When Words and Actions Collide

Posted on: 11/15/12 3:01 AM | by Jonathan McKee

What is evangelism really supposed to look like today?

Feeding the poor?

Knocking on doors and sharing the Gospel?

I’m amazed how polar Christians become when discussing evangelism methodology. Half the group is passionate about sharing the Gospel with words; the other half has boarded the very popular social justice train.

Which is the correct method to point people towards Jesus? With words… or actions?

In my Real Conversations workshop at the National Youth Workers Convention this year I’m asking this question, posting each extreme point of view on opposing walls and asked people to stand in the room where they “stood” on the issue. When I did this in San Diego, people stood all over the room.

One youth worker objected. “The question is misleading!”

I smiled. Sure, we tend to favor one or the other. But the answer isn’t Continue reading “When Words and Actions Collide” »

More Than Just Method

Posted on: 09/26/12 3:01 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Yesterday Todd sent me this and I couldn’t help but share it with you. (I love his honest “skepticism.”)

Many of you might recognize his name… Todd Pearage is a full time youth pastor and father of three, who also moonlights writing movie reviews for us, and music reviews for Interlinc. Todd always is on the lookout for practical Christian resources for youth workers.

Hey Jonathan, I can’t help but give you some feedback about your latest DVD project, Real Conversations: How to Share Youth Faith Without Being Pushy.

Remember, this is from the guy who wasn’t that excited about it when you first told me that you were working on a video-based curriculum on evangelism. Honestly, the first thought I had was, “Another evangelism curriculum?” But, over the next few weeks as you shared more and more about your vision and direction of this DVD, I started to get really excited.

Too often curriculum like this appears to be written in think tanks by people who aren’t in the trenches. Those folks might deliver solid, well-written Bible lessons. Unfortunately, it often lacks realism. The stories are far-fetched and the “problems” are out-dated or not really problems at all.

And let’s be honest Continue reading “More Than Just Method” »

More Radical Than Jesus Graffiti

Posted on: 07/17/12 12:29 PM | by Jonathan McKee

This morning I was running on the paved bike trail by my house and I ran across a new piece of graffiti. It was a picture of a cross and then the words “JC rules!”

How sad!

Yes… how sad. What a wimpy way to take a stand for Jesus.

Allow me to elaborate. This trail is one of the nice perks in the Sacramento area. For 30 years I’ve seen politicians debating to cut funding of the trail, while residents fight to keep it. Thousands of people use the trail daily. Hundreds of volunteer groups pick up trash along the trail and rake the sides to keep it clean. Sacramento residents really love their American River Bike trail, and whenever someone paints graffiti on it, we’re angered. It’s not only breaking the law, it’s a disrespect of the trail.

So am I as a Christian supposed to forget all that and celebrate that someone broke the law… for Jesus! Continue reading “More Radical Than Jesus Graffiti” »

Greg Stier on “Real Conversations”

Posted on: 06/13/12 10:19 AM | by Jonathan McKee

When I think of evangelism, I think of my buddy Greg Stier. Greg is the type of guy who can start a conversation with a cab driver, and the guy will put his trust in Christ before dropping off Greg at the airport. Greg definitely has the gift.

That’s why, when I started writing the script for my Real Conversations training curriculum on DVD, I sent Greg my first draft and asked for his feedback. Greg’s insight is always priceless (literally…he didn’t charge me a thing).   🙂

Now that my DVD curriculum is released, Greg took a peek at the training and had this to say:

“If you are looking for a way to ease your students into the often awkward (but always awesome!) process of peer-to-peer evangelism then I challenge you to get Real Conversations for your teenagers. McKee is always funny, practical and thought provoking when it comes to anything he teaches…and he doesn’t disappoint in this curriculum! I especially enjoyed the demonstration in episode four showing a conversation between two girls at school and how the Christian girl skillfully, naturally and humbly turned the conversation with her friend toward spiritual things.”
Greg Stier, President Dare 2 Share Ministries

I agree with him– the two girls in “Episode Four” of the training are amazing. It’s a very…well…it’s a very “real conversation” that gives young people a glimpse of what authentic faith conversations might look like in real life. (Get the curriculum right now on sale for less than $20, including the DVD and the participant’s/leaders guide. Shameless plug).

If you haven’t heard or read Greg, I encourage you to check him out at GregStier.org

Even though evangelism isn’t my gift, I like hanging out with Greg because his passion for evangelism rubs off on you. Greg is an encouragement to me, always motivating me to talk to others about the Good News!

