsupervised

So I encouraged this mom.

  • How about you have the kids help you with the dishes. Do them together and talk while you work.
  • You mentioned TV’s in bedrooms. After one week, get rid of media in the bedrooms. Almost every medical journal that writes about this subject matter recommends no TV in teenagers’ bedrooms (and that’s not just Focus on the Family, that’s secular pediatricians)
  • When you finish doing the dishes with your kids, as you’re literally drying your hands, ask your kids, “So what are we going to watch?” And go watch TV with them. Most medical experts also recommend that parents “co-view” media with their kids. Then they can dialogue about what they watch.

This mom laughed and said, “Then they won’t want to watch it.”

I responded, “That’s wouldn’t be such a bad conclusion, would it?”

Waiting for a week isn’t that difficult. Use this week to gather information. Read every article you can on the subject. Our website offers a goldmine of free articles and parenting helps. My blog subscribers get a steady dose of research and insight into the world of parenting. Parenting books can provide a ton of help in this arena. In my book, Candid Confessions of an Imperfect Parent, I spend the entire chapter 6 (titled, Dad, Can I Download This Song?) talking about how to talk with your kids about their media choices, using scripture to support your stand.

I love hearing from parents who take my challenge, waiting a week. Here’s an email I just received from a parent who attended a workshop I taught last Sunday:

Thank you very much for enlightening me on what my girls are up against.  And yes you are correct my husband and I, our first response was to go home and rip out everything, but we didn’t.  We are taking your wise advise to pray for a week about what actions to take and I want most of all to respect her independence and yet protect her from the evil schemes the devil would like so much to take them down.  I mistakenly have allowed her to have more independence, but now I see how I rather need to be instilling and directing her as to what guidelines and boundaries we really need to have together with internet, music and tv. I also realized in our meeting yesterday how important time spent with them really makes such a difference.  You have challenged me to spend quality time with them and find ways to talk with them.  Thank you for that!

Funny, this last weekend I had an opportunity to talk with many of the teenagers first. They gathered a couple hundred teenage girls together and I talked to them about self esteem. In that time with the young girls, I not only confronted them about the media messages they were saturating, I also revealed to them, “Tonight I am going to talk with many of your parents about the media you all are absorbing daily. Your parents are going to be tempted to come home, over-react and bust your iPods in half. So I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’m instructing your parents not to over-react, but to pray for one week before making any changes. So if they come home and start to make changes right away, you can tell them, ‘Hey, Jonathan told you to wait one week!’”

The teenage girls all laughed and seemed to enjoy me letting them in on that little piece of knowledge. This was timely, because I had already challenged many of them to think about what they were “putting into their heads.”

When I arrived home, I had this email in my inbox:

Just came home from the Parenting the Texting Generation class. Wow! While we are doing some things right, there are things we can improve on. My kids don’t have iPods or smartphones, but I know their friends do. I can now relate a little bit better with them all.

I was the generation that saw the beginning of MTV, Madonna and her “wearing the underwear on the outside” look, and “Like a Virgin” we thought it was all in good fun. Now, as a parent, I see it totally different. What was “good” to me then is not good for my kids now. They have way more media, electronics, and “stuff” in their faces then ever before. I never realized it until today. We have checks and balances in our house but what about when they are at school or at a friend’s house?

Was talking with the kids at dinner and said that we were going to make some changes and my daughter immediately told me I had to wait for a week first! Just like you said she would. Glad to hear she was listening this morning!

So how should we respond? Let me summarize:

1. Wait a week. You’ll be tempted to act sooner, but give it some prayer for a week.

2. Read and gather information. Use resources like and my blog. Read as much as you can about building relationships with your kids and being a good listener. I spend almost a third of my book on this topic.

3. Co-watch media with your kids. Feel free to hit the pause button and ask questions. Consider which media is appropriate for your family, praying and asking God for wisdom.

And then… on day number 8, have a family meeting where you do a lot of listening, and then nicely say, “We’ve been praying for a week about this, and we’ve decided on a few small changes. Here they are…”

Conversation Starters

Posted on: 09/19/11 4:29 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Okay, time to give away some cool stuff. Everybody’s gonna win with this one, because we’re gonna give away some great conversation starter ideas, AND we’ll make it a contest where I’ll give away 5 of my books, and 5 of the new Disney 70th Anniversary Edition of Dumbo (the BluRay DVD combo pack).

