zondervan buys youth specialties
Tuesday May 02nd 2006, 8:57 am
Filed under: youth ministry, church, youth specialties, personal, books, youth work

BIG NEWS! wow – i’ve been wanting to blog about this for months! it’s been killing me not to talk about something that’s so major in my life, and in the lives of so many people i love: zondervan has purchased youth specialties.

i wrote a long explanation of the whole thing, and that’s on our website – see here. zondervan also has a more fancy and formal press release, here.

but let me give a little back-story: youth specialties and zondervan have been partners for more than 30 years, almost since the beginning of YS. they’ve always proved their belief in our mission. and we’ve developed a significant amount of trust and friendship over the years. we like them; they like us.

i mean, let’s be honest: any 30-year relationship has its share of bumps and disagreements and inadvertent insults (like the time i asked zondervan, “do these jeans make my butt look fat?”). but the cool thing is that we’ve made it through those times and grown stronger for them.

i can say this with absolute and complete candor: there is no other publishing house in the world i would rather work for and with. our missions are compatible and i respect their strengths and abilities. but even more than that – as the guy who’s responsible for the future of YS – i’m confident about zondervan allowing youth specialties to keep being youth specialties. we’re not moving to grand rapids; we’re not eliminating our staff or handing over responsibilities to them; we’re not changing (or being asked to change) our values or mission, culture, vibe, staff, tone, resources, events, or occasional irreverence and childishness. i think this little video tic and i shot hints at that. what we’re doing is getting a whole lot more resources behind us to allow ys to expand and keep pushing the envelope on products, events and services.

for me, personally, it means a few more trips to grand rapids, a bit more accountability (which, frankly, i could use), and some great opportunities to learn and grow (my new boss, the president and ceo of zondervan – doug lockhart – is an amazing guy, and i’m pretty pumped about the fruit that will be showing up in my life because of my regular interactions with him).

so that’s the big news. ah – it feels great to have that out in the open. now i can get back to blogging about every annoying detail of my life!

66 Comments so far
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Congratulations on the new gig. Everything will work out fine. The message never changes. Only the delivery of it. As it has in Youth Ministry for ages. This is just another changing of the delivery system.
In Christ,

Comment by TJ 05.02.06 @ 9:14 am

the wild, dangerous, messy, wonderful ride continues! blessings for all of you. plus now all of us west michigan people may see some of the ys people out here for an event from time to time?! please!

Comment by tyhogue 05.02.06 @ 9:19 am

wow! that will guarantee you see snow on a regular basis! congrats to karla, tic, you and the whole ys gang!

Comment by lillylewin 05.02.06 @ 9:24 am

Wow, awsome times. Just glad you can finally get back to things like scary looking women in old paintings.

Talk to ya soon.

Comment by Andrew Seely 05.02.06 @ 9:26 am

YOWZA! Please don’t let the new bosses change you guys. I love you and what you do just the way it is. Give my best to Karla and Tic. March on in “the dangerous wonder!” Hope to see you again this year at one of the conventions (backstage-not on stage).
Dale Pokarney
El Paso, IL

Comment by Dale Pokarney 05.02.06 @ 9:29 am

Congratulations YS. I trust this new level of relationship will bring even greater blessings to the zillions of people you already touch. Hang in there for the transition. Great things are yet ahead. Jim

Comment by Doc Dek 05.02.06 @ 9:31 am

AWESOME! God is doing “great big things” this year and I’m excited to be on the path! I look forward to the network with YS and being CONNECTED!

Praise God!

Comment by Terrise 05.02.06 @ 9:41 am

you think they might be pissed about your misspelling of their name in your entry title though? that would suck.

Comment by patrick 05.02.06 @ 9:49 am

awesome! i can’t wait to see the fruit from this change. i’ll definitely be praying for you guys as you start on this journey. loved the video, too!

Comment by Kara 05.02.06 @ 9:53 am

dude, that rick warren book was clutch! haha!

