The World of YS, Take Three: God is funny like that

    How crazy is this, I am back at Youth Specialties. Starting January 1st I came back full time to lead YS. God must have some kind of sense of humor and once again I am made aware that I can never really predict what God is going to do next in my life. Who saw this coming…… I know I didn’t. I thought my time with YS had ended but obviously God had other ideas. This may take a while but let me unfold this Journey. As some of you know and as I have blogged, at the end of this past July I left YS after 32 years. If you are interested you can read about my thoughts and feelings on this on my previous posts. I spent most of August backpacking and starting the process of shaking free of  YS and trying to see what my post YS life might look like.I had given myself a three month Sabbatical to rest and recharge before starting to look for work again. I needed some time to try and discern what God might be writing in the next chapter of my life. My Sabbatical was scheduled to end October 31.

    I was at a friends condo with my wife in the Colorado Mountains in early October when Marko called and told me that YS was going to be sold. He then asked if I would be interested in coming back to run the conventions again (so much for my plans of 3 months away before I really started thinking about work again). This of course was all very hush, hush. As you might guess this started me spinning a bit. YS being sold and me returning to YS were not any part of my thinking. It was a total left turn. Things got even stranger after that, Marko was let go by Zondervan and all kinds of drama abounded. All my friends at YS who in January 09 were put through an emotional ringer when 12 of us were let go from YS once again found themselves in a very difficult place wondering what was going on. Was the sale really going to happen? When was the sale going to happen? What would it all mean? My heart really hurt for them. So that kind of ended the conversations of my returning to YS other than the occasional rumor that the perspective new owners wanted to talk to me. Meanwhile I was having some pretty exciting conversations with people about what to do next. These conversations were moving along and I was pretty pumped but I could not totally shake “the whole YS thing” . Too many friends were involved in the YS situation so there were always conversations about what was and what might be going on at YS.

    Sometime before the Atlanta NYWC I had lunch with Paul Bertelson the President of YouthWorks who was the one trying to buy YS. We spent a great couple hours together. I felt really good about the possible new home for YS. I got an understanding of why they wanted to buy YS, got a feel for his heart. We talked a bunch about YS including some possibilities of involvement on my part if the sale went through. That was pretty much the last I heard from Paul or anyone at YouthWorks as they were consumed with trying to do this deal. At the Atlanta NYWC the intended sale of YS went public (actually by that time it was one of the worse kept secrets in the youth ministry world). I never heard back again from Paul so I was thinking they wanted to move in another direction. My conversations with the others I was talking with heated up and I was pretty sure I would know before the first of the year what I would do next.  The week of December 14 Paul called and said they were coming out to the YS offices and wanted to meet for breakfast Thursday morning. Paul, John Potts (the YouthWorks COO) and I met for breakfast. The sale of YS finally closed the day before. We talked for a couple hours and our time ended with them inviting me to come back and lead YS. Holy Guacamole, Whodathunk this!

    I had a lot to think about. The other things I was looking at were very exciting and a couple opportunities had firmed up. They were with people I really liked and one with people I loved. They were all involved in youth ministry which is my passion so I was getting excited. What the heck was God up to? December 21 I spent the day in Minneapolis at YouthWorks headquarters. I know Minneapolis in December, right.  December 27 after much prayer, reflection and sorting I said yes to return to YS. There are many reasons why I am returning, here are a couple of them:

    I kind of fell for YouthWorks. I have been touched deeply by their humility, grace, sense of following God in this whole process, their calling to youth ministry and the grounding of their faith in justice, simplicity, generosity and caring for others. When I met with Paul I ask him why the heck would a youth missions organization want to buy YS? What I learned is that YouthWorks was not a youth missions organization but that youth missions is just one expression of who the are even though it is the most well known and largest expression. Let me tell a bit of their and Pauls story. Paul was a youth pastor at a large and well resourced church in Minneapolis. He thought all churches were like that as he had only been involved in a couple. As he got to know other youth workers in his area he realized that was not the case and in fact many folks we tying to do youth ministry with little or no training or resources. So he decided to just share his resources and started opening his youth ministry up to others. They would do concerts, retreats, camps, leader training even mission trips together. Eventually his church said um…ah…. Paul this is all very cool but it is not the mission of our church (I’m just guessing here but I think liability issues may have played a role in this). They encouraged and help him (very cool) to start a non profit organization to help train, encourage and resource youth workers. So YouthWorks was started.