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10 Ways to Scare Off Pushy Salesmen

Posted on: 06/8/12 6:34 AM | by Jonathan McKee

How come our evangelism techniques sometimes feel like door-to-door “sales” trickery?

I’ve been thinking a lot about evangelism lately, with the release of my new “Real Conversations” evangelism curriculum. In that curriculum I talk about how often our evangelism methodology sometimes can be either too pushy… or too silent.

Jesus was neither.

I probably wouldn’t be sticking my neck out to far when I suggest that our evangelism style should look nothing like a door-to-door salesman who use pushy tactics. Nobody likes a pushy salesman. Do you get these guys coming to your door? Maybe it’s just where I live in the burbs, but we get SOOOOOoooo many of these guys who come to the door trying to sell us something, arguing with you if you say your not interested… so hard to get rid of them. My kids and I have been trying to think of ways to avoid them and get rid of them.

Here’s my Top-10 list of 10 Ways to Scare Off Pushy Door-to-door Salesman. I’ll provide two through 10… and you submit a possible #1. I will vote on the best one and give the winner a free copy of my new Real Conversations curriculum, both a DVD and a Participant’/Leaders Guide.

10 Ways to Scare Off Pushy Door-to-door Salesman.

10. Just stand there sharpening a machete when you open the door.

9. Open the door just wearing a towel… a hand towel!

8. Be hollering at someone in a back room as you open the door, mid sentence. “…and Doctor Morse said as long as I keep taking the antibiotics and don’t go out in public for the next 3 or 4 days, it should be fine.” Finally look at the salesman. “Can I help you?” Start coughing severely without covering your mouth.

7. Silence. Don’t say a word. Just stare (add a subtle lip-quiver if possible).

6. Speak a foreign language to them. (I always speak Elvish.)

5. Open the door frantically holding a leash and a huge dog collar. “Did you find him?!!! Adolf escaped about 10 minutes ago and is roaming the street!”

4. Come to the door with a shotgun and an apple. Tell them you need help “sighting” your shotgun. Ask them to place the apple on their head.

3. Stare at them up and down and then in your best Southern drawl say, “You got a pretty mouth.”

2. Dip the knuckles of your right hand in re-fried beans then open the door and extend your hand to them saying, “Sorry I was so long getting to the door. I was just changing a diaper.”

And it’s up to you to write #1

Use the comments below to submit your best creative way to scare off a pushy door-to-door salesman. I will vote for the winners soon and post it on this blog.

Four Numbers That Will Always Matter in Youth Ministry

Posted on: 06/6/12 11:06 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Life is full of over-reactions…but they are abundant in youth ministry circles.

Have you noticed these swings of the proverbial pendulum?

“Outreach is needed!” “Wait, now we’re ignoring our believers!” “Outreach is bad!”

“We could use events and programs to draw kids!” “Wait, now we’re focusing too much on program, and not enough on the individual.” “Programming is bad!

And now I’m hearing it with numbers again.

“Our youth group has grown to 100 kids weekly.” “Yeah, but the statistic I just read says that all of them are going to Hell…on a bicycle!” “Numbers are bad!”


Can we stop over-reacting and throwing out the baby with the bathwater? (Has anyone actually done this? I wonder if a baby has ever been discarded with bathwater. There has to be a better analogy than this!)

Allow me to be the one to be politically incorrect in today’s ministry world and say it: numbers matter! I realize that some of you think the word “numbers” is the “N” word (you really shouldn’t say that in public, by the way), but I assure you, it’s not. Numbers often open our eyes to the reality of weak areas in our ministry.

Before you scroll directly to the bottom of this blog to post a nasty comment, please hear me out. I’ll keep it simple. Numbers should never be the focus of our ministry, but at times, they provide really helpful information…and a much-needed kick in the butt.

Here’s 4 numbers that will ALWAYS matter in youth ministry:

1.    How many people have you and your leaders led to Christ this year?
Again, before overreacting, note that the Bible actually includes these kinds of numbers. Take a peek at that giant conversion in Acts, Chapter 2. Peter preached, the Lord moved, and “about three thousand were added to their number that day.” (vs. 41). (Did I mention that the Bible has a book titled “Numbers?”) What was Luke thinking when he wrote this down! Didn’t he know that it’s bad to keep track of numbers?

Not true. Numbers often tell us that something is happening the way it’s supposed to happen when we allow the Spirit to work.

