The Source for Youth Ministry
Jonathan's Resource Ezine

Weekly Resources, Ideas and Articles from The Source for Youth Ministry
Tuesday, December 19, 2006

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Featured Article: Tears to Denver-A Personal Christmas Note from Jonathan

by Jonathan McKee

I can still see the disappointment on my daughter's face. The image stabbed me like a knife as I boarded my plane to Denver... I cried the whole way there.

Time is passing much too quickly.

Last month I was thinking about how much time I have left with my family. Sure... if all the life insurance companies have their statistics right, I should make it to age 79. But that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about time with my kids in the house before they move out and start ?phase two' of their life (some of you already have experienced or are experiencing this phase).

My oldest son Alec is smack dab in the middle of 8th grade this year. Next year he'll be a freshman in high school. I'll have one kid in high school, one kid in jr. high and one kid in elementary. What does that mean? I have less than 5 years left with all the kids in the house. That's barely 1700 days.

You usually don't think of these things until you've already blown it.

That's what I did. That's why I was in tears on the way to Denver.

I probably wouldn't have cried if I had been giving my family my 100%. This year as our ministry grew and our busyness increased, I had to be proactive, guarding our family time. Tuesday nights are our family night- nothing is booked on Tuesdays. And I only travel 6-10 days a month away from my family. Anyone wants to book me for more than that... they have to bring out all five of us (and thankfully that happens from time to time). So I felt like these parameters were protecting us. Somewhere on the surface I felt like I was doing a good job.

I wasn't.

The night before I left on that particular plane to Denver, my youngest daughter Ashley asked me if we could just hang out as a family that night. I love family nights. But honestly, on this particular night my first thought was, "It's not Tuesday-it's not family night!"

I looked her in the eyes and told her, "I'm tired Ashley. I think I want to just sit here." So I sent her upstairs to play with her sister.

I can still see the look of disappointment on her face. It hurts to even think about.

I had been burning the candle on both ends. Traveling, writing, administrative garbage... I was swamped. But do you know what's really ironic? I was leaving the next day to teach at a huge "parenting" conference.

So as I sat on that plane ride to Denver crying, I knew it was time for a change. Nothing drastic... nothing that many people would really even notice. But I would notice. My kids would notice. I knew I needed to pay more attention to "the important" and stop being enslaved to "the urgent."

When I got home I took some steps to make this happen. I made some key changes to my calendar. I blocked every Tuesday morning for a one-on-one breakfast with my son Alec. Then I blocked Wednesdays for my girls. I told a publisher of a potential book to not even talk to me until after March when I finished another deadline.

Finally, I went to the bank and bought a little over 1700 nickels. I have a nickel for every day I have left before Alec goes off to school. I put them all in a huge glass jar. Each day I take out a nickel and shove it in my pocket. The nickel is a reminder of the five places I need to give non-negotiable attention that day: God, my wife Lori, and my three kids Alec, Alyssa, and Ashley. Ministry, friends, and everything else all follow those five. Each day when I complete my time with God and my family, I give the nickel away.

This isn't a simple decision. It's a daily commitment.

Just last weekend I had the opportunity to go screen the new film "We Are Marshall." If you know me, you know I love movies. And this was a free screening a week before the film's even released. But it was on a night I was going to be with my family.

I told them, "No thank you. It's family night."

The jar of nickels is getting emptier every day. But I'm living each day, struggling to put the tyranny of the urgent aside with my focus on loving God and loving others.

My prayer is that you all take time during this busy season to slow down and remember what's important. Above all, remember the greatest Christmas gift of all... the "Christ" of Christmas.

Have a wonderful Christmas! And if you ever see me in person... maybe I'll give you a nickel!


Jonathan McKee

Jonathan McKee is president of The Source for Youth Ministry and author of the book "Do They Run When They See You Coming? Reaching Out to Unchurched Teenagers." This book helps us better understand youth culture today, and equips us to actually reach out to these kids. Jonathan studies youth culture and trends, speaking and training across the country and providing free online resources, training, & ideas for youth workers at

Christmas Break Movies: Looking for movies to watch during Christmas break? Here's some great ones in the theatre or on DVD.

When I was growing up, my brother and I always watched a bunch of movies during Christmas break. Kids are off school and they often find themselves at Blockbuster or at the local theatre during these two weeks off. Here are a few good films to catch in the theatre or on DVD during this Christmas break.


Charlotte's Web (12/15/2006)
Rated G

Directed by Gary Winick (13 Going on 30...)

Starring Dakota Fanning and the voices of Julia Roberts, Steve Buscemi, John Cleese, Cedric, Oprah, Kathy Bates, Reba, Robert Redford... (need I say more?)


Some film. One terrific film. Humble film.

No, it's not a cartoon. And I can't even call it just a kids' film. It's much, much more.

If you're like me, you read Charlotte's Web as a child, and even shed a tear or two when Charlotte dies at the end (I don't think I'm giving anything away here... unless you live in a shoebox). Then if you're also like me you saw a cartoon of the book that didn't do the book justice. So when I heard there was going to be another movie... my first thought was, "Oh brother." Not because I don't like the story... but because I'm sick of people butchering great stories with lame films. But then I saw the film.


