The Source for Youth Ministry
Jonathan's Resource Ezine

Weekly Resources, Ideas and Articles from The Source for Youth Ministry
Wednesday, October 24, 2007

In This Issue

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Featured Article: When "Us vs. Them" Trumps Kingdom Mentality, the Church/Para-church Fight Brought to the Table

by Jonathan McKee

In my years working for Youth for Christ and volunteering with the local church, it was amazing to see the tension and competition that often reared its ugly head between ministries.

"They're just going to steal our resources and volunteers?"

"Why are they here? We're already reaching these kids!"

I've heard it too often. And coming from a city where church and para-church partnered together extremely well, I may have some insight to offer to youth workers like Bryan who are coming face to face with these issues. Bryan wrote me:


I had a question about Young Life. They are looking at coming to our town and I agree that we need to do a better job of reaching lost students and you have been helpful in that, but am I wrong to think that they will take away adults, students, and resources from churches? Would it work better if Young Life taught churches what to do like you do?

Thanks for your thoughts.

Bryan, GA

I appreciated Bryan's honesty. Unfortunately, that's not an uncommon question. The local church often hesitates to trust another organization with reaching out to the kids in their area. But let me make something clear right out of the blocks: The para-church doesn't take away from the church... it is the church. Young Life, Youth for Christ, FCA... all those organizations are a bunch of believers in the church body who are reaching out to local campuses. There is no "we" vs. "them." This is an internal matter.

If the little white church on the corner doesn't get along with "Young Life," it's just like when the church's children's ministry and youth ministry are fighting over use of the fellowship hall. We are all part of the body.

I asked Chap Clark, author of the book Hurt: Inside the World of Today's Teenagers, to chime in on the issue. Chap, a Young Life veteran, immediately reacted to the question. "'Take away' from the church? Young Life is an expression of the Body of Christ reaching out to the world, and so they are an extension of the Church."

We need to look at Bryan's question for what it is. This isn't about lost kids. The heart wrenching truth is the fact that there are more than enough unchurched kids to go around. I've never seen a community run out of lost kids.

Dan Jessup, the Regional Director of Young Life Pikes Peak Region commented to me, "There will be no need for YL when 100% of the kids in the world are in a church. As long as that is not the case, then in my opinion, the more ministries the merrier. We can always use more people reaching out to more kids in a community." Some day if churches are overflowing and MTV is bankrupt we'll deal with the issue of competing for lost kids. In the meantime, the competition on the table is probably a concern about resources.

This doesn't necessarily put to rest feelings of frustration or even bitterness from the local church. When the para-church enters the picture, it seems as if churches often wonder:
  1. Are they going to be in competition with us?
  2. Are they coming because they think we can't do the job right?
  3. Are they just going to take away from our program by drawing resources, people and funds toward their organization instead?
If you look at those questions they resemble the questions that churches often raise if another church is built in the same community. When a new church starts in an existing community with existing churches, some people switch to that new church. That new church, with its own gifting and its own style, will often meet a need in the community that is unique and maybe even void in the other churches. This can stir up bitterness and jealousy. I've heard comments from senior pastors like, "The only reason that church is growing is because they've stolen from every other church in the area."

But in many cases, the new church really is meeting a need in the community.

The relevant question I see is, How is the local church to respond when another church or organization arrives?

Sure we could all sit around and talk about how, in a perfect world, it would be nice if there was only one church per community where everyone gathered together in worship. (Yes, that would be nice. While we're at it, let's cure AIDS, solve world hunger and solve the national debt... Bono... are you listening?) But this world isn't perfect. Christians can't seem to resist arguing about whether to sprinkle or dunk, and disagreeing about whether God chose or we choose. The best we can do at this point is to try to work together as one church seeking a common goal.

Do you do that? (yes, I'm meddling) Do you network with that church down the street?

One Town, Three Churches
Last year I was flown out to a small Midwest town to speak at a local Baptist church. The pastor picked me up from the airport and drove me to their small church. As we arrived in his town, he told me, "Our church is up here on the left."

I looked up to see a large white church on the corner. "Beautiful church." I responded.

He looked at where I was looking and quickly corrected me, "Oh, that's the Methodist Church. Ours is around the corner."

As we passed the Methodist church another church came into view, a gorgeous brick building stained glass stretched from ground to ceiling. "Wow, I said. I love the brick."

"Uh..." he interrupted again... "That's not it either." It's just down the street.

As we turned the corner another church sat no further than 100 yards down the block. This time I kept my mouth shut, in fear that if I commented about this church another one would sprout from the ground across the street.

As our car passed the other two churches towards the third church, I couldn't help but think about the people in each of those churches. I wondered if they had ever even considered that the people 100 yards away are just like them. I happened to know that these three churches were a lot more alike than they realized. Just a week prior to this little airport ride I had done a weekend retreat for a booming Methodist youth group in Kentucky. The month before that, I did a huge training event at a Presbyterian church across the country with a building not unlike the brick edifice we just passed. That year I had spoken in Baptist, Missionary Alliance, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Assembly of God, Methodist and Catholic churches. In most of their youth group settings I found very little differences. The kids-- exactly the same. Worship style-carbon copy. The youth leader-same heart, same passion, same message. But all of these groups with different labels on the t-shirt.

As I pulled into the parking lot of the Baptist church I couldn't help but wonder: What if all these churches pooled their resources together to reach out to the community and provide a place where people could grow and be more like Jesus.

So I asked the pastor of the Baptist church. "Have you ever met the pastor or the youth pastor at the Methodist church?"

"Uh... once."

"What's his name?" I asked, not meaning to prod.

"Um...." he had to think. "Rick.... Uh... no..." correcting himself. "Ron!"

"What about the Presbyterian Church?"

"Yep." He told me his name. "He's been in this community his whole life."

I didn't stop there. "Do you guys ever get together for lunch?"

The pastor looked at me with a blank stare. (Funny. I've never been booked by that church again.)

How crazy is that? Three churches within a stone's throw of each other, and they never even talk with each other. Sadly, they don't even realize how similar they are... they are too focused on their differences.

Para-church Groups
The relationship between churches and para-churches isn't much different. If we could push our presumptions aside, we might find that we could really help each other out with a common "Kingdom centered" goal.

Churches and para-churches can work together, complementing each other.

I can offer a little insight from the para-church perspective, having worked for Youth for Christ (a para-church group very similar to Young Life) for a decade. I directed two on-campus ministries that drew out hundreds of kids. These ministries were focused on loving kids and sharing Christ with them. But that wasn't all. I needed a place for them to grow. After all, when kids accepted Christ, I wanted them to be able to plug into the local church and grow in their faith.

This became one of the most difficult and daunting tasks of my entire job. Many places that I visited were hesitant to partner with me in this task of plugging kids into the church or youth group.

Think about this for a second. A guy comes up to you-a youth worker-with a problem: he has kids that just became Christians who want to go to church. They ask if they can go to your church. Sounds like a no-brainer, huh?

Unfortunately, that's when church politics usually enter from stage right.

"What if your kids start teaching our kids how to smoke, drink and chew?"

"If you start going to this church, are you going to start recruiting volunteers?"

"Are you going to start enlisting kids from our youth group to go to your events?"

I've heard every one of these questions.

But first, let's be fair. Let's look from the church's perspective.

I know a church that had a fantastic college ministry in a small college town. On Sunday night this church was ?the place to be' for college kids. They were reaching kids from the local secular campus and plugging them into the church to grow in their faith. It was a fantastic ministry.

A para-church college ministry barged into the town and began their own college program targeting the exact same kids. They actually urged kids to go to their program instead of the church's program. The church began to see resources, volunteers and eventually college kids disappear from its program.

As you can see, self seeking motives, powerplays and jealousy can originate from either side of the equation. Both sides can be stingy. The question really comes down to this: Who's going to be more Kingdom centered?

A Kingdom Centered View
I struggled to plug kids into the local church for almost eight years. Finally, a church partnered with our ministry seeing it as a huge opportunity to plug new believers in the church. Our united passion and Kingdom-mindset helped our ministries fit together like a puzzle.

Take a look at how these two ministries could complement each other:


Reaching unchurched kids
On campus access
Evangelism outside the church
Provides great outreach events
A place where kids can grow in their new faith
support, prayer, & funds


Incredible place of growth
Place of worship
Fellowship with other believers
Discipleship opportunities
Campus access
evangelism opportunities
support, prayer, & funds

A glimpse at the above illustration tells the whole story of why these ministries can help each other... and why they could fall into competition. Competition emerges when these ministries focus on the bottom two needs that they both have: volunteers and support!

