My interview with the new Youth Specialties Executive Director: Tic Long

Welcome back, Tic LongToday Youth Specialties makes a huge announcement and reveals its new Executive Director, Tic Long. Youth Specialties has been through a lot of major transitions throughout the past couple years, so welcoming back a familiar face like Tic is undoubedly a comfort and relief for many. Personally, I’m stoked! I appreciate Tic’s ability to appreciate the rich history of Youth Specialities’ past while still embracing the changes and risks that will always be necessary for the future.

It’s great to feel a sense of stability at Youth Specialties again now that the YouthWorks deal is finished and Tic is back on board (and, of course, that Adam McLane is still around). I’m looking forward to exciting new developments in the the field of youth ministry from YS for a long time to come.

I had the privilege of interviewing Tic in anticipation for this announcement. Here’s our discussion:

TIM: First of all, welcome back to YS! What’s been going through your mind, soul and heart during the time off?

TIC: To tell you the truth Tim the first couple months I was trying to get YS out of my system. After 32 years I had to relearn about life outside of YS. I tried to not really think too much or too soon about what was next but to enjoy my family, friends and God in a more leisurely manner. I spent a month Backpacking which did wonders for my Soul.

TIM: You could’ve taken a lot of different opportunities from a lot of different organizations. What drew you back to YS?

TIC: It was really a couple things. First I was actually surprised by that fact that in the end I had some really cool opportunities to choose from. Others said that would be the case but it still surprised me. In my time away I wrestled with the question was it time to leave youth ministry. In the end there was just nothing else that excited me as much. I think some of us are just lifers. We might be a sick group but it is home to me. There is nothing else that I am as passionate about. I wasn’t expecting this so it took a while to get my emotions around it. First I really fell in love with the YouthWorks folks. I went to Minneapolis to their HQ which is kind of dumpy. It reminded me of the early YS offices. They have had the money to build big fancy offices but to do that would mean they would not be able to give away as much money. They give serious money away to the communities they do mission trips in and that really spoke to me. They are serious about being the church to folks. There is a lot more to this part of the story but I really felt they were the perfect home for YS after I sniffed it out. I think the other thing is deep down I am just a YS guy. I love YS and I think this home can return us closer to what I dream we can be. In the end I just could not say no to YS.

TIM: Based on Youth Specialties’ past that has brought it to where it is today with YouthWorks and Zondervan, where do you see God taking YS in the future? What’s vision has God laid on your heart for YS?

TIC: It is still a little early to speak to this to a great extent extent as I just said yes to returning December 27 and have just spent a couple days with the folks here in Minneapolis and have yet to even be in the YS office since coming back. What I am feeling most strongly is returning our focus to loving, training and resourcing youth workers. These last couple seasons at YS we have had so many internal issues and financial pressures we had to focus more on ourselves than youth workers and that hindered us. YS at it’s best is playful, prophetic, inclusive, grounded, willing to take risk to help youth workers engage culture and equip their students to follow Jesus. I think our calling is to be an advocate and safe haven for those working with students, our events a place where youth workers are nourished spiritually and encouraged and at the same time challenged to take chances to meet God on the outer edge of their faith and not play it safe, go for it for the kingdom of God…. Sorry I’m rambling.

Tim and Dana with TicTIM: What are the biggest obstacles for YS to overcome to get there?

TIC: Being better listeners to not only what God is calling us to but to what youth workers are asking for. We have been at this for a while and have lots of ideas and approaches with many peers. We need to make sure we make room for new voices and not just stay in our own comfort zone. We need to provide platforms for the new voices God is calling to speak into the youth ministry community. It is much easier to go just with those we know well but we just can’t do that. Someone gave Yaconelli a chance, We gave Duffy Robbins, Chap Clark, Doug Fields, Les Christie and many others a platform to speak to the youth ministry community with what God placed on their heart. We need to keep doing that, to keep presenting new voices.

TIM: NYWC has been the Mecca of youth ministry conventions for decades, but recently many youth workers have become increasingly disinterested in it for a number of reasons. What changes can we look forward to specifically at NYWC?

TIC: I think the above applies here. The convention is not about us but about youth workers. I think we refine what we do best in response to what we hear from the trenches. I actually think Youth Ministry is better served with the SYM convention, Orange and others on the scene rather than the NYWC being the only game in town. It makes harder for us but better for the kingdom. I think as all our events fine tune and respond to each other and the youth ministry community the church wins.

TIM: What is your relationship with Marko? I know you were at one time the President of YS, but what makes you think you are the person to do it again?

TIC: I don’t really know how to answer that but let me start with this point because I think there is some misinformation out there. Marko and I are good, we have always been good. We are friends and had a good working relationship. We have not blamed each other or had any big weirdness throughout this wild ride. We will continue to be friends and speak into each others lives. I am not worried about my ability to lead YS (other than the fact that there is always some fear in me when handling something I think God has places in front of me). It is is my giftedness and skill set. I know YS, I know youth workers but I am not doing it alone, as always we will have a team. We have always seen YS as a gift, a sacred trust and not something we owned. I am once again a caretaker of that trust and that is humbling. I am excited and humbled at the same time, does that make sense?