Comment by patrick 05.02.06 @ 9:54 am

Yo Marko!
More power 2 Ya! In an ever-changing world, change is a constant. Keep on doing the great work of bringing the Unchanging Word to an ever-changing world!
from john of sunny Singapore.

Comment by Dr John 05.02.06 @ 10:18 am

As a veteran youth leader spanning a few decades, thanks for all you’ve given us. And, thanks for letting us know the big news! We need you!!!

Comment by Jennifer 05.02.06 @ 10:26 am

The video was incredible. I’m going to be showing that to people who don’t even know what YS is! I think this should be the model for all “corporate” press releases.

Comment by adam 05.02.06 @ 10:31 am

I guess I’m in the minority…I like you guys and gals being on your own. Free from influences beyond your mission. Who is on the board at Z.? Will they have input as well?

Comment by Rob 05.02.06 @ 10:36 am

[…] in General Tags: No Tags. Zondervan buys YS https://ysmarko.com/?p=538 You are now in the loop. No Responses to […]

Pingback by You should know at Nameless Youth Pastors 05.02.06 @ 10:50 am

Loved the video! Thanks for the early morning laugh! I appreciate and admire your creativity and all that you have done for the world of youth ministry! Never stop doing what you do. Enjoy the next chapter!

Comment by Brian 05.02.06 @ 11:24 am

I can endorse the idea of combining resources to enhance your ability to serve the youth ministry niche. Having said that I wonder if you ever wonder about how homogenous this might start to be. Zon seems to have a big swath of pomo stuff (or so the latest bib on my assignment shows) and now YS. Again I think there are good things about doing things together instead of apart. but here’s a question to consider. how is YS/Zondervan gonna react when an independant group starts pushing the envelope in youth ministry? I mean YS has always been a prophetic voice in the Christian community…

Comment by mdaele 05.02.06 @ 11:32 am

I appreciate your openness and honesty in letting everyone know your side of the story. I know great things will continue to happen as a result of YS and Zondervan. I think both companies are awesome and together can only do greater things. I look forward to seeing the fruit God will allow to grow as a result of this opportunity. I for one will continue to pray for you and the rest of the staff. God Bless.

Comment by Bob Veach 05.02.06 @ 11:33 am

very cool indeed! i’m just glad you didn’t get the tattoo cover mixed up with the hair gel! laugh out loud! enjoy the celebration - and was this the ‘gold fish bowl’ balancing you blogged about back in october that i’ve been praying about for you ever since??

Comment by bobbie 05.02.06 @ 11:44 am

Hey guys!

Wow! I am totally excited and awe struck at the same time. Yet! Change is good Right!!

Comment by Marilyn 05.02.06 @ 11:53 am

The stability and capacity building made possible by the acquisition is great. The fear is that you will become “company men” who are beholden. The church and youth ministry needs to be open to critique and the minority voice. If a book or a topic of ministry is not going to sell large numbers does it still get published, taught, spoken to? Will you have to suggestive sell–”would you like an NIV Bible with that?”
I wish you the best. May you have the discernment, strength, and courage to make this an excellent step for youth ministy at large.
Your video was a kick!
Thanks for what you do,

Comment by launa 05.02.06 @ 12:30 pm

That video cracked me up…the shirt, the ties…the shorts…now that is a Sunday for a youth worker!
Go “Day 14″

Comment by Bethany 05.02.06 @ 1:01 pm

not surprised at all.

Comment by Clint Walker 05.02.06 @ 1:57 pm

not surprised at all.

Comment by Clint Walker 05.02.06 @ 1:57 pm

Woo-hoo! My congratulations, too! I’m with Ty Hogue - how about a NYWC at the DeVos Convention Center in downtown Grand Rapids???

By the way - the new Journal of Student Ministries is great!

Comment by Jennifer 05.02.06 @ 2:15 pm

I’ve got mixed feeling and am bent towards the negative, but only time will tell and I so desperately want to be wrong.