The church holds the cards when it comes to volunteers and support because the church is the primary source of both of these needs. Healthy churches see themselves as more than just the people in the brick building on the corner. The church is Christ's entire body of believers making a difference in the community, in the town, in the greater region, and the world (Acts 1:8). I've rarely encountered a church that doesn't support missionaries across the globe. So why can't the church support the campus mission organization down the street? Is that a little too close to home? (or let me really meddle by taking it a step further) Is supporting that local mission organization almost an admission that the local church isn't doing its job? (Oh snap! Did I just say that outloud!)

Part of the reason for competition and bitterness between church and para-church is ?history.' Usually someone from the church has had a bad experience with an organization like this in the past. And para-church organizations have experienced numerous closed doors in their lifetime. Each of these parties have been known to ?gunnysack' these feelings of bitterness for each other, bypassing normal courtesies and networking efforts. Both sides would gladly provide reasoning why they don't even bother trying to work together because they "know what the result is going to be."

Sadly, the church and para-church in this situation will stay at odds with each other.

But if both the church and the parachurch would set "self" aside and look with a Kingdom mindset at the STRENGTHS and NEEDS (illustrated above) that each other have, then maybe they would see how they could help each other with their gifting.

A Perfect Fit
That's what a local church and our campus ministry was able to do years ago. The church was looking for an open door to reach the local campus. Our campus ministry had that open door. Our campus ministry was looking for a local church to plug kids into. This church was close to the school and wanted kids to plug into the church. In addition, we offered some training and "ready made" outreach events this church was able to glean from. The church offered mentors and discipleship programs that we could plug kids into. It was a perfect fit.

Neither of us came into the equation worried about our own needs. Instead, we each focused on what we could do to serve each other (just like a healthy marriage). Their youth pastor attended our campus outreach every week. I let him stand up during announcements and plug his Bible study, his youth group, and his activities. Why? Because I wanted kids to go to church and grow into followers of Christ! That was my goal from the beginning.

I've seen this kind of partnership work across the nation. I've trained youth workers in teen centers that partnered with all the area churches, plugging kids into these local churches to grow in their faith, and, in turn, staffing the teen center with youth pastors who loved the opportunity to reach unchurched kids.

In my Reaching the Unchurched training workshops I encourage churches to embrace relationships with para-church groups like Youth for Christ, Young Life and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. These groups can provide great opportunities to connect with kids that don't go to church or church events. These groups also would love help from the local church. These relationships are WIN/WIN.

Churches of different denominations can accomplish the same thing when working together. There is nothing more exciting than when the church-all of God's people, the bride of Christ-come together for a common purpose (I talk about this extensively in my book Getting Students to Show Up in my chapter about planning city-wide events). It's thrilling to see the church unite to reach out to its community.

Enough with "we" vs. "them." Let's be all about uniting, not dividing. After all... we're on the same team.

Jonathan McKee Books Jonathan McKee is president of The Source for Youth Ministry and author of numerous youth ministry books like "Do They Run When They See You Coming?" and the brand new "Getting Students to Show Up." Jonathan studies youth culture and trends, speaking and training across the country and providing free online resources, training, & ideas for youth workers at

Special Road Trip Podcast: Jonathan and Brandon take a road trip down to the Youth Specialties National Youth Workers Convention giving you a snippet of all the action!

Listen to it for free on iTunes now! (CLICK HERE) Or, if you don't have iTunes already... jump on Apple's web page for a free download, then click on our podcast page.


NOTE: This podcast was recorded before the Southern California fires. Jonathan and Brandon finished their recording at the YS Convention and headed home the night before the fires began. Please pray for Youth Specialties and the many families and friends we all have down in Southern California whose lives are being affected right now by this tragedy.

SPECIAL ROAD TRIP PODCAST Enjoy cameos from quite a few authors and speakers you love as Jonathan and Brandon take a ROAD TRIP to the San Diego Youth Specialties National Youth Workers Convention. Share the experience of driving south with Jonathan and Brandon on the beautiful (ha!), and scenic (lol) Interstate 5... complete with the wonderful smells of Kettleman City (MOOOoooooooooo!!!!). After they drilled through the L.A. smog, they eventually emerge in San Diego. Jonathan and Brandon take you with them as they peruse the hallways of the YS convention, meeting interesting people and even peeking in on some of the sessions and training, including an 8 minute snippet of one of Jonathan's workshops.