Whether you’re a parent or a youth worker, you probably always have an ear out for good conversation starters. Picture this. You’re a mom and the family has just sat down for a family meal and you’d love to get your kids talking (instead of fighting). Maybe you propose this, “Let’s go around the table and each share our high and our low today.” Or maybe you ask, “Okay, everyone share your favorite meal if you could choose any one meal I make!”

Youth workers could use the same type of questions to kick off a small group or a Bible study. “If you could order any pizza, where would you order it from and with what toppings?”

So here’s the contest. Use the comment feature of this blog and share your best discussion provoking question that gets teenagers talking. Something like those above– something that you’ve had success with. Like: If you could go anywhere on vacation, where would you go and who would you bring? (You can gain quite a glimpse into a kid’s world with that question, finding out a little about their likes and who their best friends and/or significant other is.)

HOW TO ENTER: Simple. Just use the comment feature in this blog this week and tell me your name, whether you’re a parent or youth worker, and then give me your best question. I’ll choose 10 winners late Thursday night, announcing them Friday morning in my blog.

PRIZES: I’ll choose 10 winners. Winners will either get the Dumbo BlueRay DVD combo pack (in stores Sept 20th. I already got mine), or get a choice of one of my two books that help adults connect with teenagers (Connect or Candid Confessions of an Imperfect Parent).

Just Dad and Me

Posted on: 09/16/11 9:57 PM | by Jonathan McKee

This morning I hopped on a plane and flew down to Southern California where I’ll be talking to teenage girls about self esteem and then teaching one of my parenting workshops. But this weekend has an added bonus… I get to hang with Alec, my 18-year-old who just moved down here in Southern California to go to college.

When I was booked to speak at a Riverside church and do my parenting workshop (quite a few of these parenting workshops around the country in the next couple months), I was pumped because I knew I’d get to visit Alec. The McKee house has felt a little empty lately without him. It’s been bizarre setting only four places at the dinner table and passing his empty room every day. (There’s been quite a few tears shed.) So Alec got a pretty big hug when I saw him this afternoon.

I took him to my hotel, we talked, ate some of the free food, and watched a movie. Then I took him to one of his favorite but simple vices– Round Table Pizza and the two of us laughed as we downed a large pizza together.

It’s interesting seeing Alec on his own, making 98% of his choices by himself… being the man. By God’s grace (certainly not by my parenting) Alec has turned out to be a great kid. We’ll get a few hours together tomorrow… then, once again, I’ll do the difficult task of driving away seeing him wave through the back window.

To those parents with your kids still in the house… cherish every moment! Overtime can wait. Go hang with your kids!

When Sports Becomes God

Posted on: 09/14/11 7:50 PM | by Jonathan McKee

“… and then we have a tournament Thanksgiving weekend. We expect everyone to be there.”

I turned to my wife. “Did he really just say ‘Thanksgiving Weekend’?”

My daughter Ashley played ‘select soccer’ for a few years. We had heard the commitment was a little crazy at times… but had no idea the extent. Every girl on the team had accepted soccer as Lord and Savior at 5 years old… except Ashley. So when it came to the first few tournaments where we were expected to miss a Sunday, we were met with a little resistance when we said, “We’ll bring Ashley after church.”

I’m glad that Ashley loves her church and was a huge advocate of not missing (she loves her youth group and doesn’t want to ever miss), because she received a little flak from her teammates at times. Once she showed up late on a Sunday, having come straight from church, and one of the girls jested, “How was churrrrrrrch?” (as sarcastic as one could possibly say it).

Ashley quickly retorted. “It was great. How was… (she made a sarcastic “yippee” gesture) …warming up for the game?”

I tried to not laugh audibly.

The commitment only grew as the team won more games and became more successful. The following year the coach added tournaments, numerous Sundays, including a few holiday weekends. This forced us to stop and think. My extended family has come together on Thanksgiving weekend for the last 20 years. Was this weekend history now? Not to mention our church’s Labor Day weekend campout, a time our kids always loved hanging out with other Christian kids from the church. (and isn’t that what we want our kids doing?) Labor Day weekend was on the cutting blocks as well with the new soccer schedule.

Our family had to come to a decision. Was this really the direction Ashley was heading? Does she really have a shot at becoming Christiano freaking Ronaldo, and even if she does, at what expense?

This year both of my girls are in sports. Ashley runs cross country (does that give you a clue what we did with soccer?), and Alyssa plays water polo. This week alone Alyssa has two games and a water polo tournament this weekend. Both the girls’ sports have had games and practices that interfere with church regularly.