    It just so happened that helping youth groups do mission trips was the part that took off, so away they went. Years later YouthWorks board and leadership team felt they we not fullfilling their calling just focusing on doing mission trips, as important and successful as they were. They were formed to help youth workers and it was time to continue to take more steps in that direction. In 2002 they talked to Mike and Karla Yaconelli about purchasing YS. Paul and others LOVE YS and had been greatly impacted by the ministry of YS over the years. They had attended the YS conventions almost every year. They  had heard through the grapevine that Yac might want to sell it. Mike had be playing with the idea of selling YS a few different times and was VERY close to doing it twice. I remember when the YouthWorks folks came out. They had great conversations with the Yaconelli’s but for whatever reason the timing was just not right. They parted friends and kept in relationship. Their interest in YS never really died. This last fall found them in conversations with Z about bringing YS into the YouthWorks family.

    YS is now part of an expanding family of ministries that will work side by side. Each will focus on their specific calling to help the church be the church.

    I love that they are a non profit and that they measure their success on Kingdom impact. They know how to do the business side really well but that serves the ministry side not the other way around. I really like that turning a buck is not the main thing here. They are all about stewardship of what God has given them. Here is a really cool thing. They give away a million dollars a year to projects and ministries in the communities where they do the mission trips. That really blew me away. So here is the funny thing, as a non profit they are very profitable but they give that profit away in Kingdom work.

    When I came to their offices I cracked up because they are ….um….ah…..kind of dumpy. They are in an old Coke bottling plant. Their thinking is simple. They had the money to build a big fancy office but doing that would mean they would have less money to give away. They remember that the money that comes their way came from youth groups around the country who did fund raisers to pay for their missions trips. They remember that they are serving the poor all over the country. A big fancy building flies in the face of that….Nice.

    They love youth workers. They see them all summer long. They have a heart for the small churches as well as the big churches. They hang out all summer with the adult volunteer who brought 5 kids from a small church with no paid youth pastor. They want to serve that person as well as the full time paid youth pastor from thriving youth ministries….they get it……they get youth workers…I like that.

    OK so that is some of why I fell for YouthWorks as a great home for YS and a great place for me to serve. Oh yeah one more thing. They are keeping the El Cajon office. Minnesota in the winter, Dude.

    I still get to serve youth workers. It became clear to me in my time away that youth ministry is where I wanted to stay. Youth ministry is where God has called me. I tried to think about other things to do and places to serve but nothing excited me as much as youth ministry. I guess I am just a lifer. We are a quirky bunch, we may be a sick and twisted group but it’s home.

    I get to work with the YS Staff and family again. This was really big to me. I love the YS staff, they are awesome. With some of them it is a chance to continue doing together what we love doing together. For others it’s a chance to do something new. Like in the case of Mark Matlock. We were so excited to get to work together and had all kinds of dreams but never really did get a chance, now we can…way fun

    Lastly I am just a YS guy. It’s in my DNA. I blogged it was going to be painful to no longer be able to say “Hi I’m Tic from YS” . I can’t believe I get to say that again. I Love YS. I love that we are all about youth workers and youth ministry. I love the way YS has served them over the years. I love our love our playful irreverence, our commitment to the church. I love that we care for the Youth Workers soul and want to help them walk deeply with Jesus. I love that we feel there is no ministry more important or more rewarding than working with students.In the end I just could not say no to YS

    Now I am back. I never even considered this as an option but that is where God comes in. God seems to like to do goofy stuff, likes to do the unexpected. God is funny like that



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88 responses to “The World of YS, Take Three: God is funny like that

  1. Jay Howver

    Welcome back Tic.

  2. Ryan Arnold

    Super stoked Tic! Can’t wait to see you again.

  3. Dan

    Very Cool. It’s great to hear about others that just don’t feel comfortable anywhere else but in Youth Ministry.

  4. I can’t wait to see what God is up to! If Tic Long is in, count me in! The world of youth ministry has just taken a collective sigh of relief, knowing that OUR Tic (and his team) is still on the scene.

  5. Jon Cheatwood

    That is great news on a day/week that could use a lift. Thanks for the blog, and thanks for not singing a Johnny Paycheck song when the opportunity to have the YS job came back.

    I had already decided that the YS/YouthWorks combination deserved at least 18 months before I started thinking about whether I still wanted to be a part of it. Now I am throwing out that time table and thinking completely. What a great thing for YS!

    Thanks for your godly response to the events of 2009. I thank God for new possibilities in 2010.