The new film Charlotte's Web far exceeded my expectations. It was literally fantastic.

The story is funny, inspiring and true to the classic story. This is definitely THE family film to see during Christmas break this year. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry... and it will make you think.

Like the book, the film deals with the subject of death in a healthy way that will provoke positive opportunities for conversations with your kids...


Pursuit of Happyness (12/15/2006)
Rated PG-13 for some language.

Directed by Gabriele Muccino

Starring Will Smith, Jaden Smith...

JONATHAN'S SCORE: Theatre Worthy


If Will Smith didn't prove himself to you in Ali, then he'll do it with Pursuit of Happyness.

Will plays Chris Gardner, a struggling salesman pursuing a life changing goal to work at a successful stock broker firm. Meanwhile, troubles at home leave him taking care of his son with no place to live, and no salary.

I loved the film. Will Smith was amazing. And young Jaden chose a great film to launch his career.

Will Smith's character is likable. He has perseverance and integrity. He's smart and a great people person. You want him to succeed as you take this tough journey with him...



Lady In The Water (12/19/2006)
Rated PG-13 for some frightening sequences.

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan (Signs, The Sixth Sense...)

Starring Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard, M. Night Shyamalan...

JONATHAN'S SCORE: Theatre Worthy

I've seen two trailers for this film: the first is the one I call the "fairy tale" preview. It begins with the words "Once upon a time," ending with the words "A bedtime story by M. Night Shymalan." The second preview starts with eerie music, segueing into a typical horror preview.

Those who go to the theatre expecting the "fairy tale" won't be disappointed. Those who are looking for just another horror film might be let down. Lady in the Water is A Wrinkle in Time, not The Hills Have Eyes II.

I really enjoyed the film, but then again, I wasn't expecting a horror.

If you're an M. Night Shymamalan fan, I think you'll really like this film. Clarification: everyone who liked The Sixth Sense isn't exactly an M. Night Shymamalan fan. You have to ask yourself, did you also like Signs and The Village? Because Lady in the Water is much more about story and character development than jumps and plot twists.


Barnyard: The Original Party Animals (12/12/2006)
Rated PG for some mild peril and rude humor.

Directed by Steve Oedekerk (writer of Bruce Almighty, Kung Pow, Patch Adams, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls)

Starring the voices of Kevin James, Courtney Cox, Danny Glover, Sam Elliott...


It's been a while since I've seen an animated film this good. Barnyard will end up on my DVD shelf next to Finding Nemo and The Incredibles.

It's funny; several people have tried to wiggle into the "computer animated" market in the last few years. We saw decent attempts from movies like Hoodwinked, and Home on the Range. But the final consensus is, "It was good, but it was no The Incredibles." Or "... no Finding Nemo."

I think Barnyard has made the leap.

The tagline for the movie is, "What happens in the barn, stays in the barn." Basically, when the farmer is away, all the animals play. But the story is really about a cow named Otis (Kevin James) who is thrown into the position of responsibility. Otis quickly learns the truth behind his father's words: "A strong man stands up for himself. A stronger man stands up for others."


World Trade Center (12/12/2006)
Rated PG-13 for intense and emotional content, some disturbing images and language.

Directed by Oliver Stone (Born on the 4th of July, JFK, Platoon...)

Starring Nicolas Cage, Michael Pena

JONATHAN'S SCORE: Theatre Worthy

About time Stone.

Oliver Stone is not my favorite director. The guy gives "fiction" a new meaning. His typical portrayal of history is about as accurate as Scorcese's Last Temptation...

But Stone surprises us with a heartwarming film about two firefighters caught in the rubble of the collapsed World Trade Centers.

The script is creative with clever dialogue and flashbacks. The performances are outstanding. Cage steps out of his typical role that you've seen him play 100 times and plays a real life hero with authenticity...


Christmas Ideas: Looking for more games, discussions, or event ideas for this time of year? Our web site has a bunch-check em' out!

In our last EZINE (click here) we sent you some great Christmas ideas including a new discussion using the popular Christmas movie "Elf" as a discussion starter, and a bunch of fun, quick, snow ideas. But don't stop there. Our web site has plenty of other Christmas ideas floating around. You've just got to know where to look.

Allow us to give you a guided tour.

Jump on our web site and click on the left hand side bar where it says HOLIDAY IDEAS. That page lists a bunch of the free resources and ideas we provide by topic. Then scroll down to "Christmas" and check out some of the ideas linked on our page. You'll see three different Christmas VIDEO CLIP IDEAS, a handful of Christmas GAMES, a complete Christmas SPIRITUAL GROWTH AGENDA from our CURRICULUM & JUMPSTARTERS page, and MORE!

But also check out our ARTICLE ARCHIVE page. Jump on our web site and click on the left hand side bar where it says ARTICLE ARCHIVES. On that page, click on the SUBJECT LISTING button near the top of the page. That will bring you to a subject listing of over six years of our free Resource EZINE newsletters. Look for the subject HOLIDAY and click there. You'll see a bunch of past Christmas EZINEs with articles and ideas we've highlighted in years past.


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