Youth Specialties' Veteran Worker Returns

Youth Specialties' possibly biggest fan, Tic Long, is back at the helm of the ministry and he hasn't left his humor behind.

Just months after being let go from the national ministry and trying to figure out his post-YS future, Long was called back to serve as executive director of Youth Specialties beginning this year.

"I thought my time with YS had ended but obviously God had other ideas," Long wrote in his blog. "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."

A large photo of Long with a fake mustache currently graces the homepage of the Youth Specialties website, displaying his signature fun style. The new executive director says that he has been tasked with leading the ministry forward.

Long had been serving Youth Specialties for more than three decades before he was let go last summer. He was among more than a dozen staff, including the president Mark Oestreicher, who were laid off by Christian publisher Zondervan, which acquired the youth workers ministry in 2006.

Following the layoffs, some loyal Youth Specialties supporters criticized Zondervan's decisions and accused the publisher of "acting all corporate." But Oestreicher defended the company, citing financial pressure. Long, though he did not agree with some of the decisions, also rejected criticisms aimed at the publisher.

Last November, Zondervan announced that it sold Youth Specialties to a multi-denominational family of ministries called YouthWorks!, Inc. Under the new leadership, Long was invited back to lead Youth Specialties.

Ultimately, Long said, Zondervan just didn't really "get" Youth Specialties or youth workers.

"Our cultures were just too different. Let's face it youth workers are a quirky bunch," said Long. "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."

Long sees YouthWorks as a "great home" for Youth Specialties.

Firstly, YouthWorks is a nonprofit, Long said. "They measure their success on Kingdom impact," he stressed. "I really like that turning a buck is not the main thing here. They are all about stewardship of what God has given them."

Youth Specialties had been operating as a for-profit business for 40 years.

Secondly, they love youth workers and Youth Specialties, Long added.

YouthWorks had first approached Youth Specialties in 2002 about purchasing the ministry. Though the timing wasn't right then, as Long explained, their interest in YS never died.

YouthWorks was created in 1994 with the purpose of helping the Church be the Church by providing life-changing, Christ-centered resources for ministry.