Cat Fights

Posted on: 11/29/11 4:59 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Do you have teenage girls living in your house?

Can you say… cat fight?

About a year ago my daughters wanted to move into the same room together. They had some friends at church who did it and they actually thought it was admirable how close those sisters were. Long story short– I knocked out a wall, bought bunk beds… and shazaam! They’ve been together since.

Overall it’s been a good experience. My girls are pretty close, as sisters go. But there’s something to be said about the consistent petty little disagreements.

“Alyssa, did you set the alarm?”

“No, you always set it.”

“Exactly. Why don’t you set it for once.”

“Because you don’t like the way I set it, so I let you do it.”

“But I’m in the top bunk… you’re right there!”

“Sorry. Your job!”


I just blogged about this whole dynamic and how parents should respond in my DAD OF TEENAGE GIRLS blog.

Watching The Help

Posted on: 11/28/11 4:18 PM | by Jonathan McKee

The last 5 days provided several times to sit down together on the family couch and watch a lil bit of cinematic entertainment. The highlight of the weekend was definitely the film based on the best selling novel, The Help (I was sent a copy to review). Probably one of the best films I’ve seen in 2011.

This last week was one of the few years that we didn’t travel anywhere over the Thanksgiving holiday—kind of a nice change. Instead, we lit a fire, hung out with family, ate turkey, hauled out the Christmas decorations… and when we tired of all of that, we watched movies! I’ll be honest. When everyone asked, “What should we watch?” The Help was not my first vote. Alec and I, being men, had our eyes on something a little more manly (something with bullets, explosions… maybe even a few zombies…), but being outnumbered by the females in the living room, we consented on watching The Help.

10 minutes into the film Alec and I looked at each other, giving the “not bad” nod. By 15 minutes we were hooked!

The Help is funny, gripping and inspiring all the same.

We all loved it. I haven’t read the book, but my wife and my youngest daughter have. The two of them kept commenting about how the book went into a lot more detail (as books always do), but loved the film as well. I’m curious to read the book now.

The performances were spectacular. Emma Stone really proved herself as “Skeeter,” as did Viola Davis as “Aibileen.” But I think I was most impressed with two other actresses, the first being Bryce Dallas Howard (Ron Howard’s daughter).

It was probably difficult for Bryce to take on the role of the mean-spirited… scratch that… racist pig, Hilly Holbrook. Bryce was amazingly despicable. Bryce has so much range that I hardly recognize her in many films. I think I first noticed her as the blind Ivy Walker in M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village in 2004. M. Night must have loved her too, because he used her again for the lead role in Lady in the Water in 2006. A year later, I hardly recognized Bryce as the blonde heartthrob who Spiderman ends up saving from falling to her death in Spiderman 3… and that’s just it… she’s always completely different, and utterly convincing.

The second actress that wowed me was no-name Octavia Spencer in her role of Minny Jackson. Most people won’t recognize Octavia other than some teenagers who might remember her as the nurse in Halloween II or the “troubled woman” in The Soloist. But now, everyone will remember her as Minny Jackson. Minny was the icing on the cake in The Help.

I loved the film, my family loved it, and our movie review guy Todd loved it in his review of the film a few months ago (complete with discussion questions).

If you haven’t seen it, the DVD/BluRay will be released on December 6th. This is definitely one to watch with the whole family. (Be warned, there is one scene where someone uses the word “sh*t” literally in reverence to fecal matter in a comical way. It is referred to a couple times throughout the film. If you have young children that like to repeat things they hear, use discretion.)

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30 to 60 Days

Posted on: 11/22/11 5:56 PM | by Jonathan McKee

This last week has been very difficult. It started when we took our Bernese Mountain dog to the vet for what we thought would be a routine visit.

If only.

Jethro, our 105 pound Berner, became part of our family five years ago. He was an impulse buy, a perfect example of why you should never take your kids to “just look” at puppies. Ashley, who was 9 at the time, was obsessed with Bernese Mountain dogs. I had never even heard of the breed, but she had bought books about them, stuffed animals, calendars… name it. Being adventurous parents (or stupid parents—you decide), we decided it would be fun to visit a breeder and “just look.”

