OK so it has been 15 months since I last posted on my blog, which was right after I got hired back to lead YS. I titled that post “God is funny like that” because well, coming back to YS was so unexpected. Now in another unexpected turn in my life I am in the process of leaving YS again. I am leaving to become the executive pastor of my home church, Journey Community Church in La Mesa. If you haven’t watched the video of me talking about it with Mark Matlock you can watch it on the YS site . The video pretty much sums it up but if you want a little more about my process and the back story read on my friend.
As I said in the video, when I came back to YS I told YouthWorks that I was not the future of YS but could serve as their bridge to the future. I came back because I LOVED YS, LOVED youth ministry, thought I could help after all the crazy drama YS had been through, and because it really felt like a God thing. I also felt very strongly that I didn’t want to lead YS into my mid-sixties, after all, it is YOUTH Specialties and I felt we needed younger leadership before too long. I came back with the intention of helping find or develop someone who would replace me and take YS into its next season. I have watched too many youth ministry organizations grow too old and stale in their leadership and I did not want that to happen to YS. (Funny, I do not feel this way about older youth workers in a local church. I know some completely awesome “seriously veteran” youth workers. But for some reason leading a Youth Ministry organization is different, at least for me.) Lastly, Marko’s and my firings (Mark Oestreicher and I worked together for years at YS and were both let go and both of us still carry some hurts from the whole experience) felt so corporate and painful to so many, I wanted to be part of a transition that more reflected kingdom values and would honor God, YS and the youth workers YS loves serving.
I have known Mark Matlock and his ministry with Planet Wisdom for a number of years, and was really excited when he joined YS a few years ago. We loved working together but didn’t get to for very long, as six months after he came on, I was fired. He lasted through all the YS craziness which says a lot about him. We were reunited when I came back to lead YS and once again enjoyed working together. Over this past year it became clear to me that he would be a great person to lead YS into its new future. He was feeling the same, so we worked up a succession plan last November that would show Mark taking over the leadership of YS in about three years. We were both excited about this and looked forward to working together until then.
Things started to change: In December, my wife Terrie got in a horrific auto accident that landed her in the hospital where she had two seven hour surgeries and had one of her vertebrae replaced. We were completely thankful that she was not killed or injured worse and that no one else was involved, but life came to a halt for us for about a month. (By the way we were overwhelmed by the love, prayers and care expressed by the Body of Christ). It also created a pretty serious time of introspection about our lives together and my life in ministry. I was thinking a lot about how much I traveled, how my gifts were being used, everything. I was listening to God more intently than usual. I don’t sit still very well, I don’t listen very well, but God had my attention.
About a month after Terrie’s accident I met with Marko. We try to get together every couple of months just to stay in touch with each others lives. Terrie and I had now been attending Journey for about 4 months which is also Marko’s home church. While we were meeting, Marko was updating me on things that were happening at Journey. They were on the verge of hiring their first Executive Pastor, but at the last minute it didn’t happen. Ed Noble, the lead pastor, was bummed about it because he was feeling the need to bring someone on. When Marko finished, I said, “Dude I would love to do that job”. What I meant was, it would be a cool job for someone else because I was loving our church and knew it would be a cool place to serve. I didn’t mean it in a “I want to do that job now” way, I was happy at YS and not looking to change. That’s when the conversation took an unexpected turn:
Marko: You would love that job?
Me: Oh yeah that would be an awesome job.
Marko: Would you think about taking it?
Me: umm..ahh.. sure, I would think about it.
We kept talking and he finally said, “Would you be willing to talk to Ed about the job?” and I said, “sure.” The whole conversation was kind of crazy and completely out of the blue. I left thinking what the heck did I just do.
Unbeknownst to me, at the same time Marko and I were talking, Ed was on a silent retreat praying about his need to have someone help lead the church with him. He had thoughts of what he wanted in that person but didn’t know anyone who fit. Seemed like maybe God was up to something behind the scenes, God can be sneaky like that.
Two weeks later I had coffee with Ed and Marko and we talked about the church, what Ed’s vision was for it, and what he was looking for in someone to join him. It was crazy how much the job and I were a match and how Ed and I fit – we shared views of ministry and hope for what the church could be. Our theology matched, our styles and personalities blended, and of course we both like to goof off and have fun. So, that started a series of meetings and prayer times with Ed and eventually the board of the church.
