This weekend at the National Youth Workers Convention we said goodbye to Tic Long after 35 years of service. As we approach Thanksgiving weekend, I can’t help but be thankful for his role in my life and thousands of others in youth ministry community.
I first met Tic Long in 2003 at Youth For Christ’s DCLA. Up to that point I had never attended one of the many National Youth Workers Convention he had organized. I was a complete outsider to YS and my opinion of them wasn’t all that favorable, not from experience mind you, but from the perceptions of others. As it turned out Youth Specialties’ perception of me wasn’t all that favorable either! I wonder how often we miss some amazing relationships in our lives because of perceptions rather than actually getting to know one another?
Tic and I became fast friends. He invited me to come to Phoenix or NYWC in 2003. YS wasn’t what I thought it was, and I was so impressed, not only with YS but the many incredible leaders in youth ministry that partner with YS and attend the events.
Following the Phoenix convention, Tic asked me to speak in a general session in Dallas the following year, and lead three seminars. I unwisely agreed to this. Most of 2004 was spent worrying about what I had agreed to do. Sometimes saying “yes” is the wrong answer.
My general session was lackluster. It barely made the grade. I remember the backstage area was full of people when I went up to speak, and empty when I walked off. Not a good sign! When I later saw Tic he asked the question American Idol contestantsdread from the judges, “How did YOU feel up there?” Then I received my evaluations from the three seminars, only one of them was rated well. I had a pretty good feeling my time at YS was done.
But then I received another invitation to do some seminars in 2005. It took me a few years to figure out my role at NYWC, but I’ve attended every convention since 2004. I don’t know why Tic kept having me back, but after hearing from others this weekend, I know I am not the only one who has received a second opportunity.
When I came to work for YS in 2008, one of my primary goals was to learn more from Tic, particularly how to care for people. I can’t say I’ve come close to grasping Tic’s ability, but here are just a few of the many things I’ve learned that help him love like Jesus.
- Start by seeing the best in people; let them prove you wrong, they rarely do.
- Be direct, you aren’t helping anyone by withholding how you really feel.
- Other people are more interesting than you. Listen. Ask questions of others, everyone has a story, and everyone knows something you don’t.
- Realize when you say “yes” to one person you are saying “no” to someone else, be sure you are willing to accept responsibility to those you are saying “no” to (it could be your family or even God himself!).
- Don’t be afraid to cry. Cry often.
- Never, take yourself too seriously or you will miss opportunities to serve.
Tic, thank you for investing in our lives over the years. You have made this an amazing year of transition. May God bless you in your new role as executive pastor at Journey. The youth ministry community is forever grateful for your service. We are better because of you.
Tic's Thank You Video
Watch the Thank You video that was played for Tic during the final Big Room session in Atlanta this last weekend. Leave your own words of “Thanks” in the comments.
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