Parenting Workshops in NE, and CA

Posted on: 03/29/12 5:28 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Northern Nebraska, Fresno California, then Azusa Pacific University in Southern California… these are the next three places I’ll be teaching my parenting workshops. Come join us if you’re in driving distance, I’d love to meet you!

NEBRASKA: This weekend my wife Lori is traveling with me to smalltown Ainsworth, Nebraska. I just did a radio interview for one of their stations yesterday– good people. I preach at Ainsworth E-Free Church Sunday morning, April 1st, then do a parenting workshop that afternoon 3-5PM.

FRESNO: A few weeks later, April 22nd, I’ll be at First Presbyterian Church in Fresno, CA speaking in all their services, speaking to jr. and sr. high students between services, and then doing a parenting workshop that afternoon, 3-5PM.

AZUSA: Finally, in May 10-12, I’ll be joining my friend Doug Fields and Jim Burns at the FAM Conference where they have me teaching the parenting track. Take a peek at all the speakers and breakout seminars they have lined up at this conference– and you’ll want to consider joining us! (I’ll be blogging more about this conference soon).


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A Free Book with Every Contest Entry

Posted on: 03/27/12 1:02 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Youth Specialties just launched a fun “Evangelism Gone Bad” contest, where youth groups upload to YouTube a one-minute video showing what awful evangelism looks like among teenagers. The winning youth group gets a ton of free goodies: a free copy of my upcoming DVD evangelism curriculum, Real Conversations: Sharing Your Faith without Being Pushy; up to 50 Participant Guides for this curriculum, AND… a copy of every book I’ve written for YS.

Here’s the video we made for the contest (note how I incorporated the eye injury in the video… hee, hee).

Click here for all the contest details.

As if this wasn’t enough… I decided that I’d up the ante just a lil bit, and reward each and every youth leader who is my blog subscriber and decides to enter this contest! I’ll make it simple. If any youth group makes a video and submits it, I’ll send that youth leader a free copy of my book about relational evangelism, Do They Run When They See You Coming. (The new DVD curriculum was actually inspired by this book about reaching out to “the Unchurched.”)

So don’t waste any time… you only have a couple weeks. Make those videos, upload them to YouTube, and then, in addition to following all the contest details/requirements, send me a link to the video and I’ll send you your free book!

After Seeing Hunger Games…

Posted on: 03/25/12 9:31 AM | by Jonathan McKee

“If no one watches, they don’t have a game!” –Gale

It’s a little ironic that some parents are objecting to the violent premise of The Hunger Games. “It’s kids killing other kids!” In actuality, The Hunger Games compels the audience to value life, mourn death, and literally gasp at violence.

It’s sad that The Hunger Games is being compared to Twilight and other teenage fodder, because truly…there’s no comparison. The Hunger Games has proven to be so much more. The film, based on Suzanne Collins’ best selling book, was powerful and thought provoking, an amazing social commentary about our society’s growing callousness toward violence.

If you caught my blog a few days ago, I shared four important questions I encouraged parents to ask about films to help them teach their kids discernment:

  • Is this story glorifying violence or inappropriate sexual situations?
  • Is this story making “bad” look “good” or enticing?
  • Does this story irresponsibly display imitatable attitudes and behaviors that our kids will absorb and eventually emulate?
  • Does this story needlessly sell out to showing “eye candy” like nudity or gratuitous violence?

Now that I have seen The Hunger Games, I not only vehemently express my approval for the film, I can also attest that it didn’t include any of those four inappropriate or irresponsible elements.

The film was superior on so many levels, but I think one element that resonated with me the most was the glaring contrast between the impoverished districts struggling day to day for a meager existence, fighting for mere scraps of food, while the haughty Capital City lived pampered, overindulgent lives. The Capital City’s condescending attitude was disheartening, but their callous disregard for human life is what took the cake. A gladiatoresque reality show featuring kids killing kids was pure entertainment to these monsters.

At this point I almost expect someone to scroll down to my comment section and suggest, “Aren’t we similar monsters if we watch the movie?”

Before you do, allow me a moment to propose two responses to this accusation:

First, are we never to tell any tales of such monsters?
Is it improper to tell a story about good and evil? Should we steer our kids clear of any of these cold realities about human nature?