TIM: What does YS need from youth workers during this transitionary time? How can we support you all?

TIC: Give us some time to catch our breath, your prayers and your voice.

TIM: Any chance you’ll be moving to my backyard here in Minnesota to be closer to YouthWorks? :-)

TIC: Ummmmmmm………NO. That would take a burning bush.

Read the official announcement about Tic’s position at, including this teaser video on YouTube.

Youth Ministry MentorshipsIf you’ve been in youth ministry for 2 years or fewer, there’s a solid team of experienced Life In Student Ministry youth workers who want to support you and invest into your ministry on a one-on-one basis! Read more on our Youth Ministry Mentors page.

Posted on January 7, 2010

  • That last line cracked me up. Burning bush indeed! I've been praying God would make it clear to me about the future of YS. And I think you see in this interview why I think YS deserves my life investment. Great job, Tim!

  • This is great news for YS and YW and youth leaders in general. Congrats Tic!

  • This is great news for YS and YW and youth leaders in general. Congrats Tic!

  • Look at you being ahead of the game & posting an interview on the day of the big news! @Adam – The burning bush line cracked me up too!

    This does my heart good to see YW hire Tic. Gives me a greater expectation (and hope) for Youth Specialties.

    –Terrace Crawford

  • Darin Brown

    Wow, what a ride it must have been. It had been fun volunteering with the NYWC but was bummed when it all went…..weird. I will be watching to see what is next and anxious to see how God uses the 'new' YS.

  • Nice interview, Tim. Thanks for posting that.

  • Matt

    I wish you would have asked him if he was going to continue in the emergent/ emerging leanings that YS has been into in the last several years under Marko's leadership. That would be interesting to know.

  • You're right, that would've been a good question. My gut feeling is that it probably won't lean that direction as much in the future, but overall, it's probably not too high on the totem pole of first things to adjust at YS.

    • What will continue is that YS will be theologically diverse. One of our distinctives is a deep love of the church, the whole church. We don't just appeal to DTS grads and others from the evangelical heritage. (cough, secular fundamentalists like me and you) YS appeals to mainliners, liberals, indie fundies, backwoods Pentecostals, prosperity gospelers, Catholics… and everything in between. There are other YM orgs out there… but just about all of them lean one way or the other. Most, if not all, are tied to a denomination or came out of a specific denominational heritage which heavily peppers how they do stuff today. YS tries its best to love 'em all.

      I know Marko and Tic pretty well. Both men love Jesus. Both men love the church. And both men believe that awesome things happens when you schmush people who disagree theologically together but agree that they love the church and that they love kids.

      • Thanks for the helpful response, Adam! Appreciate it! My feeling is that YS was becoming less theologically diverse and more emergent/emerging than anything else, so it's good to know that the value of equal diversity is still there. From my perspective, I heard lots and lots about emergent/emerging stuff from YS, including a YS Emergent brand, but other voices and perspectives were not given the same attention. Hope the balance is restored! Sounds like it will be.

      • It is beautiful that YS can live within the tension of theological differences among youth pastors. If churches are looking to the youth to pave the way for the future of church, then it is imperative youth pastors are allowed to "play" without getting theologically spanked. YS has given some rambunctious youth leaders a platform.

        One of my favorite disciples is: Simon the Zealot (Matt 10.4, Mark 13.8, Luke 6.15, Acts 1.13) . Why? Because he was a left wing political nut job, violently anti-Roman, and partially devoted to the Pharisees. Basically this guy was a lunatic and still an accepted and devoted disciple of Jesus.

        Honestly, I don't think YS has been too emergent, liberal, conservative, emerging, fundamental, and hippish. I think they have represented a pretty good depiction of the Kingdom of God and the disciples of Jesus.

        And it is not a bad thing YS is trying to put the FUN back into fundamentalism.

    • fbcvault

      tim, i don't see that anything needs to be "adjusted." ys has always – going back to its earliest days – been on the forefront of theological discussion. in our current context this includes however one might define emergent/emerging/post-modern thinking.

      to suggest that ys needs to change in this regard would seem to me to be a regression.

  • This is great news! Youthworks did a great job bring Tic back. I can’t wait to see what he does with YS.

  • Bill

    Did you ask Tic about those lovely earrings?

  • Pingback: Q&A with Tic Long about the future of Youth Specialties | Life in Student Ministry()

  • Pingback: Youth Specialties transitions Tic Long out of the office | Life In Student Ministry()

New eBookGo
Focused Youth Ministry ebook

85% off!

Focused Youth Ministry

This practical "how to" ebook will walk you through a 30-step process to discovering God's vision for your unique ministry context. The process also shows you how to implement that vision and put metrics in place to evaluate what is moving the vision forward and what isn't.

Price: $12.95 Limited time: $1.99