On a hot summer day last year, Alexis and her Youth Unlimited leader headed to a local swimming spot. When they arrived, Alexis spotted some friends. Her leader suggested that they go over and talk with them, figuring she would be eager to chat with her friends. Instead, Alexis quickly replied, “Oh no, I couldn’t, I’ll talk with them over Snapchat when I get home.”

At a season in life when friends and social acceptance are paramount, cell phones and social media offer teenagers a virtual world of instant and endless connectivity. Today’s teens touch their phones at least 800 times a day — that’s once every two and a half minutes. The impact of this new technological reality, however, is resulting in an increasingly disconnected generation.

          Jen Hubbard, Youth Unlimited’s Training Coordinator and Academic Coordinator for YU’s Lifeteams program, explains.

“Today’s teens have been conditioned to socialize online,” says the youth culture expert. “It’s how they establish relationships, and it’s stunting them. To have a good conversation you


need to have good listening skills, social awareness, and attentiveness. All three are degraded by constant texting and social media use. When we sit around and eat lunch together, us older staff have to drive the dialogue and model for the students how to have a conversation.”

Adolescence is a critical time for the development of social skills and empathy. “Instead of connecting people, social media has stunted young people when it comes to navigating sustained social interactions,” says Jen. “Teens aren’t going out with their friends nearly as much as in the past and it’s stunting their social awareness. Attention has also suffered, with youth only able to give partial attention to anything.”

Research shows that this new reality is affecting mental health. In the decades leading up to 2007, statistics showed that loneliness among

teens was declining. Suddenly in 2007, loneliness reported among youth began to grow again—the same year credited with the ubiquity of the cell phone and the explosion of Facebook in mainstream society.

Loneliness is not often thought of as deadly, but science says otherwise. According to Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a leading loneliness researcher at Brigham Young University, as a predictor of premature death, loneliness is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Social media appeals to youth’s strong desire for connection, yet it can only deliver an illusion, creating a vicious and painful cycle of perceived exclusion. Studies show that the number of girls feeling left out jumped 45% since 2012. This trend only worsens for vulnerable populations.

          “Already-vulnerable young people are more likely to receive negative feedback on social media, experience difficulties regulating their use of the Internet and spend more time ‘lurking’—passively viewing others online, rather than actively engaging with them,” writes Dr. Candice Ogders, professor of psychology and social behavior at UC Irvine in her article for nature.com. At a time when identity is derived from the opinions of peers, negative responses on social media only exacerbate the painful feelings. For those who struggle with mental illness, such as anxiety and depression, social media intake can increase these feelings to dangerous levels. From 2012 to 2015, depressive symptoms have increased by 36% among teens.

As struggles with anxiety and depression increase, so grows the need to reach teens starved for connection. This is the space where Youth Unlimited

has always existed, and where the role is needed now more than ever. Connection and transformation are central to all of YU’s activities.

          Today’s teens need a physical safe space where caring, consistent, non-judgmental adults are present; and they need a healthy environment in which to socialize with their peers. They need to find their identity and receive unconditional love from the God who created them. Mentorship and one-on-one connection are at the heart of every Youth Unlimited program and activity. Whether it’s a volleyball program, a cooking class, a painting workshop or an epic outdoor adventure, YU relentlessly creates environments where youth are supported to flourish — socially, emotionally, physically, mentally and of course, spiritually.

Thanks to your partnership and volunteer time, Youth Unlimited staff can walk alongside vulnerable youth and help create environments and relationships that counteract the devastation of a disconnected existence and can bring and teach teens a healthy balance with technology.


Greater Vancouver Youth Unlimited is pleased to welcome Tim Coles as the new National Director of Youth for Christ Canada. Tim is the former Director of Operations for YFC Canada and was appointed National Director in June of this year.
Our deepest appreciation to Dave Brereton who served faithfully in this role for the last 12 years. We’re cheering him on as he moves into the role of International Director of YFC International!




The Ride for Refuge is coming up on September 29, 2018. Teams led by various YU staff will be doing the Ride to fundraise for YU programs. The Ride for Refuge is an exciting, “family-friendly fundraiser supporting charities who provide refuge and hope for displaced, vulnerable + exploited people everywhere.”


Building on the moment of the last three years’ sold-out signature fundraiser in Vancouver, we are once again increasing the size, innovation and impact of that event. Join us at the Imperial on Main Street Vancouver for an interactive, elegant evening showcasing art in many innovative forms, all while helping transform the lives of vulnerable youth in Greater Vancouver. Tickets and more info:










It was Good Friday, 1998. I was in Banff Alberta leading a YU snowboard trip when I received the call from my wife that I will never forget. Sherri told me to sit down and shared the news that my mentor, leader and dear friend, Paul Hoffmann, just died while having a meal with his three-year-old son Daniel. His heart just stopped beating, right there, in front of his boy. Paul was 36 years old.
The reality of Paul’s death shook me to the core. I began to doubt God’s goodness and felt like my soul was being shredded. I was left in a very vulnerable state.
I remember so clearly going to the viewing at the funeral home. I stared at Paul’s lifeless body for quite some time, trying to make sense of it all, then slowly turned around and saw my father, standing there. I walked up to him, he wrapped his arms around me and together we wept. My father met me in my darkest valley and in my father’s embrace, I realize there was life ahead and God was still good.
Paul’s death brought me to a place of deep sadness, but in my father’s embrace I found the hope I needed to begin to heal. This was by far the most meaningful connection I’ve had with my dad.
Connecting provides hope that there is life after death.
At the core of every person is a desire to connect. Our Creator wired us this way. Connecting is what we most want; most lack, and most fear will never be ours. This is why one of our core values at Youth Unlimited is Relationship.
As you will see in this edition of Connections, young people are struggling to build healthy relationships and are feeling increasingly more isolated and alone than ever before. There are many reasons for this, but most recently we are seeing the role technology is playing to further alienate youth. At YU we use technology to help bring young people together, face to face, so we can establish long-term, transformative relationships—the kind that by the grace of God brings hope and healing to their souls.
Thank you for caring about this next generation enough to pray and give of your hard earned finances. We believe our young people are a worthy investment. Thank you for changing their lives!


Mark Koop
Executive Director