Youth Specialties Keeps Its Vibe under Zondervan

Youth Specialties will operate as a separate unit within The Zondervan Corporation and has no plans of changing its main mission and ''outside the box'' attitude.

Zondervan announced Tuesday that it had purchased Youth Specialties, an acquisition that the leading Christian communications company called the "culmination of a 30-year business relationship."

"I can say this with absolute and complete candor: there is no other publishing house in the world I would rather work for and with," said Youth Specialties President Mark Oestreicher in his web log entry.

Serving more than 100,000 youth workers, Youth Specialties will operate as a separate unit within The Zondervan Corporation and has no plans of changing its main mission and "outside the box" attitude. Rather, the partnership is expected to strengthen and expand what the youth organization is doing, which is serving the youth ministries, now with more events and resources than ever. To date, the partnership has published more than 500 resources for youth workers.

"Were not changing (or being asked to change) our values or mission, culture, vibe, staff, tone, resources, events, or occasional irreverence and childishness," said Oestreicher, who is remaining in his current role. "I'm confident about Zondervan allowing Youth Specialties to keep being Youth Specialties."

Youth Specialties will also be remaining in sunny San Diego while Zondervan works out of its corporate headquarters in Grand Rapids. And Karla Yaconelli, widow of Youth Specialties founder Mike Yaconelli, will continue to be actively involved within the company.

"I am confident that Mike would be 100% supportive of this decision," said Karla, according to Zondervan. "This partnership will enhance who Youth Specialties is and what we do. Our focus will remain the same – equipping youth workers – yet teaming with Zondervan provides us with both long-term stability and additional resources to increase our reach and offerings and continue to try new and innovative things. That is what my husband always hoped and prayed for."

The idea of purchasing Youth Specialties had been introduced several years ago, but the timing for the culminating step had not been right until now, according to the youth organization.

"Youth Specialties has consistently proven itself as an innovator and trusted resource committed to meeting the unique needs of youth ministries," said Doug Lockhart, Zondervan President and CEO, in a released statement. "Our three decade relationship has been extremely positive and complementary and our respective missions are closely aligned. This acquisition is a natural fit as Zondervan continues to look for ways to expand our impact. We look forward to embracing the entire YS team into our family and to supporting their efforts to reach the next generation."

Youth Specialties was founded in the late 1960s to encourage and provide resources for Christian youth workers. In 1974, the organization’s passion for youth workers caught the attention of Zondervan, which expressed its desire to help get resources out to the ministry leaders and volunteers throughout North America.

“Zondervan came to YS and said, 'You guys are weird and unpredictable. We want to put your books in bookstores,” recalled Mike Yaconelli. “Zondervan was very Dutch, very Grand Rapids, very conservative—but hey, they believed in our mission!”

Since then, the two have formed both a business relationship and a friendship.

"We're pretty pumped about this whole thing because, at the end of the day, Zondervan will help us keep doing what we live for - loving youth workers and the kids they serve," said Oestreicher.