95% of young 14-25 women would like to be confident. Can our churches help?
The focus of a significant strand of work with children and young people is on gender identity and body image. It is something that affects boys and girls, young men and young women in different ways.
According to recent research, 60% of girls opt-out of everyday activities because of how they think they look. Around half of adolescent boys are unhappy with their bodies.
If these statistics disclose a problem, then the discovery in the most recent research that lack of confidence is almost universally experienced among the 14-25 year-old young women surveyed, discloses a bigger one.
Diocesan Youth Officer, Dean Pusey, counsels against one-size solutions: “We need to hear from all kinds of contexts and voices about local contexts and experiences. Then we can decide if there is something pastorally that the church can do for those young people. We need also to ask the question whether there is more we can do to alleviate a lack of confidence, especially in young women.” Dean believes that these solutions will be local and right for particular contexts, not ‘one size fits all.’ “Lack of confidence is the presenting problem, but the solutions will address underlying experiences,” he says.
Margaret Pritchard Houston, Children’s Work Enabler, adds: “Churches have a valuable role to play in the lives of pre-teens and teens, in being a place where they are accepted and loved not for their appearance or social media popularity or academic achievement, but simply because of who they are. To build confidence in young people, church communities need to love and value the young people in their midst, reminding them through word and action that they are beloved children of God, no matter what.”
Recent research has revealed some of the key aspirations among young women, aged 14-25 and they are contained within a new book, The Girl De-Construction Project.
For the research, conducted with just over 1000 women, bestselling author Rachel Gardner, asked them to complete three sentences: ‘The kind of girl I’m not is…The kind of girl I am is… The kind of girl I want to be is…
The results led to some interesting themes around how the women surveyed feel about their identity and aspirations. More than 95% of the answers to question 3 included the word ‘confident’ – which led Rachel to begin to explore a book that addressed what it would look like for a young woman to confidently embrace her sexual, emotional, spiritual and influential self.
The Girl De-construction Project is for Christian women of all ages, confident or questioning gender norms, who want to experience their femininity as a powerful identity that they can define and re-define as they grow as disciples. Published in hardback, £12.99. Hodder & Stoughton. Rachel Gardner is President of the Girl’s Brigade and founder of the Romance Academy Project – a healthy relationships course for young people which was launched on the back of a BBC2 TV documentary she starred in called ‘No Sex Please We’re Teenagers’. She leads the national team at Youthscape, in Luton.
Safeguarding questionnaire: help requested
Dr Craig Harper from Nottingham Trent University, along with colleagues from the Church of England, is conducting some research on how members of various communities make sense of allegations of abuse. The research hopes to establish some of the factors that may affect people’s willingness to believe allegations of abuse in various settings. By taking part in this research, which we believe is the first of its kind in the UK, the Church stands to gain much-needed knowledge about the processes by which members of our community make these decisions. This knowledge will help us to better serve and protect the children and adults we are responsible for.
Dr Harper says: “This is important research, and we would like to ask you to consider taking part. The research involves completing an online questionnaire, which should take approximately 10 minutes. It is completely confidential and you have the right to withdraw at any point. If you would like to take part, please click on the link below which will take you to further information about the research, and to the questionnaire itself.”
The survey can be completed at: