||Jonathan's Resource Ezine
Weekly Resources, Ideas and Articles from The Source for Youth Ministry
Thursday, September 12, 2002
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"WORLD MAGAZINE" TRASHES US FOR GROSS GAMES. My Response to World Magazine's Article "Stupid Church Tricks" Which Misrepresented.
by Jonathan McKee
September 12, 2002
Last week I received a phone call from a friend and supporter of this
ministry? "Did you see your article?"
I assumed he meant my article that GROUP Magazine just published in this
month's issue. I said, "Oh yeah, the Group article?"
"No- the WORLD Magazine article . . . it's about gross games . . . it's not
This all started about a month ago when a Christian radio show host talked
about my gross games page on her show which airs in 72 cities. As you can
imagine, the email complaints started to pour in. E-mails such as this anonymous
one from "George:"
"I wouldn't give you my E-mail adress. With the gross sadistic ideas that you
call fun games, I would be concerned about what I might recieve back from your
organization. Some of these games promote anti scriptural behavior and
desensitation to what is clean and pure. I hope you will seek guidance and heed
Godly wisdom and clean up your act."
We prayerfully considered some of these complaints and actually removed
several games that youth leaders had submitted. Regardless, now the complaints
had somehow reached the ears of World Magazine's Gene Edward Veith.
So five minutes after hanging up with my friend, I'm holding a faxed copy of
the article in my hand from WORLD's August 24th issue, an article
titled "Stupid Church Tricks," by Mr. Veith. If you missed the article, let me
give you a few highlights.
Veith starts by highlighting the Indiana church that got sued when their
youth leader mixed dog food, sardines, potted meat, sauerkraut, and other gross
stuff. This youth leader chewed it, spit it out and encouraged the students to
drink it. (Hmmmm! I wonder why he got sued?) The article then goes on to say
that "many evangelical youth leaders think this is a way to reach young people."
Don't you love being included in that bunch?
Then Veith named our ministry and started listing games that offended him.
Not just gross games, but games youth leaders have submitted like Sanctuary
Softball, Seafood Catch and Leg Line up. And of course the old STAFF SKIT where
the staff all brush their teeth using one cup to rinse, and the last staff
member drinks it. Of course the article features a huge cartoon of a small
scared kid wearing a Christian t-shirt being handed a glass full of gross stuff
with a toothbrush in it as if he were being forced to drink it by Nazi youth
Now here's the kicker. Veith doesn't stop at bashing "Bobbing for Minnows" .
. . he starts reading into some of the games. Listen to this:
"Some of them (the games) have odd homosexual subtexts, like "Pull Apart," in
which guys cling to each other, while girls try to pull them apart. Another has
girls putting makeup on guys, leading to a drag beauty show. Then there is the
embarrassingly Freudian "Baby Bottle Burp," in which girls put a diaper (a
towel) on a boy, then feed him a bottle of soda and cradle him until he
You can read his entire article by logging onto www.worldmag.com and filling out a personal information sheet, waiting for their
email confirmation, and then entering your login and password to read it.
I actually think that Mr. Veith had some good points. I just wish he wouldn't
have misrepresented who we are, what youth leaders are REALLY doing, and what
games can actually do. That's why I wrote the following response to the
"The name of your publication is WORLD. We obviously live in two different
worlds. In the time that it took most of your readers to thumb through your
publication, 29 kids attempted suicide, 2,795 teenage girls became pregnant, and
22 girls got abortions. There are thousands upon thousands of overworked,
under-appreciated, and under-resourced youth workers praying and struggling to
reach these kids before it's too late. That's why I was surprised when a friend
told me about Gene Edward Veith's article "Stupid Church Tricks," which hurled
onslaughts at our ministry.
First, www.TheSourceForYouthMinistry.com is nothing like what Mr. Veith
portrayed in his article. THE SOURCE is dedicated to helping youth workers
around the world reach youth with the life-changing message of Jesus Christ-
which we are doing. On THE SOURCE's web site you'll find hundreds of pages of
free youth ministry aids (i.e. discipleship material, discussion starters,
evangelism training, event ideas and games). I would have appreciated at least a
mention of 98% of the web site- materials free for the volunteer youth workers
who have no budget and little time. Mr. Veith seemed to devote his article to
less than 2% of the web site, the games that offended him. His accusations and
conclusions were far from accurate, and I encourage anyone to browse our web
site and take a peek for themselves.
But what about the gross games section on the web site? Are gross games bad
for youth ministry? That's the wrong question. First ask, "why do you want to
use them?" Your answer should be "They are a vehicle to open the door to reach
youth with the life-changing message of Jesus Christ." Second, is that
particular "vehicle" against biblical principles? The answer should be "no." The
focus of your program should be your purpose, not the vehicle. If the vehicle
ever distracts from the purpose, it's the wrong vehicle, and you might want to
consider who's driving! I hold things to the light of scripture- and I just
haven't found Jesus worrying too much about being gross. And sorry, but the
flannel-graph just doesn't cut it anymore.
