The World of YS, Part Deux: SAD, BAD and BUT

After having several conversations about YS over the past couple weeks I thought I would write a little more to clarify my thoughts for those few of  you who are interested. It’s funny how the words SAD and BAD sound a lot alike and can easily be mistaken for each other. In my last post I talked about how SAD I was about Zondervan breaking up YS and selling it, how it felt like the end of an era. Yes I am SAD, BUT  I don’t think Z selling YS is a BAD thing. In fact, I am kind of excited about it,. First let me speak to why breaking apart the publishing from YS makes me sad.

1. YS started with books. For YS, it may not have been “in the beginning was the Word” but it was in the beginning of YS there were  words. Words in the form of the ideas books. Words that came not only from YS but from youth workers all over the country to create extremely practical books to help adults work more effectively with teenagers.  Books to help make youth groups more fun and attractive to students and to help adults communicate the gospel more effectively. YS started with a vision of creating books that would impact youth ministry. In my 3rd or 4th year at YS I suggested that maybe YS not do books anymore…..I thought Mike and Wayne’s heads would explode. I’m lucky I lived through it.,

2. I loved that YS equipped youth workers and influenced youth ministry through it’s publishing. I loved that it was about way more than just books by Mike Yaconelli and Wayne Rice. We gave Chap Clark, Doug Fields, Duffy Robbins, Les Christie, Kara Powell, Walt Muller, Rich Van Pelt, Ginny Olsen, Marv Penner, Jeanne Stevens, just to name a few, a platform to share what God had laid on their hearts for youth workers. I loved that we had all kinds of books from practical “how to” books to theological, cultural, academic and books for youth workers own souls. YS helped lots of people with its publishing. I know it’s hard to believe, but there was a time when there were almost no books on youth ministry and YS responded to that void.

3. I just like books. I have been shaped professionally, personally and spiritually by books. I must admit however that I am that person who buys more books than I actually get around to reading. I must think that if I have enough good books around me I will somehow get smarter BUT still I love books and always will.

4. Lastly, there was a synergy  that existed between publishing and live events. When writers spoke and speakers wrote something special happened. When you got to meet and hear someone whose books you had read and had been influenced by, it was fun. The interaction between the two usually (but not always) made both better. Having publishing and live events gave YS an amazing opportunity to interact with and influence youth workers. Neither publishing or events could have had as much impact without the other.

That is why its is SAD to me that YS will no longer be publishing books in the same way it was. BUT, and it’s a big BUT, that does not mean it’s all BAD.

Speaking of BAD, let me add my 2 cents worth about Zondervan being the BAD guys in all this. They are not the BAD guys. Doug, Wayne and others have pointed this out and they are right. Z and YS had a good relationship for over 25 years before they bought YS. Z loved YS. Scott Bolinder and Doug Lockhart  (who are no longer at Z but who were the driving forces behind the purchase) had a strong sense of the mission of YS and great admiration for YS and it’s staff. Z had great hopes for YS, BUT it just didn’t work. YS did not perform well while Z was it’s owner. There are a lot of reasons for that, BUT not all of them were on Z’s side of the table by any measure. When you run something, be it a local youth ministry or a big company you have to make decisions. You never really know if those decisions are right till you see them in the rearview mirror and you can be sure not everyone is going to agree with your decisions but you do your best. I would not have made the same decisions that Z made but that’s not the point, they were their decisions to make, they owned the company. All this to say Z isn’t evil or anything like that. In the end, it was just not a good fit. It just didn’t work and we don’t really need to make up a villain for this story. Z could have could have just let YS die but instead they are giving YS a chance to move forward in a new home. For most of us who have been let go by Z, even though we didn’t like being let go and disagree with their reasons, they have treated us fairly in our dismissal.  In the end, I don’t think Z really “got” YS or youth workers. Our cultures were just too different. Lets face it youth workers are a quirky bunch. Lots of the time we don’t even get ourselves. No one outside our world can fathom the idea of being locked in a church overnight with a bunch of middle school kids voluntarily!  Publishing companies see  Youth ministry as a “market”  but actually it is much more of  a fraternity or a brotherhood, a calling, a mission or just a bunch of goofballs who just love students. I don’t think they really ever got their arms around that. Z is not alone in not entirely getting youth ministry and youth workers. If you are a youth worker my guess is many, if not most, of the people in your church don’t really get you or your ministry.  They still ask you if you have any adult friends or when are you going to get a “real job”. That does not make them bad people, just not part of our tribe. Sometimes I think we are like that Groucho Marx quote where he says he would never want to join any club that would allow him in as a member.