Yeah, right.

Next thing we knew, we had Jethro.

Jethro isn’t the most intelligent animal. He’s big, klutzy, and nervous when he gets in tight places. This isn’t a good combination when you happen to be walking through a doorway at the same time as Jethro. This dog is a knee-injury waiting to happen.

Walking Jethro has always been an experience as well. Lori’s first run with the dog resulted in him getting spooked, flanking her, knocking her to the ground and giving her a scar that she still has today. He’s much better now, but he still outweighs Ashley, which can make him difficult to control if he wants to go left when she is going right.

Our family has never owned a dog of great size before so we never fathomed how much food this dog would consume… and eventually discharge from his body! We’re talking serious dino-doo-doo! Add to this the fact that he always manages to stop and squat in the middle of an intersection when we’re walking him. It’s pretty embarrassing when your dog is building a miniature log cabin in the middle of a four way stop while you’re pulling out a 40 gallon ziplock for cleanup!

Despite these drawbacks, Jethro is always cheery with a tail wagging and a big goofy grin on his face. It doesn’t matter what kind of day you’re having, Jethro wants to be with you, snuggle up next to you, lay his monstrous head on your lap and just love you.

About six months ago on a particular day when Jethro was driving me crazy, Ashley said something that I’ll never forget. She said, “I find Jethro inspiring!”

Rather than arguing with her I simply asked, “What on earth is inspiring about this big doofus?”

“He’s always happy,” Ashley affirmed. “Even when life sucks, Jethro is content.”

Ashley went on. “There’s no drama with Jethro. He doesn’t hold grudges, he doesn’t play favorites. He just loves you and wants to be with you. Some friends come and go. Not Jethro. He’s always there with a stupid smile on his big furry face. He’s inspiring.”

I thought about these words from the mouth of a 14-year-old, and funny enough, I found that I could tolerate Jethro’s shenanigans a little better after that day.

Unfortunately, Ashley was wrong about one thing. Jethro isn’t going to always be here.

Last Monday, while the kids were at school, it only took the vet about 30 seconds checking his lymph nodes for her to determine why he’s been breathing so heavy the last couple of weeks. Five-year-old Jethro has lymphoma.

“What’s that mean?” We asked.

“It means that he probably only has about 30 to 60 days left with you.”

The rest of the visit was spent with her telling us about chemotherapy options that would cost as much as my car. Sadly, we went home to tell the kids the bad news.

Ashley took it the hardest, literally bawling. Jethro has kind of been “her dog” all along; she’s the whole reason we got him in the first place. But everyone was brokenhearted about the news.

“I hate knowing! I wish I didn’t even know!” Ashley pronounced, tears streaming down her cheeks.

We sat and cried together on the family couch.

It wasn’t long before Jethro wandered over, setting his big furry head on Ashley’s lap. I guess she was right—he is always there for you. He’s the one with cancer, yet he seems to be the happiest one in the room. Ashley was right. This big furball is actually inspiring.

Life the last week has been a little different. Jethro’s getting a lot more table scraps. Who cares if they’re bad for him! Live it up Jethro. We’re walking him more, petting him more, hugging him more. We’re cherishing every moment… thankful for the moments we get.

We’ll miss you Jethro!

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The Increasingly Difficult Task of “Fleeing” Porn

Posted on: 11/21/11 11:47 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Porn is becoming virtually inevitable. Unfortunately, so are the consequences of porn-consumption.

Doug Fields and I collaborated on four posts about porn last week on his blog (here’s his summary post with links to all). I wanted to take the opportunity to wrap up with some closing thoughts about taking this threat seriously.

The Pressing Need to “Flee”
Porn is permeating every avenue of technology. Unless we all move to Amish Pennsylvania or to an ice cave near the North Pole, porn is readily accessible. If you have the internet, it’s no secret that porn is a click away. If you ever stay in a hotel, hardcore porn is most often one of the TV ‘s main menu choices. If you’re like the 91% of America that pays for TV reception at home, the Playboy channel and pay-per-view porn are available at the click of a button, not to mention the soft-core porn that they often show for free on Cinemax, Showtime, and HBO.

