My response to Zondervan releasing Mark Oestreicher from Youth Specialites

Mark Oestreicher with Tim and Dana Schmoyer Normally I don’t use my blog to voice opinions about current events, but Zondervan’s press release about releasing Mark Oestreicher from Youth Specialties is causing such a stir of emotions in youth workers that it’s getting out of control and needs to be addressed.

While I respect people’s freedom to express their feelings through blogs and Twitter, some of you are jumping to illogical conclusions based on speculation and gossip. Wait until you have the facts before before making such judgments. We all hate it when people in our churches do the same about us or our ministry when a nugget of information starts spreading and is soon taken out of context, but yet that’s what we’re doing here with Zondervan and Marko.

Granted, the manner in which Zonderan released this information is indicative of a proper, almost impersonal, business approach. Clearly they don’t quite “get” the youth ministry audience and could’ve communicated it much better than they did, but that’s not a valid reason to start bashing Zondervan because they let Tic Long go first and now Marko. Youth workers, more than anyone else, should be familiar with change and transitions. Every year we say goodbye to a graduating class while saying hello to a new incoming class, causing our ministries to be in a constant state of flux from year to year. As if that turnover wasn’t enough, youth culture and trends are constantly shifting and trying to stay on top of the communication game is often a struggle. Maybe in a youth ministry world of constant change, Marko felt like the constant we could always depend on, and when it’s gone, the loss creates deep insecurity and even wounds. If that’s the case, then I suggest we need to reevaluate Who our anchor is in ministry. (Some of the comments I see on blogs and Twitter definitely cross the line into idolatry, putting Marko on a pedestal that’s much higher than where any man man ought to be.)

But even so, Marko is not dead, he’s just transitioning. He’s not disappearing from the earth, just moving to do new things to help further the Kingdom among teenagers. Marko will be fine. Youth Specialties will be fine. For all we know, this could be the best thing for both of them.

Marko is one of the people who encouraged me to write my upcoming book that Youth Specialties will release in January 2011. He also covered expenses for my wife and I to attend the 2006 NYWC in Austin because we couldn’t afford it. And he’s been a guest on LIVE YM Talk with me, among many other email and phone conversations. I love the guy and his heart for teenagers and his investment into me personally, so it’s with no disrespect toward him that I remind us that there’s a lot of what if’s and variables in this situation that none of us know.

  • What if this is the best move for Youth Specialties to be able to serve your ministry?
  • What if Zondervan is taking the hit, looking like the bad guy, when there’s really many other things behind the scenes we don’t know about? (Hasn’t every youth worker been in this situation?)
  • What if Marko is honestly OK with this decision and maybe even relieved by it?
  • What if the two options were to let Marko go or close Youth Specialties?
  • What if Zondervan has a bigger vision for Youth Specialties than YS has for themselves?
  • What if Zondervan is experiencing greater loss than Youth Specialties is by releasing Marko?
  • What if this frees Marko to do even more incredible things for the the world of youth ministry?
  • Remember, it was Karla Yaconelli who sold YS to Zondervan in the first place, not Marko. Maybe some of her unspoken reasons for doing so impact this decision?
  • What if Marko becomes the new youth pastor at Saddleback to fill Doug Field’s vacancy? :)

Although I admittedly embrace change a bit easier than most people I know, I’m actually excited to see what’s in store for Youth Specialties. I absolutely feel for Marko and have been praying for him and YS for the past couple days, but I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how the Lord will use him to make a continued impact on youth ministry.

In the meantime, chillax. Quit the gossip and idle speech.

Posted on October 23, 2009

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