Youth Unlimited, the Grand Rapids-based parachurch organization that includes GEMS, Cadets, and young people, has a serious marketing problem right across Canada.
If you Google Youth Unlimited, you immediately notice two quite separate organizations: the American body connected to the Christian Reformed Church in North America, and Youth for Christ.
Youth for Christ bought marketing rights for the Youth Unlimited name in Canada so that they could do some serious fundraising and promotion.
A number of Christian Reformed Churches have held offerings and supported events for Youth for Christ under the guise of Youth Unlimited. Most churches and major donors aren't aware of that.
The result? Funds for the 'real' U.S.-based Youth Unlimited have dried up and their Canadian leadership development and donor relations staffs have been let go. Canadian youth have lost precious support, encouragement, and training.
Perhaps it's too late for Youth Unlimited — the real one — to reclaim its support base in Canada. That can only be done through a concerted marketing effort among Christian Reformed Churches and donors ... many of whom live under the illusion that they are already supporting Youth Unlimited (ie Youth for Christ).
That begs the question: Is it time for Canadian churches to establish an independent, made-in-Canada youth ministry support system with our own team of leadership developers?
Youth Unlimited — the American one — is not accountable to any denomination. It is simply a provider of services to CRC congregations, and when funds dry up, they cut the staff. By making Youth Ministry a vibrant denominational ministry, it at least has the benefit of Ministry Shares so that staff and activities can be maintained.