Maybe that’s why (according to this article) 87% of men admitted to using porn in the year prior. If that weren’t enough, 69% of men and 10% of women report viewing pornography more than once a month.

As you can see, this is predominantly a male struggle. Those men who are trying to escape the lure of porn are being forced to take drastic measures to truly “flee sexual immorality.”

Sexual immorality was a real struggle for many of the heroes in the Bible (Abraham, Judah, David, Solomon…) and it’s a struggle for Godly men today.

The temptation is real. Take it from me, a guy who is in an average of two to three different hotels per month. If you dare turn on the TV, the first screen that appears is a “preview” channel that gives you a choice of “popular movie titles” and what they cleverly label “adult desires.” If you are strong enough to resist temptation, clicking “popular movie titles,” the screen once again gives you several choices: movies still in the theatres, popular rentals, or once again adult desires. Sometimes you’ll even get propositioned a third time.

If you skip this menu all together and click through the channels, be careful if it’s in the later hours of the evening. If the hotel has HBO, shows like Real Sex and the CatHouse series provide softcore porn. HBO’s TrueBlood is full of graphic sex and nudity. If the hotel has Showtime, this channel has it’s own versions of the same. Most hotels have one of the two channels.

This makes it very difficult for any traveler. I have learned that I literally have to check the TV schedule before I turn on the TV. If a man doesn’t check the schedule, then he might be caught off-guard while channel flipping, and that’s a very difficult situation for a man alone in a hotel room. Anyone who has been in this situation understands why Paul uses the word “flee” when talking about the lure of sexual immorality in I Corinthians chapter 6. Fleeing porn might sometimes require dropping everything and running like Joseph shedding his jacket and barely escaping Potiphar’s wife.

Here’s where many authors would insert that personal story of failure to hammer home the point. No need for gratuitous confessions here. Let me just say this: I’m not perfect, porn is a very real temptation for me, as it is for most men, and personally I take “fleeing” seriously (this reason being a huge motivator).

When a believer experiences the lure of porn, it’s good to lay down some boundaries, or dare I say “fleeing” measures. Personally, I never turn on the TV in my hotel without checking the schedule. My wife and I talk openly about fleeing these kinds of temptations. I meet for accountability with a good friend who is a local pastor, asking each other tough questions regularly.

Some people don’t see porn as a big deal. The reality is, they are suppressing the truth about the consequences of porn, allowing it to reign free in their life. They don’t foresee the danger. Today’s porn isn’t like the Playboy magazines that some of us might have peeked at as a kid. This porn is high speed, available 24/7, with a taste for every fetish. Those that become entranced soon grown numb to the mild stuff. Softcore is replaced by hardcore, and an increasing need develops for more extreme material. Soon, the consequences hit them right where it counts.

I encourage you to take a peek at the four articles Doug posted on his blog about porn. In those articles we covered:

In a world where almost 9 out of 10 men have struggled with the lure of porn, this is a subject we cant ignore. I encourage you to not only take a peek at the research in Doug’s blog entries, but dialogue about this with your teenagers. Teenagers are hearing lies on so many fronts… you might be the one person that actually tells them the truth about God’s desire for sex.

What U.S. Kids Want for Christmas 2011

Posted on: 11/18/11 11:26 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Those of you who are keeping an eye on our new “Offsite Articles Jonathan is Reading” box on the front page of probably noticed this brand new report from Nielsen revealing what kids desire for Christmas in 2011. Fascinating stuff!

Those who own stock in Apple will be pleased that Apple devices seem to be the most coveted item among young people this year. The iPad was the number one choice for kids 6-12 as well as kids 13+. Apple actually claimed the top three spots for kids age 6-12 (iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone). Interesting to see how much more Apple items resonate with the younger ages (why does this perception change slightly for 13-plussers?)

