A year ago today the sale of Youth Specialties from Zondervan to YouthWorks became official. On December 16th, 2009 I was on burning bush patrol. My prayer for wisdom was simple: “God, make it clear what I’m supposed to do.”
As I went to the office that day– I was almost giddy to see the day come. Not because I knew something no one else did and not because I was particularly excited about the deal actually closing and what that could mean. It was mostly that the staff was exhausted from waiting. I was firmly in that camp. I needed the deal to be done so I could move on with my life.
A coyote wandered our office parking lot as we waited for the HR people to arrive from Zondervan. It was an ironic and ominous sign. In my state of nervousness and exhaustion the scavengers arrival was infinitely amusing.
Walking into that day I had four completely different action plans. The circumstances had forced me to build scenarios in which only one had me staying on at the new Youth Specialties. (I’m a husband and dad… of course I had plan B, C, and D.)
For a person who had always carefully planned out his career path– this day was one of those big and obvious turning points.
I don’t want to go back to that day! Both in memory and metephorically.
Yes, it feels like a year ago.
This week, the San Diego staff of Youth Specialties has been in Minneapolis for a staff retreat called, “Fuse.” (Since it’s about 8 degrees outside I think it should be called “Freeze.”) In some ways it feels like I’m still trying to get to know the YouthWorks staff. My hope this week has been to get past just trying to know everyone’s names and get to the point where I could appreciate what role each person fills.
A year ago I knew a little about what YouthWorks was about and a few things about what they do. A year later I think I’m finally starting to use the word “we” instead of “they.”
This Fall at our National Youth Workers Convention I got asked the same question over and over again. “So, how is the whole YouthWorks things going?” Here’s the four things I tried to communicate.
- YS is still YS. While our YouthWorks co-workers have worked hard to understand us– they’ve not sought to change our culture. In fact, if you sense ways in which we’ve changed… please let me know. We are working hard to stay true to our unique place in the church.
- Tic Long is where he belongs. There’s no other way to say it. I don’t think my first point would be valid without his leadership. The last 12 months have been a blast– largely because YS has been able to stay YS.
- YS is moving forward. We are going to continue to morph and change just like we always have. I’m really excited about YS Palooza— which we are really hoping is our next big thing. And if it isn’t we’ll just have to come up with something else.
- The YouthWorks staff are great people to work with. All through the acquisition phase last year we only got to hear about YouthWorks because we weren’t allowed to talk to them. (Weird corporate legal move, there.) My friends who met with them kept saying the same thing over and over again, “They are good people.” A year later… that’s a great way to describe them. Our staff has been well taken care of. We have generous benefits, we get tons of support, on and on. Most importantly, YouthWorks is a ministry and not a business. YS has always been a ministry that did business. It’s fun to be back at that.
It’s no surprise that I’m emotional today. It’s a great anniversary.
We’ve come a long way. And it’s great to point to December 16th, 2009 and say “I don’t ever want to go back to that place ever again.”