The self-esteem of young women in the UK is in crisis. The statistics (which are not new to us) are startling! An Ofsted survey of almost 150,000 children aged 10 to 15 found that 32 per cent of pupils worry about their bodies. Bliss magazine asked 2000 girls, aged between 10 and 19, how they felt about their bodies. Nine out of ten confessed they weren’t happy with how they looked and two-thirds thought they needed to lose weight. A recent BBC survey highlighted that 50 per cent of girls aged eight to twelve want to look like the women they see in the media and six out of ten thought they’d be happier if they were thinner.
Just like Esther from the Old Testament, many of our young women have been anesthetised by a manipulative media into believing that their own value lies only in their outer appearance. They believe that true value and acceptance will only be found in having flawless skin, perfect teeth and a thin body.
So how do we build up lasting self-worth in young women?
This was a question which the planning team of SHINE 2011 grappled with. The residential event was an exciting new partnership between The Girls' Brigade England & Wales and Urban Saints which aimed to deliver a self-esteem weekend of fun, faith and friendship that was exclusively for girls. Picture the scene on 25 November 2011... Ilam Hall, a beautiful stately hall surrounded by magnificent National Trust grounds, was filled to the rafters by 98 young women (aged 13-18) eager to explore their amazing gifts and talents. The simple message of SHINE 2011 was ‘Let your gifts SHINE!’
Avoiding the stereotypical ‘fluffy pink’ girls’ ministry based on pampering and paradoxically focusing on outer appearance, SHINE 2011 aimed at exploring the girls’ identity as gifted young women who God has blessed with unique talents and who have been offered the best gift of all – Christ Jesus. The young women chose to join a specific gifting stream – communication, creative, compassion and worship - which were facilitated by enthusiastic and talented women from across the UK. Over the weekend, each stream explored the Biblical basis for their gifts, the different outworkings of their talents and prepared to share their gifts during the Shine Celebration on Sunday. It was an amazing moment to see these young women step out in faith and bless others (some mentioned that this was the first time that they had the confidence to use their gifts).
Alongside the gifting streams, there was plenty of fun to be had. We hoped that the young women would go home feeling encouraged, equipped, and empowered but most of all blessed by Shine 2011. And the blessings did not stop... leaders made 99 beds in preparation for girls’ arrival, free Roses chocolates and a special SHINE wrist band for every girl, a beautiful Christmas dinner on Saturday night, special homemade cupcakes during morning tea on Sunday, a special photo memento to take home - the list of blessings was endless... But the message was clear – each girl was valued.
The feedback from the young women has been incredible as you can see from the notes that the girls wrote to the leaders:
- Thank you for such an amazing weekend. It has helped me as a person and changed the way that I feel about myself (in a good way).
- You are such an inspiration to me and I just want to say thank you for all the preparation you have put in (even the small things) as it has made a huge difference.
- I am not sure whether I believe in God but you have all given me confidence to be who I am and that it’s okay to be me and to be different. Thank you.
The weekend was led by an amazing team of leaders, mainly in their 20s and 30s, from GB and Urban Saints aptly called the Shine Angels. Rosie McFaul shares her experience of leading at SHINE 2011 – ‘The weekend really made me think about what my gifts are and how I am using them. It has really motivated me to do more to use my gifts in the best possible way. The whole weekend was amazing, the area, the accommodation, the food and especially the people, the friendships that were made there will go on for a long time and the message of letting your gifts SHINE for God will not be forgotten.’
It has nearly been a month since SHINE 2011 – what now?
The planning team was determined that SHINE 2011 would not become just another event. Girls will continue to be encouraged, inspired and challenged to use their talents from daily updates on a private facebook page and through a monthly e-news written by the Shine Angels. Leaders were also invited to attend and journey with their girls during SHINE 2011 with the aim of mentoring them when they returned home. To equip leaders to do this more effectively, we organised a training session called SHINE Saturday. We were blessed to have Beth and Mandy from GoldDigger and representatives from Hope UK with us.
You too can play a part - please keep praying for the girls and leaders who attended SHINE 2011. And remember SHINE is open to ALL girls aged 13 – 18. For more info, please contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Sara Taylor (email@example.com).
Claire Rush is the Esther Generation Project Co-ordinator at The Girls’ Brigade England & Wales and one of the co-ordinators of SHINE 2011.