If we’re doing ministry in our community, inside and outside the church, people should be meeting Jesus. Does this mean that I should be jealous of Greg because he has led 10 people to put their trust in Christ and I have led only 3? No. But let’s be honest…if I’ve led no one to Christ, I might want to ask why. And if Greg seems to be leading about 10 to 20 people to put their trust in Christ each year and I’m only leading three, I might want to sit down with him, talk with him, and see what I can glean from him. (Especially if Greg is Greg Stier!!!!) We have a lot to learn from each other in the body of Christ. (as iron sharpens iron…)

Numbers keep us accountable to what we should be doing. And we should be introducing people to Christ. If we aren’t…ask why.

2.    How many students are you and your leaders currently discipling?
Ministry doesn’t end with people putting their trust in Jesus. Jesus called us to go and make disciples, not decisions. How many young people are you discipling? If your answer is zero, let me be bold enough to say, you really might want to re-evaluate your ministry.

Better yet, compare this number to the number above—the number of people you and your leaders have led to Christ this year. If the first number is greater, ask why people are making decisions, but not wanting to be discipled  (and that’s an entirely different article). These numbers can help hold us accountable to where we are putting our time. Are we spending 4 hours per week on Wednesday night’s funny video while no kids are being discipled?


Maybe this person should look at numbers to remind himself what’s important.

3.    How many students have you equipped to start using their gifts for the Kingdom?
One of the biggest complaints from the church in the last few years is the large number of teenagers who are walking away from their faith after high school. How many students are we really equipping to own their faith to the point where it spills over and becomes contagious?

That’s really the difference between a kid who’s just growing in their faith and one who’s looking for ministry. The “Looking for Ministry” kid isn’t just growing inwardly, they are following the spirit’s promptings to reach out to others.

Maybe we need to remember to not just focus on ministry to teenagers, but introduce a little bit of ministry by teenagers.

How many student leaders are you developing? How many teenagers have you trained in evangelism this year? How many teenagers are you equipping to do ministry?

These numbers, often ignored, can be some of the most productive numbers you ever count.

4.    How many volunteers have you recruited this year?
Yeah, now I’m really starting to meddle! But let’s face it, we’re doing a great disservice in any youth ministry if we aren’t actively recruiting volunteers to connect with teenagers and be a light in their lives.

Sadly, this area is often put onto the back burner. “I’m a youth pastor, not a recruiter.” Actually, that’s not true. Youth pastors need to be recruiters, equippers and trainers. If the church hires a person to just hang out with teenagers, they made a mistake. Why hire one person to hang out with teenagers when instead you can hire one person who will recruit 20 or 30 volunteers who will all hang out with teenagers?

If you’re a youth worker who finds yourself saying, “I hate recruiting” …you’re not alone. You just need to rethink your methodology (here’s some free help).

How many potential volunteers have you asked to come sit in on a junior high Bible study with you sometime? How many potential volunteers have you asked to drive a vanload of teenagers to the music festival? How many potential volunteers did you give just a small taste of your ministry, following up with them a week later, affirming them for their help and letting them know what a difference they made?

These kinds of numbers keep you accountable to recruiting workers for the harvest.

5.    How few Doritos can you eat after tasting one in a bowl in front of you?
This probably isn’t really important, I just think you’re amazing if you can eat less than 5!!!

Please don’t focus on numbers. Please don’t let numbers define your “value.” Please don’t brag about your numbers. Please don’t let numbers boost your personal pride.

But please… let numbers hold you accountable to the work of the Kingdom.

Ponytailed Pastor

Posted on: 05/10/12 2:55 PM | by Jonathan McKee

I’ve never heard of a “ponytail” being used for the kingdom. But in the case of Mick… it’s the truth.

Mick was nothing like I expected when I was introduced to the senior pastor at this small town Nebraskan church. Mick was wearing jeans, Converse and a t-shirt with Einstein’s face when he met me at the church on Saturday night.

It only took listening to a few people in the congregation before I immediately deduced how much Mick meant to this church.

“Mick has helped make this church the ‘go to’ place in this community when someone is hurting,” Stan McNabb shared. Stan is a volunteer youth worker in the church. “If someone is in the hospital fighting for their life, it doesn’t matter if they go to this church. The family wants to talk with Mick.”

When Mick finished his masters degree at Denver Seminary, he was offered a  pastorship at the small EV Free church in the middle of nowhere Nebraska. Mick moved out there with his wife and kids and immediately got a reputation in the community—the new pastor with the ponytail.

If you live in a small town you understand. Word gets around fast. Everybody knows everybody. When Mick walked into the Dollar General and people got a glimpse of the ponytail, he could almost hear the whispers, “That must be him.”

Big city pastors probably don’t know what it’s like to have the word “Hey! It’s me, the new pastor!” tattooed on your forehead. For Mick, he found that it opened up some incredible doors for conversations. But it also created some serious accountability.

