Googling Your Name

Posted on: 01/11/08 8:42 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Have you ever googled your own name?

I was searching for one of my new books (to see how GROUP was marketing it) and I ended up googling my name. When I did, I stumbled across an old interview I did that I couldn’t even remember. It was pretty funny reading my answers. Is it bad to laugh at your own jokes from two years prior?  (yeah, probably so)

It’s pretty short- here’s what I said:

It is a very refreshing pleasure to welcome Jonathan McKee to our studio today. I always look forward to reading Jonathan’s powerful, youth focused, eZine which is published by his outstanding organization, The Source for Youth Ministry.

What is the name of your company and what products or services does it provide?
We are

We love impacting the lives of kids around the world. And one of the best ways we found to do that is by equipping youth workers who are working with these kids. So our ministry’s goal is threefold: Speaking to kids, Training student and adult leaders, and Providing Free Resources on our web site.

What role do you play in your organization?
I am the president, founder, janitor and best boy.

As a successful person, how did you get started?
I started on the front lines as a youth worker. I was a volunteer in the church, then I worked with Youth for Christ reaching “unchurched” kids for almost 10 years. When I looked on the web for some free resources, I found few . . . almost none. I thought, “What a shame. I have a whole file cabinet full of curriculum and ideas that I’ve developed over the years. Why don’t people share these things?” So I did. And the web site was a hit. So we started doing it full time.

How did you learn what it takes to succeed?
By God’s grace. Actually, I’ve learned about 100 ways how NOT to succeed over the last decade. But slowly, I’m learning a few things that work in youth ministry. And I’m trying to share those ideas with as many people as possible.

What personal/family activities do you enjoy?
I love just hanging out with my family . . . my wife Lori, and my three kids, Alec, Alyssa and Ashley. They’re awesome. We like family bike rides, back pack trips . . . or just piling on the coach with popcorn and a movie.

What experiences in your life have helped you expand who you are as a person?
Eating Pizza! Pizza has made me the man I am!

But I guess I’d also say working with kids on campus. Kids across the globe are hurting and looking for someone to notice them. As I spent years on campus meeting kids and investing time into their lives . . . my life was changed. God used me to share his love with kids. And there’s no greater joy than being used by God to make a difference.

What are your concerns about the world today?
MTV. Have you seen that crap?

Are there any tips or advice you would like to offer people?
Yeah . . . don’t swing your 5 year old around in circles after she just finished eating a spaghetti dinner.

And don’t ever stop learning. The successful people I know are teachable. When I meet a guy who “knows all the answers” . . . I meet someone who’s reached their limit. Go into every situation trying to learn something. Everyone has something to offer. (yes, some less than others)

Which people have been role models to you?
Ray Johnston, Jim Burns, Chap Clark . . . and Napoleon Dynamite.

What are your favorite books, computer programs, or forms of entertainment?
My top 10 favorite books are listed on my web site on the left hand side bar: My least favorite computer program is Microsoft Word because it can spell and format better than me. My favorite entertainment has to be movies. I’m sort of a movie fanatic. But everyone knows that from my movie review page:

What is it that you are most passionate about or gives you the greatest enjoyment in life?
My 7 year old came home from church the other day and told me how she really wants to trust God with her actions. I asked her if that meant that she would stop talking about how the cat’s butt rises when you pet it. She agreed.

The greatest joy in my life is when I see my own kids following Christ. I love it when I see “a light go on” during a family devotions time or when I see my son put $5 out of his pocket to give to a homeless person on the street. It doesn’t get much better than that.

I was right. It doesn’t get better than that.

Fun little glimpse into the past.


Posted on: 01/9/08 8:56 PM | by Jonathan McKee

The other night Lori and I rented a film that Marko recommended as one of his favorites of 2007. The film is called ONCE and it is described as a “modern day musical.”

I didn’t have any idea of what to expect… and to be honest… during the first few minutes I was wondering what the heck I had got myself into.

In the first few minutes I realized:

  1. This is a low budget independent film. Not always a bad thing, but often it can be.
  2. The film makers are trying what looks like a “documentry” style of shooting. Again, not always bad, but it can be.
  3. We’re going to see a lot of singing… so we better like what we hear.

