This October

Posted on: 06/10/10 8:29 AM | by Jonathan McKee

For those of you in the youth ministry world (I realize that my blog goes out to both parents and youth workers), most of you are familiar with Youth Specialties’ National Youth Workers Convention… or as as lazy folks call it, the NYWC.

This year I’ll be teaching again at the NYWC in San Diego. They have a brand new promo video for it. Interesting approach. Check it out.

Here’s the link to the video.

I’ll be teaching two workshops at the NYWC this year:

– Seminar Series 4 – Sunday, Oct. 3 – 2:00pm-3:30pm– Using 10-Minute Talks: Speaking to Generations with Short Attention Spans
Wouldn’t it be nice if all of us could communicate the Scriptures like Francis Chan or speak with the clarity of Andy Stanley? Francis goes about 45 minutes… Andy averages about 40 minutes… I should do the same, right? Newsflash: We aren’t them! So stop trying to talk as long as them! That coupled with the fact that students’ attention spans are growing shorter brings up a critical question: How can we communicate truth in a way that teenagers will truly remember? In this seminar you’ll learn the power and effectiveness of the 10-Minute Talk, a method of storytelling that’s laser focused and impactful.
– Seminar Series 5 – Sunday, Oct. 3 – 4:00pm-5:30pm– Ministry by Teenagers: Developing Leaders from Within
You may be sitting on an untapped gold mine of leadership for your youth group—the teenagers! Millions of teenagers are apathetic about their faith, and their indifference greatly reveals itself each year when many teenagers graduate high school…and exit their faith altogether. It’s a problem that every youth worker in every denomination acknowledges. Could it be that today’s youth ministries are too focused on offering ministry TO teenagers instead of leading ministry BY teenagers? Teenagers must get opportunities to serve and use their gifts in ministry prior to high school graduation, taking full ownership of their faith development. This seminar will highlight key strategies for developing spiritual growth in students and giving them opportunities to serve in their ministries.

Here’s the link. Hope to see some of you there!

What Connecting Looks Like

Posted on: 05/27/10 9:39 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Jason’s adult leaders didn’t realize how “stagnant” many of their kids were… until they saw it on a giant whiteboard right in front of their face!

It’s fun to get emails from youth workers and adult mentors who are connecting with kids. I’ve been getting a lot of these lately– people who have read my book, CONNECT, or have seen our free CONNECT video, and are using the principles to not only start conversations with teenagers, but using the principles out of chapter 14 to do the sticky notes exercise, taking a spiritual inventory of their group.

Jason, a youth worker from New York just took his entire adult leadership team through the sticky notes exercise using a giant whiteboard. Here’s his results (I blurred the names for anonymity). Notice the “trends” of where the names landed.

Does that look like your group? (I’ve done a lot of these trainings- and a TON of them look just like this!)

A lot of stagnant kids, huh? Jason noticed this and sees how connecting might really make a difference. Here’s what Jason wrote me this morning:

I should’ve emailed you sooner to let you know how much that book has meant to this ministry so far. I did the sticky note exercise last month and it has really shook up the leader’s view of their roles. I have a great group of adults that really love serving the teens, but I do not think they totally understood what kind of an impact they have, or could have, until they saw that board. I attached the picture of it for you to see. As you will see, we have a pretty stagnant group. The leaders have responded in force to change that! They realize now more than ever how important it is to be creating one on one relationships that will give them the ability to help a teen take that next step towards Christ and a more devoted relationship with Him.

I also changed our team expectations. I have now added that they need to be having a one on one with a teen at least once a month. For the ones that still didn’t get it I broke it down like this: We have 14 leaders and 50 teens attending regularly on Sunday nights. If each leader took a different teen out once a month that equals 168 teens a year. This means each teen will be able to have a one on one conversation with an adult 3 times a year! So if we look at it like that it also impacts us to realize that even twice a month isn’t a stretch. That doubles the amount of one on ones and infinitely multiplies the amount of influence an adult can have on a teen!