Forget church for a moment and let’s just talk about our kids overall well-being. Pretty much every report we read says that teenagers need about 9 hours and 15 minutes of sleep per night. And most of you have heard me share research about the importance of eating 3 to 5 family dinners together per week—hard to do when water polo practice brings you home at 7:20 and games bring you home after that.

What are we to tell our kids? I know we need to teach them to keep their commitments. Perhaps we need to read the fine print before agreeing in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying sports are from the devil and you need to “choose this day who you will follow,” as if there is only one or the other. But maybe parents need to think ahead when it comes to signing up for sports and decide exactly how committed to a team or activity they are really ready to be.

Here are three lessons I learned that have helped me navigate sports and activities as a parent. These have helped me; you might find some benefit from these as well:

Keeping Sports in Balance:

1.    Lay out clear boundaries… and then keep your commitment.

What happened to the good ol’ days when soccer practice was just 60 to 90 minutes, right after school?

Alyssa’s water polo is anywhere from 2 to 5 hours on any given day. Last year (this is her second year), I remember her coming home at 8 at night, showering, grabbing a quick dinner, then starting her homework. On these nights, not only were we all robbed of our family dinner with Alyssa, but she often was doing homework until 11, and then getting less than 7 hours of sleep (over 2 hours short of what’s recommended).

Is this all okay in the name of sports?

Tonight, as I type this, Alyssa had decided on her own that she was going to leave practice early for church. Her coach told her, “No,” flat out. I sense a confrontation coming between the two of them… and frankly, I’m struggling with exactly what to advise Alyssa.

Here’s what I do know. As believers and followers of Christ, we need to keep our commitments. If we commit to a team, we need to truly commit to a team. This means finding out exactly what the commitment entails before making the commitment.

We did this Ashley’s last year of select soccer. We met with the coach beforehand and asked, “How many Sundays do the girls play?” “How many holiday weekends?” “When are practices—and will they interfere with youth group on Wednesday night?”

The coach laid out exactly what the commitment would entail and we agreed.

Interestingly enough, the coach tried to spring a few more tournaments on us during the year, one on a holiday weekend where we were going to be gone visiting family. We simply told the coach, “Sorry, we’re not available that weekend.”

Decide how far is too far, make your commitment, and keep your commitment. (Which is basically what I need to advise, with grace, to Alyssa.)

2.    It’s okay to say “Enough.”

Parents might consider asking themselves, “In 10 years, what’s really more important: that Michael was a really good baseball player, or that he grew closer to his family, his church and Jesus during his teenage years?”

If Michael can balance all of that… then more power to him.

If Michael can’t… then… well? Do I need to spell it out?

That’s too convicting. Let’s move on.

 3.    As you are running, swimming, tackling and scoring… make disciples.

Our kids have an opportunity to let the hope of Christ shine through their lives.

Today Ashley had a cross-country meet. She and the other freshman girls had a little huddle before their race where they pumped each other up. Then I heard Ashley ask, “Do you guys mind if I pray for our race?”

One of the other girls said, “Yeah, cool! We need it!” Another girl said, “Okay…what do we do?”

It was a really fun moment to be a fly on the wall.

Ashley said, “I’ll just pray.” Then she prayed for their race. I was so proud of her. (I clicked a little pic.)

I’m not saying that praying is always the magical thing to do. It really depends on the moment. Sometimes representing Christ is much more about having a good attitude and being an encourager. It’s a shame when the kid who misses practice for church is the same kid who is also gossiping, making fun of others and telling raunchy jokes. That’s what the media always portrays. Our kids have an opportunity to show what the love of Christ really looks like.

Times have really changed in the last few decades, especially in the United States. Sunday morning used to be reserved for church, now it’s for either sports or sleeping off Saturday night. America used to sing “How Great Thou Art,” now they sing, “How Great Thou Throws that Football!” (We really could make a whole modern sports worship CD, couldn’t we? I Could Sing of Your Dunk Forever, Shout to the Ref, Here I am to Handoff, Better is One Game…)

We need more Christian role models. We need more Tim Tebows.

When our kids participate in sports they have an awesome chance to represent Christ. As parents, let’s bring our kids up making Christ first… and sports somewhere down the list.