The report provides informative charts for kids age 6-12 as well as 13+. Here’s the 13+ chart:

Click here for the entire article on Nielsen Wire.

Georgia, Maryland, and Free Training…

Posted on: 11/16/11 5:05 PM | by Jonathan McKee

My bags are packed and I’m looking forward to hanging out with a bunch of youth workers this weekend in both Atlanta, GA and Ocean City, MD. For those that can’t attend the workshops I’ll be teaching in these cities… don’t worry… I’ve still got a little free training for ya (more on that in a minute).

The travel will be a little crazy. I leave my house Thursday at 4AM, take the first flight out, arriving in Atlanta that afternoonish for the Youth Specialties National Youth Workers Convention. A couple meetings with youth worker friends that night and the next morning, then teaching two workshops Friday (if you’re going to the convention, be sure to swing by my workshops and say “hi”)… then fly out Friday night, landing in Baltimore at midnight …. breathe… and then drive to Ocean City, MD, arriving about 3AM.

Saturday and Sunday I’ll be teaching three workshops at a big Youth for Christ conference in Ocean City, MD (if you’re going to that conference, come say “hello”), then drive back to Baltimore Sunday afternoon, fly out that night, arriving home midnightish.

For those of you youth workers who aren’t attending these workshops or any of my other workshops this year… no worries… jump on our FREE TRAINING TOOLS page where we have a gold mine of training for both you and your leaders, including a brand new CONNECT ppt training that we just added. All free, of course.

A Peek into Youth Culture… and a New Free Resource

Posted on: 11/15/11 1:45 PM | by Jonathan McKee

As I’m putting the finishing touches on several workshops I’m teaching this weekend (in two different cities), I’m starting to notice one common denominator in every session: understanding youth culture. I’m even teaching one workshop titled, Youth Culture Window.

Let me go on record to clear up any confusion: understanding youth culture is not the most important practice in parenting and youth ministry… but connecting with our teenagers is! And you’ll find that understanding the world of teenagers is a key step to connecting with teenagers.

One of the biggest complaints I hear from teenagers today is, “Adults have no clue what it’s like to be a teenager today.”

And they’re right.

So what should we do? Should we buy all our clothes at Abercrombie or Hollister and try to talk in the most current slang?

Not even close.

Should we download all the latest Lil Wayne and Lady Gaga songs and listen to them day and night?

Please don’t.

We don’t have to start watching Jersey Shore to get current. But we do need to seek to understand the world our teenagers live in. The experts are quite clear on the matter. After the researchers from the Kaiser Foundation completed their huge media survey examining the media habits of young people, they pleaded that parents pay full attention to something that takes up this much time in the lives of young people. The Pediatrics official journal, in their 2009 report on Music, Lyrics and Music Videos, concluded that parents, often unaware of lyrics, etc., should become media literate, setting boundaries and even taking a stand regarding music lyrics. In my parent workshops I plead with parents to do the same. I even talk about how current popular songs might serve as springboards for discussion.

Do you know what your kids are watching and listening to?

Adults need to put forth a little bit of effort into entering the world of youth culture. That’s why I just added yet another resource to help you do that on our site this week—an “Offsite Articles” window that provides parents with links to the articles I’m reading throughout the week.

For years I’ve been constantly trying to keep parents and youth workers updated with the latest research, trends and media messages that young people are absorbing through every pore. Our Youth Culture Window articles, like this week’s article, Social Media Mania are a great source for these updates. This blog is another. And now, as of this past weekend, my web guy posted something we brainstormed months ago—a way of sharing my research with you.

Check it out for yourselves, it’s yet another reason that parents and youth workers will want to frequent  On any given day you’ll be able to peek at this new “Offsite Articles Jonathan Has Read This Week” box on our front page and see if any of the subjects grab your interest. The box displays the 7 most recent articles I’ve read, and provides a link to an archive of all the articles (starting last week). As I write this, if you pop on right now, you’ll find articles about the highly anticipated Hunger Games movie, parents lying to get underaged kids on Facebook, Teens and Sleep, Porn-Induced Sexual Dysfunction and more.