The Bible is full of horrific stories of rampant sin and its consequence. Cain and Able (kids killing kids). Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot and his daughters. (Eeew!) Fairy tales have long told anecdotes about evil villains luring kids into ovens, deceiving young girls to eat poison apples, and even wolves disguised as Grandma enticing cute little granddaughters close enough to eat. C.S. Lewis told marvelous stories about kids traveling to an imaginary land where they fought bloody battles against an entire army and an evil witch. Several of these films have made it to the big screen.

Someone call Westboro Baptist. We should protest all of these stories!

Perhaps we should stop over-reacting, and instead, begin interacting with our kids about good vs. evil, even using some of these amazing pieces of literature as a discussion springboard.

Second, The Hunger Games film responsibly made good look good, and evil look evil.
Sadly, today’s media often makes bad look good. Not the case with The Hunger Games. This 2-hour-and-22 minute film will not only keep you on the edge of your seat, it paints a stark contrast between good and evil. It won’t take audiences long to recognize the many appearances of evil: hypocrisy, injustice, exploitation, complete disregard for human life…and plain ol’ murder.

Then there’s Katniss.

I’m not really giving away much of a spoiler when I tell you that Katniss, our heroine, begins the film by selflessly sacrificing herself, instead of a loved one, to take part in the heinous fight to the death known as the Hunger Games. Katniss demonstrates honor, mercy and self sacrifice throughout the film. Some might be bothered that she isn’t a pacifist—she does defend herself and others. But Katniss is a true hero, something we don’t always see or read about in stories today.

Social Commentary… without Selling Out
Let’s be real. The filmmakers had a tough job. How do you provide social commentary about a society entertained by “gladiators” … without becoming the very society you depict? I was impressed, if not amazed with director Gary Ross’ finished product. Ross artistically transformed the novel’s first person perspective so that audiences connected with Katniss, quickly empathizing with her, carrying her burdens…feeling her pain.

There’s a moment in the film where two lives are taken in one moment…and something happened in my theatre that I haven’t heard in years. The theatre literally gasped. Sadly, today’s movies are so chock-full of senseless violence, I’ve often heard laughter or cheers when someone is killed onscreen.

Not in The Hunger Games.

Ross created a mood that recognized the horror of killing. In The Hunger Games death is mourned. Noble heroes wept in this film. Many in the audience cried as well. I cried twice…but I cry easy.

In a way it reminds me of what Clint Eastwood did with his powerful film, Unforgiven. How often do films portray the mental anguish that one experiences after killing someone? In Unforgiven, we repeatedly see people experience the guilt and complete change of heart that occurs when they take someone else’s life. This is contrasted to a few characters who are numb to the effects of pulling the trigger.

Hunger Games paints a similar distinction. Killing isn’t to be taken lightly. Ethical lines are drawn in the sand.

And for the icing on the cake, Ross magically refrains from showing gratuitous violence. Don’t get me wrong. This film is probably too intense for most kids under 13. At times we see glimpses of the horror taking place, but Ross shows incredible discernment, making sure that his film doesn’t become a spectacle like the games themselves.

In short, The Hunger Games was heart wrenching, powerful and thought-provoking. I’ll be seeing it with my girls (14 and 16) this week with no hesitation. Will it make it to my Blu Ray shelf? The odds are highly in favor.

Hunger Games, Detroit, and Parenting

Posted on: 03/22/12 1:47 PM | by Jonathan McKee

This week has been a blur, and already tomorrow (Friday) I’m leaving bright and early on a plane to Detroit to teach my Connect Workshop to a network of area youth workers, to watch The Hunger Games and blog about the film, to preach on parenting Sunday AM, then teach my Parenting the Texting Generation workshop Sunday afternoon, all HERE.

If you’re wondering why I scheduled The Hunger Games into my calendar for this weekend… it’s because almost every teenager in America is talking about this film. Many young people are going to be flocking to theaters at midnight tonight (Thurs) to be the first to see the beloved fictional teenage heroine Katniss on the big screen! We’ll have three of our writers there too (David, Todd and Jay), so take a peek at our movie review page at about 10:30 AM (Pacific time) Friday for a Hunger Games review! If you’ve missed all the hype about this film so far, just take a peek at my blog about it from earlier this week helping parents decide how to help their kids decide. (Yeah… I meant to say it that way). I’ll also be chiming in with my two cents about the film in my blog shortly after I see the film in Detroit on Saturday.

