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

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Raising Kids When Divorce Gets Ugly

Posted on: 11/7/12 3:01 AM | by Jonathan McKee

I have a good friend who got married recently, and one of her wedding gifts was… two teenagers.

That’s right, she married a divorced man who has partial custody of two teenagers. My friend drove out to one of my parenting workshops and told me, “I better learn this stuff quick, because I skipped diapers and Sesame Street, landing right in the middle of MTV!”

It was this friend of mine who prompted me to provide some resources for parents who were raising their kids in divorced homes Continue reading “Raising Kids When Divorce Gets Ugly”

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Raising Kids in a Divorced Home

Posted on: 10/3/12 3:01 AM | by Jonathan McKee

It’s interesting to notice the trends in the questions I receive from parents after my parenting workshops. Last year one of the most common questions I received was, “Am I too late to try all of this with my 18-year-old?”

This year, the number one question I receive, without a doubt, is, “How can I build values into my kids when my ‘ex’ is teaching something completely different in his/her house?” I probably hear that question at least twice in every city I speak.

What a great question. It’s difficult enough for two parents in the same home trying to raise kids today. Add a split home into the mix… it will take even more communication and more work.

After hearing this question a bazillion times, it dawned on me, I should probably get someone with experience in this situation to offer some help. So I called up my buddy Lane Palmer, one of our ministry’s writers, and asked if he could address this issue since he had been divorced, remarried, and only has partial custody of his two teenagers Continue reading “Raising Kids in a Divorced Home”

Doctor’s Orders

Posted on: 09/3/12 1:43 PM | by Jonathan McKee

A little over a decade ago Lori and I used to go water-skiing and kneeboarding a few times a week. Then, due to a degenerative eye condition, I had to have cornea transplants. My doctor told me, “Pick a new sport.” Apparently when your eyeballs are sewn back together, they don’t do really well when they impact water at 30mph.

So for the last decade, every time I go on a boat with a friend… I drool. Then my wife looks at me the way a wife can look… and says, “Jonathan!!!” (which really means… “Don’t even think about it.”)

But every once in a while (like on our church family camp out this last weekend) I’ve gone out behind a boat on a kneeboard anyway. After all… I’m always really careful and don’t do anything stupid!


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The “Right” Kind of Porn

Posted on: 08/27/12 3:01 AM | by Jonathan McKee

People have described me as “edgy” at times when I speak, because I’m not afraid to talk about the uncensored truth. I’ve even offended a handful of ultra-conservative individuals when I shared my talk, “Sex Isn’t Naughty,” using scriptures like Proverbs 5:18-20 to teach the unedited truth about God’s design for sex.

But when I read articles like last week’s piece about Internet Porn and Body Image in the Huffington Post… my “edginess” might be put into perspective. Especially when psychologist and author Vivian Diller, Ph.D. proposes a “right” versus “wrong kind” of porn.

I encourage you to read the whole article, so we don’t take her words out of context. It’s a thought-provoking article suggesting that pornography today has distorted sex to become Continue reading “The “Right” Kind of Porn”

A Painfully Empty House

Posted on: 07/1/12 9:52 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Wednesday I dropped off Lori, Alyssa and Ashley at the San Francisco airport with my parents where the 5 of them boarded a big bird headed to Europe where they will spend two weeks hitting Italy, France, Switzerland and Germany.

I’m torn.

Part of me is thrilled that they get to do this trip. It started when Ashley did a report for school, years ago, about Florence, Italy and some of its architecture. My dad told her that they would take her there some day. Last year, they booked it, and Alyssa and Lori wanted in! I had enough airline miles to send all three of them with my parents, so Alec and I decided to stay home.

I know Lori and the girls will have a blast touring Europe with my parents… but the house is so quiet! Alec works and hangs out with his friends a lot, so many days it’s been just me. Continue reading “A Painfully Empty House”

Olympic Athlete Talks Candidly about Virginity

Posted on: 05/24/12 12:33 PM | by Jonathan McKee

I’ve heard a lot of Christian celebrities talk about virginity…but never so candidly.

