Today marks The Return of Tic!
Youthworks, the non-profit mission group from Minnesota, finalized their purchase of Youth Specialities (YS) a few weeks ago. The first order of business, announced today, is the hiring of Tic Long to come back and lead the New YS.
Youth Specialties has been the central gathering place for men and women around the world who share two deep convictions: Jesus Christ and kids. For over 30 years, first envisioned by Wayne Rice and Mike Yaconelli and a handful of youth ministry leaders, YS has been a home for those who see their calling to love Christ and kids where we could be encouraged, trained, sharpened and reminded that our work with kids is first and always God's work that we get to somehow share with him. What we call YS has been a family, a community, a church. Over the years there were substantive changes, but when Mike died in 2003, so many of us felt like our mast had been shattered. The leadership, both the paid staff and those who saw YS as their calling as speakers and writers, hung on, stayed together, and did what we all could to preserve the original Youth Specialties, or at least where we were post-Nouwen through the 90s and into the early 2000s (see Mike's Dangerous Wonder for descriptions of the Nouwen influence on so many of us).
When YS struggled through the economic realities of 2008 and 2009, and so many of our family members were let go, ultimately leading to rumors of the sale of the event side of the "company," many felt that this was the end of Youth Specialites, at least the YS we had known for 30 years. I blogged about it, titling my remarks a eulogy. Well, Youthworks took great pains to ask significant players, both past and present, their opinion of what YS was, is, and could be. They listened, and listened well. They brought an energy, passion and excitment for the mission of YS, not just the product of YS. And now they've hired Tic, formerly "Czar for Life" (I'm not kidding - there are still some of those letterheads around), then "President" of YS, "President of Events" for YS, and finally a year ago laid off when the bottom line went south.
I don't know what Tic's title will be, maybe Czar again, since it had so much clout two decades ago. But I do know that both Youthworks and now Tic are back in the game, committed to doing whatever they can as God leads to maintain the core mission of Youth Speicalities for all these years: Jesus Christ and those kids he loves.
I wish Tic and Youthworks Godspeed, and my friendship, partnership and prayer. I hope you do the same.