Within a few minutes I didn’t know what to think. Lori and I looked at each other and both decided we wanted to give it more time.

By 20 minutes we were hooked.

So I’ll say this: give it at least 20 minutes.

Long story short- I REALLY enjoyed this. Lori and I both found ourselves humming some of the songs the next day. Heck, I just bought the sound track

This film won’t be for everyone. It’s a little artsy, and if you don’t like music, you probably won’t like it. Just give it 20 minutes. 20 minutes will tell.

2 negatives:

  1. The film wanders into the realm of adultery… it never goes there… but it flirts with it.
  2. The film was shot across the pond where people seem to rattle off the “f” word like they’re from Boston. So you have to have an “f” word tolerence. Film is clean aside from that.

Give it a try.

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Generation Y’s fleeting attention spans

Posted on: 01/8/08 10:15 AM | by Jonathan McKee

I’m always intrigued by research about this new generation of young people. Anastasia Goodstein is one of the voices, if not THE voice, I listen to when it comes to gen y. Her Ypulse website and daily news always provides a gold mine of information about this generation.

I was fascinated by a guest post in her January 4th update. 12to20’s Richard Ellis and Vanessa Van Patten share their insight on how to make your “pitch” teen friendly. I think youth workers can glean from points 1 and 2. Points 3 and 5 come into play in event marketing for sure. Point 4 is just a keen insight into the lure of our sinful nature.

Sure, there are good songs and bad songs, good products and bad products, but, more importantly, there are certain necessary formulas you need to get your X factor “teen sticky.” With my (Richard’s) 20-year experience in the teen marketing industry and Vanessa’s young age, exposure to the net-generation and candid perspective, we have examined the successful viral marketing campaigns, recent explosive trends and current teen obsessions. Here are our golden rules so you can milk your cash cow and tap into Generation Y’s fleeting attention spans:

1) Make them aware of what they do not know…so they need to know

Smart rappers will throw in a few words in their rap song that are obscure and only a select few use/know the definitions. Teen listeners are usually embarrassed and curious that they do not know what thee words mean, and will immediately go and look them up. The key is to make sure that you only have one or two things that are mysterious so it taps into their curiosity rather than frustrating them.

Example: Platinum Rap Albums with interesting word choices that might have to be looked up: Red American Express, lamping, bushy behavior, Cholo, Cranking.

2) Make them aware of something they do know…so they feel like an insider

Everyone wants to feel like they know something that other’s don’t. Especially when it is something that they feel is made just for them. Evoking a sense of community or even slight ageism can be very appealing to teens because it makes them feel special or more like an insider.

Example: “Can’t Hardly Wait,” “Scary Movie 1 and 2” — Movies like these use special teen lingo, teen humor and have almost cult like followings, with Generation Yers, you constantly hear quotes and references to these movies as a type of bonding experience with others in your generation.

3) Make it gossipable

There has to be something about your product, book, video, or advertisement that teens can talk about. Whether it is something funny, something outrageous, a good story…make sure that they will want to talk about it with their friends, maybe get someone else’s opinion or be the person who can spread around the news of something cool.

Example: “Gossip Girl” — Yes, easy name, but the Gossip Girl books and show are so popular right now because girls love to talk about them. Not only do they talk about the story line, they talk about which actor is the ugliest, the outfits, the advertisements, the online community on their website. Girls are obsessed because there is so much to talk about, so they do not stop talking about it!

4) Make it naughty

This is one great way to make something “gossipable.” Everything is better when it feels like it is a little bit bad. Of course, you do not want to offend anyone, and it is a careful balance between offensive and edgy, but when it is good to add a little bit of “naughtiness” to your product’s package, maybe just a glimpse of something that a teen would say, “oh, that’s bad, I sorta want it.”

Example: Jessica Simpson’s “These Boots Are Made For Walking Video” — Ok, we know, that was an awesome video with some scantily clad women, but many teens who purchased or downloaded the video were girls who were not interested in the women, but something else. Well, much of the video was Mrs. Simpson looking at the camera with a secret grin, the whole production has an air of you-are-watching-something-you-are-not-supposed-t0…but that video got watched and watched and watched by teens (girls and boys included).

