Ok, it's been a week and a half since Zondervan fired Mark Oestreicher from being the president of Youth Specialties and while I wasn't going to blog about it, I have changed my mind. So here ya go:
I have to admit that when I first heard that Marko was fired I thought to myself "Oh no, what did he do to get fired? Say something that completely goes against mainstream Christian culture (which he's good at and probably why I like him so much), did he do something off the wall at the last YS convention, or did he try and sell the Obama book again that YS got so much flack for a year or so ago. Then I realized it was was none of these. He just didn't fit into their equation anymore. Unfortunately, I don't know if I like that equation.
Youth Specialties has always been the big youth ministry dog. In my 16 or so years of working with teens, YS has always been the king of resources, conferences, and anything youth ministry. Youth pastors dreamed of having books published by them. Tired youth workers looked forward to attending their conferences each year as a time to refresh and re-energize. It was almost like YS was our fraternity more than it was just a resource producer. A lot of this had to do with Mike Yaconelli founding it on the crazy idea that the company was all about the mission of youth ministry not just the bottom dollar. Yac had almost this rebel attitude toward life, Christianity, and youth ministry that I think related to youth workers on a core level. With Yac's passing I think a lot of us were happy to see Marko step right into that "rebel" type leader role that made us all feel we were part of something bigger than us.
Even though Zondervan bought out YS around 4 years ago, it's only been the past few years I have seen a lot of changes that I think have been going in a different direction then what Yac set out for the company. First, I was saddened by Tic Long being let go, then the changes to the conference (that I still feel have to do more with saving the company money than making the conference better), now the firing of Marko. I want to say that I don't hate Zondervan or view them as some evil company like some are saying, but it does sadden me that it feels a lot of these changes are being made just because a profit bottom line needs to be reached within a large corporation. Instead of being the "fraternity" it once was, I guess I will just have to get used to YS being just another resource producer. Sad, yes, but nothing that will stop me from doing God's work.
So, I guess my final take is that even though it stinks and I am a little mad over our "fraternity" president Marko being fired (and how he was fired) and I'm going to miss that "rebel" company that I feel Yac started a long time ago that always made me feel like a member of a large tribe of youth workers, life goes on. Zondervan finds ways to make a bigger profit, Marko will find an outlet for his vast knowledge of youth ministry and "rebel" style, and God's work will be done.
To read a great blog post by Doug Fields in regards to this issue, click here.