You Matter - The Message
09 Apr 2024

‘You matter. You are good enough. You are loved.’ This is what students have ringing in their ears as Respect ME take over their lessons. As our team do this, lives are being impacted.

Bombarded with so many different voices telling them who they should be and how they should act, growing up in 2024 is tough for many young people. But we know it doesn’t have to be this way.

We caught up with Lydia and Henry, two of our team who head into school with Respect ME to hear more.

Tell us about Respect ME

Lydia: We’re all about helping young people discover hope and their true value. We know they face tough decisions and want them to know they’re not alone. So, our teams head into schools. We’re real about what teenagers face, and don’t shy away from the tough topics. We equip them with the knowledge and skills they need to make positive decisions and we do it all through the lens of the gospel. We share our stories about how we find our value in Jesus. Whether it’s a small group, or a whole year, each of them hears how loved they are, that they’re created for a unique purpose and how they can always find hope in Jesus.

What are some of the challenges you find young people face?

Henry: There’s so many. We can’t underestimate how much pressure is on them. For me, the thing I see coming up again and again is how young people feel like they need to be something other than themselves. It’s easy to see how it happens. They’ve got social media showing them people’s ‘perfect’ lives, friends telling them how to act and feel, online platforms bombarding them 24/7 – and that’s before you add in pressure from school, parents and other places. It leaves young people confused and feeling like they’re not good enough.

Lydia: Absolutely, self-esteem is at the heart of so much. How young people feel about themselves ends up impacting almost every area of their lives. It’s the same for us as adults too. If we’re not happy with something about ourselves, we can end up looking for validation elsewhere and sometimes this is in the wrong places.

We want every young person to know their value and that they are enough. So, whether they’re in a lesson about abusive behaviour, bullying, healthy relationships or sexting, we’ll always empower them
to make wise decisions. It’s precious to speak truth into teenagers lives and watch it sink in.

Henry: I love seeing the lightbulb moment when what you’re saying clicks, and you know that it’s hitting home. We ran our self-esteem session with a group of year 7s recently and, at the end, one of them came up to me and said, ‘Thank you for today. You’ve made me realise it’s OK to be different and I will now see myself as beautiful.’

Another day, when I was running a different lesson, a student told me that, she was ‘going to start loving herself.’ It shows that we never know what the young people we meet are going through and how God’s speaking to each of them through the lessons.

What does a lesson look like?

Henry: Totally interactive. They’re usually around 50 minutes long, so with limited time we make sure everyone’s totally engaged. We have games, videos, stats and the team sharing their own stories. Each session covers a specific topic but continually points everyone in the room back to their true value. Our teams also go in with a youth worker from a local church so students get a chance to connect with them too.

As news spreads about the impact Respect ME lessons have, doors are not only opening into new schools, but councils are also approaching us about running tours in all the schools in their area. What an opportunity! One tour recently meant we got to share our lessons with over 12,000 young people. We then finish the tour with an outreach gig where the students get to come, hear music from our bands as well as the gospel.

What are you seeing happen?

Lydia: God’s changing lives! Adam (one of the other Respect ME tutors) and I were in Northampton running a lesson on self-esteem recently. As part of it we shared 1 Samuel 16:17 where it says, ‘People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’ At the end of the lesson, Charlotte, Emily and Hannah stayed behind and asked to chat. As we talked, Emily said, ‘Thank you so much for today. It really connected with me. I wear a lot of make-up to cover up the fact I’m not happy with who I am. But you’ve made me realise this isn’t what matters. What I look like doesn’t matter, it’s about who I am.’

Hannah then said that she’d recently started going to the school CU and was doing an Alpha-style course at a local church, where she’d been given a book of promises from the Bible that tells her more about what God thinks of her. I knew that this was a great opportunity so asked if she’d read some of them out. She grabbed the book from her bag and started quoting verses for us.

It was such a beautiful moment as Hannah read out the truth of the Bible. You could see Emily and Charlotte listening to the words and being impacted by the fact their friend was saying exactly the same things that we’d shared in the lesson.

Hannah also said, ‘It’s amazing, what you said today connects with what they’ve been saying at CU and what the Bible says too. I know it’s true.’ What a privilege to be able to not only speak truth into their lives, but see Hannah encouraged in her new faith too.

Henry: Brilliant. I was running a lesson about abusive behaviour with year 11s and during it, we look at different ways we can abuse ourselves and others – either knowingly or unknowingly – and the reasons for this. We share that, whilst we all have different experiences that may shape our decisions, we can all make better choices, before sharing about how precious we are in God’s eyes.

At the end of the session, Ali came to chat. He told us that he’d been impacted by the lesson as he’d gone through some of what we’d shared. He then started talking about how he’d grown up in a home where his dad was violent and abusive to him and his mum because of his drinking. He bravely told us how this had affected him and that he was scared he was going to make the same decisions in his life as his dad. ‘Being in the lesson today has shown me that I don’t have to live the way my dad does.’ Ali then said he’d been really challenged by what we’d shared about Jesus’ love for him. ‘I’d always thought God would be like my dad, but you’ve made me think about him a different way.’ Straight away, we were able to tell him more about what it means to have God as a father and shared Bible verses from the ‘I Am’ card we’d given him. The church leader we’d taken into the school was also part of our chat, and able to tell Ali about the local youth group, and he’s been going every week since!

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Find out more about Respect ME at respectme.co.uk