By Carl Stagner
Somewhere there’s a teenage girl burying her head in her hands, exhausted by her quest for acceptance. There’s a young woman sliding a thin metal object across her wrist, attempting to dull the sharper pain resident in her soul. There’s a daughter of the Most High God sending a text to a man she met online, desperate for somebody to love that which she loathes. Two Church of God girls have said, Enough is enough! In the final semester of their senior year in high school, Abby Crump and Amanda Gifford of Mooresville Church of God in Indiana have started a ministry to help girls understand who they are in God’s eyes.
The message of the culture is loud and clear. From the checkout line at the grocery store, to the smorgasbord of social networks, provocative headlines and glamorous images scream for the attention of young people. Unfortunately, the message they’re sending isn’t typically uplifting or wholesome. But without a solid foundation in Christ, youth are falling for a legion of lies, and adolescent girls are particularly susceptible.
“The problem of self-worth and body-image among teens and younger girls is, sadly, thriving in our society,” Abby Crump explains. “It has always been prevalent, yet in the age of media, pressure has increased significantly on girls to look, act, and behave a certain way. There’s pressure to look like the model in the magazine, and have a boyfriend like they see in the movies. Much of the pressure comes from the people we follow on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.” In an effort to ease the pressure and counter the lies, Abby Crump and Amanda Gifford founded a ministry based on Jesus’ teaching from Matthew 6—“So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (28–29 NKJV). Lilies, a ministry in its infancy, offers a blog that features regular posts designed to reach young women right where they are.
Self-worth and body-image issues with teenage girls don’t seem to check themselves at the door of the church. Yet, in the eyes of our heavenly Father who cares for his creation, every person has value. Every person has worth. “Girls have more trouble accepting themselves for who they were created to be,” Abby explains. “They play the comparison game and begin to doubt God in his true and beautiful creation. We as women have the desire to be loved and accepted, and that desire can be easily distorted.” Even in the church, where pride is discouraged, sometimes a healthy view of self is inadvertently downplayed. “Self-worth can be a pride problem,” Abby explains, “but instead of thinking too highly of yourself, you’re thinking too lowly of yourself. This has to be addressed in the church.” Through blog posts about friendships, dating, anxiety, faith, and true beauty, the ministry based out of Mooresville, Indiana, is touching lives hundreds and thousands of miles away.
Many of the blog posts depict real stories of real struggles by real young women who have been through the best and worst that reality has thrown at them. This approach of authenticity is intentional, and Abby believes it will connect to readers who have long been saturated by fakes, forgery, and façades. “There is something truly inspiring about people who are willing to be real and tell their stories or what’s on their heart,” Abby reflects. “In my own life, I have always been impacted the most by someone who just sat down and was real with me about what God did in the midst of their life, or what God is still doing in their life. I knew that the only way girls were going to know that they are not alone in this common struggle was to see other women persevere through this, as well.”
There is hope. There is healing available. Teenage girls now have an advocate in Lilies—a place to turn when they can’t turn anywhere else. Only God knows what the ministry started by Abby Crump and Amanda Gifford will become, but these ladies have made Jesus their subject, and are heeding the voice of God. “I pray so deeply that girls would recognize that they are not alone in this fight—that they will know that God created them in his own beautiful image and they have worth in Christ.”
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”—Ephesians 2:10 NLT