On the 1st September Youthscape, in partnership with The Mind and Soul Foundation, launched Headstrong. Headed up by the brilliant Dr Kate Middleton, Director of MASF, and a team of equally awesome Youthscape staff, we have seen a fantastic response to the site and the free resource that was launched at the same time – MASSIVE THANKS to all who supported us, told young people about us, and most of all PRAYED for us as we launched!
Headstrong was an unusual response in an unprecedented season, and we were able to launch an amazing site in a phenomenally short time; for that thanks must go to the whole team. However, getting the site online was just Phase One of what we pray will become an exciting and groundbreaking project, connecting with young people all across the UK and from every background both inside and outside the Church.
What makes Headstrong unique and why should you direct young people there?
It’s always felt as if there’s been a missing piece in the jigsaw between talking to young people about mental health and faith at the same time. Although work to reduce stigma and get people talking more about issues around mental health and wellbeing has raised awareness, there remain significant challenges around both stigma, and an illness-focused model of wellbeing which risks drawing young people in particular into a culture that may disable rather than enable. This has been a shared concern for both Youthscape and our friends over at MASF, and a vision had been bubbling away for a while to produce a site that addressed this, but more – an innovative, exciting, unique space where young people could come to talk about mental and emotional wellbeing in a good way that would help them find the ‘more and better’ life God dreams of for them.
At the same time, as we hit spring and summer 2020, the restrictions of lockdown and the chaos and uncertainty of pandemic life hit, meaning we were increasingly aware that the current generation of teens and young people were not only facing significant and unusual challenges, but also hearing a constant barrage of negativity about them and their future.
And so Headstrong was born! We want to tell young people that they are not limited by the headlines that shout gloom and declining mental health statistics over them constantly. To blast terms like ‘lost or forgotten generation’ out of the water and remind them that they are a generation that has the ability to stand tall, go out and change the world, do incredible things in God’s power and purposes. That they need not be held back by the challenges they face or the things they have lost in this last year.
Headstrong is a project fully informed and built on our foundational faith and the philosophy of life taught in the Bible. It is unapologetically Christian in focus – but expressed and communicated in ways that mean anyone can connect with the site and find themselves represented there. And the content will cover all kinds of topics – so whilst some will directly and specifically mention faith or talk about theology or biblical concepts, others will be looking at core issues of health, psychology or life and draw in great teaching from medicine, psychology or psychiatry. Here we benefit from the wisdom and knowledge of our great range of contributors and the partnership with the Mind and Soul Foundation, who bring decades of knowledge and experience from the world of mental and emotional health.
So, Headstrong is about creating a positive online space where young people can hear God's better story for them and their lives, and explore what mental and emotional wellbeing, as well as big topics in today’s culture like success and achievement, really look like.
We are challenging people to think about three things:
REAL LIFE – expecting struggles and challenges and learning how to not just survive but thrive in spite of them, growing in confidence and releasing more the true potential if the amazing people God has made them to be.
We also want to talk about REAL FAITH, understanding what the Bible says about the tough stuff of life, emotions and mental health, and how it can help us manage and respond to them when they hit us.
And we want to do all of this in the context of their REAL WORLD – the struggles and pressures they experience, hearing their voices about what they are finding tough and creating a safe space for conversations about their questions and somewhere they can come to find good, reliable teaching and information as well as fun stuff that teaches good skills and about how to manage low moments and difficult emotions on the bad days.
And as we launched, as many of you will know, we produced a completely free downloadable session resource to go hand in hand with the site. So, we provided youth leaders with everything they needed to run a 60-90 min session (either online or in person) with their young people. In response to the significant levels of anxiety young people were experiencing during the early days post lockdown and on returning to school/college, the resource material material focused on better understanding anxiety, exploring what Jesus really said about fear and learning how to manage anxiety and respond well, so we can fear less in times when it feels the world around us is in chaos.
If you haven’t yet grabbed a copy of this free resource, you can do so here.
So, what’s next?
So, Phase One has launched and the site is online…now Phase Two is about two things: maintaining the brilliant site content and working with our amazing team of contributors to keep it current, dynamic, interesting and fun! Expect loads of new stuff to be posted every week, and for us to be responding to the needs of wherever this autumn takes us.
Then, secondly, we’ll be working hard to form good links with teens and young people, encouraging them to engage with the site, share feedback and questions, and to chat with us via social media. We’ll be continuing to build links with key youth ministries across the UK, and are looking to work with them to serve their young people in what continues to be a tough season.
So yes – we want to help you youth leaders, to serve and support your young people, by providing materials, resources and ideas to address the issues you know they need to talk about around emotional and mental wellbeing and the current challenges of pandemic life.
So, it’s over to you, how can we help you? What are the ‘head in your hands’ topics you think we need to cover? What questions are your young people asking? What are they finding hardest right now? How can we help you to do the amazing work you do in these tricky times? What could we produce next that would support and equip you better in your work?
Please pitch ideas, thoughts or comments to us at firstname.lastname@example.org – we’d love to hear from you.
Because Headstrong is about much more than a vision to produce a great website. It really is about something we believe God wants to change and a vision God has for a better, amazing future for this generation of young people, of possibility and promise even in pandemic times, and a generation far from lost, with the potential to change the world. So we’ve only just started!
And we hope and pray you are up for joining us on this journey and helping us to speak that bigger, better story of God over them.