Think about this.

How big a tip do you leave Katy, the waitress in the one diner who has probably served the entire town their breakfast at one time or another?

What films are you renting at the video counter at the gas stop? (Yeah, no Blockbuster Video in this town)

Are you patient when Janet, the town gossip, corners you and talks your ear off for half an hour?

A few years ago the community suffered a series of tragedies. Mick immediately made himself available to the families. It wasn’t long before people knew, the guy with the ponytail is a good listener. If you want to go to a church where everyone is accepted, go to the church with the ponytailed pastor.

Mick doesn’t have the ponytail anymore. He was loosing too much hair on top and didn’t want to do the “Phil Collins.” But Mick doesn’t need the ponytail any longer. Everyone knows who he is. He’s the guy that leaves Katy a nice tip every time.

What about you?

What if you had “I’m a follower of Jesus” tattood on your forehead? Would it make a difference how you lived?

What would the people in your town say about you?

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 TheYouthCartel.com.

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Three Kids in a Van

Posted on: 04/26/12 5:11 PM | by Jonathan McKee

It’s always interesting to see what youth workers do with “travel time” on trips. I’ve seen ministries be very proactive about using a bus ride to build relationships with kids, one kid at a time. I’ve seen other ministries that haven’t even thought about it.

A few weeks ago “Deborah” found herself driving a van on a high school missions project for a week during spring break. Deborah is very gregarious and not afraid to ask kids about their faith. Every time teenagers found themselves riding shotgun next to Deborah, she asked, “So, tell me your faith story.”

Deborah had some great conversations with students during the week, but pretty soon word got around that “shotgun” next to Deborah meant “talking about Jesus.” As it turned out, by the end of the week, most of the students found seats in other vans, leaving just three random teenagers remaining: an awkward freshman boy, a popular cheerleader in her senior year, and a quiet recluse who was rarely seen without her headphones.

The freshman boy sat up front and within five minutes Deborah asked, “Tell me your faith story.”

The boy began to share a little about his life. It wasn’t long before he was talking about the way others teased him and the bullying he had been experiencing already during his freshman year. Choked up, he shared some of the specifics of the cruelties that were daily occurrences for this young man.

Wiping a tear from his cheek he confessed, “I’ve never felt so alone in my entire life. I wish I just had one friend.”

Deborah looked in the rear view mirror. The girl in the headphones was looking out the window, apparently killing her ears with loud music. The cheerleader, however, was noticeably listening to every word, dabbing her eyes with Kleenex, trying to keep her mascara from running.

The cheerleader spoke up. “Me too.”

The boy up front was startled by her voice. He didn’t even realize she was listening. “What?”

“I feel the exact same way,” she continued. “Every day. I’m surrounded by a bunch of fakes. They’re empty, and so am I. I’ve never felt so alone. I hate my life.”

The girl in the headphones grabbed a pillow from the back seat and began to fluff it up on the empty seat next to her. “Me too,” she quickly interjected, then turned over, lay on the pillow and closed her eyes.

Three completely different teenagers from three completely different social circles, all connecting for a brief moment when given a chance to share their story. A true “Breakfast Club” moment.

I love hearing stories from youth workers like this. It gives us a glimpse into the crack into the armor of today’s teenagers. It provides a peek at what Jesus’ ministry probably looked like, just hanging out with the lost.

What about you?

Are you putting yourselves in situations where kids can talk freely with you?

Are you asking questions that get teenagers talking?

Do you listen instead of lecturing?

It’s Here!

Posted on: 04/25/12 3:55 AM | by Jonathan McKee

As a Zondervan author, I usually get a shipment of my books/DVDs a few weeks before they hit the shelves. This Monday my brand new REAL CONVERSATIONS arrived! So right now. I’m offering the DVD and combo Participant’s Guide/Leader’s Guide on my site for less than $20 total (and we’re giving FREE SHIPPING in the US).

I’ve been getting some really good feedback about this curriculum so far. Doug Fields said:


The curriculum features four sessions on the DVD, each about 12 minutes long, the last session a little longer because it features a scene between two teenage girls having a “faith conversation” where one girl shares her faith story in a real way. I had a group of 5 or 6 teenagers help me with the writing of that scene, keeping it real… not forced.

The participant’s guide features some devotional questions for students, then leaders’ notes with large group activities, small group questions… all you need for a full four-week evangelism curriculum.

In short, this training will encourage Christian teenagers to live authentic lives and gives them tools to reach out to their friends in ways that won’t give them cold sweats! The message is simple: an authentic faith creates opportunities to talk about Jesus.