I really like this video. I don’t know much about Olympic athlete Lolo Jones. I don’t know if she has a faith, or about many of the decisions she’s made (she actually has done a few photo shoots that are a little edgy and risque’). But she makes it clear in this video that she wants to wait until marriage for sex, why she thinks that’s smart, and how incredibly difficult it’s been. Pretty cool! Lolo did a great job with this interview, demonstrating a nice balance of humor and transparency.

Last week I blogged about talking to teenagers about sex, and one of my readers, Roger Brown, commented, linking this article and video.

For more about talking to teenagers about sex, jump on our TRAINING TOOLS page on our youth ministry site and scroll down to Shhhhh! Don’t Talk About Sex! and Telling Teenagers the Explicit Truth About Sex.

Born in 1969

Posted on: 04/15/12 8:43 AM | by Jonathan McKee

My wife and I are now both 42 years old. She was born in 69, me in 70. But every time I look at her I can’t help but think, “She’s even prettier than when I met her at 20-years-old.”

Lori will make comments about “feeling old.” I always just tell her, “Baby, if you’re old… then I like old!!!!” Because she looks great now (like in this candid shot of her here= that she’ll probably kill me for posting). Born in 1969 must be a good thing. Apparently the world agrees, because some of the world’s “most beautiful people” were born then. Yep… here’s just a glimpse:

  • Jennifer Lopez. Born 7/24/69 -Voted the World’s Most Beautiful Women!
  • Gwen Stefani. Born 10/3/69 – Gorgeous at 42 and still making great music.
  • Jennifer Anniston 2/11/69 -Voted #1 of the 100 hottest women of all time by Men’s Health.
  • Kate Blanchet. Born 5/14/69- Or the beautiful “Lady Galadriel” as known by all the Lord of the Rings’ nerds.
  • Renee Zellweger. Born 4/25/69 -She had the world at “Hello.” (Or was that Tom Cruise?)
  • Catherine Zeta Jones. Born 11/25/69 -Still turning heads.
  • Mariah Carey. Born 3/27/69. Looking young as ever.

And probably one of the most beautiful people born in 1969…

  • Gerard Butler. Born on 11/13/69 and looking best in his King Leonidas beard.  🙂

(I probably shouldn’t mention that Jack Black was born on 8/28/69 and Zack Galiflanakis was born on 10/1/69.)

So Lori, when you look in the mirror and make comments about getting old, just remember… you’re not alone. There are plenty of others who are getting “better” just like you! But in my opinion, you only need to look at one face to prove that 1969 was a good year. Yours! Lori, you’re beautiful, and you’re like a good wine. You just gets better with age.

Better yet…someday we’ll both be old and wrinkled, and then I’ll still have the best part of you… you! Your companionship is your real beauty!

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Don’t Believe the Hype

Posted on: 04/11/12 7:05 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Last week I read an article link that claimed, “Facebook is Responsible for 1/3 of All Divorces.”

Really? Would you actually repeat that statistic? Are you willing to bet your reputation that it’s true? Should we believe the headlines when we read this kind of stuff… or should we possibly take 60 seconds to dig a little deeper?

Last week I implored parents in my parent workshop, “Don’t just read the headlines!” As a guy who spends about 5 to 10 hours a week researching youth culture, let me assure you, headlines can be sooooooo misleading. Take this Facebook article, for example. Last week I saw several different headlines, blog posts and web links all linking to this article, which claimed, an I quote, “Studies have found that Facebook can actually be serious trouble for a relationship and is responsible for one-third of divorces. One-third!”