In 1981, the world flocked to movie theatres to see the true story of Eric Liddell, an amazing runner who refused to run on Sundays (he did a “Chick Fil-A”). Chariots of Fire won Best Picture that year. I leave you with Eric Liddell’s words:

“You came to see a race today. To see someone win. It happened to be me. But I want you to do more than just watch a race. I want you to take part in it. I want to compare faith to running in a race. It’s hard. It requires concentration of will, energy of soul. You experience elation when the winner breaks the tape – especially if you’ve got a bet on it. But how long does that last? You go home. Maybe you’re dinner’s burnt. Maybe you haven’t got a job. So who am I to say, “Believe, have faith,” in the face of life’s realities? I would like to give you something more permanent, but I can only point the way… If you commit yourself to the love of Christ, then that is how you run a straight race.”


16 and NOT Pregnant

Posted on: 09/12/11 12:18 PM | by Jonathan McKee

It’s funny. In all my years hearing powerful testimonies of young people at camps and conferences, I have frequently heard solid Christian kids actually say something like, “I’ve never done drugs or had sex… sometime I think I should, just so I can have a good testimony like that!”

How many youth workers out there have heard a kid say that? (Probably a lot)

We always try to respond with encouraging words about avoiding natural consequences, etc. Of course, we always need to walk delicately here because we don’t want to make those with checkered pasts feel worse, but at the same time we don’t want to make the kids who’ve avoided some of those pitfalls feel like they’re missing out!

Add to that the fact that the most popular TV shows and movies that young people watch are loaded with lies that make committed believers feel like they might just be missing out on some serious fun.

Last week my buddy David R. Smith forwarded me a video that made me literally fall out of my chair in hysterics. It’s a takeoff of MTV’s hit show 16 and Pregnant, but with the roles reversed. It’s called, 16 and Well Adjusted.

Some of you saw me Tweet about it last week. Phenomenal clip for discussion with our kids. Rather than ranting and raving about it… just check it out here.

I told David, let’s write something up about this NOW! So we did and it’s featured on the front page of our website as our SPIRITUAL GROWTH RESOURCE OF THE WEEK. This fun little Spiritual Growth discussion includes small group discussion questions, scripture and a wrap up. A great tool to talk not only about sex before marriage, but when the world tries to convince us that living Holy lives is boring.

Pleading Ignorant

Posted on: 09/9/11 12:12 PM | by Jonathan McKee

“I don’t know why they watch this stuff! It’s terrible!”

That’s what the sweet little ol’ lady next to me on the plane just told me, referring to her grandkids’ movie choices. Funny, she answered her own question in the next minute. Why do they “watch this stuff?” They watched it because she let them.

Today’s media is growing increasingly raunchy, and many parents (and grandparents) are simply giving up and pleading ignorant.

“Ignorant” is an interesting word if you think about it. It conveys “uninformed,” but the word more accurately suggests the fact that we are actually “ignoring” the painful truth.

The conversation with this lady started with her complaining about the movies her grandkids had just seen. I asked her, “Oh. Did you go and see a movie with your grandkids?”

“Yes. I took my grandkids to our local theatre. My grandson wanted to see that Transformers film. I didn’t want to see that movie, it looked terrible! So I went into another theater to see something else with my grand daughter… she’s 13. It was terrible too. I can’t remember what is was called. It was about some teachers that weren’t good?”

I tried to not spit out my drink all over the seat in front of me. “Y.. you took your grand daughter to see Bad Teachers?” I managed to ask without sounding insulting.

“Yes.” She wagged her head disapprovingly. “I didn’t know it would be so bad.

I couldn’t help myself from prodding a little deeper. “Did you look at the rating? It was Rated R for sexual content, nudity, language and some drug use.” (yeah… I really said that)

“Well, yes,” she said, dismissing my question. “But I don’t know what all those ratings mean. And by the time I realized it, my granddaughter had already seen most of it.”


It’s amazing how a woman who has lived on this planet for 60+ years doesn’t know what “sexual content, nudity, language and some drug use” means. And was the poster really that misleading, with the “EAT ME” sign and that slogan, She doesn’t give an ‘F’?

We talked a while longer and I showed her how to look up movies on and click on the “parents guide.”

So why do young people keep watching “this stuff?” Because adults keep making it, marketing it to kids, and then allowing them to watch it. The raunchy stuff is among their favorites (Check out the Teen Choice Awards winners this year—movies like No Strings Attached, Hangover II, Bad Teacher, etc.)

Adults are the gatekeepers here… and these gates are open wide.