Thanks again for all you do for youth ministries!


It’s fun to see how Jason is making sure that no kid is missed! Wouldn’t you love it if you knew that your own son or daughter had a place where they were loved and cared for… a place where everyone knew their name, and where a positive adult role model actually hung out with them and mentored them?!

Thanks for CONNECTING Jason!

Unpaid- Proof That You Care

Posted on: 05/21/10 10:55 AM | by Jonathan McKee

I found this little tidbit fascinating– “Unpaid Workers Must Care More.”

My dad, Tom McKee, over at, brought this article to my attention. It’s from Energize’s volunteerism guru Susan Ellis in her article “You Get What You Pay For.”

I was fascinated by a story she shared in point #3, “Unpaid Workers Must Care More.” She writes:

Many years ago, before my career in volunteerism, I worked for a time as a social worker trainee in the family and child division of Philadelphia’s human services department. One day I was handed a case of a 15-year-old who had run away.  When I went to see her in the temporary shelter, she was very hostile and wouldn’t look at or speak to me. Finally, in desperation, I asked, “What would it take for you to talk with me?” She smiled slyly, crossed her arms on her chest, and said, “show me I’m not just another case to you and come back after 5:00 PM.” So I did, and it totally broke down the wall between us.

This powerful incident taught me a number of things. First, some recipients of service distrust paid workers as only being helpful because it’s their job to be so.  Second, the appearance of caring could be conveyed by doing something during unpaid time.


I think this speaks loudly to the potential power and influence of our volunteers.

A Video of My Sticky-notes Training

Posted on: 02/2/10 5:54 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Many of you already own my new book Connect or have heard the buzz about my sticky-notes training exercise, helping youth ministry leaders not only take the spiritual pulse of their students, but also keep accountable to reaching them and helping them grow spiritually. Now we have an online video available where you can see me do this training.

We’ll be posting this video for our subscribers next week… I wanted to give you guys the first peek!

This entire exercise and detailed descriptions of the “Six Types of Kids” are laid out in my book Connect (and we actually provide you with the Powerpoint you see me using in this video when you buy the book from us).

Connecting With Today’s Teenagers

Posted on: 11/2/09 11:37 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Many of you have been asking about my newest book, due on the shelves this January. The book is called CONNECT: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation… and I just talked with Zondervan… it looks like I’m going to be able to get copies in your hands in about a month- early December- if you pre-order through our website (we’re giving away a free powerpoint to anyone who orders from us as well– a tool to equip your adult leaders how to connect with your kids).

I’m really excited about this book, more excited than anything I’ve ever written about. This book is a result of years of interacting with youth workers across the country and observing the same thing again and again– adults need to learn not only the importance of connecting with students, but how to do it!

I’ve got some great feedback so far about the book from ministry friends like Dan Kimball, Walt Mueller, Greg Stier, Les Christie, etc. I’ll spare you all of their comments about the book right now, for time’s sake, and just share one. Here’s what Dr. Dave Rahn said about it (Dave is the Director of the MA in Youth Ministry Leadership at Huntington University and also part of Youth for Christ’s national office)…


The Zondervan folks just sent me your manuscript this week with a cover letter asking for an endorsement.  I curled up with it last night and this morning.


Really, really good work, Jonathan.  I will give my copy to our national Campus Life director, Dave Ramseyer, when I’m with him next week (only b/c the Z folks will send me a free copy later!).  It may be the most helpful single book on the market to push out for training adults in relational ministry.  I will do far more than endorse this book…I will push it…

Seriously.  This book will help us help our YFC folks get it.  And it will also broaden what we care most about: that loving adults come alongside kids to be used by God for their transformation.  I’ll write the endorsement now.  Thanks for using your gifts, experiences and passion so well for the Kingdom.


Here’s his official endorsement.

