Youth Specialties Sold to YouthWorks

Just three years after being acquired by giant publisher Zondervan, Youth Specialties has been sold again to another organization.

YouthWorks!, Inc., a multi-denominational family of ministries, has agreed in principle to acquire Youth Specialties, according to an announcement Friday.

"We believe this agreement allows Youth Specialties to move to the next level under the guidance of a missions-minded ministry," said Moe Girkins, president and CEO of Zondervan. "Our appreciation for the heart and mission of Youth Specialties has been at the forefront of this venture and we are confident that our friends at YouthWorks offer a great fit."

Youth Specialties has been training and encouraging tens of thousands of youth workers around the world for nearly 40 years. The organization is popular for its National Youth Workers Convention which is held in a number of cities every year.

In 2006, the youth ministry organization was acquired by Zondervan, which had been partnering with the group for decades. It was expected to be a smooth transition as the mission, culture and vibe of Youth Specialties were to remain the same.

However, the organization's top two leaders – YS president Mark Oestreicher and Tic Long, who oversaw all events and served at the organization for over 30 years – were let go this year. And Zondervan was in talks with several organizations about possible partnerships.

Jason Vines, spokesman for Zondervan, said they wanted to move the youth workers organization forward and stressed that they remain completely committed to the vision and the mission of Youth Specialties.

According to Friday's announcement, YouthWorks agreed to purchase Youth Specialties while publishing rights will remain with Zondervan. The acquisition is expected to be complete by the end of the year.

YouthWorks says it is committed to the "original heart and mission" of Youth Specialties and wants to "advance the ministry and honor the legacy of the ministry and its founders."

"With its focus on training and equipping – essentially to 'Help the Church Be the Church' – Youth Specialties is a wonderful complement to the YW ministry focus," YouthWorks said in a statement. "Working together, we believe more churches will be exposed to and experience unique ministry and missions opportunities. More teens and families will be forever changed by experiencing God's Word in a relevant way."

While the new owner plans to preserve and honor the legacy of Youth Specialties, Chap Clark, editor of YouthWorker Journal – which was founded by Youth Specialties and is now independently owned – expects many changes.

"Youth Specialties is not dead, for they are being bought by a group of great people who plan to morph this movement into viability for the coming future. But the YS that Mike [Yaconelli] and Wayne [Rice] began and passed on ... is coming to what some may see as a screeching halt," Clark wrote in his blog recently.

"I envision that the future will be bright for the 'new' YS, but the 'old' YS is about to breath[e] its last."

The announcement about the acquisition of Youth Specialties was reportedly made during the organization's third and last NYWC of the year in Atlanta on Friday.

YouthWorks was founded in 1994 as a youth missions organization. In 2008, the group expanded its ministry vision to include planning and facilitating ministry experiences for children, youth and families. YouthWorks operates in more than 80 cities and has served more than 400,000 participants and 10,000 churches since its inception.