The Source for Youth Ministry

Cool Conversations/Interviews

Jim Burns Interviews Jonathan McKee
August 27, 2002

Jim Burns interviewed Jonathan in the summer of 2002 about FREE internet resources and how a ministry that is dedicated to providing quality youth ministry resources for free grew to be a big hit among youth workers.

JIM: Jonathan, you have an incredible web site providing FREE resources to youth workers around the world. There are a huge number of people who are affected by your ministry. How many people on a weekly basis receive your email and come to your site?

JONATHAN: Right now I send out an email newsletter to over 11,000 youth workers. That number grows by about 50 to 100 subscribers a week. And then we get about 3 quarters of a million hits a month on our web site (

JIM: That's incredible. I don't think there's many other web based ministries that get even close to that.

Tell me - you were running a youth ministry reaching several campuses, hundreds of kids. Why on earth did you take the time to start a web site?

JONATHAN: One night I was doing something very familiar to most youth workers - I was looking for some fresh ideas for my ministry. I jumped on the web and typed YOUTH MINISTRY RESOURCES and hit enter. The little search engine said something like 75,000 sites found! I thought, "Great! But when I clicked on it ... there were just a few lame games and a picture of some guy playing Chubby Bunnies. As I investigated further, I found most sites that advertised free resources, gave a few samples, then had a bunch of stuff for sale. I thought, "Those punks!"

I didn't want to shop ... I wanted ideas. I searched for almost an hour before throwing up my hands and coming to the conclusion ... THERE ARE VERY FEW QUALITY FREE YOUTH MINISTRY RESOURCES ON THE INTERNET!!!

So I decided to do something that almost no one else had done: load my file cabinet of resources into a web site that would be absolutely FREE to youth workers ... and it has been growing ever since.

JIM: I think this is the reason for your phenomenal success, because all of us need resources and lots of times we can't afford them.

JONATHAN: Been there!

JIM: And now we're a web world, so of course we're going to go to the web for help. I wish more people were doing what you're doing.


JIM: Now, on you personally. Speaking and training has taken off in the last five years. Do you like the switch from working with one group of students to now working with students all over the nation AND doing multiplication leverage through the web?

JONATHAN: Yeah, and you know, that switch hasn't exactly been a night and day switch. It has been more of a segue. Where I used to work with a few hundred kids, then I found myself helping youth ministers around the world with their ministries. As the web ministry grew, I was spending hours a day helping others. I started to realize the doors God was opening as we were now literally helping tens of thousands of youth workers a day who are each, in turn, helping anywhere from 20 to even hundreds of students in their area.

As I began to see this potential for impact, I started spending more time investing in other youth workers, helping them by providing them with resources, training and encouragement to do the Lord's work. So, for me the change has been exciting because, even though I enjoyed working with a couple hundred youth, I just saw this incredible door opened by God helping youth workers around the world and now we're affecting literally hundreds of thousands of youth.

JIM: You know, what we call it at YouthBuilders is "multiplication leverage." You're multiplying your ministry and you're leveraging. Because, even though you could fly to South Africa, the Phillipines ...

JONATHAN: ... or Oklahoma!

JIM: ... yeah, you really can't be in all those places. But youth workers in South Africa CAN get to your web site, take some of that material, and in a very real sense, you have an incredible impact on them. And that's great.

JONATHAN: It is cool.

JIM: Let's say I'm a volunteer youth worker with about 20 kids in my group. What does your ministry do for me.

JONATHAN: That's funny that you say that, because that is a good description of the majority of youth workers today. They DON'T have hundreds of kids, a huge budget and a library full of new resource books. Most youth workers have little or NO budget, and are starving for good resources, ideas and training. That's one reason my web site has become so popular, because there are a ton of great resources, games, ideas, discussion starters, articles ... you name it, and they're all absolutely FREE. You don't have to be a member, there's no fees, just quality youth ministry resources you can use.

JIM: Now GROUP Magazine has you writing some articles for them, not to mention their ONLINE RESOURCES COLUMN. Their current issue coming out this September actually highlights your article on the cover about BALANCING FAMILY AND MINISTRY. That's a powerful article.

JONATHAN: You know, that article touched an issue that affects a lot of youth workers out there. I wrote the article because I have first hand experience neglecting my wife and family, "in the name of youth ministry!" I learned my lesson, by God's grace, not at the expense of my family. I received an incredible response from that topic when I wrote about it on my web site. I hope that our ministry will continue to not only provide quality resources that youth workers can use ... but I also hope to provide insight as to how God can help us balance some of the daily pressures we all face, some of the trials we all go through, as ministers of the Gospel.

JIM: Yep. I think your writing is an encouragement to youth workers across the world.

JONATHAN: Thank you.

JIM: And - some very exciting news - now Gospel Light is publishing your new book - THE TOP 12 RESOURCES YOUTH WORKERS WANT. It hits the shelves the week of September 9th. I've had the chance to read the book and I love it!

You've been doing resources for a long time now. What makes this book so unique?

JONATHAN: This book not only gives us the daily resources youth workers always ask me for like games, movie clip ideas with discussion questions, events, complete agendas ... this book gives us plenty of those, AND also gives us the HOW TO DO IT! For example: How do I recruit volunteers, how do I use small groups in my ministry, or how do I develop student leaders? This book is a one-stop-shop for youth ministry.

JIM: You've had several endorsements affirming just that.

JONATHAN: Yeah ... I've been pleased with the response. For example, the national director of staff development for Youth for Christ told me she wants to get it in the hands of all their new field staff.

JIM: And Wayne Rice made a good comment when he read your book. He said, "If you want some practical ideas to help make your next youth meeting or activity really sizzle, I suggest you look no further than this book! My friend Jonathan McKee has been doing youth ministry long enough to know that even when you have a great philosophy, you still need to know what to do (and what not to do) when the kids show up."

JONATHAN: I know. Wow- Wayne Rice! I'm not worthy! I'm not worthy!

JIM: Well, you also got a great review from Chap Clark, Director of Youth Ministry Programs at Fuller Theological Seminary. He says, "For years Jonathan McKee has been providing a dynamite (FREE!) resource for youth workers through his website. Now you can get the best of his thinking in a single volume. It is handy, easy to read, and very practical. But don't let any of that fool you - it is also sharp, poignant, and real. I have been teaching and leading youth ministry for decades, and this is the best single volume on pragmatic programming I have ever seen. This is a must on every youth worker's shelf!"

That's a great endorsement, and I agree. The book is really helpful. It is both practical and theoretical. It really is a must for youth workers to put on their shelf and they will continue to come back to it over and over again.

So the book is coming out the week of September 9th. How do we go get one?

JONATHAN: It will be at most Christian book stores, but the best deal is to buy it from my web site because I'm giving away a great resource with it. You know I'm all about giving people things for free ... so if you buy it from me, I'm giving away the "2002 Speaker's Resource CD." This CD provides ready-made youth talks, stories and illustrations for your youth ministry. I'm giving these CD's away for FREE to anyone who pre-orders the book on my web site. http://www.thesource4ym.com

JIM: Jonathan, this is great. Speaking for so many of us in the world of youth ministry, we appreciate your ministry. We appreciate your incredible multiplication leverage and just your vision that is reaching out to thousands of youth workers. And for me personally your chapter on student leadership is worth more than the price of the book and it's helped me in my own ministry with student leaders. Thanks for what you do ... also thanks for who you are and for the true emerging leader that you are in the world of youth ministry.

JONATHAN: Thanks Jim.


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