Mom’s iPhone Rules

Posted on: 01/31/13 3:01 AM | by Jonathan McKee

He begged his Mom for an iPhone, and finally received it on Christmas day… along with a very personal and detailed iPhone contract… written by his mom!

13-year-old Greg seems like any other middle school kid, but his mom, Janelle Hoffman isn’t just any mom. She is teaching her son that owning a smart phone is a privilege, not a right. Perhaps this is a better option than just smashing our kids’ phone!

Janelle was willing to give Greg an iPhone, but only if he agreed to their list of 18 conditions. Here’s just a few:

1. It is my phone. I bought it. I pay for it. I am loaning it to you. Aren’t I the greatest?

2. I will always know the password.

3. If it rings, answer it. It is a phone. Say hello, use your manners. Do not ever ignore a phone call if the screen reads “Mom” or “Dad”. Not ever.

4. Hand the phone to one of your parents promptly at 7:30pm every school night & every weekend night at 9:00pm.

(you can see all 18 iPhone rules here)

ABC News interviewed the mother and son:

(what a great video to show a parents’ small group and discuss)

So what about you?
Which of Janelle’s rules did you like? Which ones would you probably not use? Why?

What rules do you have for your kids’ phone use– maybe something Janelle missed?

How do these rules change as our kids get older? (like by age 17½ perhaps?)


Actually Setting Guardrails

Teenagers and SnapChat

Consuming Music… (Do the Lyrics Affect Me?)


Tossing Aside Innocence… in 1954

Posted on: 01/30/13 3:01 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Last weekend I saw something so relevant to youth culture today that it could have been created last week. As it is… it was painted in the 1950’s.

Saturday my wife and I joined some friends and visited our local art museum to see the Norman Rockwell exhibit. Now, I don’t get very artsy in these blogs, and I won’t claim to be something I’m not. I can name a handful of artists and recognize their work, but most of you know that you’d be far likelier to find me at a Buffalo Wild Wings than a museum. But last weekend’s look at Norman Rockwell’s works really opened my eyes to how much Rockwell had his thumb on the pulse of youth culture in his day. And paintings like this one are almost timeless.

Isn’t that painting amazing? Simply titled, “Girl at Mirror,” this painting graced the cover of the Saturday Evening Post on March 6, 1954. Stare at the painting for a few moments and take in some of the details.

Notice the doll discarded on the floor. Is that symbolic of her attempting to cast away her youth? How do young girls do this today?

Notice the magazine with the picture of the model. Is that the standard she is trying to measure up to? What do our daughters try to measure up to today?

Notice her hands. Is this young girl secure in herself? What is she thinking as she sees her reflection? What do girls see today?

Notice the makeup and hairbrush at her feet. Are these what will replace the doll?

How relevant is this picture today?

As a youth worker and a parent, I might just show my kids this picture and ask them similar questions– a great little tool to get our kids thinking and talking.

The Rockwell exhibit was amazing. You can scroll down on this page and see a glimpse of some of the paintings I got to see firsthand. Amazing stuff. I have a new appreciation for the artist. I might just blog about a few other of his works.

Super Bowl Quiz

Posted on: 01/28/13 3:00 AM | by Jonathan McKee

It’s almost Super Bowl time… and those of you have been receiving our youth ministry e-Zine via for the past few years know what that means. It means a fun little free resource we provide every year called the Super Bowl Quiz! (I just posted it HERE)

Tomorrow I send out our Super Bowl Quiz via our e-Zine newsletter. So if you don’t receive that free little youth ministry resource letter, sign up for that, or any of our other free resources HERE on the Connect with Us page.

The Super Bowl Quiz is a fun little party game you can use at your Super Bowl party at your church or your home. People fill out the quiz as they enter your party, predicting scores, catches, runs, etc., then you fill out the results during the game and tally up the winner.

Great fun!

Look for it in tomorrow’s e-Zine.

Teenagers and SnapChat

Posted on: 01/24/13 3:01 AM | by Jonathan McKee

One of the most popular apps teenagers are using today is an app that snaps a picture, sends to a friend… and then the picture disappears after just a few seconds.

… or does it?

I’m talking about Snapchat. I blogged about this app last May when it first began growing popular (I encourage you to read that post, because I provide some of the real numbers about “sexting” and how much of a concern this issue really is… or isn’t).

Well, now the app is more mainstream, and most kids know about it and use it. It’s the 16th most popular download in the free iTunes store as I type this. More than 20 millions photos are shared each day. If you hang out with teenagers, you’ve probably heard about it.

Here’s what The Today Show had to say about it:

So, should parents be worried?

The video above nailed it with two facts:

1. The pictures are NOT just temporary, because EVERY kids knows how to do a screenshot of incoming pictures. Now the picture that someone intended to be temporary… is saved on someone’s phone. You’ll find a host of articles about this all over the web.