I hope this is yet another free resource that helps you understand the world of youth culture, connect with teenagers where they are at and engage meaningful conversations.

Glee Goes All the Way… Again

Posted on: 11/10/11 12:30 PM | by Jonathan McKee

This week Doug Fields posted an article of mine on his blog encouraging parents to use the “pause button,” the “fast forward button”… and even the “off button” on their TV remotes as they co-view media with kids. Which button does Fox’s Glee require?

This week Glee featured two of the show’s teenage couples each losing their virginity, a homosexual couple (Kurt and Blaine), and a heterosexual couple (Finn and Rachel).

Parents that took time to even notice the show’s content this week are debating the appropriateness. The PTC is outraged (as always), and articles are beginning to emerge asking relevant questions, like this article from Time, What Teen Sex on Glee Really Teaches Kids.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Glee address the subject of teenagers losing their virginity. In the 15th episode of Season One, an episode titled “The Power of Madonna,” Glee introduced the same scenario when three couples faced the decision to lose their virginity (the episode was watched by 12.98 million American viewers and was critically acclaimed). After a dream sequence performance of Madonna’s Like a Virgin, two of these teenagers took the plunge and “went all the way” (Finn and Santana), while others didn’t (Rachel, for example).

At this point some parents began questioning whether Glee was appropriate viewing for teens and tweens. Instead of giving a dogmatic stamp of approval or disapproval, I responded with a rather detailed Youth Culture Window article, To Glee or not to Glee, encouraging parents to think biblically about Glee and look for biblical guidance.

Interestingly enough… parents continued to ask me, “Do you let your kids watch Glee?”

That’s a great question.

I’ll be honest. I don’t usually like to tell parents, “Let your kids watch SHOW A, but don’t let your kids watch SHOW B!” This robs parents the opportunity to teach discernment and robs kids the opportunity of learning to discern for themselves.

Yes, there are some shows that clearly necessitate the “off button,” shows like Jersey Shore and Two and a Half Men. But discernment isn’t always that easy. What about shows like American Idol? (a question I asked in the article Doug posted)

Ever since Little House on the Prairie left prime time, teaching discernment has grown a little more difficult during family hour on television. In a world where Two and a Half Men is repeatedly the #1 show of the week, and Jersey Shore is the #1 cable show, caring parents are hard-pressed to find anything appropriate to watch with their kids.

Sadly, I see two polar extremes rise to the surface:

  • The Overly-Permissive Parent—this mom let’s her kids do anything, watch anything, stay out as late as they want… after all, they’ve gotta grow up sometime! “If you’re gonna drink with your friends, do it here! Then at least you’ll be safe!” These kids don’t just watch Jersey Shore, they watch the sexually explicit and gratuitously violent True Blood on HBO. These kids never learn to discern; they are taught the subtle message that “everything’s okay.”
  • The Puritanistic Parent—this mom doesn’t let her kids do anything! No TV, no music (“especially not that Contemporary Christian… the devil’s music!), skirts will go down past the ankles, after all, “This isn’t the house of Jezebel!” These kids don’t watch anything at home… they sneak to their friends houses to watch it! (I listen to the complaints of these kids all the time at camps and conferences across the country!) The puritanistic parent never teaches their kids to discern. They hope that protecting them from the world will save them from it. Sadly, when these kids turn 18, they often rebel and “sew their wild oats.”

Do we have to gravitate toward either of these extremes?

Funny… after Doug posted my article about parents using the remote, we started to see comments and receive emails from parents saying, “Kids are gonna watch what they’re gonna watch!” And then from the opposite end of the spectrum… “The TV stays off at our house!!!”

Are these really our only two choices?

It’s growingly difficult to teach our kids positive media decisions today, and shows like Glee really put the pressure on parents. Young people love the show and hear about it around every corner. After all, it’s very well done and it speaks to their world. Heck… adults love the show! The guest stars are usually a big draw, the writing is compelling and the music is usually amazing. It was the number two show at the 8 o’clock hour again this last Tuesday night. Let’s be honest. It’s difficult to be the only parent at the PTA meeting that doesn’t let their kids watch the show.