  6. Pingback: Big News in Youth Ministry | Fuller Youth Institute

  7. Tic,

    I am SO excited to read your post. Welcome back! How amazing and wonderful is our God. You have been missed, and I am excited to hear you are back with YS again. YS, Youthworks, and all of us youth pastors will be blessed by this!

  8. Tic,

    Glad to see you back in the saddle. Praying for you and the team today there in El Cajon. I trust that the days ahead of serving the church by serving those serving students will be some of your finest moments.

    J. Roger Davis
    Student Life

  9. I am so excited to read this! Congratulations! Does this sound weird but I feel safe now. Like everything, even with all the changes, is going to be okay. I think Yaconelli is smiling from heaven! I am smiling from earth!

  10. Hi Tic,
    I’m in Minneapolis right now…sitting in a coffee shop…in January, looking out the window. Believe me, it’s worse in January than in December. (But I still love it!)

    I know YouthWorks. I know the YouthWorks people. They are friends of mine.

    When I first heard of the sale, I was shocked. “What is YW doing buying YS?” But then it settled in and began to make sense. Who else would/could buy YS and maintain its sense of mission. Of course. It had to be YouthWorks.

    When I read this morning of your return to YS, I wasn’t shocked…a little surprised…and then I thought. “Of course.” It has to be Tic. It makes perfect sense. And I do believe your heart/mission, the heart/mission of YS, the heart/mission of Paul, John and my other friends there, and the heart/mission of the YW organization align.

    I am very happy for you. Congratulations, and thanks be to God.


    Todd Buegler
    Exec. Dir., ELCA Youth Ministry Network

    (p.s. you wouldn’t remember me, but we sat at a table in a restaurant in a hotel once with a bunch of people and you were wondering why anyone would ever want to blog. Ironic, eh?)

  11. Tic,

    I think it is an opportunity to bring Marko back to YS too…wow that would be fabulous. Looking forward to how God is going to use you at YS again! Awesome!

  12. welcome back tic! i can’t wait to see what God has for you and ys.

  13. Mark Teeter

    Wahoooooooo! Welcome home Tic.

  14. Nancy Stevens

    There are no words to express what great news this is! Tic, it is great to have you back and know many prayers of thanks are going up for you, as well as thankfulnesst that you are back from YS. Our whole youth ministry team can’t wait to see you again-see you in Nashville. God Bless!!

  15. Yowsa! That God is a kidder alright.

    Congratulations and welcome home.

  16. Craig Davis

    Best news of the day! Thanks Tic.

  17. It is so good to see you back at YS.

  18. Marv Penner

    Tic – I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to be on the bus with you driving. I know what you mean about the hearts of the folks at YW. What you see is what you get! Such integrity, servant-heartedness, vision, and passion. This is clearly a God-orchestrated story – can’t wait to turn the next page and see where the twisting turning plot takes us next!

  19. It will be so good to have you back! You have such a gift for encouraging youth workers. You were truly missed this year. Thanks for continuing to seek His will!

  20. WOOOHOOO! So excited about this Tic. Honestly, this is one step, helping me have hope for the future of YS. I was at NYWC Cincy and had decided I would be skipping future conventions – but with this news, its got me open. Looking forward to hearing more about YS in the future. Im glad to get to be influenced by your leadership of YS.

  21. Tic I am so happy to hear that you are back at YS! God has timing and ways seem to always amaze me. I was at YS in Atlanta and heard the rumor you might be back and was so pumped to hear this great news. You have been in my prayers and I am looking forward what God will do with this change at YS. I will continue to pray for you and YS as you continue to minister to us youth pastors and workers.

  22. Patti Christensen

    The best quote I know to respond with is from our wedding last year:

    “(This) has God written all over it. It’s the unpredictable, unexpected, unexplainable, surprised by Joy, kind of goofy thing God loves to do. ”
    Tic Long – January 31, 2009


  23. This just makes my heart oh so happy! Congratulations friend!!

  24. Kevin Shive

    Tic – This is so cool. Thanks for sharing the story.
    Wonderful and amazing how this journey has worked.

  25. Tic,
    What an exciting turn of events! In recent months I have said in several conversations that I believe the youth ministry world badly needs “a vibrant youth specialties”…I just couldn’t imagine our little world without YS helping lead the charge. As a guy who has been around for a little while, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to YS in all its various forms over the years, and I am thrilled you are at the helm as it enteters this new era.

    Praying for you and the whole YS crew.

  26. Mary Schulze Michener

    Awesome news! and, Minnesota winters are beautiful.