5) Make it sharable, Let them manipulate

Whatever you are trying to promote, you need to make sure you have lots of ways that teens can manipulate it: text messages, ringtones, communities, website, chat rooms, profile pages, videos, discussion boards. Teens love to be able to have a say in whatever they are doing. So if there is a TV show, there needs to be an online community, textable reminders when the show starts, t-shirt contests…anything that makes it easy to participate in your product.

Example: “Leave Britney Alone!” — There is a video going around the Internet on Youtube by a guy who is defending Britney’s behavior, every teen I know has this video saved onto their computer. Youtube makes things very sharable, there are message boards, links, embed codes. Teens made websites where people could post response videos, it was easily able to have mass dissemination and teens could partake in the process.

Drum Line

Posted on: 01/7/08 10:35 AM | by Jonathan McKee

I’ve spent the last week of the new year, including New Year’s Eve, being sick. Fun huh?

I’m back to my desk and discoveredt this in my in box. A nice little link from my dad. It’s a little long… so go to 4 minutes if you get board… it starts to really take off:

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Ruby Tuesday

Posted on: 12/30/07 2:28 PM | by Jonathan McKee

I’m easily impressed.

I’m a food connoisseur, but not like you would think. I’m an aficionado of simple foods. Where some people are impressed with obscure little French restaurants with five star reviews… I’m a fan of a large bacon burger at Chili’s.

Call me shallow, but I love ribs, burgers, Chicago style pizza and Costco hot dog meals.

But does my blue collar taste for food exclude me from being a fan of good food? I hope not. I just spend a lot less money than most people on my dinners out! When some of my friends dine out at Ruth’s Chris, for the price of one of those people I take my whole family out to Outback.  🙂

Today I passed a Ruby Tuesday.

Some might scoff at this restaurant, a mere Chili’s or Marie Calendars to many. But it holds a high regard in my book.

Our city didn’t have one so I discovered it on the road years ago. I was impressed with the salad bar and the burgers. But then I accidentally stumbled into something wonderful- the ribs! I’m a big fan of good ribs. But I rarely find them the way I like them. Ruby Tuesdays makes a fine rack of ribs, let me tell you.

My friend Tom King will vouch for me. Tom is a food snob (he knows it). He watches way to much Emeril and cooks better than most chefs. When the two of us were in Knoxville, TN a couple years ago I told him about Ruby Tuesday’s ribs. He laughed. I told him, “You just wait until you taste them.” First we went to an authentic TN restaurant and had their ribs. They were very mediocre. Then we had Ruby Tuesday’s ribs. Tom was pleasantly surprised. Far better than the TN rib place, that’s for sure.

So I indulged in ribs and hot wings at Ruby Tuesday’s again today. I called my son Alec just to rub it in. He told me he was going to hang up on me.

If you haven’t tried them… give em’ a try. You’ll be surprised.

Oh… but believe it or not, one opened by my house (in Folsom) and it was really bad. I was so disappointed. Finally a Ruby Tuesday’s close to my house, and it was way below par.

I guess you can’t win em’ all.

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Mall of America

Posted on: 12/29/07 8:33 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Wow! I never realized how big this thing actually was.

I’m in Minneapolis, MN right now speaking at a youth conferance about a block from the largest mall in America. you probably have heard of it- it’s called the Mall of America. I had heard that it was big… but DANG!

I was trying to explain it to my wife. I told her, “You know Sunrise Mall back at home? Take three of those and stack them on top of each other. Now take four of those ‘three story’ stacks and make them a square with a huge arena in the middle. Now fill the arena with an amusement park. There you have it!”

I called home from the mall and Ashley wanted to talk to me. I began describing the mall to her (not omitting any details about the amusement park)… and she began wimpering. LOL.

It’s amazing. I walked around for a few hours and didn’t even scratch the surface. They had my wife’s favorite clothes store New York and Company so I had to browse through there and check the sale racks (I’m a bargain shopper). Great stuff on the $5.99 racks! Plus, no tax on clothes here. Not bad.

But seeing those stores just made me miss her, so I had to bail.

I actually ended up in the movie theatre watching the newest Coen brothers  flick (they are directors), No Country for Old Men, with Tommy Lee Jones. (Good film, but so bizarre that it treaded on the obsurcity- I think I just made up that word- of David Lynch)

Such was my experience at The Mall of America.

