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7 reasons I’m thankful for Mark Matlock and the impact he has made on youth ministry

Picture of Greg Stier
Greg Stier

Okay, normally I don’t blog about people but I’m gonna make an exception today.

Mark Matlock has been the key leader and the face of Planet Wisdom for many years as well as Youth Specialties for the last few years. And now that he is transitioning out of both I think it’s time to recognize what an impact he has made on thousands of youth leaders and tens of thousands of teenagers alike. 

I first remember seeing Mark Matlock at the Dawson MacAllister conferences from back in the day. He kept the crowd roaring with his comedy, wit and magic tricks. But little did I know that, behind all that sizzle, there was a brilliant mind, passionate heart and compassionate soul.


There are many reasons why I’m thankful for Mark Matlock. Here are seven of them. Be sure to add your own reasons in the comment section:

1)  He’s a man of humility.

When I was a kid and met someone new I used to ask my grandpa, “What do you think of ‘so and so’?” and he would often answer, “He’s great. He just needs to have his @#$! kicked once.

As long as I’ve known Mark I’ve never sensed he needed anything kicked. He’s a man of humility. With as much success as God has granted him in the youth ministry world one could see how easy it would be to fall into the trap of pride. But instead, with the help of his wonderful wife Jade (and I’m sure many close friends) he has remained a humble man who loves Jesus, teenagers and youth ministry.

2)  He takes time for people.

One of my biggest memories of Mark will always be of him taking time to connect with others. Whether it be a key figure in youth ministry or a group of youth volunteers from the middle of nowhere Mark makes time for people.

Like Jesus, he doesn’t look at running into someone as an accident but an incident that God set up so that he could hear them and help them. Mark loves people and he especially loves youth leaders…and it shows.

3)  He has a big tent.

On Friday night as we set up on the stage to share a few words to the YS crowd the producer said, “Let’s set Greg up on Mark’s right side.” I whispered to Mark, “I’m always on your right side” and he laughed. When it comes to theology I’m really conservative. Although Mark is pretty conservative theologically he’s a tad more socially progressive than yours truly.

But one of the things I appreciate about Mark is that he embraces all true believers in Jesus. He may differ with them or me on this or that but he loves us all and creates space for “those” conversations that must happen…even if they are awkward. And because he leads and moderates with grace and love it, more often than not, leads to good spaces.

4)  He’s a Gospel guy.

Mark knows and understands the vital importance of Christian teenagers incarnating the Gospel with their lives and articulating the Gospel with their lips. Mark has been very encouraging to us at Dare 2 Share as we seek to help youth leaders build Gospel Advancing, disciple-multiplying ministries.

Last Friday on the main stage at the National Youth Workers Conference Mark asked me questions about The State of Youth Ministry Report specifically in the area of how evangelism intersects with youth ministry. As I read the stats I broke down in tears on stage, realizing that youth ministry as a whole has downplayed, disregarded or didn’t understand the importance of evangelism to the disicpleship process. Instead of making me feel awkward Mark asked me to pray for the audience of youth leaders there to know how to better prioritize the Gospel in their youth ministries.

Mark is a Gospel guy.

5)  He’s a forward thinker.

“A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.”  Proverbs 27:12

When it comes to prophetic voices in youth ministry Mark is in the top eschelon. But unlike many prognosticators he uses data and research to come to his conclusions. He doesn’t depend on his gut but on the facts. As a result he’s been a much needed blessing to the world of youth ministry. 

But, not only does he interpret the data and forecast the future well, he interprets it in a way youth leaders can understand. All of the forward thinking in the world can be quickly lost on a Red Bull fueled middle school youth leader if not translated effectively and practically. 

Mark helps youth ministry think ahead.

6)  He is a creative genius.

Youth Specialties has been a virtual playground for Mark to create practical content and powerful programming. From pioneering new forms of teaching into the youth ministry world to writing much needed youth ministry resources Mark is a jack of many trades and master of all of them.

Mark loves to build new things and breathe life into old ones. One year I saw this in action during a meeting of denominational and national ministry leaders that he was leading. I was inspired by the way he led the meeting in such a way as to create a good kind of tension that led to great conversations and some significant conclusions. His creative genius has made a huge impact in the youth ministry world.

7.  He is a passionate follower of Jesus.

More than anything else, more than being a foodie, a curator, a creator, a preacher, a teacher, a youth ministry mad scientist, or even a dad or a husband, Mark is a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. This defines him above all else.

I will greatly miss his leadership at Youth Specialties. He has helped YS to have a more mature conversation about the state of youth ministry and potential solutions to make it more Kingdom effective. 

But I’m also excited for Mark. I’m excited to see where he will land. I believe the best is yet to come for him as well as for his impact on both youth ministry and the church at large.

Thank you Mark for being an outstanding leader, godly example and great friend. We look forward to seeing where God takes you next!

Unlikely Fighter

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