Connect needs to be in the hands of everyone–paid or unpaid–who works with kids for the cause of Christ. It is so easy to read and so full of practical tips and stories that it succeeds in becoming the kind of rare book that both inspires and instructs, a stand alone coaching resource I urge our YFC family to use with all of our adult volunteers. By drilling deeply into one of youth ministry’s most significant pressure points I hope that Jonathan will lead readers to “tap out” and surrender to the challenge of making one-on-one relationships with every type of young person their priority.
Dr. Dave Rahn
Youth for Christ/USA Chief Ministry Officer and Huntington University Director of MA in Youth Ministry Leadership

I’ll post more comments later.

I just wanted to give you all a chance at getting this book through our pre-order. We’re offering a better price than anywhere else, we’ll get it to you earlier, and we’re throwing in the free ppt training- because that’s what we like to do!

Youth Ministry from the 60’s til Now

Posted on: 09/26/09 1:08 PM | by Jonathan McKee

I’m in downtown Los Angeles teaching at the National Youth Workers Convention… but I’m also recording a bunch of podcasts for you guys that will be appearing on our THE SOURCE PODCAST page this fall. I’m really excited about one that I just recorded this morning with Jim Burns and my dad (no comments about my Manchester United shirt, please). 🙂

We’re calling it the “Old School” podcast, not because they are both old, but because they shared some perspective of what it was like to be a youth pastor in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Better yet, they discussed some of the major lessons they learned as ministry methodology changed over the decades.

I hadn’t even thought about it when I put the podcast together… but it was a fun realization: this podcast features the youth pastors of the adolescent Doug Fields and Chap Clark. Jim Burns was Doug’s youth pastor when Doug was a kid, and my dad was a teenaged Chap Clark’s youth pastor. It was fun to hear a little about these young guys as young growing leaders.

I gleaned a lot from these two guys (Jim and my dad) as they shared about some of the major shifts in youth ministry, including the Jesus movement of the 70’s. It was interesting to hear about the emergence of a “discipleship” focus, and a shift toward relational ministry.

I asked them each what changes were most significant AND what ministry methods they think should never change.

Great wisdom and insight shared.

Coming soon on our THE SOURCE PODCAST.


Posted on: 09/18/09 5:14 AM | by Jonathan McKee

I’m in the airport on the way to Houston to teach my CONNECT workshop to youth workers from a group of area churches in Galveston, TX. I love doing this training workshop, equipping youth workers to connect with kids, specifically one-on-one for evangelism and discipleship.

It’s funny. I don’t remember a single talk my youth pastor gave when I was in high school. But I remember him picking me up from school and taking me to lunch. I remember early morning coffees with him.

Connecting makes an impact.

I finally have put my research on this subject into print. My book CONNECT is actually due to hit the shelves this December. YS/Zondervan finished up the cover- check it out! (If you’re going to buy the book, we’ll offer a special deal on this book on our site soon- we’ll throw in something free like always)

I’ll be teaching this workshop (the 2 hour version) at the YS National Youthworkers Conventions as well. Those going to Los Angeles for that convention… I’ll see ya there next week. I’ll also be teaching in the Atlanta one in November.

One of the best parts of this training is a little exercise we do with sticky-notes. I provide youth workers with a tool that helps them be pro-active about connecting with kids for spiritual growth. I give every leader a bunch of sticky notes, then I ask them to write down the names of individual kids on each sticky note and stick it to a chart where they think that kid is spiritually (a spiritual inventory). This tool helps most youth leaders realize several things: 1. They don’t know their kids as well as they thought they did (where is Morgan spiritually? I’m not sure!) 2. It helps them realize the needs these students have.

I love this training. It’s a lot of fun seeing adults get excited about connecting with kids!

Volunteering Stinks!

Posted on: 04/23/09 1:10 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Yeah… I said it. There are times that it stinks to be a volunteer! (You probably didn’t foresee that coming from a guy who wrote a book about volunteering!)