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McKee Christmas Activities

Posted on: 12/28/07 12:51 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Christmas was very memorable this year. Every Christmas our family (me, Lori and the kids) get together with my parents, my Grandma McKee, and my brother’s family. We spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day together. These days are usually filled with just a few activities, mostly meals (Christmas Eve at my parents, Christmas Day at our house- only half a mile from theirs). This year we decided to each choose an activity to do on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. My brother’s family couldn’t connect until later, so it was just our family and my parents that chose activities (Grandma just wanted to watch).
Each person was to choose one simple activity. No rules… nothing extravagant… here’s what everyone chose to do:
My Dad: He wanted us all to watch the movie The Nativity together. After attending a Christmas Eve service where he preached, we all went home for dinner and then watched the movie. It was a great glimpse of the perspective of Mary and Joseph through this pivotal yet humble historic event.
My Mom: She wanted to go on a family walk. Our little town is uniquely funny. It’s a little “redneck” burb about 15 miles East of Sacramento. On many a street you’ll find a little house that looks like a shack with chickens walking around the yard. On the same street you’ll find a million dollar home (ours is neither- I might add). On one of the streets we walked up we passed several of these “shacks” and then walked through a new neighborhood being built including a home for 1.9 million. Not too shabby. My dog Jethro was enjoying running all over their property (2.4 acres is a large property in my world).
Me: I wanted to do some sort of service project or feeding the homeless. So we came up with our own solution. Everyone donated toward McDonald’s gift certificates (because we didn’t want to give away cash). We purchased a pile of $5 gift certificates and went to the downtown to give them away. We walked up the K-street Mall (an open air mall downtown that is usually populated with quite a few homeless people) and gave a way a bunch of them. Then we hit a nearby park by the capital and gave away some more. One guy offered us a sip of his “40” to “warm up.” It was a fun experience.
Lori: She purchased two gingerbread houses and we had a contest, guys against girls- who could design the best house. Both teams grew quickly frustrated with the frosting- not a great adhesive. But we both constructed cute homes that were judged by my Grandma as an even “tie.” In all honesty, the girl’s house was better, but our yard kicked butt!
Alec: Being the artist that he is, he wanted to do a Santa Drawing contest. My dad had two easels from his training workshops, so we set them up side by side and drew two at a time. Ashley and Alyssa battled. Lori and Grandma McKee battled. My mom and dad battled and finally, Alec and I battled. Alec and I each took too long (I know this because everyone was yelling, “Hurry up! That’s enough!!!”) And despite the time spent, I think little Alyssa beat us all.
Alyssa: She wanted to do a white elephant gift exchange. We all drew numbers and then began opening $5 presents we had each purchased for the activity. Alec had the last number, therefore receiving the pick of the litter. It was a fun game and almost everyone ended up with what they wanted. My dad and mom ended up giving their prizes into the kids stockings later on in the night.
Ashley: Ashley also wanted to do a white elephant gift exchange, but when she lost out on that to Alyssa, she chose for us all to do a puzzle. We did a 500 piece puzzle with a bunch of breeds of dogs. It was really fun, but it was one of the last activities of the evenings so we were pretty tired during the last few paws and tails.
That’s it. What a great time of celebrating God’s greatest gift to us, celebrating giving, and celebrating family.

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Ashley missing polical correctness

Posted on: 12/19/07 6:46 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Okay… I just wrote about Ashley… but as you might know (especially those of you who have read about her on my bio page), she is a continual source of laughter.

Ashley has to write a daily journal for her 5th grade class. Lori and I love reading this diary of a 10 year old. It’s hilarious enough to hear the perspective of the world through the eyes of a 10 year old, it’s even funnier when it’s Ashley.

Today Ashley’s assignment was to talk about her family traditions (each day she is given a journal prompt assigning something for her to write about) for “the holidays.” Yes, not Christmas, but the holidays. Gotta be P.C. today. So this “prompt” asked her what she does for Christmas or Hanauka and asks her to provide details.

So Ashley brings me her first draft.

