youth specialties’ prophetic voice

here’s the last-page column i wrote for the current issue of youthworker journal (the last issue developed by ys):

Youth Specialties wants to be both an encouragement and a prophetic voice.

This is a sad column for me to write. Youth Specialties has been a part of Youthworker journal since day one. And now that relationship is ending.

Here’s a bit of history: YS began, literally out of a car trunk, 37 years ago. One year later, the first National Youth Workers Convention offered something – at the time – totally revolutionary: a place for Christian youth workers of all sorts to come together and be challenged. In those early days of YS, we were primarily a voice in the wilderness – a prophetic voice to the church, and to youth workers. People regularly walked out of general sessions at the conventions; not because they were bored, but because they were ticked! In fact, one of the great early stories of YS involves an audience member in one of the first convention general sessions standing up to argue with the speaker.

Over the years, as youth ministry came into its own, Youth Specialties evolved and saw the need to be more of an encourager of youth workers – not just a cattle-prod to the church. This encouraging role has become such a key piece of our identity and mission, and will continue to be so as long as we exist.

But we’ve done some good organizational soul-searching in the past 18 months, and we’ve realized a couple things:

First, we realized that we had mostly moved away from the challenging (or prophetic) role that was such a key component of our birth. We’d moved into a place of being all about resourcing and encouraging youth workers. That’s a critical ministry; but it seemed we’d lost a bit of who we are called to be.

Second, we realized that we were relying, almost exclusively, on two voices for any piece of prophetic stuff we still provided: Mike Yaconelli and Youthworker journal. Mike’s message – through his talks and books – was clearly a tree-shaker. He reminded us all of things we’d forgotten about ourselves, about God, and about the central truths of youth ministry. And Youthworker became our other voice – the place we could push the edge a bit, explore controversial ideas, try out ideas (often in subsequent articles) that were in direct disagreement with one another.

With Mike’s death two years ago, and with Youthworker leaving us, we have to step it up. In these past 18 months, we’ve identified a handful of new values we want to drive us forward as we work to re-invent Youth Specialties (really, this is staying true to the vision Yac always had for us, especially in the last few years of his life). One of those is to resurface our prophetic voice.

What I mean by that is this: youth ministry needs some re-thinking. There’s much we all know about what makes up good youth ministry and what makes up, well, less-than-good youth ministry. But we believe our changing culture (and our deepening understanding of the Kingdom of God) calls us to constant change and evaluation, growth and revolution. And we feel called, as an organization, to be a part of that process.

This doesn’t mean that we’re suddenly going to only provide stuff that will tweak you or make you angry! We’re still all about encouraging youth workers. But we hope that you’ll see, as you watch our stuff in the months and years to come, that – even without the vehicle of Youthworker, or the voice of Yaconelli – Youth Specialties will be a place you can count on to help you ask questions, help you re-think, help you bring a revolution.

After all: the gospel of Jesus Christ is (not just was) revolutionary. And our youth ministries must reflect this! We hope you’ll continue to walk with us – or better yet, allow us to walk with you – as we explore effective, life-transforming youth ministry, today and in the years to come.

“What characterizes followers of Christ is that we tell the truth.… We talk about all of life. We’re not afraid that teens will see life as a struggle every day—and that it will always be so. Most of all, we point them away from us and toward Jesus…. What’s so disturbing about youth ministry today, however, is how little truth-telling there is. I’ve been in youth ministry for 40 years, and I wish I could have some of those years to live over again. Oh, God, forgive me for causing your little ones to sin. Oh, God, help me to learn from my mistakes. Oh, God, in spite of me, cause all of your little ones to run into your arms. Oh, God, help us all.” — Mike Yaconelli

17 thoughts on “youth specialties’ prophetic voice”

  1. Nashville was a great reminder of the need for YS and a youth publication that serves a broad spectrum of youth workers. I’m excited to walk with you…..

  2. Thank you for this post Marko. This is so true. We need all aspects and definitely a safe place to ask questions. I have enjoyed YS and the journal. You’re a blessing to me. Thanks for taking the steps to move forward and rethink. I look forward to watching the thinking take process. Blessings

  3. Though I know that at times this process has been and will continue to be heart wrenching for you and the the rest of your family at YS, it’s been an honor to be able to watch it happen over the past few years of knowing you (sporatic as it may be).