As for my speaking and training this weekend, if you’re in the greater Detroit area, I encourage you to come meet me at one of the venues:

CONNECT Workshop for youth workers, Saturday, 9-2

– Preaching about parenting, Sunday morning at First Baptist Church Wyandotte

Parenting the Texting Generation workshop, Sunday, 2:30 to 4:30PM, same church

Hope to see some of you this weekend!

But Isn’t Hunger Games about Kids Killing Kids?

Posted on: 03/20/12 11:46 AM | by Jonathan McKee

UPDATE: Jonathan has now posted a new post titled, After Seeing The Hunger Games… We encourage you to peek at that, since the post below was written before the film’s release (even though they are both in agreement with each other).

Original Post:
After posting our article about what parents can expect from the movie Hunger Games, we’ve been receiving some interesting emails and comments from our readers. The most common question:

“Why should we let our kids go see a movie about kids killing kids?”

That’s not an ignorant question.

How should parents react to a story like Hunger Games? Are our kids going to want to start killing each other if they watch this film like all the kids that are throwing parties after watching the rebellious film Project X? Are we lowering ourselves to be like the audiences who gathered to watch gladiators fight it out thousands of years ago? (All accusations I’m hearing.)

First, let me ask a question: Should we avoid any story where both good and evil are presented? Think about this kind of reasoning. In The Chronicles of Narnia we see a group of kids fight against an evil witch! (Wow, that’s like Hunger Games vs. Harry Potter!) Should we avoid that classic C.S. Lewis story?

What about stories with kids killing other kids? Should we shelter our kids from any stories that tackle this ugly premise? Should books like Lord of the Flies be banned? (Wouldn’t be the first time.) We’d have to censor Genesis, Chapter 4, if we go that route. What about violent stories of adults killing other adults? (Oh man, there goes the book of I Kings!)

What kind of content should parents be leery of?

Good question. I’m reading The Hunger Games right now and am planning on seeing the movie this weekend and blogging about it. So far, I find the book not only captivating, but also thought provoking. A tyrannical government known as “The Capitol” lords control over the 12 remaining districts in the known human race. The districts are forced to each provide a boy and a girl to fight to the death on national TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss selflessly takes her younger sister’s place, forced to fight for survival in these evil games.

As you investigate this film for yourself, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this story glorifying violence or inappropriate sexual situations?
  • Is this story making “bad” look “good” or enticing?
  • Does this story irresponsibly display imitatable attitudes and behaviors that our kids will absorb and eventually emulate?
  • Does this story needlessly sell out to showing “eye candy” like nudity or gratuitous violence?

Let me be clear: I haven’t seen the movie yet. But from what I’ve read in the book so far, and what I’ve read from those who have seen the film, I don’t find any of those negative elements in this story.

I encourage you, as parents, to do the same. Read the book for yourself. Read several articles, not only ours, but this one from Entertainment Weekly about Common Sense’s review on the film. (Note: don’t just read the headline of this article, it’s misleading as to Common Sense’s actual stand.) Read’s parents guide for the film, which always lists any sex & nudity, violence & gore, etc.

Furthermore, watch the film with your kids, just like I suggested you do with a movie not quite as innocent as this one. Go out to ice cream afterwards and talk about the story.

Don’t just tell your kids “yes” or “no.” Help your kids think Christianly about this film and any other entertainment media they encounter.

What about you? What do you think of Hunger Games? Do you have any concerns about this story hitting the big screen this Thursday night at midnight?

A Glimpse at Our Current & Upcoming GiveAways

Posted on: 03/19/12 5:18 PM | by Jonathan McKee

I love giving stuff away…and today, this week, and in the next few weeks we’re giving away some really cool free prizes just as a thanks for reading, commenting, Liking, and Tweeting our free resources. Here’s a peek at the prizes and contests!

Life in 6 Words 7 Session DVD CurriculumToday, ending Tuesday, March 20th. It’s simple– tweet, Like, rate or comment any of our FREE TRAINING TOOLS articles on the HELP ME page and you qualify to win. Details here. Announcing the winner at the end of the day, March 20th.

Real Conversations 4 Session DVD Curriculum– Later this week, ending mid April. This new evangelism curriculum is going to be available soon, so YS is sponsoring a video contest where youth groups create funny 1-minute videos demonstrating some over-the-top, awful attempts at evangelism. Winner will get the curriculum with up to 50 participant guides and a copy of every YS book I’ve written (that’s 5 books in addition to this curriculum). More details coming in this blog later this week.

Do They Run When They See You Coming?– Next week. Our free book of the week will be given free to anyone who uploads a video for the above Real Conversations contest.