Something You Can Use: A Third MOVIE CLIP DISCUSSION using "Evan Almighty" to jumpstart discussion-this time about "Answers to Prayer"

For the last two weeks we've provided you with discussions from the movie Evan Almighty. Here's a third one "ready-made" for ya!

Evan Almighty
Evan Almighty
(Universal Pictures, 2007)

Main Point of Discussion: When we pray, God's answer might require action on our part.

The Movie Clip: "God gives you an opportunity."

Evan Almighty is a fantastic movie. The humor is fun all throughout the movie and the writing is very clean and appropriate for the whole family. I also really appreciate that the writers keep a certain respect and down-to-earth wisdom in God's character. For my wife and I, this is a definite buy. It's sort of a sequel of Bruce Almighty, except following a different character, Evan (played by Steve Carrell), whom God (Morgan Freeman) recruits to build an ark, living out the story of Noah in modern times. The movie deals a lot with persecution and family bonding. (You can read more about this film in our movie review on this page.)

The clip that we are using is a major transition in the movie. At this point in the story Joan (Evan's wife) and their three boys have been feeling that Evan is irrational and ruining the family by building the ark. They've left Evan to build the ark by himself and are on their way to stay with Joan's parents. Stopping at a diner on the way, Joan meets God but doesn't realize who she's talking to. God encourages Joan and gives her some insight on life and prayer.

Introducing the Clip:
Today we're going to watch a video clip from the movie Evan Almighty. The movie is about a guy named Evan who has been visited by God and told to build an ark, just like in the story about Noah in the Bible. Evan's wife and kids think he's gone crazy, so they've left him to stay with his wife's parents. In this scene, they're already on the road, and they're stopping to eat at a diner. Joan, Evan's wife, meets God but doesn't realize who she's talking to. God encourages Joan and gives her some insight on life and prayer. Listen to what God tells her about praying-it's really a great clip.

Let's watch the scene, and then we'll talk about it afterwards.

Scene Script:

BEGIN CLIP AT 59 minutes and 54 seconds (after Jon Stewart's line about the Jackass).

Man at bar: (laughing) What an idiot.

Dylan: Jerks.

Joan: Don't worry about it, you guys. Come on, eat up.

Ryan: I'm not hungry.

Jordan: Yeah, me neither.

Joan: You guys can't eat. I can't stop.

Jordan: Can I go to the bathroom?

Ryan: Me too?

Joan: Okay. Dylan, go with them. Please?

Dylan: Fine.

(All three boys leave the table. Joan sees God, but thinks He is only a server in the diner.)

Joan: Excuse me. Can I get a refill please?

God: Coming right up.

Joan: Thank you.

God: Excuse me. Are you alright?

Joan: Yeah. (God looks at her unconvinced.) No. It's a long story.

God: Well, I like stories. I'm considered a bit of a storyteller myself.

Joan: My husband... Have you heard of New York's Noah?

God: (Chuckling) The guy who's building the ark.

Joan: That's him.

God: I love that story, Noah and the Ark. You know, a lot of people miss the point of that story. They think it's about God's wrath and anger. They love it when God gets angry.

Joan: What is the story about, then? The ark?

God: Well, I think it's a love story about believing in each other. You know, the animals showed up in pairs. They stood by each other, side by side, just like Noah and his family. Everybody entered the ark side by side.

Joan: But my husband says God told him to do it. What do you do with that?

God: Sounds like an opportunity. Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, do you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If they pray for courage, does God give them courage, or does he give them opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for their family to be closer, you think God zaps them with warm, fuzzy feelings? Or does he give them opportunities to love each other? Well, I got to run. A lot of people to serve. Enjoy.

Jon Stewart: (on TV) Guess this comes as no surprise to those who remember his campaign promise, "I will lower taxes, go crazy and build a gigantic ark."

END CLIP AT 1 hour 2 minutes and 15 seconds.

Transitional Statement:
God's comments on prayer are really interesting, aren't they? According to the clip, it seems as if we can't really treat God like Santa Claus, just expecting Him to give us what we ask for exactly how we expect Him to. The first time I saw this scene that kind of freaked me out. But perhaps there is a lot of truth in what He says.

Now, there are many types of prayers. Some are made just to thank God, and sometimes they are for confessing the wrong things we've done. Tonight we're talking about the times we pray for God to help us grow or learn in some way. We're going to break out into small groups now, and discuss what this actually looks like for us, when we pray for growth or help. Perhaps it may actually require something from us.