    I would love to be of help and support – as needed.

    Would love to get together again soon. Jenn and I have been thinking about you and jeannie.

  4. I’m with you 100%. Let’s stop plugging youth into Christian marketing research, and join them in plugging into Christ!

    I can’t wait to see what this renewal looks like–I want to be a part of it.

  5. I thought your contacts might appreciate this:

    I just set up a new podcast for my church’s Pre-K through 8th Grade day school, Hunting Park Christian Academy. The idea is that each school day (and hopefully through the summer) we will post a new scripture being read by one of the school’s 200+ students. We will be using The Message, Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of the bible in contemporary language. I recorded three 7th grade girls today and was impressed with their excitement and respect for God’s word. I am hoping that people will find a way to add this to their daily routine by subscribing to the feed and taking their iPod to work or simply clicking on the “direct download” links on the podcast’s web site and listening to the files on their computer. Eventually, I will start including information about various things that are happening at the school and also inviting those who are blessed by the podcast to partner with us financially. I am hoping to use this as a way to generate revenue for the warehouse rehab project which will add a gym and 30 classrooms to the school’s current facilities. I am also just curious to see if people will appreciate something like this, so please let me know your thoughts and any ideas on how to make this concept better. Another great thing is that this gives me a fun way to introduce our kids to some of the technologies that are out there. I think this can be a very cool thing! I would appreciate as much publicity for this new podcast as possible. Please do me a favor and email to your friends and post on your blogs. Thanks!!

    If you have iTunes, you can get to the pocast site directly by following this link.

  6. When I read “youth ministry needs some re-thinking”, it stirs something so deep. A desire to cry out, as the Old and New Testament Prophets did. If there’s a way I can help, I want to.

  7. hi man, look have always love YWJ and will still get it. i hope YS will put more things out there , more in you hands stuff to help youth workers and there churches. i think YS is at its best when it comes alone side the youth worker and helps provied the tools that they need to do the a better job for the kids and the chruch. anyway praying for you mark! peace out.

  8. I echo the sentiment about the prophetic voice of ys not being silenced. It’s unfortunate about ywj – I thought it was the only youth ministry magazine worth its paper – but this should be a chance to find your new prophetic voice in the midst of this storm.

  9. you know, i think a lot of youth workers in my area have been feeling the same thing, not about ys but about being more bold in what we do. we are focused on shareing the Word with our students but doing it with a passoin and boldness has gone away. we are living in a society now that has the view of what ever you want to believe is cool and i think that has sunk into some of the ministries out there. we need to stand up and share loudly the Truth in Christ, just as the prophets did. we need take time to remember that we are God’s tools and the power He gives us. there is a revolution that is going on with youth and i am excited to see how ys and all the youth workers out there take hold of that power and boldly share the Word.

  10. It’s time for the youth pastors and leaders of America to take off the desire to win kids by being popular with them. It’s time for the youth pastors and leaders of America to put on the mantle of the Old Testament prophet. The Old Testament prophet served in several major capacities: being the voice of God to the nation, being the voice and representative of God to the nation’s leadership, calling the nation to repentance, anointing new leadership, and training up other prophets. They were unashamed in their declaration of the word. They called the nation to holiness, and made no apologies for it. I believe most of our ministries have been built upon pandering to the crowd and culture. This is not pleasing to God. May the prophetic spirit dwell in us and be obvious in our ministries. This is how we will see true, enduring disciples made through our ministries.

  11. It takes great courage to be a prophetic voice. It requires knowing and embracing the fact that not everyone will agree or support you in what you do. Martin Luther King Jr. knew this. Rosa Parks knew this. Mike Yaconelli knew this. They all experienced opposition but held firm to thier passion and desire for change. I believe in YS and know that you will help lead us in this revolution…the revolution of youth ministry…we’re with you.

  12. it’s been awhile since you posted this, but some of your post had caught my attention and was something i held onto for a while. thought you’d like to know you’d been linked to.

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