I say “first draft” because, even though Ashley would love for these entries to be just one draft, she has an author for a father who often makes her rewrite her entry (thank goodness her teacher requires a parent signature on the journal entry each night). This rewrite is often necessitated not by gramatical errors or sentence structure, but by the fact that she doesn’t hesitate to talk about the dog’s bowel movements, or other inappropriate subject matter. Then she’ll randomly throw in the word “CHEESE!” because she loves to tell people that she loves cheese. (Yes, in her speech to campaign for vice president at her school this year, her opening line was, “Hi, I’m Ashley and I like cheese!) Again… this is Ashley we’re talking about here… not your normal 10 year old.

So today she brings me her “holiday traditions” journal. Draft 1 reads fine (although I laughed at her description of where we get our tree) until the last few lines. After telling us about her traditions and opening presents she simply writes:

Oh, and I’m not Jewish, so we DON’T celebrate Hanauka. We celebrate Christmas!!! (emphasis Ashley’s)

So I bring Ashley in and tell her, “Ashley, it’s okay that you celebrate Christmas, but you kind of make it sound like it’s a bad thing to be Jewish or to celebrate Hanauka. Maybe you should rewrite this last section.

So Ashley takes her journal and rewrites the ending. I leave you with her complete journal entry.

Every year during Christmas time, my family decorates the tree together. I’m always very happy whenever that happens. First we grab our tree out of it’s box. Then we put it together. And finally my dad plays christmas music and we decorate our tree together.

Another Christmas tradition that I do every year is go to my Grandma and Grandpa’s house for Christmas Eve. But then on Christmas day we stay and celebrate at my house. Sadly, I’m not Jewish, so I don’t celebrate Hanauka. So these are all of my Christmas celebrations.


-Ashley McKee

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Ashley’s Christmas List in One Word

Posted on: 12/17/07 5:29 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Ashley (my 10 year old) and I were hanging out today and she let me know about some of the items on her Christmas list… and they all have one thing in common: WEBKINS.
If you’re not a parent of young child right now, you might not be aware of these real cyber pets. Yes… they’re real. They are actual stuffed animals that you can snuggle with each night. And yes… they’re cyber. You can register them on the Webkins site and enter an “exciting online experience where your plush pet comes to life!” 
It’s brilliant marketing actually. When your kid brings home your Webkins toy, they log onto the site and enter the “secret code” that comes with the pet. They officially “adopt” the pet, naming them and deciding whether it’s a boy or girl. They then instantly receive “Kins cash” where they can decorate their “virtual room,” redecorate, buy clothes, etc.
Here’s the clever part. They keep kids coming to the site by providing “meters” that tell you how your pet is doing. There are three meters: happy, health and hunger. Playing and exercising your pet keeps these meters high. How do you do this? Online of course.
So yes, we as parents have to watch and limit our kids’ internet time so that our kids get some time ACTUALLY exercising outside (yeah, really outside… breathing real air!) instead of just “virtually” excercizing.
Ashley is our little dog lover, so lucky for us, she likes to take her real dog (Jethro) and play soccer with him in the back yard each day. He’s huge. He can grip a fully inflate soccer ball in his mouth (hilarious to watch!).
So, since she seems to be balancing the Webkins fad responsibly, I might just have to consider the new Webkins Penguin or German Shepherd for Ashley this year.  🙂

My Favorite Cousin

Posted on: 12/14/07 7:12 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Wendy is my favorite cousin.

No insult to my other cousins, I love you all too. But Wendy (some of you might remember her story here) just overnighted me the key to my heart: Giordano’s Pizza from Chicago. Truly my favorite pizza… no… my favorite MEAL worldwide.

Yep. I’m a simple man. And Giordano’s stuffed crust pizza is about as good as it gets. Whenever I speak anywhere within two hours of Chicago, you can bet that I’ll be stopping at a Giordano’s and ordering a Giordano’s stuffed crust pizza. Last time I was there I ordered one with pepperoni and mushrooms. (Oh man… I can almost taste it just talking about it)

Well, my cool cousin from Ohio just sent me my Christmas present. Giordano’s can be overnighted anywhere in the U.S. (not cheap, let me tell you). She sent a Giordanos stuffed crust cheese pizza (an excellent choice since I’ll be sharing with the family). Of course, I’m just assuming it was Wendy. It didn’t even have a name on it. But this is something Wendy would do. I left her a voice mail… it had to be her.

We’re going to be eating very WELL today!

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