Building a Youth Ministry that Builds Disciples, by Duffy Robbins– Following Week. The next book of the week giveaway.

That’s just a glimpse! The more connected you are, the easier it is to win. So make sure you’re a subscriber to this blog, you “Like” our page, and follow me on Twitter.

Evangelism… a Tool for Spiritual Growth?

Posted on: 03/18/12 1:50 PM | by Jonathan McKee

We’re smack in the middle of a contest where we’re talking about the importance of equipping young people to articulate their faith, and we’re giving away a free 7-session DVD evangelism curriculum.

Evangelism and spiritual growth are the topics at hand. With that in mind, let me ask, “How do you think adults should help young people grow spiritually and own their own faith?”

That’s what I asked my good friend Greg Stier, author, evangelist, and president of  I respect Greg immensely. If you know Greg… he’s the real deal. He lives an authentic faith that opens the door to real conversations about Christ.

Greg and I were talking about the large number of young people that walk away from their faith. It’s something the youth ministry world has been blogging and debating about for years now, and everyone seems to have a theory. I was curious what Greg’s thoughts were on the matter. So I asked him what he thought the solution was. His answer didn’t surprise me:


He didn’t stop with a one-word answer. “If you want a kid to own their faith to the point that it becomes real, teach a kid how to live out their faith and share it with others.”

I chuckled at myself for even asking him the question. “I guess I should have known that you would have answered, evangelism.”

“Well think about it,” he clarified. “Evangelism accomplishes everything we’re looking for.”

He went through his reasoning like bullet points:

  • “We want teenagers to live out their faith. Evangelism requires them to practice what they preach. Nothing motivates young people to live a more authentic life than knowing that they’re being watched and evaluated by their friends.“
  • “We want teenagers to get into scripture. Nothing motivates kids to get into the word more than a friend asking them tough questions that drive them to the Bible for answers.”
  • “We want teenagers to depend on the Holy Spirit. Evangelism would drive C.S. Lewis to rely on the Spirit for help.”

“Evangelism helps young people depend on God like they never have before.”

Greg’s newest evangelism curriculum, Life in 6 Words, a 7-session DVD training helps young people dive into the theology of the Gospel so they can share it simply and authentically.

We’re giving away one of these curriculum right now in our little contest- SEE HERE.

What about you? Do you agree with Greg? Has evangelism catalyzed growth in your kids?

Another Little Contest

Posted on: 03/15/12 8:59 AM | by Jonathan McKee

It’s time to give something away! So let’s have ourselves a little contest, and the prize will be… a free evangelism training curriculum!


Evangelism. It’s a pretty intimidating concept. If we’re honest with ourselves, many of us are scared even with the mention of the word evangelism. It’s that thing we’re supposed to do, but find it so awkward to fit into everyday life.

So how are we supposed to equip our kids to do it?

For the next few weeks I’ll be giving away some great resources to help you “help young people” share their faith. I’ll be blogging about it and we’ll be giving away books, curriculum, and DVD sessions to help you with this daunting task.

Let’s start by offering youth workers an amazing new resource from, their brand new 7 Session DVD evangelism curriculum, Life in 6 Words.

Dare2Share offers this full curriculum for sale for $79.99 on their web site. I’m going to give away one of those full curriculum to one of you in the next few days through our little contest (details below). In addition, Dare2Share has provided an exclusive link for all of you where you can get a free download of their first session of the video, leaders guide and student guide. Be sure to check out this amazing free download.

OUR CONTEST—Here’s how to enter to win a free copy of Life in 6 Words:
Jump on and access the FREE TRAINING TOOLS page from the ARTICLES & FREE TRAINING dropdown menu at the top of the website. Once on the FREE TRAINING TOOLS page, choose, HELP ME. This page provides you with a gold mine of FREE training articles that help you develop your youth ministry skills, anything from leading small groups to planning a youth ministry budget to reaching out to unchurched teenagers. Each of these articles has easy links at the top and bottom of the article to Like, Tweet or +1. Each article also has the ability to comment and rate it one to five stars.

The contest is simple: Like, Tweet (create your own tweets if you like, just include @InJonathansHead), +1, comment, or rate any of these articles and you are entered into the contest. Each time you do any of these actions, your name is thrown in the hopper. The more you Like, share and comment, the better chance you have at winning. (We just ask one simple favor, please don’t rate or comment unless you read the whole article. Violators will be publicly flogged!)

