Image is king in today’s culture. Perfect people populate the teen magazines. Appearance is everything. But what can we know about someone from only their outward appearance? How do we accept or reject people? How does God view us? A youth group discussion starter on image.
Collect a selection of glossy fashion magazines and teen magazines for this activity. Provide scissors, glue and some large pieces of white card. Invite the group to divide into pairs and ask them to cut out and create an identikit picture of the perfect man or woman. This may be only a face or the whole body.
Display the pictures for everyone to see and encourage the group to discuss the questions below. The conversations may go in different directions, so be flexible. Add your own supplementary questions where appropriate.
- What are the common factors in the pictures?
- Do you think glossy images of ‘perfect’ looking people in magazines make you more or less happy about the way you look? Why?
- How important is image to you?
- Can we do or say things which damage people’s image of themselves?
- How important do you think your looks or outward appearance are to God?
Before moving to the next activity, ask the group to quietly consider if they think it is right to accept or reject a person, only by the way they look?
Show the group a series of five photos or slides. A fashion model, a wealthy business man, a sportsman or woman, a Middle Eastern person, a homeless person or refugee.
Ask members of the group which people would they TRUST most? Then ask the group who they think they could be FRIENDS with? Many will choose one of the first three pictures or slides.
- How does a person's image or outward appearance affect your initial opinion of him or her?
- What if the Middle Eastern person was a Christian being persecuted for their faith in Jesus? Would that change your view? Why?
- What if the sportsman had cheated by taking ability enhancing drugs? Would that change your view? Why?
- What if the businessman had built his wealth on the suffering and poverty of labourers in a slum? Would that change your view? Why?
- Are first impressions always reliable?
REFLECTION (1 Samuel 16: 1-13)
Explain the background to the story. Samuel was choosing a new king at God’s command, but he couldn’t find the right person among those brought to him. Then God reminded Samuel that his way of looking at people is different to our own? Emphasise verse 7.
But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’
- When God looks at our hearts, what qualities do you think he values most?
- In our youth group, what steps can we take to view people more like God does?
- We might spend a few hours each week maintaining our outward appearance. That’s OK, but how much time do we spend developing and maintaining our character. Only God and you know what your heart is like? What steps can you take to improve your heart attitude?
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