Many adolescents struggle with self-esteem based on outward appearances. Frizzy hair, braces, pimples, faster-than-average or slower-than-average sexual development, height and weight can often be the cause of low self-esteem for youth. A Sunday School lesson on 1 Samuel 16:7 can help youth turn their focus away from their physical appearance and onto character traits that God values and can use in their lives. 1 Samuel 16:7b says, "For the Lord sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart." Use this verse to remind your Sunday school students of how God sees and values them.
Youth and Self-Esteem
Self-esteem dictates how people value themselves. Children gain their self-esteem based on how others treat them and what others say about them. A person's self-esteem helps him understand why he belongs and why he matters. A child's self-esteem may be damaged if she is constantly compared to others in a negative light, told she does not don't matter, criticized or ignored. Adolescents, especially, may base self-esteem on physical appearances.
To begin this lesson, ask your students what impacts their self-esteem. As they name things, narrow in on words and phrases that describe appearance. Ask your students to share with a partner a time something about their appearance made them feel bad. Then ask volunteers to share with the whole group. As your students relate their experiences, practice active listening to show that you are engaged in what they are saying. Lean toward them and smile. As you listen, make note of follow-up questions to ask and try to understand how your students were feeling during their experiences.
Direct students to 1 Samuel 16:7 and have a volunteer read it to the class. You can have students read the whole story in 1 Samuel 16:1 to 13, or you can summarize the story for them. Ask students to picture the situation: Samuel is choosing the future king of Israel, and he bypasses the older, stronger sons of Jesse to choose the youngest and least important, David. Ask students to brainstorm any stories they know about David and list his personality traits and characteristics. Discuss why these traits were important for a king, and why God cared more about these traits than David's physical appearance. Instruct students to describe themselves without using any physical appearance words and discuss how the traits they mention can be valuable to God.
Pass out cards for students to write 1 Samuel 16:7 on. After they have written the verse on one side, instruct them to turn the card over and write the top three non-physical strengths they have, or the top three nonphysical characteristics they have that they think can be useful while serving God. Instruct students to keep these cards on their dresser, in their wallet or in their locker and remember them when somebody puts them down or neglects them based on physical appearance alone. Close with a prayer.
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