So do I cave and let my kids watch it?

Last year, during the writing of my first article, To Glee or Not to Glee, I watched the whole season in about one week’s time (I don’t like to write about something I haven’t seen first hand). During that week my girls would walk in and say, “Oh wow! Is this Glee?!! Can I watch it with you!” I never said “no” to them during that week. We probably watched at least three or four episodes together, often hitting the pause button to dialogue about what we saw.

When Season 2 began, I watched a couple episodes with my wife, curious of the direction that the show would go.

Yes… my kids and I had some great discussions about some of those Season One episodes. Yes, co-viewing media with our kids is a very good practice… but where is the line? Should I rent all the American Pie films and co-view those with my kids?

I’ll make an exception this time and tell you what I decided with Glee. This doesn’t mean it’s the right answer, I’m sure opinions will vary, I can’t even say I’m always consistent…. but as for me, Glee gets the “off button” in our house.

What about you?
What have you decided about Glee?

How do you set realistic guidelines while still preparing our kids for real-world decisions when they’re on their own?

Overreacting or Interacting about Rihanna’s #1 Song

Posted on: 11/8/11 2:57 PM | by Jonathan McKee

It’s almost like Rihanna is in the mind of today’s teenage girl, looking for love in a hopeless place. Maybe that’s why her song, We Found Love, is still the #1 song across all the charts (#1 on Billboard’s Hot 100, Nielsen, and on iTunes).

Why is this song connecting with young girls especially? Think about it…

  • Do today’s teenage girls ever feel hopeless? Check.
  • Do they ever enter bad relationships because of low self esteem? Check.
  • In their quest for love and acceptance, do they ever engage in dangerous and risky activities like drinking, doing drugs and having sex? Check. Check. Check.

Rihanna’s new song and video are connecting with a generation that is looking for love in a hopeless place. Sadly, the gratuitously explicit music video (watched by tens of millions) isn’t offering any answers other than hoping the good stuff will numb the bad. Her words?

“And when it’s over and it’s gone, you almost wish you can have all that bad stuff back so that you could have the good.”

If your kids have seen this video, it’s a powerful springboard for discussion. Let me give you a deeper look at what this song and video are communicating.

This video is actually very compelling. In the same way the despondent Solomon cries “meaningless” in the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible, Rihanna sounds a cry of desperation through this music video, painting a graphic picture of an unhealthy relationship where two people find each other, make out, do drugs, have sex, do more drugs, lose all their money on a gambling spree, shoplift, fight, have angry sex, do more drugs, give each other tattoos, fight more, break up… and then feel the pain of being alone (lot’s of graphic imagery there).

It’s in this vulnerable aftermath, feeling alone, reflecting back on the relationship that the opening words to this powerful video are spoken by Rihanna… a message of hurt, a cry of desperation, and in this hopeless moment, an admission that she’d almost be willing to go through all that pain and risky behaviors… if she could just feel that temporary comfort of the “good” moments one last time! A real perspective, shared by many no doubt.

The music video opens with Rihanna saying these words:

It’s like screaming and no one can hear

You almost feel ashamed that someone can be that important

And without them you feel like nothing

No one will ever understand how much it hurts

You feel hopeless like nothing can save you

And when it’s over and it’s gone you almost wish you could have all that bad stuff back so that you could have the good.

Two months ago we probably could have sat around speculating whether this video would resonate with a generation of young girls that feel hopeless and are looking for some “good” moments in relationships, in drugs, in sexual activity, in drinking, etc. But fast forward to the present and we have our answer. This generation loves this song. I’d go on a limb to say that people are “connecting” with this song.

Sadly, the answers from this song are “temporary thrills.” The summary of the music video is basically… even though I feel hopeless, empty and in pain, I almost would do it all over again just so I could have those good moments.