Divide into Small Groups:
Let's go ahead and split up into our discussion groups, and then afterward we'll come back together for a final word.


Another DVD Movie Giveaway: We're giving away five DVD's of the upcoming Christian Stand-up Comedy Movie THOU SHALT LAUGH 2 to five of you just for telling us how our free resources have helped you!

Thou Shalt Laugh Yes, it's that simple. We want to hear how has helped you. And anyone of you that sends us an email telling us how our resources have made an impact in your ministry registers to win one of five "Thou Shalt Laugh 2" DVD's that we'll be giving away on its release November 6th!

The laughter doesn't stop in THOU SHALT LAUGH 2: THE DEUCE as comedy legend and Emmy Award-winning writer/actor Tim Conway (The Carol Burnett Show) hosts an uproarious night of stand-up comedy featuring some of the most talented artists working in show business today. Returning performers and audience-favorites Taylor Mason and Thor Ramsey are joined by TSL2 newcomers Saturday Night Live's Victoria Jackson, Bone, and Dan Nainan. All the comedians are Christians!

Available October 23, 2007 (online at and November 6 (everywhere)

We're giving away five of these hilarious DVDs free to five names we'll draw from a hat. Just send us an email telling us how our resources have helped make an impact in your ministry and we'll add your name to the hat.

  1. Send an email telling us how has helped your ministry. What free resources, ideas or articles have been a help? What were the results?

  2. Include the following four logistical items:
    • Your name
    • Your youth ministry title (jr. high coordinator, volunteer, janitor, etc.)
    • Your phone number
    • Your correct mailing address

  3. Type these words to us in the email: I give Jonathan McKee and/or The Source for Youth Ministry permission to use this information as an example for any of their trainings, articles, publicity, books or resources.

That's it! Enter now!

Email your submission to

Coming Soon: Need more volunteers? Jonathan and his father talk about how to harness this "New Breed" of volunteer in their new book available in our next issue of this EZINE!



Get Jonathan and Tom's
new book, THE NEW BREED

(Coming This November)

"Eye Opening
  And Thought

Recruiting, Training, Managing
and Occasionally Even Firing Today's Volunteers

Adapt to the changing world of volunteer management.
More than ever, today's volunteers work online, need flexible hours, and want to play a role in defining their jobs. They also want to feel a sense of responsibility for your organization's overall mission. Harness this passion and potential-with results that uplift your goals and enable your volunteers.


(You'll want to get it from us!)

Discover how to:
+ frame your recruitment message for today's volunteers
+ understand how the different generations are motivated
+ empower volunteers to "own" their projects
+ create a climate of teamwork across generational boundaries
+ involve "virtual" volunteers from around the country
+ engage the passion of your volunteers
     Dozens of "must-have" resources.
You'll find job descriptions, applications, and interview questions; activities, icebreakers, and team-builders for volunteer meetings; community-building activities; plus, tips for board retreats and planning sessions.

"Leading volunteers has always been among the most vital tasks in ministry. Yet as society has changed, and people's lives have become more chaotic and fragmented, the task of leading leaders has never been more challenging. In The New Breed, Tom and Jonathan McKee offer us all a comprehensive, thorough and usable handbook for equipping and training volunteers in today's hectic world. Well researched, solidly grounded and filled with practical tips and tools, The New Breed is sure to become the standard for raising up and leading a new generation of volunteers."
Chap Clark , Ph.D.
Professor of Youth, Family, and Culture, Fuller Theological Seminary
Author, HURT: Inside the World of Today's Teenagers
Senior Editor, Youthworker Journal


Jonathan McKee Books Jonathan McKee is president of The Source for Youth Ministry and author of numerous youth ministry books like "Do They Run When They See You Coming?" and the brand new "Getting Students to Show Up." Jonathan studies youth culture and trends, speaking and training across the country and providing free online resources, training, & ideas for youth workers at

Thomas McKee Thomas McKee is the president and owner of, a leadership development firm specializing in volunteerism. He has over 40 years of experience in volunteer leadership and has trained over 100,000 leaders on how to manage the chaos of change in an organization. His books include They Don't Play My Music Anymore-How to Plan Your Future When the World Keeps Changing and How to Make the Team Work-A Leadership Training Manual for New Managers.

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