This provides a perfect example of what to look out for in media hype:

  1. Steer clear of those who don’t cite their research. I’m not being an alarmist when I say, “Never believe a statistic that someone doesn’t cite.” Seriously. If a “study shows that…” then they should document that study. That way you, the reader, can see if Nielson truly analyzed 65,000 phone bills, or if a guy named Jimmy asked 4 teenagers in his garage, “How many of yous guys text each other? Hmmmmm…two hands. I guess that means that a recent survey shows that only 50% of young people text each other!”
  2. Watch out for articles that misread and misquote studies. I know… I know. This one is a little more difficult. This sometimes takes clicking a source and skimming it for a minute or two. Misreading and misquoting stats is common. I’ve written about that in great detail in this 2009 Youth Culture Window article, and again in this 2011 article down under the subtitle “Misinformation.” Or simply take a peek at that Facebook article linked above. That article was not only based on numbers from a website called Divorce Online (hmmmm… red flags anyone?), it actually misread Divorce Online’s original claims. Blogger Tom Royal breaks that down here. But that brings up another subject…
  3. Watch out for online surveys about how many people are doing “online” activities. Yeah. Duh! I once read a statistic about how much time the average teenager spends on the Internet each day. I was familiar with recent numbers from Kaiser and Nielsen, but this particular survey in question revealed waaaaaay higher numbers. About a minute of scrolling and reading quickly revealed that this was based on a survey of a few hundred kids that responded to an online poll on a teen website. Just think about that one. (Let me go down to the corner bar and take a quick survey of how many people in America drink!)

So what can you do as a reader to make sure you are reading and researching responsibly?

Simple. Make sure you make a habit of getting your data from trustworthy sources. Sorry, that excludes all forwarded emails from your Aunt Judy. If any of the articles or studies you read violate the three blunders above…consider reading from a different source.

I can assure you that I’ve probably mistyped, misread or even forgot a citation. I’m human, and I am often pounding out over 5 articles per week. But I can also assure you that those mistakes are the exception. We always strive for accuracy and transparency.That’s why I provide you with a box on the front page of titled, “Offsite articles Jonathan has read this week” so you can read the exact same articles and studies I’m reading.

If you trust us enough to CONNECT WITH US and subscribe to my blog, our free Youth Culture Window articles or other free newsletters, we are going to make the greatest efforts to always deliver you accurate research with our sources cited and checked. You deserve to know the truth!

Every Couple Should Know

Posted on: 02/14/12 11:44 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Kiss while stuck in traffic

Eat cookie dough in bed once a year

…both great ideas! (Mental note: try both with Lori today!)

These ideas are from the mind of  Doug Fields. In the last year I’ve been getting to know Doug better and it’s been great getting to put a face to the “legend.” Lets face it… for those of us who have been in youth ministry for a while, Doug has been one of the trusted voices we could depend on.

Doug has started providing a lot more marriage and parenting resources in the last few years in cooperation with Jim Burns and their ministry at; they even have an amazing marriage seminar coming up in California this weekend.

Here’s a fun little piece from Doug’s book, 365 Things Every Couple Should Know (ht to Mikey’s Funnies for posting this). After my blogs on marriage last week, I’m happy to pass on these fun tips that every couple should know.

By Doug Fields

…to not yell at one another unless the house is on fire
…it is easier to complain after a fault than forgive one
…the importance of having a “Do Not Disturb” sign
…the correct answer to “Do you love me?” is not, “I married you, didn’t I?”
…to have a regular date night
…the silent treatment was invented by a kindergartner
…to slow dance in your underwear…in private
…to kiss when stuck in traffic
…they need a weekend retreat at least twice a year
…to buy your spouse crazy underwear every year
…a man’s sex drive is similar to a drum solo
…a woman’s sex drive is similar to a finely tuned orchestra
…how to make your spouse laugh
…the game of Scrabble has been known to ignite major arguments
…major house projects may need to be followed by minor marital counseling
…when to break the diet restrictions and pig out
…sex begins in the morning by the way you talk to and treat one another
…to read Song of Solomon together
…to schedule your mid-life crisis
…the joy of making up after a lover’s quarrel
…it is fun to be spontaneous: tickle, dance, or join your spouse in the shower
…voice tone says it all
…to find humor in negative situations
…to eat cookie dough in bed at least once a year
…genuine love is valuing a spouse as God does

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