YS Looks to the Future

Youth Specialties
September 14th, 2011

A great roller coaster ride has high highs, low lows, quick turns, stomach-dropping moments, screams, cheers, tears, and a few flips.

For anyone who loves a good roller coaster ride, pulling into the station after all the excitement is a brief time of relief, and then begins the anticipation of another ride.

The journey Youth Specialties has taken over the years is a lot like a roller coaster ride. The co-founder of YS, Mike Yaconelli, once said, “We sure didn’t know where youth ministry or our little company was headed. All we knew was that God was somehow inviting us into this thing. It’s been a wild ride—and one that I hope continues for a long, long time.” If Mike only knew how much wilder the ride would get… In the last decade we’ve experienced fast growth, the death of Mike Yaconelli, leadership changes, ownership changes, and more leadership changes. We’re at the point where the roller coaster has pulled into the station, and because we love the ride, we’re ready to start a new one. Are you with us? Make sure your lap bar is locked in place, and hold on…because the next ride YS takes will be one to remember.

Mark Matlock is poised to lead us on this new ride at Youth Specialties, and he has a great vision for how YS will contribute to the future of youth ministry. Matlock says, “We gather the most diverse youth workers together to learn, share, and create, so that we can help teenagers follow in the way of Jesus.” It’s actually some old “Ideas” from YS that are helping to drive this vision. “One of YS’s greatest strengths is the Ideas Book series, which were the original tools produced by YS decades ago. It’s youth workers sharing knowledge with other youth workers, and that’s what we want to be focusing on, “ Matlock said.

Matlock, along with Doug Fields [who has recently joined the YS team], have several plans in the works that will help make this collaboration and cultivating of ideas possible. They’re going to be strategically looking for new youth workers who could become speakers or writers for YS, and creating an advisory team that would help program the convention and be a sounding board for the publishing side of YS. Matlock noted, “We want to create opportunities for great ideas to be shared, and for youth workers to help each other do youth ministry in new and creative ways.”

Every fall at the National Youth Workers Convention, YS works to bring in compelling speakers and creative opportunities for youth workers to learn and be encouraged. This year, YS is adding a new Theological Track to the event. According to Mike King, who is heading up this new initiative, “the goal is to create an environment for youth workers to engage in robust theological dialogue and foster an imaginative exchange of ideas concerning practical theology, youth ministry philosophy, and praxis.” King has spent the past several years helping to bring reflective experiences to NYWC for youth workers, and he’s excited to help provide an opportunity for attendees to participate in deeper theological discussions this year.

Besides the new additions at NYWC, Matlock has a few other tricks up his sleeve. [Did you know Mark Matlock does magic tricks—err, illusions!?] Watch for Matlock and Fields as they head out soon on the “Listening Tour.” This series of one-day gatherings with youth workers will be a place for conversations—a chance for youth workers to talk about what God is doing, what challenges they’re facing, and for YS to really listen to what’s going on out there. “We want to be intentional about knowing the reality of the youth workers we’re serving,” Matlock explains. The first round of this tour is just wrapping up, but watch for more later this fall.

So, if your lap bar is securely locked in place, put your hands up and get ready for the next exciting ride with Youth Specialties. 

Youth Specialties

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.