Get to it… we’ll announce winners next week!

THE WINNER: Thanks for all your Likes, comments, tweets and shares! We chose the winner, and it’s one of my Tweet followers, @TifLovesJesus! You win Greg’s new curriculum!

BBQ, Matt Chandler, LifeWay… and Jesus

Posted on: 03/14/12 4:33 PM | by Jonathan McKee

The following is a guest post from author/speaker David R. Smith after attending The Gospel Project live webcast in Nashville today:

So, I’m finally back in my hotel room, contemplating all I’ve experienced today.

I’ve spent the last 24 hours with the folks at LifeWay Publishing here in Nashville, talking with them about their brand new initiative called The Gospel Project. It’s a multi-generational approach to teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world He loves.

The last few hours have been jam-packed, to say the least. Here are just a few highlights of what we’ve experienced today:

1.      Jack’s BBQ. (Yep, if you know me, then you know I search out the best BBQ in every city I speak/train in around the country.) This restaurant is literally world famous, and sits in the shadows of the attractions in Nashville, just two blocks from LifeWay. (Yeah…I’m probably going back there for dinner!)

2.      Matt Chandler’s sermon/message to Christian leaders: don’t trade Jesus for the idea of Jesus. He encouraged us to not allow ourselves to get so distracted by our work for the Savior that we forget about the joy of personally knowing the Savior. A good word for anybody in ministry, regardless of the kind of ministry it is.

3.      Hanging out with the folks from LifeWay. I really can’t say enough about the kind and gracious people at LifeWay. For the last day and a half, I’ve almost let myself believe I’ve achieved some sort of celebrity status. But that’s just because of the first class treatment I’ve received from them.

4.      Being reminded that the Gospel changes everything.

5.      Meeting up with some terrific youth pastors who use our tools offered by You guys are everywhere! We deeply appreciate what you do for God’s Kingdom, and that you take the time to meet up with us when we travel to your city.

6.      Seeing Peyton Manning’s motorcade pass by while eating BBQ. Yep, he’s in talks with the Titans as I write this. Sorry Denver.

It’s been a great trip. Not only have I had the opportunity to hang out with Matt Chandler, Ed Stetzer, and J.D. Greear all day, but I’ll meet with a few folks from LifeWay’s publishing division tomorrow morning before flying back home to Tampa tomorrow afternoon.

We’ve spent our time together reminding each other that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is far more than behavior modification or a list of moral codes. Further, proclaiming the Gospel is more than just tagging on an altar call at the end of messages. The Gospel is the basis for the Bible’s entire message which focuses on one Hero, Jesus Christ.

I can’t wait to share that message again.

David R. Smith, co-author of Ministry By Teenagers, writes weekly resources and articles for, speaks and trains at camps and events across the U.S…. and eats a whole lot of BBQ in his home city of Tampa, FL.

The Gospel Project

Posted on: 03/13/12 2:18 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Maybe you’ve heard, and maybe you haven’t, but LifeWay is rolling out a new curriculum called The Gospel Project. Consequently, my friend and fellow writer David R. Smith and I were invited to join a group of Christian leaders in Nashville (at LifeWay’s headquarters) to participate in a live webcast where the resource was to be introduced to the world.

Then, I got this nasty eye infection, and had to back out. (Dang!)

So that means that today, while I continue to recover from “ol’ zombie eye” as I call it, David is enjoying Tennessee BBQ without me while hanging with Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, David Platt, Ed Stetzer and about 75 other movers and shakers in today’s American church.

As you’re reading this, David is meeting the writers and developers of this initiative. It’s basically a “multigeneration, Gospel-centered Bible study” for children, students and adults that “examines the breadth of the Bible and seeks to reveal to participants how every story, every theological concept and missional truth points to Jesus.”

You might want to re-read that last line. They’ve crammed a lot into this!

In a nutshell, LifeWay is rolling out a tool that allows church leaders to teach the entire congregation the exact same truth…all at the same time! So far, it looks pretty strong. There have been other resources like this one that impact all people of the church at once, for instance, The Purpose Driven Life challenges.

Please pray for David’s travel and time spent in Nashville. Also, check back here tomorrow for a sneak peek at what David learned about The Gospel Project. It’s set for pre-order in May, but David will guest blog here tomorrow, offering his two cents on the initiative so you can make an informed decision about this tool. Also, we’ll probably be giving away a few of these kits as the release time draws closer. Don’t miss it!