What’s the deal? According to the National Institute of Media and the Family, “at age thirteen, 53% of American girls are ‘unhappy with their bodies. This grows to 78% by the time girls reach seventeen.” 1
Teenagers today are constantly bombarded with images of models and movie stars that present an unrealistic picture of what true beauty should look like. Oftentimes these pictures have been altered to present an unattainable distance from the truth. So it’s no wonder an overwhelming number of young adults are walking around with a looming sense that they are not good enough.
So why am I talking about this? Not to be depressing… I actually recently heard some pretty cool news on this subject. In May of this year, Julia Bluhm, an 8th grader from Maine, decided to fight back. She started a petition to the editor of Seventeen magazine asking for one unaltered spread to be printed per month. What she got was over 80,000 signatures, a meeting with Seventeen editor-in-chief Ann Shoket, and an agreement from the magazine to an eight point “Body Peace Treaty” that promises more transparency in their photo shoots and images of “real girls and models who are healthy.” 2
Success! Their next target is Teen Vogue and their petition currently has 38,370 signatures. You can view and sign the petition here.
How does this relate to your youth group?
As a youth leader, you know that the students inside and outside of your youth group are not immune to struggles with body image and low self worth. A discussion about the Seventeen magazine and Teen Vogue petitions could be a great segue way to talk about just how much God cares for them. So much so that he sent his only son to die in order that they could have a restored relationship with Him!
Teens, both guys and girls, need a reminder that God loves them like crazy and that He sees them quite differently than they see themselves. Here’s how the discussion could go:
- Use this Dove commercial to begin the discussion about body image and the media. Ask students how they feel about the images portrayed in the media and how they believe that affects them and their friends.
- Then talk about how God created them with great intention in His image and how in their restored relationship with Christ He is forming them into the image of His Son! Here are some verses that reinforce the point:
“But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7
“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” 1 Peter 3:3-4
“Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in his name, He gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” John 1:12-13
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:13-16
- Follow up with the idea that the students in your youth group can use the topic of the Teen Vogue petition to talk to their friends about how God sees them and the restored relationship He offers through Jesus Christ. Help them see it as an opportunity for spiritual conversations.
So, would Jesus sign the Teen Vogue petition?
I say, yes! Absolutely! Jesus is the ultimate advocate for people understanding their true worth. The Samaritan woman was totally blown away by His approach when He spoke to her at the well, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (John 4:9)
But I believe that even more than any petition, Christ wants people to know Him, to understand that He is the Messiah they seek, and to find our worth and beauty in Him. Let’s use this opportunity to communicate the love of Christ with our teens and with those around us.
How important is this topic in your youth group? What are some other ways that we can help our students understand the worth they have in Christ and inspire them to share that with their friends?