Youth Specialties (YS) has played a rich heritage within my ministry life. I remember being at Fuller Theological Seminary in 1985 and calling the church office to check my messages (before cell phones). I was stunned when there was a phone call from Mike Yaconelli asking me if I wanted to speak at a student event called “Grow For It” that was a YS one-day event for teenagers. I was stunned! Mike was a hero of mine! But behind that phone call was the guy running YS—Tic Long.

There are several different types of leaders and Tic is the type of leader I would call a Spotlight Leader. He puts the spotlight on other people. In addition to that, he also pushes people into the spotlight who have never been there before. During his 30 year journey at YS Tic held the spotlight on Mike Yaconelli & Wayne Rice (founders of YS) and he pushed dozens of others (including me) into the spotlight. Tic is the master at discovering people and helping them express their gifts. It would have been easy (and normal) for Tic to leverage the spotlight for himself. He’s a strong communicator and yet he always gave the stage away. I respect him so much!

Personally, I’m so grateful that Tic gave me a platform to speak, teach, write and expand my ministry. He has always been my biggest fan at YS and believed in me way before I believed in myself. He has moved from a ministry relationship into a deep friendship. We have done a ton together: traveled, laughed, cried, argued, pranked, sported, cheered family members on and loved one another. The thought of YS going on without Tic is tough for me to grasp, but I’m so excited for him to work full-time in the church. Actually, I’m thrilled! He’s one of the hardest working guys I know and he’ll do a great job (and, I will keep my promise Tic and write a post on 10 things youth pastors want from their executive pastor). Tic’s new church is going to be blessed to experience his spotlight leadership and my friend Brian Berry (the youth pastor there) is the luckiest youth pastor in America.

As weird as it is to imagine YS without Tic, it’s weird to imagine anyone other than Mark Matlock to take over the helm. I really believe Mark will guide the YS ship into good waters. I like Mark a lot! He’s got a great heart! He loves Jesus. He’s a good thinker. And, as my wife said the other day, “He’s very likeable.” Mark, I will be praying for you! A strong YS is good for the youth ministry world.

If you haven’t seen the Tic & Mark video yet…here you go: