Posted on 22 December 2015 by Rachel
Q & A: RACHEL CHATS ABOUT GIRLS BRIGADE, MOTHERHOOD AND RA!
I'd like nothing more than to help one more young person look sexual pressure in the face and say, 'Nah, I'm alright thanks!'
Q: Rachel, you're a busy lady! Currently what are you involved in?
A: Great question! Since becoming a mum I've realised that the first young leader I'm discipling is my little girl, so most of my time is spent doing that! I also have the immense privilege of raising the volume of hope for girls through the Girls Brigade. This year it's been amazing to see how we can harness the power of social media to release positive content to reach so many more girls; our short films 'I've Got Your Back' and 'Worth The Wait' are already making an impact for girls who feel overwhelmed by the pressures to perform and conform. A recent stat realised by the Scottish Government this week revealed the shocking news that 44% of UK girls aged 13-17 have sent an explicit image of themselves this year. This new and dangerous wave of naivety coupled with the wide spread exposure to porn means that all our young people are volunerable to being shaped by the mis-information around them. It's great that youth agencies, parents, churches and governments are taking note and doing something about it.
Q: As the founder of Romance Academy you have seen it grow, develop and change over the years. If you had to pick a number of highlights, what would they be?
A: Young people - always young people! I'm thinking of all the times I've had the utter delight of witnessing a young person find themselves; their choice, their voicr and their hope for living radically differently. I remember one 17 year old telling me how talking with his youth leader at Romance Academy about his obsessive porn use enabled him to gain perspective and support on how to address his addiction. Believing that he could be porn free and build a real relationship literally transformed his life.
I've also been completly blown-away by the heart and calibre of the people who God has brought to work with us at RA. They've always viewed their role as a calling, not simply a job. It's kept us all going through tricky financial times, fresh challenges in youth culture and ash clouds (that left the team stranded in Belfast)!
Q: Romance Academy has been successfully running for well over a decade, what would you say is one of its biggest achievements?
A: Getting young people talking about sex! There's a myth that because we live in such a sexualised culture that young people don't need anyone else talking to them about sex, but they do. Romance Academy has created the opportunity for many young people to have the real, in depth chats with trusted and wise adults about sex in a way that opens up conversations about intimacy, spirituality, worth and purpose. Although our message and materials are for anyone, I love it when God is in the picture, helping to shape and make sense of all the possibilities and challenges of being human. Inspiring people to make the connections for themselves between God, sex and relationships is so important, and will continue to be a life-goal for me.
Q: The work of Romance Academy through its staff, volunters and trained leaders has positively impacted many peoples lives. How has it impacted you?
A: For a while I was known in local schools as 'The Sex Lady!'
Someone once told me to pay attention to my burden - the thing that was breaking my heart. Well, the mis-information that leads to poor decision making; the coercion that leads to damage; the shame that leads to silence, all this breaks my heart. I'm incredibly grateful for the chance to do something about it - and although we have so much more to do, it takes my breath away that in partnership with youth leaders and parents, the stuff we produce has the potential to change the outcomes for young people.
Whenever I read the list of individuals who support us, or youth leaders and volunteers who rock up to our training and use our materials. I'm incredibly humbled. I don't take it for granted that people have invested in RA and in what we stand for.
Q: You and Jason are now parents to your daughter. What is parenting a young child like within our world of sex and relationships for you as the founder of Romance Academy?
A: Quite frankly? It's a little terrifying. The problem with being a youth worker is that you know what really goes on! In a world where morality and wisdom seem to be moving targets for young people, we know we will need to be parents who can anchor our daughter in something bigger than her and us. We're keen for her to know the One she can live for who will inspire her to grow up cherishing her uniqueness, her capacity to think for herself (even under pressure) and her ability to act boldly for herself and others. We've already had many 'sex talks' about all sorts of hilarious and serious things. It's fun actually to put into practice the things I've been sharing with parents for years ... although it's also astonishing how little youth worker actually prepares you for raising your own kids!
Q: Looking forward, how do you see Romance Academy growing? Is there a specific impact you wish for it to have?
A: Research we commissioned last year threw up the fact that 81% of 11-18 don't feel that adults in their lives have any idea of the pressure they feel under to be sexually experienced and available. That's an overwhelming place to find yourself aged 11, or 13 or 17 ... Imagine if Romance Academy made it possible for you to find a safe and approachable adult who does know how you feel and is confident in helping you to lay down your weapons of attack and defense and just be? Just be and become the brilliant person you are, free from coercion, regret and damage. This would be a mighty thing wouldn't it? So as well as single handedly taking out the porn industry, ensuring monogamy and marriage are valued in SRE and getting youth leaders the best resources to arm them for their calling on the front line, I'd like nothing more than to help one more young person look sexual pressure in the face and say, 'Nah, I'm alright thanks!'
Q: Finally, Christmas is rapidly approaching! What is the funniest gift you have ever been given?
A: I can't think of the funniest I've been given, but the funniest I've ever given was to my poor old dad, the Christmas after I started Uni. I found all the pairs of socks of his I had ever 'borrowed' (and there were quite a lot) and wrapped them up and popped them under the tree as his 'main present'. At the time I loved the fact that I was being a cheap-skate at my dad's expense, but as a parent now I can see why my dad loved it, because it was a way of getting a bit of me back into his life!