I volunteer for my daughter’s jr. high track team. Since it’s only jr. high, it’s actually through our local ‘park and rec’ (don’t ask me to explain why. This is California. It probably doesn’t make sense).

Here’s where it gets weird. Since it’s a school track team, I went and got fingerprinted, filled out paperwork at the district, got a background check, etc. No big deal… I expect that as part of volunteering (I just talked about the importance of this in my blog last week about the killer “Sunday School Teacher”). But two weeks into the volunteering… the head coach emails me this email:

I just was notified that park and rec needs you to fill out their paperwork and get fingerprinted for them too. Please take care of this.


Do you wonder why we have trouble getting volunteers? (Maybe that’s why I’m the only parent out there!)

The volunteer recruiting principal violated here is what I called the “Oh, by the way” jab, in chapter 2 of my book, THE NEW BREED. We shouldn’t bring on volunteers, only to spring all kinds of, “Oh, by the way, I need you to…” obligations on them later.

“2 separate fingerprintings!” Hilarious!

So today I filled out my 8th form, got fingerprinted a second time… and I’m off to track practice!

A Sunday School Teacher

Posted on: 04/13/09 9:18 AM | by Jonathan McKee

It seems that the words “pastor,” “priest” or “Sunday school teacher” used to bring good thoughts to mind. Unfortunately, it seems that the headlines of late are filled with bad examples of people that hold these titles.

Many of you have probably followed the story of the 8-year-old girl that disappeared on March 27th, only to be found last week in a piece of luggage pulled from an irrigation pond near her home in Tracy, CA… about an hour from my house. Sad story. Keep the family of this little girl in your prayers.

Last Saturday I woke up to reports from my local news announcing that her Sunday school teacher was just arrested in the slaying of the 8-year-old. The next morning, newspapers were filled with headlines like this article : Sunday School Teacher Arrested In Cantu’s Death.

Two thoughts about these headlines:

1. Regardless of how this turns out, the church’s reputation is being dragged through the mud once again. Thanks to a small percentage of weirdos, It’s getting more and more difficult to place positive adult role models in the lives of kids because of incidents like these. If a female Sunday School teacher- also a mom– isn’t safe… who is? (I touched on this before is this blog)

2. The church needs to be better about screening volunteers. It’s sad, but we sometimes get either too lazy or too desperate for help to go through the proper steps of recruiting and screening volunteers. I go through these steps in great detail in my book THE NEW BREED, a book about Recruiting, Training, Managing and Occasionally Even Firing Today’s Volunteers.

My dad, who co-authored that volunteer book with me, recently pastored a church where they needed to implement some policies and procedures to screen volunteers. They all used GROUP’s Church Volunteer Central – an online package for background checks, etc. I highly recommend using something like this to screen our volunteers.

I just started coaching track as a volunteer for my daughter’s middle school. I had to get fingerprinted, a background check, the whole deal. As churches, we need to provide the same sort of care and professionalism with our volunteers.

They Came Forward… What Now?

Posted on: 03/16/09 8:57 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Recently I’ve spoken at several events that were very well planned… until the altar call.

Think about this for a second. A kid hears the Gospel and even has the guts to stand up out of their seat with the desire to make some life-changing decisions. They walk forward to the front of the room… and…

Freeze. Stop and look at this situation. The DIFFICULT PART is over! Realize this. We just got a kid to actually show up to an event (which can be pretty difficult), listen to the truth of God’s word, AND decide to act on it. They stand up, ready to make a decision… and… and we drop the ball!

Eight of the last 10 events I’ve spoken at have “dropped the ball” when it comes to counseling kids that wanted to make a decision. I’m not disrespecting anyone; these were great people with noble intentions. But if we are part of a team that is programming evangelistic events, we need to put a huge priority on the 15 minutes after the altar call. All too often event planners will spend good time and money on bands or inflatable boxing rings… and not think 30 seconds about what happens after kids come forward.