This temporary thrills mindset is a great discussion provoker. Last weekend in my Parenting the Texting Generation workshop I told the parents attending, “This is tricky. You really don’t want your kids watching this video, but if they have seen it, it would be wise to not overact, but instead interact with them about what they heard.” Maybe even ask question like:

Is there a love that has more to it than temporary thrills?

Is there a love that doesn’t end in disappointment?

I’m not happy with all the images I see in this video. I’m even more disturbed that this generation relates to this feeling. But I’m hopeful that parents and caring adult role models can respond with “interaction” instead of “over-reaction.”

What about you:

Have your kids seen this video?

Do kids in your community feel like this?

Can you, like Paul in Acts 17, use these words of the “pagan poets” to steer toward a conversation about Christ, teaching Biblical truth?

“Toast” Gets Toasted

Posted on: 11/6/11 11:36 PM | by Jonathan McKee

A creative idea is added to our youth ministry web site… and criticism is quick to follow.

Why is it that comment sections breed pessimism and ignorance?  (Yeah… I’m definitely going to rant about this one.)

Here’s the situation. A girl submits a creative and fun game idea to our web site, we add the game to our page… and then a couple people feel that it’s their duty to start criticizing her idea. Not even intelligent criticism.

One of the top pages accessed on our youth ministry web site is our Games & Icebreakers page. Last month that page generated 22,670 page views, mostly youth workers browsing through our database of literally over 1,000 free game and icebreaker ideas. Many youth workers use game & icebreaker ideas like these to “break the ice” (go figure) with kids and open doors for relational ministry.

Yes, I’m aware that some people think that games don’t work.

They are wrong.

Sound dogmatic? Well, here’s the facts. If games are proven to be beneficial in some situations, then one can’t say that they don’t work. The more intelligent statement would be, “Games aren’t the answer for every situation.” Or, “Don’t use games without any purpose in mind.” But don’t incorrectly surmise, “Games don’t work.”

This is nothing new. It’s become trendy to criticize games in the last few years. I’ve written entire articles on this debate (like this one, To Game or Not to Game).

Frankly, I’m tired of the whining.

A few days ago a game idea came in from Sarah-Jane that I thought was creative… it was titled, Toast. Toast is “hot-potato-like” game idea. I liked the idea. My game guru Todd liked the idea. I even showed it to my 16-year-old daughter Alyssa and asked her opinion. She thought it sounded like fun. (She thought it might actually be fun with her friends at a slumber party too.)

The concept is simple. A bunch of people gather around a table with two pieces of toast and an assortment of condiments (ketchup, butter, honey, etc.). You put one piece of toast in the toaster, and while waiting for it to pop up, people take turns adding condiments to the other piece of toast. Keep passing the toast and adding condiments until the other piece pops up. When it pops up… the person with the other piece in front of them has to eat it, with all its creative condiments.

Alyssa (in her creative mind) thought it might even be more fun if you organized the condiments into themes that weren’t so gross. In other words, instead of doing the typical “gross out” youth group game, do a “ice cream toppings” theme with chocolate, caramel, marshmallow topping, rainbow sprinkles, etc. This game could have fun holiday options (Christmas cookie decorations, etc.)

So why criticize it?

One person criticized it for wasting food. I don’t want to get into that debate in this blog. I don’t like wasting food either, but if done right, this game won’t waste food. (They eat the toast)

The ludicrous criticism was this:

I would like to know how this game edifies the church or builds your youth into a better relationship with Jesus?


How is this person going to be pleased with any game?

The fact is, I used games in my outreach ministry for years for pure fun. Yes, for fun! (Fun isn’t sin, you know.) Kids brought their friends and the ministry grew week after week. We shared the Gospel weekly and I saw a ton of kids come to Christ and get plugged into the church through that ministry.

Is that edifying enough for ya?

Last year I volunteered in a local jr. high ministry and had a small group of guys. I remember several weeks playing dodgeball with my guys, laughing and having a great time. This kind of bonding led to great conversations.

Games… done right… open doors for relational ministry.

Nuff said!