This also started bit of a wrestling match with God about my calling. I have always felt called to youth ministry. God was reminding me that actually I was called to serve God and Youth Ministry was just the place where God had me living out that calling. “Whoops, got it. That’s what I meant ,God”
Some strange things were going on. When I was let go from YS, one of the things I could not get out of my mind was this thought of being an executive pastor and I specifically thought about Journey. It was odd because everything else I was thinking, dreaming and talking about to others about was youth ministry. I was a Youth Ministry guy, my calling was in youth ministry, I have given my whole adult life to serving youth workers and students. Still, that thought stuck in the back of my head. I was not attending Journey at the time, but knew a lot about the church. Several of the YS staff have attended there, the church hosted many YS one day events, and Journey hosted Mike Yaconelli’s memorial service after his death.
The other thing that is funny to Terrie and me, and completely ironic and a God kind of thing, is that Marko is involved. Marko is the one who fired me at YS. Actually he was being pressured from Zondervan and had no choice but to fire me, so he did. Not only that, but back in the day Marko was the one who replaced me as President of YS, not one of my favorite experiences. There have been plenty of reasons for us to not have a good relationship. It has not been easy, but we have worked at it and attempted to treat each other as brothers. Many times, neither of us have been at our best but somehow we have kept a friendship even if a lot of people didn’t want us to have one. So now, God uses Marko as the bridge and advocate for this new calling in my life. God is completely funny like that.
Early on, I told Matlock and Youth Works about these conversations because I didn’t want to play any games. I loved being involved with YouthWorks. They are great and godly people and it is a great home for YS. I wanted to honor them. Besides I was not looking to leave, this whole thing was coming out of left field. I was sniffing around to see if God was really in this and I wanted them to pray with me.
After much prayer, conversations, and some brutally honest self assessment, I was convinced that this was indeed a God thing. There was a change happening in my heart. My entire time in ministry at YS has been on a national level. My ministry was serving youth pastors all over the country and it has been amazing. However I could sense something changing in my spirit. I started to get excited about investing myself locally. I have always loved and been involved in a local church, in fact, I helped plant a church 29 years ago. I truly believe that the church is the hope of the world. I started sensing that my calling was moving from serving the church to serving a church, and more specifically, I was called to serve this church, Journey Community Church. I was getting excited about investing in the lives of the staff and people at Journey. I was getting excited about using a more full array of my gifts in this setting. I was gaining clarity.
Another “sign” that helped convince me that this was the right move was Journeys commitment to take a kingdom perspective and allow me to make a slow transition from YS to the church. I could never make a move like this if it would hurt YS. The church is totally on board with a slow transition even though it means they get less of me now.
I am also convinced that Mark is ready, willing and more than capable to take over the leadership of YS. He will do an awesome job. He is passionate, a great thinker and a visionary. He will be fantastic in this role.
So, over the next several months I will share leadership at YS with Mark, help establish his leadership, and continue to give direction to this years conventions. I will also start working in my new role at the church. I will split my time between YS and the church. I know this will be a completely nuts season….but…Bring it on!
I became a Christian in high school. I was unchurched and my older sister, who was a Christ follower, paid my way to go on a ski trip with her church’s youth group. My life was radically changed on that trip. From then on, I wanted to become a youth pastor and work in a church and reach kids like I was reached. I knew first hand the power of God expressed in a local church youth ministry. It’s funny that I never ended up being a full-time paid youth pastor. Sure, I led and served in some youth groups, but always as a volunteer. My full focus was with YS and I spent my adult life serving youth pastors. Now at 59 I am going to be a rookie pastor. At a time of life when a lot of pastors are looking to leave a church staff, I am just jumping in. Really I have to laugh, at 59 I am jumping into something I have never done. I am making less money, walking into a whole new set of expectations, and am going to try to and learn a couple thousand new names. Oh, and because we have a Friday night service I am kissing all my free weekends goodbye. In case you are wondering, yes I have always done things a little backasswards. This is so crazy but it feels like God to me and I am excited. I can think of no greater calling than serving in a local church. For 34 years I have served pastors and now I get to be one. I never saw this coming, but then again God is funny like that.
It won’t be easy leaving YS. Man, has it been an awesome wild ride. I have loved it and never thought I would do anything else, but God had other thoughts and that is good enough for me. I have always loved saying “Hi! I’m Tic from YS.” I will always be a “YS Guy” It has been a completely humbling, rewarding and wild ride serving youth workers. I have been blessed beyond my wildest dreams. Thank you, to all of you who have been so gracious to me over the years. I guess in the end, more than being a “YS Guy” I long to be a “God Guy.” I am pumped about my new journey at Journey.