Tag Archives: YouthWorks
Youth Specialties is the ministry that Mike Yaconelli and I started back in 1968 to provide resources and training for people who do youth ministry in the church. I don’t think the mission of YS has changed much since I left in 1994 or since Mike died in 2003 but the leadership continues to change. After a few years as part of Zondervan (Harper Collins), it’s now in the hands of YouthWorks (headquartered in Minnesota). The “world headquarters” of Youth Specialties is still in El Cajon, just a couple of miles from my home, but that may change since Tic Long (who has served as president of YS for the past couple of years) is stepping down and passing the baton to Mark Matlock who lives in Texas. Tic just accepted a position at a local church in town as executive pastor.
I don’t know Mark real well, but I’ve had a few conversations with him and I like him a lot. He seems to get youth ministry–that’s it’s not it’s so much about being relevant as it is about helping students become lifelong followers of Jesus. He a smart guy, a good communicator and he’s highly regarded among youth workers from both sides of the theological aisle. I think he’ll be very good for Youth Specialties and its future.
Here’s a video that YS released recently to introduce Mark.
I just returned from the National Youth Workers Convention in Nashville (Youth Specialties). I was a speaker at both the Nashville and the San Diego YS conventions this year, an honor for me given that I’m well past my prime as a youth ministry expert. What I am these days is a walking youth ministry museum.
But YS president Tic Long graciously invited me to do a couple of seminars this year based on recent books I’ve written and I really enjoyed participating in both conventions. At the San Diego convention I also got to do a seminar with my son Nate on camping. Since I really don’t know all that much about camping, I basically slow-pitched some questions to Nate (who DOES know a lot about camping) which he hit out of the park. It was a good seminar, if I must say so myself.
One of the really fun things I got to do this year was lead a few old youth ministry songs at one of the main (“big room”) sessions. In Nashville, the “big room” was the Bridgestone Arena, a huge hockey palace across the street from the convention center where some of the biggest concerts and events in Nashville take place. It was quite a rush to lead several thousand youth workers in a half dozen or so songs like “Pass it On” and “Pharoah Pharoah.” From the response I got, I think everybody really enjoyed singing those old songs. As it turned out, I warmed up the crowd for the band Jars of Clay who brought things pretty much up to date.
I think the highlight of the convention in Nashville for me was hearing Mark Yaconelli speak. I sat high up in the stands and alternately laughed and cried as he presented a beautifully crafted message on what it means to serve God in ministry. Now in his 40’s, Mark has become the spitting image of his dad Mike who I had the opportunity to work with for more than a quarter century. It’s obvious that Mark has inherited the formidable speaking talent of his father (with many of the same gestures and mannerisms) yet he clearly communicates in a style of his own which is passionate, fresh and insightful. He had that huge crowd in the palm of his hand for 45 minutes or so, and me in particular. Having known Mark since the day he was born, I loved hearing him speak so skillfully and powerfully. I couldn’t keep from wondering if somehow up in Heaven, Mike wasn’t enjoying all this too and feeling very proud.
I was only at the Nashville convention two of the five days, but I did see a lot of old friends and catch up a bit with some of them. I also had my first opportunity to get acquainted with Paul Bertelson, the founder and CEO of YouthWorks, the organization that now owns Youth Specialties. YouthWorks is a ministry that has a real heart for youth ministry and as the co-founder of Youth Specialties, I’m very grateful to these good folks for taking on the challenge of keeping YS moving forward, especially during such tough economic times. From all that I heard and saw at both conventions, they are doing a great job.
Well, the news is out about the future of Youth Specialties and I’m happy to report that it’s very good. YouthWorks, the Minneapolis-based ministry that purchased YS from Zondervan a couple months ago has re-hired Tic Long to come back in and lead the organization. I wrote in a previous post about the high regard I have for Tic and the crucial role that I know he played in the success of YS over the years. I’m confident that under Tic’s re-energized leadership (he got an unexpected but certainly much-needed sabbatical after his termination last July), YS will emerge from this transition with its mission and vitality very much intact. Tic sounds to me like he’s fired up and going to hit the ground running.
Tic e-mailed me recently to tell me that he was returning to YS with the subject line “God has a sense of humor.” So true. I have a feeling that God was grinning a little bit when a week or so before Christmas, I was having breakfast at an El Cajon restaurant with a youth pastor friend of mine and unexpectedly, in walked Tic with the guys from YouthWorks. We went through a series of awkward introductions after which they sat down in the booth right behind us. I wasn’t sure what they were talking about although I had a hunch. The familiar laughter that I overheard from Tic was certainly a good sign. I had been praying that something good would come of all the Youth Specialties turmoil of the last few months and in a crazy turn of events, God let me actually be in the same room when he answered that prayer. A sense of humor indeed.
I’m very excited for Tic and everyone else at Youth Specialties. It will be fun to see how God prospers YS under the YouthWorks banner.