I am surprised that a professional writer from a classy publication like
WORLD would write something without actual research, like contacting us, or any
youth ministry professional for that matter. Should Mr. Veith desire to write a
fact-based, accurate, informed article on our ministry, I can be contacted at
World Magazine will be printing a SMALL EDITED paragraph of my above
What I've learned from this situation is that there are a lot of people who
don't understand the WORLD of teenagers or how to reach them. And unfortunately,
we as youth ministers often hear a lot more criticism than praise. That's why I
am in the ministry I am . . . to be a support, a resource and an encouragement
to you to reach kids for Christ. Your ministry is changing lives forever and I
only wish you heard more encouragement than discouragement.
WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT GROSS. Including a Sample Program Outline, Using a Gross Game.
But what about the gross games section? If it is offensive, why have we
decided to keep it on the web site? Let me first say- we have to remember the
big picture we're talking about here. My philosophy of ministry has nothing to
do with gross games. My purpose is to reach youth with the life changing method
of Jesus Christ. And I WON'T sacrifice any moral standard, integrity or
character to do it. However- I don't find it "immoral" or against Biblical
truths for someone to blend a happy meal in a blender, to slurp M & M's out
of Jell-O, to put shaving cream in each other's hair . . . or even to have a
belching contest. "What works" is NOT okay if it's unrighteous. I don't ever
preach the philosophy of "if it works it's okay." But as I said in my response
to WORLD, I do hold things to the light of scripture- and I just haven't found
Jesus worrying too much about being gross.
I had a friend who ran an outreach ministry out of his garage, reaching over
a hundred students. These students weren't the students you'd find at the church
on the corner. These were the students that "don't do church." He used games in
his ministry to break down walls. He had students from rival gangs attending,
and many weeks these students would be rolling on the floor swatting ping pong
balls or eating Spam, laughing and playing together. It was amazing to watch.
Then he always would introduce a topic of discussion which would create an
opportunity to share Christ. I saw a ton of students come to Christ through that
Does the Bible say that games such as these are wrong? Many people have
brought up the passage Philippians 4:8. Good passage. A passage that talks about
what we should set our minds on. Paul wanted to assert to the Philippians that
they would set their minds on the right things, and not monopolize their
thoughts with stuff that gets them caught in a groove that they can't remove
themselves from. So it's important for us to set our thoughts on fine things-
and Paul makes a cool list of them. You, I, and every other youth minister out
there know that students have a lot of distractions in their lives right now,
and a lot of junk slipping in their lives from sources like the media, music,
and friends. Students are "setting their minds" on SEX, drugs & alcohol,
materialism, popularity, and a whole lot of other stuff that the world is
offering them. This stuff is not only distracting, it has enslaved many of them.
The question is, how can we free these students? (And no, I'm not going to say
the answer is by slurping M&M's). The answer is through the life-changing
message of Jesus Christ.
So how can we create an opportunity to share Christ with them? Picture
A SAMPLE PROGRAM
A youth minister offers "all you can eat pizza for one dollar" and hundreds
of students show up. After everyone eats pizza, they come together for a
program. He brings some students up front to see who can eat a McDonalds Happy
Meal the fastest . . . but then he throws the meals in a blender so they have to
drink them. The crowd laughs and cheers. Next in the program the youth worker
shows a video of interviews he filmed at school that day, asking kids "Do you
think there is life after death?" Then a band leads some fun songs. A student
follows that up sharing his story/testimony, how he used to live for himself,
but then he met Jesus and his life is changed. Then the same band leads a few
quieter songs. Finally, a speaker comes up and shares the Gospel- and kids are
saved. Let me ask you . . . do you think that Jesus is worried about blending
Happy Meals? Furthermore, according to the Philippians verse, is that program
making kids "dwell on" gross things?
It is true that there are some youth ministers out there who have let gross
games get out of hand. I also think that we need to be careful of what we
reflect to the people around us. If a youth ministry has the reputation of nasty
gross stuff . . . I don't think that's the reputation we should have. So, like
everything, discernment should be used. This debate has caused me to take a hard
look at this section of our web-site and I am removing several of the games that
have been contributed by youth pastors.
My prayer is that youth workers around the world reach students for Christ.
Our ministry hopes to help provide the tools to do that. But as I said to WORLD,
the focus of your program should be your purpose, not the vehicle. If the
vehicle ever distracts from the purpose, it's the wrong vehicle.
In Christ's Love,
Jonathan R. McKee
The Source for Youth Ministry
KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!
If you have any other youth ministry ideas you want to share, please email me at
Jonathan R. McKee
Do you have a speaker for your next camp or retreat?
Check out Jonathan's speaker page and who's recommending him!
Jonathan McKee is president of The Source for Youth Ministry and
author of the new book "Do They Run When They See You Coming? Reaching Out to Unchurched
Teenagers." (CLICK HERE FOR
THE BOOK) Jonathan speaks
and trains across the country and provides
free online resources, training, & ideas for youth workers at
Jonathan R. McKeehttp://www.thesource4ym.com/
for Youth Ministry