Team Builders

Posted on: 05/8/12 8:21 PM | by Jonathan McKee

How important is team-building with our student leaders?

Doug Fields and I have been blogging about student leadership quite a bit lately (just last week I blogged about The First 4 Things I Teach Student Leaders, Part I and Part II). Doug’s student leadership conference is in July on both coasts, so the topic’s on our mind.

It seems that one of the most common questions I receive from the front lines is, “What do I do with my student leaders when we get them together for training?”

Great question. I think it’s important to get student leaders together regularly for training and fellowship. During those times I like to give them opportunities to serve together, and train them about anything from evangelism to discovering and using their gifts (we actually provide an entire ready-made training retreat in my book about developing student leaders, Ministry By Teenagers). But don’t make the mistake of making your training times all about “training.” Make sure you include some team building activities where young people laugh, have fun, with just a dash of “learning to work together.”

I think team-builders are essential. These activities are more than just games (and I’m not slamming on games, I think games can be fantastic tools). Most team-builders are fun, but they have that added bonus of doing just what the name implies, “building your team.” That why our website has a whole page of team-builders.

Here’s a simple one that youth pastor Dan Manns just sent in. I like that this requires no setup… just a few balloons!

Team Builder Title: Don’t Let It Drop
Description: Divide your group into teams of 6-8 people. Give each team a balloon. At ‘go’ each team tries to keep their balloon aloft. There are 3 rules:

#1 players cannot use their arms or hands

#2 a player cannot touch the ball twice in a row

#3 everybody on the team must touch the ball at least once.

If your team’s balloon touches the ground you are out and must sit down on the ground. Last team standing wins.

Simple and fun!

What about you?
What are ways that you help teenagers bond and begin to work together?

A Book a Day

Posted on: 05/6/12 3:29 PM | by Jonathan McKee

This week I’ve decided that I’ll give away “a book a day.”

Here’s how it will work. This week I’m going to be doing some last minute youth culture research to update my parenting workshops, then I’m heading down to the FAM Conference in SoCal, hanging with Doug Fields, Jim Burns, and teaching the parenting track. I’ll make sure and Tweet throughout the week during my research, my blogging, my travels, as well as from the conference. Your job is simple:

ReTweet whatever you think is interesting.

If you don’t follow me on Twitter yet, just jump on my Twitter page and hit the Follow button. Then if I Tweet something about what’s new on the iTunes’ Top 10… reTweet. If you like some of the research I Tweet about teenagers and their entertainment media consumption…reTweet. If I Tweet about what Doug Fields is eating for lunch…reTweet!

The more you reTweet, the more chances you have to win the free book of the day. Monday’s book will be Duffy Robbins new book from YS, Building a Youth Ministry That Builds Disciples. The rest of the books will be announced each day on my Twitter page.

I’ll randomly select a winner from the reTweets of each day and Tweet it at the end of the day M-F this week on my Twitter page!

If you don’t have a Twitter account, just pop on and sign up for free, and then pop on my Twitter page and hit FOLLOW. It’s that simple.

Happy Tweeting!

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Watching The Avengers

Posted on: 05/4/12 11:42 AM | by Jonathan McKee

This week my son came home from his first year of college. We had told him that we’d do something special, so yesterday afternoon I looked at him and his two sisters and asked, “How’d you guys like to go see the midnight premier of The Avengers?”

All three were thrilled. Luckily, the girls are both in the middle of some state testing right now at their schools and didn’t have to be at school til 10ish this morning. So the timing was perfect.

I’ve taken my kids (14, 16, and 18) to one midnight premier before, Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The crowds are always fun at these midnight showings; nerds in costumes, dire-hard fans, a ton of energy, so my kids were really looking forward to it. This time we were able to convince Lori to go with us, so that was a bonus (She’s not big on staying up after midnight… but we twisted her arm). We were pretty sure that we would be the only “family of five” in the theater.

