Development Saturday – Youth Development: Girls 1.0 Selena Gomez

Middle School Development Week 1

*Note* This series comes from an integrative theology paper that I wrote on the intersection of the doctrine of sin and identity development in young adolescent girls. 

Traditionally, both theology and adolescent development are fields dominated by men.  There has been a growing movement, notably in the last twenty years of research into the field of development of young adolescent girls their health and self-esteem.

Similarly, the voices and perspectives of women are being heard more frequently in theology.  Certainly there has been a significant increase in the number of feminist theologians in recent decades, and even amongst evangelicals, there has been a move to consider the perspective of women.[1]

The Displacement of God

Millard Erickson is a twentieth century evangelical theologian who argues that sin is essentially the displacement of God. I agree, but this has different implications for men and women.

While Men tend to sin by making themselves lord, women tend to sin by allowing someone else to be lord.  While this results in unhealthy levels of hubris in adolescent boys, it often leads to disastrously low self-esteem in adolescent girls.  The growing fields of feminist theology and the development of female identity provide complimentary resources that can help shape youth ministry in the church.


A group of sixth through eighth grade young women sit around a table at a church in the Twin Cities.  A volunteer youth leader asks each girl to find a partner and draw a quick portrait of the other girl.  This group, who a few years ago was marked by confidence, outspokenness and creativity freezes up.  “I can’t do that,” one girl says, “I’m a terrible artist.”  When the youth pastor points out that just a year and a half ago she had won an art contest in the denomination she brushes it aside, that wasn’t that good.  God has given this young girl a gift to do art, yet she herself sees this as a weakness, something to be ashamed of.  Each girl in the group complains that there is no way that she can complete this task; her skills are not good enough to draw even a rough quick sketch.

Later in the lesson, the youth leader asks the girls, “If you could be anyone else in the world, who would you like to be?”  One sixth grade girl says, confidently, “Selena Gomez, she is pretty and she sings good.”  Another sixth grader says, “Yes, definitely, Selena Gomez.”  This girl’s sister agrees with her, as do many others at the table.

Ahhh, to be Selena Gomez, to be “pretty,” and to “sing good.”  This is who these young girls want to be.  As they navigate the tricky season of adolescence, the girls of this group start to feel more paralyzing self doubt in both their abilities and their appearances.


[1] Grenz, Nah etc