Lastly I would like to comment on even though this really is the end of the YS I helped create and am SAD about that, it may be more than not BAD, it  may be the best thing for YS. No one loves YS more than me, BUT it wasn’t working with Zondervan! Hello….. This sale gives YS a chance to reinvent itself and that is why I have some excitement. I know there are no guarantees this will happen, but there is a real chance a very exciting YS could emerge from this. Maybe a YS that is close to the beginning vision of YS which was to unashamedly  love and serve youth workers. Maybe a YS that you would love as much or more than the old YS will emerge. I know maybe that is a stretch but that’s my hope and I hope yours as well. Will they be able to pull it off? I don’t know as I have not had any conversations with the new owners (I should say potential owners as it is not a done deal yet) but I know who they are and as I said before they are good people. Several of my friends have had conversations with them over the last week and came away with a sense that they were humble, genuine, love YS and feel called by God to make this move and that is a great place to start. Could they screw it up? Of course they can screw it up BUT that does not mean they will. Who knows who they might gather together in their ownership of YS or what their dreams are for it. It may be BAD, BUT it may be awesome and that would not be SAD. Believe me, I know they are taking a big risk but I’m praying for them as they seek to take on YS and I hope you do as well. I sure like the youth ministry world better with a healthy YS  in it’s midst.

28 Comments

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28 responses to “The World of YS, Part Deux: SAD, BAD and BUT

  1. So well said, Tic. I think you have articulated much of the sadness, fear, opportunity and hope as well as anyone could have.

    Thank you for holding all parties with honor, esteem and dignity. Here’s the future.

    What makes me glad about this tribe, are the voices that remain influential and important regardless of the company status. That is one of the biggest gifts YS created and gave so generously to youthworkers.. through both the commitment to publishing and events. So long may the voices of those who have gone before us, who lead us now and will lead us in the future ring out.

  2. I’m confused … I thought they were hinting at selling the events, not the publishing part of YS?

    Either way, love reading your thoughts on all of this! It really helps us have some perspective on the changes – it’s a blessing to see your heart during what must be a challenging time.

    • Sorry If I was not clear (no surprise) Zondervan is planning on splitting up YS by keeping the publishing (my guess is with a license agreement with the new owners) and selling the name and events to them

      • Thanks for the clarification. Now, I understand the post! And Tic, let me say that I always enjoyed your comments and presence at the YS events I attended. You were gracious, considerate, and funny. And there are a lot worse things to be.
        I would add that I attended NYWC in LA this year, and I was not at all impressed. I would give it a C+ at best. Some changes were good, some not so good. So, I hope whoever runs “YS Events” in the future will offer a place for youth workers to be trained, challenged, and encouraged–like in years before.

  3. Tic,

    Thank you, so much, for writing this. I’ve been reading a lot about the YS conversion for the past week and the more I’ve read, the more confused, concerned and sad I’ve become.

    This post was the most informative AND hopeful update I’ve seen.

    Reading Yac’s Collective Writings, this week, caused a lot of mourning. For the absence of his presence as well as the absence of his vision now that YS is breaking apart. I started to feel crushed that we youth workers are now left wandering aimlessly without an organization pulling us together for yearly community and renewal.

    I hope the new owners can breathe life back into the dream that all of you YS-builders began.

  4. Hey Tic, One of the things i have always loved about you has been your sense of reason and your character. You have continued to show that all along the way this year. (I also love that little goatee thing on your chin) Your blog shows your continued leadership qualities and belief in people. You were missed greatly at the conventions. By all of us. But you are right, I don’t think there are any bad guys here or anyone to be villafied. (is that a word?) There are just people who get it and some who don’t, and people who try, and who all seem to want to do the best or right thing.
    And sometimes people just don’t know what those are. But all of the people at YS and at Z whom i
    have had contact with, seem to want the same thing. To make the kingdom a better one. Thanks for your continued desire to do that. I know that you are not done enhancing the kingdom and making a difference in youth ministry. Your voice will be heard for a long time and your legacy is a great one.
    I appreciate your friendship.
    Lanny

  5. Paul Fleischmann

    Tic, Thanks for the reasoned/seasoned perspective. It all seems to fit as part of a bigger picture of youth ministry changes that are taking place across the board. Maybe it’s a little easier for me to see the breadth, on the heels of my own changes at NNYM (moving over to accommodate a new, younger CEO 2 weeks ago). Thanks for helping us to embrace what is going on, even though change can be pretty clumsy. Still, it’ll be interesting to look back on it in a few years and see more about what God was up to.

