Jonathan McKee, president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of numerous youth ministry books including the brand new Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation, and the award winning books Do They Run When They See You Coming? and Getting Students to Show Up. He speaks and trains at camps, conferences, and events across North America, and provides free resources for youth
Jonathan McKee (the pres of the source for youth ministry) what is one thing (only one thing) you want to tell the youth pastor population?
Nothing like narrowing it down to the nitty gritty! Boom! Pow!
Funny, I was asked this very question by a friend of mine, a fellow youth worker, just a few years ago. He said, “Jonathan, I’m about to have my first adult leader training. I want to give them something foundational for them as they minister to kids throughout the year. What one thing should I teach them?”
What would you say? Think about that for a second. “What one thing?”
I said the first thing that popped in my head. “I’d want to train my leaders to connect with kids and love them as Christ loves us.”
My friend responded, “Connect?”
“Yeah. Connect with kids. You know—take them out for coffee, go to their baseball game, get ice cream with them after school. Spending time with them and letting Christ’s love embrace them through you.”
My friend seemed to walk away surprised. I wasn’t telling him anything new. The “Connecting” concept is at least a chapter in most youth ministry books, but I think he wasn’t expecting it as the answer. I held my ground. Connecting was the most important thing.
For the next year I began to notice something. Much of the youth ministry world wasn’t making “connecting” a priority. Youth ministries were getting good at programming, giving talks, big events and even Bible studies. But not much effort was given to connecting with kids one-on-one.
I noticed this “relational ministry” void every time someone would ask me questions about “problems” in their youth ministry. They would ask me about a kid that wasn’t responding, or a student leader who had fallen into sin, or a certain type of kid that they just weren’t attracting to their ministry. In all these situations I asked one question in return, “Have you tried connecting with them one-on-one?”
In most these situations I was met with a blank stare.
After the third or fourth time this happened to me within a couple of months, I thought, “You’ve got to be freaking kidding me!” I seriously wondered, How has this been overlooked?
And that’s when I started writing my book titled- yep, you guessed it—CONNECT.
I’d had enough of giving “connecting” just one chapter. It was time to give it the attention it deserved. So I poured out my heart.
The book released about a year ago. We now have a free video on YouTube from the book, talking about the Six Types of Kids that we need to be connecting with, and another free video giving a glimpse of an exercise we do in my CONNECT TRAINING WORKSHOP.
The book doesn’t hold any punches. It provides some “self-evaluation” tools that force you to look at your ministry through a magnifying glass and test its reach. It’s been fun seeing people respond to the book, challenged to connect with the kids in their ministry and their community.
Are you connecting… or are you just “running program?”