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.

Oreo Games and Camp Food

Posted on: 02/24/09 8:39 AM | by Jonathan McKee

I want to take a moment to give a little shout out to Camp Orchard Hill, a small little camp  in Dallas, PA (yeah, that’s not a typo… there is a Dallas in Pennsylvania. It’s about 30 minutes from Scranton).

As you can imagine, I have been to quite a few camps. I limit my speaking to twice a month away from my family, but with about half of my engagements being camps or retreats, that’s still about 12 camps a year (that’s a lot of camp food). Camp Orchard Hill (COH) stands out in the crowd for several reasons:

1. The leadership – these guys are legit. They care about the kids’ spiritual transformation, and they also want the kids to have a good time. I’ve been at camps where “program” was too heavy. I’ve been at others where the spiritual impact is minimal. This camp provides fun and spiritual transformation.

2. The food- yes… most camp food stinks! But at COH, Lisa is in the kitchen making food that you’ve never tasted at a camp! I’m not kidding. The kids really notice.

3. Activities- these guys provide activity options nonstop. (this is especially great for middle school) Even during lunch they run little “Up Front Games” in the cafeteria. Kids loved it. This last weekend a game called OREO HEAD was a big hit. I’ve seen this game on my site before, but had never seen it done. It was hilarious.  A kid gets an open faced Oreo stuck to his head, and without using their hands, they have to contort their faces to maneuver the Oreo down to their face and mouth. Funny stuff.

I’ve bragged about camps before. You’ve heard me brag about Timberlee (East Troy, WI) in several podcasts, and I’ve also bragged about Redwood Alliance on the West Coast (also great food). I have to add Camp Orchard Hill to the list of my favorites. Funny… their facility is actually small (they are growing- building some new facilities right now) … nothing fancy. They can only handle small groups- just a couple hundred kids. But I find that the “camp experience” is so much more than cabins and fancy dining halls. Leadership means everything.

Why We Need Change in Youth Ministry

Posted on: 11/24/08 9:41 AM | by Jonathan McKee

A couple weeks ago we launched a new podcast– one where my buddy Brandon and I interviewed Mark Oestreicher (CEO of Youth Specialties) about his new book, Youth Ministry 3.0

The discussion was fascinating, a much needed conversation about “why we need change in youth ministry.” Marko blogged about it yesterday, plugging the podcast and outlining the “7 Sins” he shared with us. He has started a Facebook group about the book, and several people on that page are plugging our podcast and talking about it (for those that like to listen to a recording, rather than read a book).

I haven’t really gone on record about the book yet, so I figured I’d share my 2 cents.

My two cents on Youth Ministry 3.0

First, I think the book is a must read for youth workers. It is one of those books that will stretch you- a needed stretch for most. It forces us to think out of the box when it comes to why we do what we do.

It’s a fact that many of us in youth ministry tend to gravitate toward a expected list of “do’s” in our youth ministry. In other words- when it comes to our specific ministry, most of us tend to think about “Wednesday night youth group, Sunday morning, our small groups, etc.” We’re very “program” focused. Marko’s book questions that kind of thinking, explaining why it might have worked decades ago, but doesn’t work now.

Even if you don’t agree with all of his conjecture (i know I didn’t), his history of youth ministry is fascinating, his insight into the needs of today’s teenager was perceptive, and the questions he raises are not only relevant, but necessary. It’s a must read for any youth leader, and a great conversation starter in youth ministry leadership circles.

How far do we take this?

I think the over-reactions to this book could be scary. I hope that people won’t abandon their “programs” all together. One of the biggest thrusts of Marko’s book is that today’s teenagers are looking for belonging. Many of our small groups and youth groups provide that for some of our kids. It would be a shame to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

“Programming” has become a bad word in the last two years in youth ministry circles. It’s actually pretty amusing. In my Connect Training, I try to help people understand this phenomena by introducing to “people,” Loni Lovem, and Peter Programmit. In the workshop I describe Peter and his extreme use of slick programming, focus on numbers, etc. Then I talk about how Loni Lovem emerged- really as a polar reaction to Peter. She wants to be anything BUT Peter, so she refuses to do anything with programming and tries to just go and “love kids.” Go where kids are at and just love em. But don’t try to organize anything, because that would be “programming,” and programming is BAD!

In this seminar I propose questions for each side. I ask Peter questions like, “Do you really know the kids that are coming to your programs?” and “If a kid is missing one week… are they missed?” I ask Loni, “How do you make first contact with kids? Do you stand out front of a high school campus after school in an overcoat and say, “Hey kids, do you want some candy?” and I ask her, “Where is a safe place where these kids can ‘belong?'” (you can hear me go through this whole scenario in my workshop at YS this year- YS sells mp3’s and CD’s of their sessions here)

There is not easy answer to this tension. The answer is obviously a balance. That’s why I like Marko’s Youth Ministry 3.0. A lot of people reside on the side of Peter Programmit. Marko’s book comes from the trenches of Loni Lovem and provides a needed extreme pull toward her side. I just hope that this “pull” doesn’t prompt youth leaders to drop existing venues where kids can connect right now (in fear that they are just “programs!”) These venues can be effective instruments in our toolbelt, that can help even Loni provide a safe place where kids can go once she makes contact. That’s the key. We need to be “going to them” (something Peter needs to learn) but also be open to being part of venues (something Loni needs to get over!) where kid can connect.”

That’s my quick two cents.

Papa, Dude, or Leader?

Posted on: 10/6/08 9:06 AM | by Jonathan McKee

My dad just released a great article over at VolunteerPower.com … maybe I’m biased, he used an experience with my son as an example. He talks about his role with my son and how it changes from Papa, to an advisor, and sometimes even “dude.” (when they are looking at cars!) In this same way his role changes as a volunteer leader. He proposes that volunteer leadership can look much like being a grandparent.

In this article about volunteer management, he asks the key question:

How do we communicate worth and potential with our volunteers in such a way that they use their gifts and talents to fulfill the mission of our organization?

Then he explains that the answer is found in the balance of two leadership factors: Guidance and Trust. I know any of us who work with volunteers has bounced back and forth wondering, “How much hands-on direction do I need to give?” That ties to, “How much confidence to I have that I can depend on the volunteer?”

Great article.

Last week, GROUP’s “Church Volunteer Central” sent out an e-newsletter featuring another article of his, one on training this new breed of volunteers. That article takes a story from our book, a story when I did a ride-along with my LAPD buddy a little while ago. Fun stuff!