We Fandango’d the tickets to reserve a spot, then we showed up only 90 minutes early (which isn’t very early for a premier like this), hoping to find that delicate balance of not waiting forever in a line, but also being early enough to find decent seats. Those who follow me on Twitter saw that they had just let everyone into the theater at 10:30. We were able to grab some of the stadium seats a few rows apart, Lori and Alec together, and the girls and I several rows above.

Some people were in costumes, but most were just fans like us. One guy walked in dressed as Thor, held up his hammer and screamed. The entire theater cheered. My kids were loving every moment of it.

By 11:30 the theater was packed. We sucked down a Coke trying to get some caffeine and stay awake…and then…the room darkened.

Previews were awesome: the new Dark Knight trailer that I Tweeted about a couple days ago, the new Spiderman. The theater literally roared when these titles came up, but then immediately silenced to hear the preview. It was an interesting phenomena. They were excited, but at the same time were serious about the film so they were respectful enough to quickly silence their cheers and laughter for the next line.

And then… The Avengers.

The film was sheer brilliance. It was far better than I even expected. It was laugh-out-loud hilarious first, in no way lessening it’s appeal as a phenomenal action film. The cast was amazing, and the script practically perfect. All this with Joss Whedon at the helm… it was a nerd’s paradise, but something every audience will love.

Yeah, I know that I just wrote only one paragraph about the actual film, but I just posted our official review of the film, how age appropriate it is, etc. on our MOVIE REVIEWS & QUICK Q’s page along with some discussion questions and a passage of scripture. Be sure to check that out.

Oh… and stay until the end of the credits. NOT just to the surprise in the “middle” of the credits… but until the VERY end!

“Can I Download Nicki Minaj?”

Posted on: 05/2/12 11:55 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Nicki Minaj might just be the Gaga of Hip Hop. Her music is growingly popular, her antics are over the top, and her discretion is slim to none. But underneath all that fancy getup is a lost young girl named Onika who desperately needs to experience the love of Jesus. How can we teach our kids compassion for Onika, and, at the same time, discretion with her content?

WARNING: This blog post contains explicit lyrics, with ** where needed. If you are offended by the explicit lyrics… good! You probably should be.

Nicki Minaj is rapidly becoming a household name. Her new music video Beez in the Trap is rapidly gaining popularity, sitting at #2 on iTunes videos as I write this. Not bad for a song with the chorus:

Bitches ain’t sh*t and they ain’t say nothing
A hundred motherf**kers can’t tell me nothing
I beez in the trap, bee beez in the trap…

Her song Starships is currently #9 on the Billboard Hot 100, her album Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded sits #6 on Billboard’s album chart, and in the last few months Nicki’s had three different songs in the iTunes Top 10, just a click away for our kids.

Do your kids have Nicki on their iPod?

Are a few curse words all there is to worry about?

If parents are trying to determine whether Nicki’s music is appropriate for their kids, it won’t take long for them to decide. One of Nicki’s first rides up the charts was a few years ago in her collaboration with Lil Wayne, Drake and other rappers in the popular Young Money song BedRock (No, this song is not about the Flintstones). Here’s a snippet of the chorus:

My room is the G-spot
Call me Mr. Flintstone, I can make your bed rock
Oh, I can make your bed rock…

Nicki doesn’t take long to show her true colors during her part of this song. Her lyrics kick in with:

Okay, I get it, let me think, I guess it’s my turn
Maybe it’s time to put this p**sy on your side burns

Yes, Nicki is making an oral sex reference. Not just any reference, one that explicitly talks about the plus-size of her anatomy enveloping someone’s entire face, trumping the lyrics by female rapper Amil who said, “Before I put this p**sy on your mustache” in the Jay Z song Can I Get a…

Nicki is known for her foul mouth and full figure. Guardian columnist Simon Hattenstone describes her as having “a body like Marilyn and a mouth like Eminem” in his in depth interview with Minaj. Nicki gained a lot of popularity with songs like SuperBass and Stupid Hoe (I’m not making these titles up). A quick peek at the videos and Googling of the lyrics will reveal her pattern: bragging, cursing, and my biggest concern—the sexualization of girls.

