20-something years ago, ys decided there was a place in the world for a professional journal for youth workers. kind of like a youth worker equivilent of leadership journal. so we launched youthworker journal. and ever since then, youthworker has been an important space for exporation and discussion. it’s been an intentional place for pushing thought, pushing boundaries, and pushing buttons. sure, some articles — or maybe even the occasional issue? — have missed the mark; that’s the nature of exploration, i suppose. but, in general, it’s been one of the few places in the youth ministry world you could find side-by-side articles that opposed each other, or topics that no one else would touch, or extensive and wide resource reviews (not just three or four), and stacks of summarized research.
but, alas — ys is a business (run like a ministry). and sometimes, in business, things happen that you don’t want to happen. here’s some history:
ys used to have an entire periodicals department, because we had three of ’em: the wittenburg door, youthworker journal, and youthworker update. we sucked at the back-end stuff; and it’s pretty difficult to break-even in the magazine business when you can’t spread things like advertising and circulation cost over several magazines with decent subscriptions. this got WAY worse for ys after we decided our wittenburg door days were over, and sold it to the trinity foundation in dallas for a dollar. we made what seemed like a great decision at the time (it WAS a great decision at the time): we sold youthworker journal to ccm communications and entered into two agreements with them — a marketing agreement (that paid us for promoting the journal), and an editorial agreement (that paid us to provide all the content). we also managed all the web stuff over the years, and this loosely fell under the editorial agreement.
well, a handful of years ago — much to our shock and surprise — our good friend at ccm, john styll, sold his company to salem communications. salem is the largest provider of christian radio in the u.s. (in the world?), and was stretching into a few other areas. oh — and to complicate things a bit more: our contract with ccm had expired just prior to the sale, and no one had gotten around to re-negotiating it. so we began the road with salem, with no contract (but still operating under the terms of the old contract). a couple years ago now, we started the process of re-negotiating the contract. for whatever reason, it’s been a crazy-slow process.
ys passionately desires to serve the WHOLE church — all kinds of christian youth workers. and this doesn’t just mean serving youth workers who are more ‘liberal’ than whatever our theological median would be; it also means serving youth workers who are more ‘conservative’ than whatever our theological median would be. so the fact that salem is a decidedly different, and more conservative, organization that us shouldn’t have posed a problem. but there was a good deal of rub, to be honest. our “wide net” approach was just a different approach than they would likely have chosen. in the end, though, their decision to discontinue our contracts was purely a business decision (at least as i understand it), not a theological decision or compatability decision. they’d like to take a shot at running all aspects of the journal themselves.
it’s a great loss to us. yes, we sold it; but to be honest, that was to keep it alive — so we could do what we do well, and someone else could do what we do didn’t do well. the current issue (ironically, on “truth”) is the last that we’ll have anything to do with. the editor will change, the advisory board will change, many of the authors will change.
we’re not sure yet what we’re going to do to replace the important role of youthworker journal in the ys world. we’re still considering our options. i’ll post seperately the last-page column i wrote in the current issue, which talks about our calling to exercise a prophetic voice.