  27. Stephen Bentley

    I signed up to work YS in L.A. for 2009, however due to scheduling and timing it didn’t work out and I missed the opportunity to attend my first NYWC in ten years. In some ways I knew it was going to be different without Tic there and I was a bit relieved that I couldn’t attend because I couldn’t imagine it without Tic’s leadership and enthusiasm. (of course the same was said after the loss of Mike Y.)

    With Tic’s return, I look forward to taking part in the next NYWC in 2010.

    God indeed has a great sense of humor… with age comes experience and wisdom and at my age I’ve come to understand not to make too many plans in life because once I do, God will find a way of erasing and changing the plans I made.

    Tic, it’s a pleasure to see you return to the helm. Good luck and I pray for God’s blessings on your care of YS.

  28. Jeff Richards

    That’s awesome, Tic. I’m jazzed for you, YS and God. Woo hoo! After serving as volunteer in Sac of 08, I appreciate YS even more than I did because of how you related with others – including myself – and your heart for Jesus. Ok, enough of this pandering! 🙂 Blessings, man.

  29. Tic!
    Cool…………glad your back, keep us posted.
    Ditto to all the above!
    Count Cheri and I in.
    Blessings, The Anderson’s

  30. Tic, welcome home brother. You have been the face of YS for me for so many years. As a long time youth worker, I have always believed that YS was the epicenter of youth culture, resources, vision, passion, and leadership for our pursuit of kids and the Kingdom of God. Your absence was painful in the conventions. You just bring so much through your love and life. As a leader, you always model humility and openness. So welcome home, for it is a gift to you and all of us in the youthworker world. Thanks be to God!

  31. Pingback: Tic Long Back To YS |

  32. Leslie

    this is so great tic! things are as they should be 🙂

    love you,

  33. Kathy Duvendeck

    This is wildly exciting and a sign of God’s grace and his sovereign hand on His people in the midst of these tough economic times. I and so many others are thanking God. Tic, you and YS and YouthWorks will be in my prayers. Feels like a great healing in the family!

  34. Beautiful in every way. Yes. Yes. Yes. I am so happy for YS, Youthworks and youthworkers, but mostly for Tic and Terrie.

  35. David Olshine


    I cannot believe it! Wow. God’s funny sense of humor. Glad you are back.

    David Olshine

  36. These comments have me all fired up. Get on the plane, we’ve got stuff to do in El Cajon. See you tomorrow.

  37. Jeff Palmberg

    So happy for you, Tic!

    God never ceases to surprise us when we delight ourselves in the Lord!

    Selfishly, it’ll be great to be able to say “hi” at the next convention. More importantly, I have renewed confidence that the YS I’ve known, loved and been trained and encouraged by will not disappear.

    Hope to see you soon
    You’re in my prayers (as are the entire YS and YW team)

    Be God’s!

  38. Les Christie

    Tic, this is totally cool! I am so excited for you and YS.

  39. wow. and congratulations.

    you have always recognized the value of every individual person, and your concern and care for me has always been encouraging and meaningful.

    i believe YS has a future and a hope again. and i am so happy you have been given the chance to carry on the vision.

    (renee a.)

  40. mikey

    I love that God operates in time warp, back-to-the-future kinda ways. He ROX. You, too.


  41. Alicia Permenter


    I am so glad you are back!!

  42. Bradley McCarty

    I didn’t know all those thins about YouthWorks but as a multi-time YouthWorks mission trip attendy I am not at all surprised. I have taken youth from three different churches an neither the youth nor I were ever short of our socks being blessed right off! Two power houses of Holy Spirit leading getting together can only mean good things for youth ministry!

  43. Congratulations, Tic! God is taking you on a great ride. Thanks for telling us all about it in this post.

  44. This is so great! Tic, you always should have been the guy and I am so glad you are there now. I think going through what you did the past few years is going to give you some wonderful insights on where to take YS. My Dad would be smiling about the absurdity of how this all spun around but I am sure he would also say “must be a God thing.” Big love and blessings.

  45. I am so excited you are back at YS, Tic! I always think, “That guy really loves us!” at the conventions. You just exude an attitude of care for us and I so appreciate that. I can’t wait to see you back in action! Thank you for loving this community of people!

  46. Yay, for me and you and all youth workers! Congratulations, Tic, what GREAT news!!

  47. Todd Temple

    Very cool, Tic. For everyone.

    Slightly off-topic: Does this mean we can get reimbursed for mileage driven to your “retirement” party last summer? 🙂

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