    We’re due for a breakfast again…lots to catch up on. Let me know when. Love you, my friend.

  6. This is an incredibly well thought out response and speaks to wisdom from God, not the world.

    I’m more than just a little convicted that my selfishness about “my” YS has held me back from seeing a bigger picture.

    Once more, Tic, you have have spoken truth to our lives. Your voice of reason in the midst of confusion is what is needed in the wider body of Christ.

  7. This is a great post, Tic. In so many ways I’ve wanted to talk about all that is going on… but it just isn’t appropriate for me to say much right now.

    I appreciate your words of wisdom.

    I think you are absolutely correct. We all (staff, non-staff, etc) have a desire for their to be a good guy and bad guy in this story. Best I can tell after living this out for a few weeks now– there are lots of good guys (and women!) trying to do what is best for YS. It’s easy to see Z as the evil people who just wanted to ruin everything. But since I get to know and actually talk to them all the time, I know for a fact that is not the case. They are good people trying to do what is right. They aren’t the enemy in this… there doesn’t seem to be a clear good guy and bad guy. Just a lot of good guys trying to fix bad situation.

    Not that I get to speak for the tribe of youth ministry… but in reading every blog post out there I feel a deep sense of love for the YS you helped create. Even in people’s anger and spite, there is love for what YS means to the tribe of youth workers.

    My hope is, once all of this is over, that the tribe will understand what was done was for the best. This process is horribly painful. But there may not have been a less painful option.

    My hope is that all of this is for the betterment of youth ministry, YS, Z, and the player to be named later.

  8. Todd Query

    You’re a good man, Tic. (No surprise there.)

    Finding themselves in a similar situation, many would be bitter…reclusive…maybe even secretly plotting to sabotage the institution to which they pledged their adult lives and, essentially, kicked them to the curb.

    But not you.

    2009 will be my 10th year of attending NYWC (I can’t believe it’s been that long) and as I look over the Convention posters that hang on my office wall–I kept them all–I can’t help but smile as I remember the many different sides of YS that I’ve seen over that time. From Yac “catching me” as I snuck out of a General Session at “Wild Kingdom,” and the “Simba Moment” with Jackson at “Sanctuary” to the amazing main-stage Icon reveal with David Crowder’s music during “Renovatus” and serving on the A-Team and Store Team for “Reveal” and “Storyline,” I know that I would not be where I am–maybe not even in YM any longer–if not for that “brotherhood” I found at YS. Maybe the “retro-spective” just means I’m “old,” I don’t know. But what I do know is that as my initial grief over YS passes through the stages of shock and anger into some level of acceptance, I find my heart aching for those “young” or “new” youth workers for whose lives may never know the richness of God’s blessings through Mike Yaconelli or Tic Long…or who will only know them as the stuff of legend.

    At the same time, I know that this was never about you…or even about Yac. Even so, you were, for many, the glue that held all the other stuff together. And you deserve no small amount of recognition for that.

    There is so much (more) I want to say. But I’ll end where I began…with my admiration for your ability to see through the fog and take the high road of publicly praying for the “new” YS. I’ll join you in those prayers–and do my best not to be overly critical of the 2009 NYWC. Yes, I’ll be there again this year…in Atlanta…attending “solo” for the first time ever. And I’ll be praying for God’s will to be done….

    Grace and peace, brother. And thanks…for everything.

  9. Love you man, well said, well said.

  10. Dustin Dick

    Tic~

    I thank you for writing this. It’s hard to see YS change from what I’ve grown to know and love. Many times we get accustom to what we know and harden our hearts to anything different. When I hear of the changes 2.0 I was even more heart broken, because to me Tic & Marko were the names and faces to YS and now we’ve lost both. Maybe I made it too much, maybe I idolized you both in those positions, but it’s refreshing to hear of the promise of tomorrow, of a brand new world in this previously thought flat world we have been living in. It’s time to journey, it’s time to take a chance. Faith tells us we won’t fall off the edge of the world, but it’s the fear of the unknown in that leap of faith that holds up back. I look forward to a new YS a new Tic and a new time of youth ministry. So here is to a new world, with moldable hearts and a promise of a beautiful horizon.

  11. Tic- I’m glad the blog world gives you a place to share your thoughts. I echo your thoughts and want to add that all of us who have done youth ministry for a long time are invested in YS. You were paid by YS for so many years and were on the “inside” but so many of us consider YS our tribe and our home and have almost as much of an investment. I wish that you were at the table in Cincinnati in the midst of the conversations because your voice would have been an important one.

