In a world where youth and young adults are increasingly finding meaning outside of the Church, the question many congregations are asking is, “How do we get youth and young adults to come to Church?” Instead, we should be asking, “How do we meet youth and young adults where they are?”
About Annie Lockhart Gilroy
Rev. Annie A. Lockhart Gilroy, Ph.D. is currently the Assistant Professor of Christian Education and Louisville Institute Postdoctoral Fellow at Drew Theological School. She has worked with youth as a teacher, coach, and youth minister for almost two decades. She earned her PhD. in Christian Education and Congregational Studies from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and her M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary. Her dissertation focused on the role of imagination in youth ministry, especially with girls from poor and working-class families.
Entries by Annie Lockhart Gilroy
So, don’t ask, “Who am I to say this?” You are God’s daughter. Make declarations. You matter, your voice is worthy of being heard, and God has given you important things to say. Declare them with authority.
When embracing embodied theology and embodied pedagogy with teens girls, a key question to ask is, “to whom does your body belong?” After this, ask the follow-up, “What messages do you get about who your body belongs to?” Girls receive very different answers from both the Church and wider culture about who their body belongs to.
I am concerned about the psyche of the middle school girl who is growing into this new body that she does not recognize. I am concerned about the teen girl that still doesn’t understand the body she is in. I am concerned about the only Black girl in her youth group who wants to wear what her friends wear but doesn’t understand why this popular outfit seems to be problematic only on her body.
The theological discussion to be had is an important one, and we should talk with our young girls about how one should dress as a representative of Christ. And as we help girls wrestle with this, we ought to ask them to reflect on what God is calling them to present in this world. We should talk about societal appropriateness and we should talk about how our theology influences our dress (as it should influence everything we do), but we ought not confuse the two.
We cannot help girls claim their metaphorical voice if we do not appreciate their literal voice… So, when we work with youth for presentations during service or in plain conversation, we need to be careful to discern what feedback helps them claim their voice, and what squelches their voice, forcing them to adopt another voice not their own.
That’s why we need #BlackGirlMagic. Not only does it combat the controlling and limiting images by celebrating the positive examples that exist; it also supplies examples that are wide and deep… These ladies are not the exception. They are the rule.
We must care for the body that houses the imago Dei. The answer to a culture that over emphasizes the appearance of the body is not to ignore the body entirely. Instead, we ought to focus on a healthy body and listen to our bodies.
One does not have to look too far to see that, while our culture tries to put different images on our youth, many of the images presented do not look like anything divine… Therefore, one of our jobs as people who love youth is to be journey partners helping each girl to refuse any limiting images that diminish the imago Dei within her.
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