Comment by Tree 05.02.06 @ 2:20 pm

I’m with Rob on this. As on outsider it makes me a little nervous. I trust this won’t change YS from what it is. Coming from my tradition you guys are a big breath of fresh air.

Comment by joel 05.02.06 @ 3:10 pm

I am excited about the future! Love the side part!

Comment by Jon 05.02.06 @ 3:10 pm

congrats Marko! Enjoy your week. See you Saturday.

Comment by Brian Berry 05.02.06 @ 3:31 pm

must “The Man” always win in the end? i am reminded of a ben folds song, “the ascent of stan.”

Comment by george 05.02.06 @ 4:07 pm

congrats, it sounds like positives all around.

Comment by gavin 05.02.06 @ 4:10 pm


I too hope this truly does mean no change. I’d hate to see YS lose it’s freedom, it’s style, etc… I’ve been quite happy with where I’ve seen YS going as of late. I hope that momentum does not change.

Congratulations and prayers to all of you at YS!

Comment by Jeff 05.02.06 @ 5:22 pm

just great - so the local non-christian, publisher-of-christian-material bully is at it again. but i guess since you are all still employed, we are the only ones who suffer in the end…

congrats - and hoping i’m wrong

~ tim

Comment by sick in g.r. 05.02.06 @ 5:42 pm

I’m kind of ambivalent, in that I see YS as a community with a strong brand, and a corporate takeover of a group is usually abou the brand,and communities usually don’t translate.

Eh, hope I’m wrong

Comment by JesPeachy 05.02.06 @ 7:10 pm

[…] erwise… Further Reading: Zondervan’s Press Release YS’s Website Release Mark Oestreicher’s blog post

Technorati Tags: Resources, Takeover, youth ministry, y […]

Pingback by digitalorthodoxy blog » Zondervan have purchased Youth Specialties 05.02.06 @ 10:37 pm

the only thing that was missing in the video was karla w/o makeup, w/o earrings, a dress down past her ankles, a big frilly white blouse…well you get the idea.

i talked to one of my friends at zondervan who you know…and she’s just pumped! i trust her, i trust you…good things to come!

Comment by phil 05.02.06 @ 10:41 pm

Youth Specialties Acquired by Zondervan

It’s always interesting to read the public announcement of an acquisition. The company that is bought (Youth Specialties) always says that “things won’t change”. Heres the example language from todays announcement: . . . here’s what won’t change:…

Trackback by 1ChurchVoice 05.02.06 @ 11:21 pm


Wow, big news indeed! I’ve not yet read the links you’ve posted.
Question, tho: Isn’t Zondervan still part of Rupert Murdoch’s empire? I worked at a television station that was acquired by Murdoch’s NewsCorp and then sold. That said, they are savvy in running businesses.

Ah, but please tell me that ultimately YS’s hands won’t be tied!! If indeed Murdoch’s group still owns Zondervan, it does make me wonder about the degree of freedom that will be given to follow God’s unique leading and work. And like some others, man, I hope my fears are for naught!

Best, Oregonian

Comment by Oregonian 05.03.06 @ 1:29 am

i think you guys just sold out! its a sad day i think!

Comment by andy 05.03.06 @ 10:13 am

This sucks.

Comment by Saddened 05.03.06 @ 10:41 am

[…] ble with an intro by Rob Bell and cover art by the Jesus Painter. Read more about it on Marko’s blog.

« What MTV has to say…

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Pingback by seaninthemiddle.com » Zondervan buys YS 05.03.06 @ 10:46 am

Why is ys going downhill? This is just another stop on the downhill train to compromise. Where is a youth worker to turn to now!

Comment by Bart 05.03.06 @ 11:41 am

We have always felt like YS is family. I hope this will not change that. How will this effect submissions from youth pastors.

Comment by Shawn 05.03.06 @ 12:53 pm


blessings and prayers enclosed, glad you get to NOT live in Grand Rapids!