    I’m praying this thing continues. I’m praying that YS is always an entity that just “gets” youth workers. I’m praying for the new owners and for all the details.

    Thank you for writing this.

  12. Ginny Olson

    Thanks for your thoughtful response Tic. I will always be grateful for the way you and other YS people cared for youth workers (especially this youth worker), and gave so many of us a chance to help form our field. We are people of the resurrection, so tho’ we grieve the passing of an era, we live in hope for the future.

  13. Thanx, Tic. As others before me said, I’m gateful for the insider information and input.

    YS played a huge role in encouraging and equipping me as a youth worker for over seven years now (and six conventions, I believe). I’m so thankful for your leadership and voice in student ministry.

    Thanx for sharing.

  14. You always did have a SAD BAD BUT.
    Encouraging post, Tic.

  15. Dan Lambert

    I add my thanks, Tic, for so many things. My prayer is that YS will come back newer and fresher and more radical and effective than ever. It would be appropriate to plan a NYWC for Pheonix after YS rises out of the ashes.

  16. Why do I feel like this is the scene in “We Are Marshall?” Instead, we are standing together shouting at the top of our lungs, “We are, Youth Workers!” We are, Youth Workers!” “We are…”

    God help us when the world and the Church “gets” us.

    What an amazing time to be alive and serving the young people of the world…

    Thanks Tic for the updates and really for everything over the years. I’m sure there is still more to come!

  17. Tic, thanks for all that you have and continue to do for our tribe. I am SAD at what is happening but I do believe that it won’t be BAD and that we will see GOOD come out of all of this.

  18. Dave P

    Tic,
    I love you and your ability to speak reason and grace over a time of confusion, you are one of a kind.

  19. There are some people in this world that truly are irreplaceable. Mike was one of those people. I hope someone can rise to the occasion, but those are big shoes to fill.

  20. Eric

    Tic,
    I am sitting at YS digital lounge in Atlanta right now, missing you… you are a great man, they did not explain all of this as clearly as you have here, thank you for all that you mean to YS, to all those youth workers out there, and to me presonally. I loved what Mike Yaconelli stood for and what you continue to stand for. Two questions, as all I know is the old regeam of YS, I now debate how I support YS moving forward, are they going to recycle an old wheel of youth model or will they move in a progressive forward thinking way of doing ministry, I do not know, any insight?
    Also, more importantly, I care about you as a person, what are you doing now? where are you ministering? how can I support you? and what can we all pray for you & your family?

  21. Tic,
    I first started attending YS conventions in the late 70’s when I was a Campus Life staff in Huntsville, Alabama. I alway knew that there were resources, and people who deeply care for us in our work. I always appreciated the “go against the stream” thinking that helped us be on the cutting edge of youth ministry ideas. You, Deb Y., Mike and Wayne have been a deep influence in my live and current ministry at Mission Discovery. You bring a smile to God…thanks for being an influence.

  22. Pingback: the youth specialties/zondervan/youthworks story, from where i stand — whyismarko

  23. Byron Porisch

    In my experience, your insight and encouragement for me has been right on the mark… and so it continues. YS may have been about books, but it was the freedom I found in ministry, the mentoring, the belief in me that I was making a difference, and that I could do it better…. that left the impact. I felt like a rebel yet disciple when round YS and its folks. YS became my band of brothers… those guys that got it …and got me.
    The resources are great, but not near the impact of the people. Im excited to see who raises up to fill what feels like a void. Frankly I’m getting tired of marketing. I know good stuff in the hands of good people is valuable, even critical. But I prefer being a friend and partner over being a consumer.
    Tic your role has been life changing for me and many I have done ministry with. I refuse to believe that has changed. What ever your a part of in the future, Id like to be a part of it too. As an old vet, I miss what we were. But look forward to what we can be. I guess I’ve used lots of words to say, Gods in this… and that ought to get all our juices running.

  24. Tic,

    Good luck & God bless on your new adventure. Thanks for the opportunities
    you gave me. Really, really appreciated.

    Ken Moser
    (ex Vancouver, now having a writing break in sunny Phoenix)

  25. Tic,

    You and YS were there for us when no one else cared about youth ministry. In looking back at my 28 years in the biz I have blogged a great deal recently about the influence of YS and the conventions, particularly Dallas ’82 and Atlanta ’87. For the sake of student ministry and the church of Jesus Christ, I hope your optomistic view of the future of YS is correct. And yes, I still have my Dallas ’82 belt buckle…

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