2. Parents need to have conversations about this with their kids. Kids need to be reminded of accountability. In short, Snapchat should be treated like any other picture they take.

My good friend Adam McLane, author of A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Social Media, just happened to blog about this yesterday as well and offers 5 insightful principles for parents, teenagers and youth workers to consider.

Some parents are banning their kids from downloading this app. Will that solve the problem? Or do parents just need to start having more conversations about responsibility and accountability?

Have you noticed your kids using Snapchat? Is banning the app from your kids the solution? Why or why not?

What conversations have you had with your kids about this popular app?

Thrift Shop Goes No 1

Posted on: 01/22/13 3:01 AM | by Jonathan McKee

If you hang out with teenagers, you’ve probably heard mention of the song or music video Thrift Shop by two guys whose names no one knew a month ago, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. The song (the explicit version) bounced in and out of the No 1 spot on iTunes last Wednesday, and the music video has been doing the same. It has been rapidly climbing the Billboard Hot 100 charts as well (always a little slower than iTunes), hitting No 2 this past weekend.

I first heard about it from Alyssa, my 17-year-old when she declared, “Dad, you’ve seen the video for that hilarious song Thrift Shop, haven’t you? Everyone’s talking about it at school.”

That, of course, peeked my curiosity.

Here’s the music video- unedited. It’s a little slow at the beginning, but kids are sticking with it, finding it both funny and catchy. Language Warning: even though the visuals are clean, this guy drops the f-bomb quite a few times in this video, with a few other vile phrases.

I think we’re seeing how much this younger generation is drawn to humor, naughty or nice. I’m reminded of LMFAO’s Sexy and I Know It, Katy Perry’s Last Friday Night, and the numerous Andy Sandberg/Lonely Island videos that went viral. Funny sells.

I’m not defending this music video’s vulgarity, but Thrift Shop is actually pretty tame compared to the other hip hop music videos in the top of the charts right now, like A$AP Rocky’s F**kin’ Problems and Pitbull’s Don’t Stop the Party, both hanging in the iTunes top 10 for the last two months, both extremely racy, the latter as close to pornographic as a video can be without actually being officially pornographic. Thrift Shop doesn’t go there at all with the visuals, sticking to humor for its draw.

Vulgarity aside, Thrift Shop’s theme is actually a positive one. (NOTE: I’m not saying that you should go buy this song or start listening to it. I’m simply pointing out some conversation points if you get into a discussion with kids about the song). It pokes fun at the concept of buying fancy clothes to gain popularity, and basically encourages bargain shopping. It celebrates it, in fact. Some would probably argue Macklemore & Lewis’ message about self esteem is refreshing.

I don’t know how far I’d go with that, but I have to admit… these lyrics are rather amusing:

I wear your granddad’s clothes
I look incredible
I’m in this big ass coat
From that thrift shop down the road

What do you notice from the video?

What are your kids saying about the video?


What iTunes Reveals about Teenagers

Dissecting R-rated Movies Like Looper

The “Right” Kind of Porn

Can I Download Nicki Minaj?

The Delusion of the American Dream

Posted on: 01/17/13 3:01 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Last week a youth worker friend called me up and began asking questions and advice about personal finances. The gist of his question was, “How is a youth worker supposed to try to make ends meet when starting a family, paying for diapers, trying to afford a minivan and actually having a little bit left over to go on a date every once in a while?!!”

Great question—one I know many can relate to.

I think a lot of the nation is thinking about finances and debt right now (I’ll purposely steer this article away from making political commentary), because I’m seeing more and more articles surfacing about how to get out of financial crisis. My own teenagers are even learning these lessons right now. My son just started at Azusa Pacific University, an amazing Christian college in Southern California. He loves his classes and his roommates, but he’s facing the same struggle every college kid encounters: the reality of being a poor college student who can’t buy everything he desires when many of his GEN Y counterparts are living check to check, buying everything on impulse. An article in TIME today just cited a study revealing more than 3/4 of renters age 18-24 spend more than they earn each month.

Unfortunately, when we graduate from college, land a job, get married and buy a house, the money shortage doesn’t necessarily go away. Sadder yet, many of us still dive headfirst into spending, trying to achieve that American dream, and before we know it… we’ve created a nightmare.

So what’s the solution?

Sadly, I think many people are looking for a golden egg. We want our problem solved NOW! There’s good news and bad news about that.

  1. You can start on the road to good financial decision-making right NOW! (I know, that sounds like a sales pitch, but it’s actually just a fact)
  2. If you’re in debt, that can be a long road, requiring discipline, and sacrifice. (I understand, I didn’t put a lot of sugar on that. But I risked just saying it, figuring you’d prefer the honest truth.)