Comment by chuckk gerwig 05.03.06 @ 2:41 pm

I guess Lighthouse Trails will have to add Zondervan to their list now …

This sounds like an exciting opportunity; I look forward to seeing the risks, new ventures, and greater presence YS will be able to take and have through this relationship. It totally makes sense … although, I will admit there is a part of me sad that there isn’t a Yaconelli in owndership any more … :(

Comment by Matthew McNutt 05.03.06 @ 3:16 pm

Congrats, Marko!

To some others: Yeah, Rupert Murdoch owns Zondervan, and lots of other things: Myspace, Fox News, Harper Collins, etc… Companies buy companies, the way these things go…what we can all do is pray and buy and encourage the Powers to their fullest possile vocations. The synergies involved have some real potential. I’ll be watching hopefully…

Comment by Mike Morrell 05.03.06 @ 3:24 pm

I am glad we have a God that is in control. I pray that Zondervan does not become a controlling factor. I hope you keep your freedom, and your bookstore does not sell only “Z”.

Thanks for all you do for youth ministy.

Comment by Jim Perry 05.04.06 @ 8:40 am

Congratulations! Change is never easy but it is exciting. Ys is awesome and based on your love for God and commitment to Him, this is a good thing. From what was said in your blog Zondervan knows your “voice” and your heart for no compromise, and only positive changes can come from them buying YS. Continued prayers and blessings to you all. Thanks for all you do. Dawn

Comment by Dawn 05.04.06 @ 8:57 am

let me guess: the reason you had to turn to zondervan is because ccm was too busy soliciting articles from pat robertson for youthworker journal?

Comment by george 05.04.06 @ 9:18 am

wow Why is eveyone so happy about this? I really see this as the death of YS! From what I see other the last few years YS has been getting away from its roots in youth work and going down many paths. May be its time for new blood at YS! Someone to take them back to there roots!

Comment by Sam 05.04.06 @ 11:48 am

Moving away from youth ministry? Have you been paying attention to YS at all? They’ve refocused ON youth ministry as their primary purpose! They eliminated the National Pastor’s Conference, the Emergent line, etc., all great and successful things - to keep that very focus! I don’t see what the big deal is about Zondervan; if you look at YS products, they’ve all been published, etc., by Zondervan anyway. Zondervan knows YS and that YS works, why would they mess with it? Obviously they’ve believed in it enough over the years to keep printing their materials and being involved with them.

Comment by Matthew McNutt 05.04.06 @ 12:14 pm

So, um… will Tyndale be welcomed as a booth at the next YS convention? Because they hand out really cool frisbees.

Comment by Tony Myles 05.04.06 @ 5:00 pm

now come on, bono was just in grand rapids yesterday. that’s got to mean something!???????

Comment by Chadwick Walenga 05.05.06 @ 11:55 pm

now come on, bono was just in grand rapids yesterday. that’s got to mean something!???????

Comment by Chadwick Walenga 05.05.06 @ 11:55 pm

well, where was he on his way to? hmmm?

Comment by george 05.09.06 @ 2:58 pm

What was the problem that selling fixed? By the way the PDL joke was fantastic.

Comment by Dave 05.11.06 @ 5:10 pm

Three problems, really…

1. karla’s personal financial stability
2. the stability of YS – we’ve always lived convention to convention.
3. opportunity to take risks and try new things (and ways our financial instability has hindered us from doing in the past)

Comment by marko 05.11.06 @ 5:38 pm

Yeah, loved the PDL joke…:)

Comment by Bryan 05.15.06 @ 5:28 pm

wow, a for-profit business bought another for-profit business? 2 businesses whose profits depend on the budgets of non-profits?

wow great news man. wow my world is upside down, wow wow wow.

i hope the people who have continually gone to the mat for you guys feel justified by their free copies of “purpose-driven profits” and their lovely new financially crippling youthworkers-to-the-upper-middle-class conference escapades.

im excited for your new opportunities to sell jesus to the portion of america with disposable incomes.

ys lived convention to convention? your average youthworker lives paycheck to paycheck. your average american is financially worse off than your average youthworker.

so congrats on your sale to another for-profit business.

i sure hope the poor people can afford the jesus that you sell.