Not too long ago I spoke at an event where three hundred kids crowded into a room. I shared the gospel, gave an invitation and thirty six kids came forward. These kids were led into a nearby room where I was told they’d meet with counselors and be given a Bible. When I walked in the room, I saw about 5 adults, each with about seven or eight kids gathered around.

Only 5 adults? Really?

This is a HUGE mistake.

As soon as kids come forward, the need switches to one-on-one. The Gospel was presented in a large group format, but now each individual might have questions or clarifications with their unique background experiences and distinctive world views. That’s why it’s good to provide counselors to meet with people at events like this one-on-one, asking the question, “Why did you come forward tonight?” That answer can summon a variety of answers:

“Because I want that eternal life the speaker was talking about.”

“Because I did this before, but I don’t think it took!”

“Because my dog died and I’m just really sad.” 

(Yes, I’ve heard all of those.) Three totally different situations. That’s probably why the Billy Graham organization spends a year in a city before their big event, building relationships with churches and preparing for counseling and follow up.

I touch on this on my book, Getting Students to Show Up: (emphasis mine)

However, we shouldn’t plan on just sharing the message,
shutting out the lights, and leaving. We need to give them an
opportunity to respond. We should have a plan for talking
with the people individually and creating a means for follow
up. I usually have them raise a hand or come forward to meet
with a counselor who can talk with them about the decision
they made. I also use decision cards. If students meet with
counselors, I have counselors fill out the cards for them—
legibility is very important—noting their contact information,
what decision they made (first-time decision, rededication,
and so on), and what group, if any, they came with. These
cards are vital and provide the groundwork for follow up.

Billy Graham’s organization has been doing a fantastic
job with this for decades. Billy doesn’t just come to a city,
preach, and leave. His organization comes a year in advance,
training counselors, meeting with hundreds of area churches,
and implementing a plan for following up with all the new
believers. What an incredible example of faith and diligence.
It’s a year before the invitation is even given; yet they’re
planning for thousands to come forward. Faith and elbow
grease working hand in hand.

On the night of a Billy Graham Crusade, those who come
forward meet with counselors and hear the gospel one-on-one.
Then they have an opportunity to make a decision. Everyone
who comes forward then fills out a follow-up card.This is a
great way to clarify the commitment they’ve made, and it sets
the stage for following up with the person effectively.

Billy Graham’s organization shares the gospel responsibly.
Don’t be afraid to mimic their methodology.

Many of the events I’ve spoken at provide the “follow-up card.” That is vital, and I’m glad to see so many groups doing that. But the area most people fall short is training counselors that will meet with kids one-on-one.

How effective is ONE adult going to be asking EIGHT kids why they came forward? Think about it. What if three kids have specific questions, two want to rededicate their life, one girl is sad because their uncle abused her, and two really want to make a first time decision? (again, a VERY real situation!) This group needs a number of counselors.

A few years ago I volunteered at my local church co-leading a student leadership team made up of high school students. We had about 30 student leaders (it was a large youth group). Evangelism was a huge part of the training we did with these students. We taught each of these kids how to lead someone through the gospel, and then we put them in situations where they could practice doing this.

Our local Youth for Christ did about four big city-wide junior high events per year in the greater Sacramento area. They were thrilled when we would bring our 30 counselors to their events to add to their pool of counselors. This came in quite handy when 100 kids came forward. Even if they had only 50 counselors, they were able to put kids at least “one-on-two” for the 15 minutes after the altar call.

One difficult part of my job now as a “hired speaker” is not being involved in the whole event planning process. I constantly trust that the group bringing me out has done all the ground work and preparation for the event, INCLUDING the 15 minutes after the altar call.

Please. If you are planning an evangelistic event with an altar call for hundreds of kids… don’t just have 5 counselors! Let’s share the Gospel responsibly.