Deborah J. Amend
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God,” Jesus told his followers, thousands of years before NC-17 movies, Internet pornography, rampant divorce, and scantily clad fashion models. Purity and modesty, once cherished traits, appear to have been thrown to the wayside in our current culture.
The Christian’s challenge is to keep our focus in a culture that considers purity unimportant. While some women grew up surrounded by the advice and guidance of older women in their family and church, girls today often lack such guidance. Increasingly, the voice of experience is replaced by the voices of Lady Gaga and Britney Spears. Some statistics claim today’s children will spend more than 30,000 hours engaged in media before age 18. Our girls, lost in the shuffle of a hectic culture, have never had the opportunity to develop their vision of purity and what it means to be a godly woman, and many of our women have lost the vision they held years ago. How should we respond?
Starting with the Youngest Ladies
West Branch Learning Tree Co-Op (a ministry that supports homeschool families by offering classes), led by Deborah Parker and Amy Kearns, members of Cincinnati, Ohio’s LifeSpring Christian Church, offers a class that addresses this issue. “God’s Girls,” which alternates annually with a “God’s Boys” class of similar design, is for girls ages six to eight that begins the task of building a godly vision of womanhood. This class was added to the co-op’s schedule because, as Deborah Parker notes, “Purity is an important topic, and we need to teach it before girls are teenagers. If we lay the foundation for it when the girls are young, it will be much easier for them to stay with it when the difficult years approach.”
The teacher, Elizabeth Williams, also runs a club for older girls based on the club book Keepers at Home (www.keepersofthefaith.com). The girls study Scripture along with traditional homemaking skills such as meal preparation, sewing, and etiquette. There is also a club guide for boys, Contenders of the Faith, that deals with the same ideas from a masculine perspective. These simple clubs cost little to run, with expenses covered by the children’s small monthly dues.
Oh, Be Careful Little Eyes
A portion of the time is also spent studying modesty, especially in regard to fashion. Last year the girls explored the world’s view of fashion by looking through teen magazines and finding examples of immodest clothing. They then discussed methods to make the clothing modest. The club also hosted a panel of older teen girls who are committed to modest dress and fashions. The older girls answered questions and discussed tips on altering clothing to give a more modest effect, while still enjoying fashion. Each year the girls present a Modest Fashion Show. Each girl chooses the clothing she would like to wear, either casual or formal, and then writes a brief description of why she likes it and why she believes it is modest. The girls, even as young as kindergarten, enjoy the fun of picking clothing and presenting their choices to an audience.
“Clothes aren’t just to keep you covered; they send messages to others about you. What a girl wears can tell others about her personality and interests,” notes Cailey Blair, 16-year-old LifeSpring member. “I think at times it can be difficult because Christians need to be careful that the messages we send about our personality and interests also reflect a godly lifestyle. Christian girls need to balance self-expression and modesty.”
Having the opportunity to discuss fashion through these clubs and classes gives the girls not only ideas but a network of support and encouragement for pursuing God. As Cailey notes, “My goal right now is to draw closer to God, and I know he wants me to dress modestly.” For these younger girls, having older girls model modest and godly attitudes, and receive support from their parents and other adults, have helped them think critically about how the world defines womanhood.
Mentoring and Support
Twin Oaks Christian Church of Woodhaven, Michigan, has taken a more comprehensive approach to this problem by offering a “GEMS Club” for elementary girls. GEMS (Girls Everywhere Meeting the Savior) is a Christian girls club headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan. GEMS provides churches and Christian organizations with resources to build a girls’ club based on biblical principles. The girls study in small groups with older women serving as counselors. Each girl is also given a mentor, who is a woman committed to guiding her through all her years in the club. This serves both the girls and the ladies, as it helps the women keep godly womanhood in the forefront of how they live out their Christian faith. The curriculum is divided into age groups with activity books for the younger girls and discovery badge earning books for girls in fourth through sixth grade. A more advanced curriculum for girls in seventh and eighth grade focuses on sharing their “feelings, concerns, questions, and frustrations.” Girls who join the club also have access to Shine Brightly and Sparkle magazines that arrive monthly at their homes and reinforce the lessons taught at the club.