What does that road look like?

I was inspired my youth worker friend’s sincere questions about financial troubles, so I began sharing some candid thoughts on paper… and that became a frank, but helpful article about saving ourselves from financial crisis. My friends over at Youth Specialties posted the article yesterday: Waking Up From the American Dream: Saving Yourself from Financial Nightmares.


When the Ministry Budget isn’t Big Enough

When My Wife Had Enough—Balancing Family and Ministry

Posted in Marriage, Money |  | Leave A Comment

The Power of Stories

Posted on: 01/16/13 3:01 AM | by Jonathan McKee

This weekend I speak to hundreds of junior highers at one of my favorite camps, Timberlee in Wisconsin. Someone just asked me, “How do you keep the attention of today’s junior highers?”

“Easy. Just tell em’ a story.”

It’s amazing the impact a story can make. And story-based talks are some of the best:

  1. They’re easy to memorize. Once you hear a story, it’s pretty easy to repeat.
  2. They hold the attention of most young people, because everyone wants to hear the end of a story.
  3. It’s tapping into a technique that Jesus used all the time!

If you want a sample of what I’m talking about, I just posted a brand new story on our web site from my book MORE 10-MINUTE TALKS. The talk is simple. It’s a story, a quick explanation connecting it to the scripture, and a wrap up. I even included small group questions so that your kids can discuss it (Click here to see this ready-made talk).


Consuming Music… and Cheesecake

Posted on: 01/14/13 3:01 AM | by Jonathan McKee

David and I finished our annual recap of the songs that went #1 in the past year, just posting Part II of the article on this week’s Youth Culture Window page (if you don’t receive that free Youth Culture Window in your inbox, CLICK HERE).

Thirteen songs made it to the top spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart this year, giving teenagers plenty to resonate with…both good and bad. That two-part article provides you with an overview of each of those songs.

Every once in a while someone will ask me, “Why do you care so much about the music teenagers listen to?”

I guess that would be like someone asking me, “Why do you care about what your kids eat?”

Consider the love for cheesecake. If you sauntered into the Cheesecake Factory on a random Friday night and discovered their Dulce de Leche Caramel Cheesecake to be delicious, you might not be aware that you just consumed over 1000 calories, 44 grams of fat, and 91g of carbs in one piece.

I mean… who cares. It just tastes delicious!

Perhaps you begin eating a piece after every meal.

If someone warns you, “Hey, you’re gonna grow three chins if you keep eating all that cheesecake!” you might be tempted to reply, “I just don’t worry about all that stuff. After all, how do we really know that excess calories and carbs are bad for you anyway!”

Ignorance is no excuse.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying all music is bad. Quite the contrary (all food isn’t bad either). But, perhaps we should be aware of what our kids are consuming.

That’s why I spend a little bit of time in each of my parent workshops giving parents a tour of pop culture, and then sharing various research (like this and this) revealing that the lyrics do affect young people, something to ponder when they average about two and a half hours a day listening to said lyrics.

Interested yet?

Check out the top music of 2012.

Coming to Your City

Posted on: 01/10/13 12:17 PM | by Jonathan McKee

I’m starting to book some travel for my upcoming speaking and training, and I found a few gaps in my speaking calendar where some of you might want me to speak, train, or do a parent workshop at your church… for no travel cost.

Here’s some of the upcoming openings I have:

CHICAGO- March 3rd
I teach at YS Palooza on March 1 and 2, but don’t have anything booked for Sunday. So if any of you greater-Chicago area churches would like me to preach and/or teach one of my parent workshops… or train your adult leaders… I can stay an extra day.

DES MOINES- March 17th
I teach at a Youth Leadership Conference called IGNITE on March 15 and 16, don’t have anything booked for Sunday. So if any of you greater-Des Moines area churches would like me to preach and/or teach one of my parent workshops… or train your adult leaders… I can stay an extra day.

PHILLY- April 14th
I teach at YS Palooza in Philly on April 12 and 13, but don’t have anything booked for Sunday. So if any of you greater-Philly area churches would like me to preach and/or teach one of my parent workshops… or train your adult leaders… I can stay an extra day.

I teach the parenting track of the FAM Conference at Azusa Pacific University on May 16-18, but don’t have anything booked for Sunday. So if any of you Southern California area churches would like me to preach and/or teach one of my parent workshops… or train your adult leaders… I can stay an extra day.

Email me at [email protected] if you would like to talk about one of these dates. Let me know what kind of teaching/training you’d like me to do, and what’s in your budget. All the money from these workshops goes directly to providing free resources and training for youth workers around the world.

Best Movies of 2012

Posted on: 01/10/13 3:00 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Each January I like to sit down with my movie reviewing buddy Todd Pearage and reflect back on our favorite films of the past year. This year was a fun year for films, especially superhero films. (The Avengers, Dark Knight and The Amazing Spiderman all in one year! Pinch me!) But it was also a fun year for midnight premieres. My wife and kids attended two of these midnight premiers with me, both The Hobbit, and The Avengers.

But for me to compile a list of the best of 2012… I feel a little inept this year, not in ability, but simply because I have been so busy that I missed numerous good 2012 films in the theatre. Unfortunately, I’ve missed plenty that have ended up on others “best of 2012” lists. For example: I have NOT seen Zero Dark Thirty, Lincoln, Wreck-it Ralph, Django Unchained, Perks of Being a Wallflower, Argo, Les Mis, Skyfall, Life of Pi, The Bourne Legacy, Flight, or Promised Land. Those movies are all in my rental queue and some of them will probably eventually end up in my list of 2012 favorites.

Right now, my list of the best of 2012 would most likely include The Avengers, People Like Us, Hunger Games, The Hobbit, The Dark Knight Rises, and The Amazing Spiderman. I would also have to put some thought into considering Lawless, Premium Rush, or even Looper. Some of these films were a little raw, so I’m not sure.

But forget my incomplete list. Todd has reviewed a ton of movies this year and already compiled his list of his favorites… so without further a-do, here’s his list, with comments from both of us.


1. The Avengers

TODD’S WORD: I said it then and I will say it again. This was the best movie of the year. I really loved this one. It had it all: action, drama, comedy…and Iron Man!

JONATHAN’S WORD: Agree. I’ve watched this one a few times again with the kids. We always love it.

2. Dark Knight Rises

TODD’S WORD: No question The Dark Knight Rises was my second favorite superhero movie and my second favorite movie overall. Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale maintained high energy, excitement and top-notch quality through all three films this is one solid trilogy.

JONATHAN’S WORD: I loved it too. But the surprise for me was Thomas Hardy (playing Bane). This guy has a great career ahead of him. He has a range as huge as his biceps. (Loved him in Lawless)

3. Lincoln

TODD’S WORD: I don’t imagine there will be many lists that will not include Lincoln. Everything about this movie is done with excellence.

JONATHAN’S WORD: It looks good. I gotta see it.

4. The Amazing Spider-Man

TODD’S WORD: This spider man film was far and away better than the previous trilogy. Gone are the campy one-liners and all the silliness. I can’t wait for more of this version.

JONATHAN’S WORD: My entire family saw this one as well and loved it. I actually enjoyed the earlier trilogy, but agree that this one trumped all three.

5. The Hobbit

TODD’S WORD: I’m not the biggest hobbit fan in the world. But Peter Jackson has done something special with the Lord of the Rings films and now with the Hobbit. This one will definitely find its way into my Blu-ray collection.

JONATHAN’S WORD: Amazing film. Love the whole series.

6. Skyfall

TODD’S WORD: Daniel Craig is my favorite Bond and Skyfall is now my favorite Bond film.

JONATHAN’S WORD: This looks amazing. I can’t wait to see it.

7. The Grey

TODD’S WORD: Liam Nielsen being chased by wolves, what’s not to love? Despite leading Jonathan and Lori’s date night astray with this one, I loved it. In all seriousness, I love the story, the characters, the way they were developed and of course the intense action throughout this entire movie.

JONATHAN’S WORD: Despite the fact that Todd indeed sabotaged my date night with this one… it was a pretty good film if you don’t mind a dark, depressing ride into the abyss.

8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

TODD’S WORD: This one may surprise some of you, but as a youth pastor this movie spoke to me. It was at times difficult to watch and I will admit…I cried.

JONATHAN’S WORD: Didn’t see it. Wasn’t going to either, but now I might, based on Todd’s word.

9. Jack Reacher

TODD’S WORD: This spot was occupied by The Hunger Games until I watched Jack Reacher. It is one of the best action movies I’ve seen in a long time and it was filmed in Pittsburgh.

JONATHAN’S WORD: It would have to be pretty good to beat Hunger Games, so I’ll be definitely seeing this based on Todd’s word.

10. John Carter

TODD’S WORD: I don’t think John Carter is on anyone’s top 10 list of 2012. But I really like this movie. It’s clean, it’s fun and there is plenty of action.  I really believe it did not do well because so many people thought it copied all the other science-fiction films. But John Carter was written long before Star Wars or Star Trek. If you missed this one I would definitely recommend picking it up on DVD.

JONATHAN’S WORD: I thought this looked incredibly stupid, but have heard several people I respect tell me how good it was. So this is on my list to watch as well.

What about you? What were some of your favorite films of 2012?

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