I guess crude talk and racy videos weren’t enough for Nicki, because at the recent Grammy’s she upped the ante with her performance of her song, Roman Holiday, engaging in an exorcism of sorts. In a post Grammy interview she confessed that she has a demon named Roman living inside of her.

So is Nicki really intrigued or even possessed by evil spirits, or is this just another attention-getting ploy?

Does it really matter? Is that the deciding factor for parents teaching their kids discernment?

Many parents don’t find a problem with Nicki as long as you download the “clean version.” That seems to be the case with the proud parents of these two cute little girlsand Ellen DeGeneres. So is Stupid Hoe “clean” when you simply take out the curse words? Is Beez in the Trap “clean” when the profanity is removed? (Maybe parents should know a little more about Nicki and what terms like “Beez in the Trap” really means.)

Nicki continues to grow in popularity and as a role model. The question is: Are Nicki’s songs and music videos part of their regular entertainment-media diet?

Getting Our Teenagers Talking About Nicki
After my parent workshops parents always ask me what I say to my own kids about artists like Nicki. I always answer, “As little as possible. I try to get them talking.”

That’s the trick. When our kids ask, “Dad, Can I Download this Song?” our response should probably be, “I don’t know. What do you think?” And the conversation begins. (Chapter 6 of my parenting book is actually titled, “Dad, Can I Download this Song?” because it’s a question so desperate in need of addressing to today’s parents.)

I’ve had some of these conversations with different teenagers already about Nicki, asking them what they think of her lyrics, her videos, and her claims about demon possession. The conversations eventually lead here: “Nicki seems to be a girl looking for answers in the wrong places. We should pray for Nicki… and I agree with you, I don’t think we should download her songs.”

If our kids are Nicki fans the biggest mistake we could make is to just blindly label her “bad.” After all, aren’t we all “bad?” How bad is too bad? I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be judged with that measuring tape. Perhaps we need to teach our kids compassion for people, while at the same time teaching discernment with the content they’re filling their heads with.

Compassion starts with stepping into the shoes of others. If you read her story, Nicki, born Onika Maraj, has a father who was an alcoholic and a drug addict. Nicki’s mother even claims that he tried to burn down their house once. Nicki has a history. She’s the woman at the well (John 4). She’s Zacchaeus (Luke 19). She could even be the demon-possessed man (Mark 5). We can learn a lot reading how Jesus responded to these people. While the religious stand and accuse, Jesus responds in compassion.

Perhaps when we see Nicki, we should try to look through Jesus’ eyes and really see Onika.

Does that mean that her music is fair game?

Compassion doesn’t give license to lack of discernment. We need to teach our kids love and wisdom. Just look at Ephesians, Chapter 5. It starts by affirming us to “walk in the way of love,” but then encourages us to steer clear of sexual immorality, impurity, greed and a whole list of foolish behavior. Avoiding those behaviors is basically paraphrased and summarized in vs. 17, “Don’t be foolish.”

If we are talking with kids who don’t see the Bible as an authority… do they believe their doctor? Because the Journal Pediatrics spells out the research clearly the lyrics affect young people.

If your kids are Nicki fans, what are some ways you can help them learn to avoid being foolish with their entertainment media choices? How can we equip them to steer clear of bad content on their own? That’s the real trick—not over-reacting, but interacting, opening the doors for healthy dialogue.

Discussing Nicki’s Content
If your kids have some Nicki songs, try to get them talking about her content. Google the lyrics to SuperBass, Stupid Ho and Beez in the Trap. Go over the lyrics with your kids. Don’t’ lecture, just ask questions, questions like…

–       What do these lyrics mean?

–       What does she mean in SuperBass when she says that all a guy has to do is give her a look and her panties are coming off?

–       What do you think most girls who listen to Nicki are hearing when they hear these kinds of lyrics?

Pull up Nicki’s music video for Beez in the Trap on iTunes (just click videos on the front page- it’s on the top of the charts right now). Hit the preview button and simply watch the 30-second preview. Then ask…

–       What would happen if all girls started acting like Nicki and these other girls in this video?

–       Sure, a woman could dance like this in front of her husband, but do you think it’s appropriate to dance like this in front of the world?

Read the definition of “sexualization” from the APA right HERE (those first four bullets). Ask your kids to provide an example of sexualization. Ask them if they think Nicki’s videos are an example?

Realize that many kids are going to respond by saying that they don’t listen to the lyrics and they don’t pay attention to that stuff in the videos. Ask…

–       How do young people dance at a school dance? Why? Where do they get that idea from?

–       Is there a chance that many of today’s teenagers have been sexualized by role models like Nicki?

If you’re talking to boys, ask…

–       Why do guys like watching girls dance like this?

–       What is the definition of lusting? (Matthew 5:27, 28)

–       Is it possible that a lot of guys will probably lust when watching stuff like this?

You might conclude by asking, “So, if Nicki’s lyrics are recommending girls to act promiscuous, and her videos are proving that she is sexualized, and many who watch the videos are slowly being sexualized, or lusting…do you think we should make Nicki part of our music library?

Let your teenagers come to the conclusion.

Then take some time and truly pray for Onika.


Being “Good News” in our Neighborhoods

Posted on: 05/1/12 11:29 AM | by Jonathan McKee

I liked Adam McLane the first time I met him. Adam’s hard to describe: tech geek, youth worker, heart for Christ, father, husband, thinker… all these descriptions probably represent him, but he’s way more than the sum of all the parts. What you get is a man of God who is knowledgeable, passionate and willing to take risks for the cause of Christ. Some might even call him edgy… I call him brother.

Recently Adam and Jon Huckins launched a new 6-week curriculum called Good News in the Neighborhood. This fun little resource packs YouTube videos, stories, Bible studies, small group questions and more to help young people think about what it actually looks like to live as a sent people being Good News in their homes, schools and neighborhoods. I like it, not only because it gives me a better glimpse into the heart of Adam, but also because it brings us back to the basics of what Jesus did.

A Timely Accident
Adam and I are both giggling. Neither of us knew about each others’ evangelism curriculum, and as it happened, they were both released at the exact same time. It’s funny to compare Adam’s curriculum with my brand new evangelism curriculum, REAL CONVERSATIONS. In short…

– Adam’s curriculum equips young people to seek relationships with the lost, and encourages them to have faith conversations.

– My curriculum encourages young people to seek relationships with the lost, and equips them to have faith conversations.

Both are so needed (It’s almost as if we planned the same week release).

Something Unique
Of all the numerous positive aspects of Good News in the Neighborhood, the facet I like the most is that it encourages students to do something that evangelism trainings often overlook: taking time to simply notice others. In the first week of the curriculum, after discussing what it would look like to be a light in our neighborhood, we’re assigned to go to a coffee shop with a notebook and a pen and write down what we observe–people watching 101. In week two we analyze the data we collected, sharing information, and asking questions like:

–       What are new things you learned about our community?

–       Looking at everyone’s observations, were there patterns that seemed important?

Eventually the curriculum proposes: “As we take the time to observe our neighborhood and train ourselves to take notice of our neighbors, it’s only natural to begin to ask how you can make things better.”

Instead of providing random theories from the author, the curriculum plops us down in front of scripture, and then prompts us to pull application from it to walk as Jesus walked and serve as Jesus served.

Here’s what I like about this curriculum:

  1. It’s “out of the box.” This curriculum isn’t your normal evangelism training. It asks questions that students haven’t been asked before and it stretches students in new ways.
  2. It’s grounded in scripture. Each week the curriculum has students digging through scripture studying Jesus and the early church. This training has Jesus at the heart of it.
  3. It bleeds missions. This is probably the exact kind of training I’d take students through before a missions trip, local or foreign. It trains students how to take notice of the needs around them and live like Jesus lived.

Great curriculum!

I asked Adam if he would discount this curriculum for you- my blog readers. He knocked off $10 if any of you buy it this week and use coupon code SOURCE12 at checkout. Here’s THE LINK at

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