Comment by dead youth pastor 05.22.06 @ 12:35 am

dead youth pastor, you have got to be the most encouraging and uplifting person i’ve ever run across. your blog writings and now this comment have really just been such a positive shot in the arm to the Kingdom. Oh, wait, I had you confused for that inanimate object in the corner of my office. lighten up, man.

Comment by brew 05.23.06 @ 1:22 pm

YES…i agree with you deadyouthpastor regarding the harpercollins profit center of the gospel. Publishers have turned their eyes to the ‘christian’ book industry for years and have increasingly veered into it. I’m curious how this will affect Doug Fields who singlehandedly has carried YS with product for 3 years??

Unfortunately, since Yak’s death YS has been on the slope of death not because Marko is inept as a manager but more to the point of Yak’s heart is what kept YS turning. You can easily replace a manager or editor but you cannot replace heart.

Marko: best wishes to you as you work for corporate america. I spent the last year selling insurance and well it was empty, void and lifeless. I hope this will not be your experience!

OH how i miss the days of being able to walk up to people like Amy Grant and other guest speakers /performers and chat with them about their heart for the kingdom.

Via Con Dios’

Comment by YS lifer 05.31.06 @ 6:28 pm

YS and Zondervan are in my prayers! I’m sure that YS did not go into this without prayer and listening for God’s clear direction. It saddens me that people get so worked up and upset about something such as this. It’s a great time for all of us who care about youth to band together and give praise! Instead of grumbling about what horrible things might become of our beloved YS, let’s have a positive attitude, TRUSTING that our awesome God has a perfect plan!
“Lord we trust in your awesome mercy and love. Please guide YS, Zondervan, and the great crew that manage them. And connect us all in the body of Christ to serve You, to serve Youth, and to serve each other! Amen!”

Comment by neenee 06.04.06 @ 12:22 am

Hey! Wow…that’s huge…as others…I am shocked, but I know it will be great for YS! Have to say, love the video! Miss you guys…and can’t want to see ya’ll at DCLA

Comment by Annie 06.08.06 @ 3:07 pm

My prayer is that you will continue to be the prophetic voice you have always been. e.g. reminding youth workers at beginning of NYWC that they may need to go work on their marriages! If you ever lose such “irreverence”, a much needed voice would be lost, and the gospel being lived out in our world would suffer.

Comment by Laura Jordan 06.22.06 @ 7:35 am

Keep up the good work

Comment by Jason 07.16.06 @ 4:32 am

[…] the next morning i was in grand rapids, at zondervan, when the announcement was made to their staff. the response was warm and loud and affirming. concurrently, my blog post went live, an email was sent out to all our email lists, and our website posted the news. and we had that fun little video of me and tic talking about the change or lack thereof (i still get comments from people about that video). at that time, that day was my highest blog traffic ever. i received about 500 emails in 24 hours, mostly congratulatory. the response from youth workers (as seen on the blog comments) was mostly positive and encouraging, with many neutral, in a “let’s wait and see” mode — which was totally fair. and, of course, there were a handful of “you’ve sold out”, and “clearly you don’t care about youth workers, you only care about making money” accusations, which were painful to read, even though we expected them. […]

Pingback by ysmarko 05.01.07 @ 2:00 pm

[…] May 1: End of a Year, Start of a Year - from ysmarko.com: Mark Oestreicher from Youth Specialties talks about the one year anniversary of the Zondervan/YS partnership and the beginning of his year-long sabbatical from speaking. […]

Pingback by Links: Daily Round-Up « Youth Hacks 05.01.07 @ 8:57 pm

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