Children’s minister Debbie Kok started Twin Oaks GEMS club several years ago with fellow church member Rhonda Dolant. What began as a small club drawing on girls in their church has quickly grown to a club of more than 80 girls, including girls from neighboring churches and girls who do not have a home church. Kok says, “Neighboring churches offer AWANA and similar clubs, but we wanted something for girls and something for boys—so they can have a place to talk and learn in ways that are particular to them.” The church also offers a Cadet Club for Boys.
Kok notes, “Much of what is taught about purity and modesty needs to be done not only within small groups, but with respect to what parents are teaching their girls.” Around fourth grade they begin, through small groups, to talk about relationships with boys. They also focus attention on teaching modesty through group discussion, with an emphasis on taking responsibility for choices, not just in clothing, but in the girls’ choices in music, TV, and videos. The goal is to guide the girls toward a different vision for girlhood than the media presents.
Resources for Parents and Churches
While group club resources such as GEMS and Keepers at Home provide a good basis for a church’s response to teaching girls about purity, resources are also available for individuals. The series God’s Design for Sex (NavPress) by Stan and Brenna Jones, divides the topic into four books, based upon the age of the child. Books one and two put facts about sex into very simple terms and answer age-appropriate questions children ask, while books three and four expand upon those ideas and include some of the issues children will face as teens.
New Life Ministries offers a series of books dealing with issues of purity. Every Woman’s Battle: Discovering God’s Plan for Sexual and Emotional Fullfillment and Every Young Woman’s Battle: How to Pursue Purity in a Sex-Saturated World, by Shannon Ethridge and Stephen Arterburn, Every Man’s Battle: Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time and Every Young Man’s Battle: Strategies and Victory in the Real World of Sexual Temptation by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker discuss the topics of purity from age and gender appropriate perspectives. The books cover a variety of topics from the battle to stay pure to when and what to look for in a mate. Workbooks are available for individual use, as tools for parents initiating conversations with their children, or for churches to use in Sunday schools or Bible studies.
Suddenly Darling (www.suddenlydarling.com) is a modest fashion Web site for teen girls. The site focuses on positive attitudes and includes contests and ways for girls to earn points that can be exchanged for gift cards from various retailers. Rather than focusing on what is immodest in the media, the Web site has a page entitled “Darling Celebs” that shows pictures of female celebrities dressed in trendy—and appropriate—clothing. Girls can also submit photos of their own fashion combinations to be voted “Darling of the Month.” This is a great resource for teen girls and young women, providing an outlet for finding fashions that fit their personalities without compromising their values.
Let’s take the time to teach and encourage each other in practical applications of modesty and purity. Doing so may not solve all of our problems, but it is a good place to start.
Deborah J. Amend is a freelance writer in Cincinnati, Ohio.
More Great Resources for Guiding
Deborah mentioned several great resources for girls. Rick Bundschuh has created an experience for boys to guide them into godly manhood.
The Passed Thru Fire Experience includes a CD ROM and DVD to create a retreat where men can provide guidance and mentorship to boys who are on the verge of becoming men.
Passed Thru Fire is a book Rick Bundschuh wrote about the importance of this male rite.
Standard Publishing has additional resources that discuss the topic of purity with young people:
Live Free Resources were created by Jan Kern to help teens and young adults tackle questions about sex, family problems, relationships, body image, and the future.
Each chapter includes firsthand stories of teens and their journeys through struggle and finding hope in Jesus as well as Scriptures, journaling prompts, tips for supporting the person seeking help, and questions designed for personal reflection or small group discussion.
Eyes Online: Eyes on Life follows Colin’s ever-downward spiral of Internet addiction—pornography, gaming, endless surfing—and depression.
Seduced by Sex: Saved by Love shares Suzy’s story of the sexual encounters she sought in an attempt to find acceptance and intimacy.
Scars That Wound: Scars That Heal exposes Jackie’s journey out of self-injury.
For more information on any of these resources, visit: www.standardpub.com