Society needs to stop looking at role models as superhuman and instead embrace their mistakes as well as their successes…
I have seen ‘the fear’ in the eyes of a number of christian youth workers over the years when a young person questions them over something they don’t know the answer to. It does not matter whether this is a question about faith, science or world politics (although ironically we do sometimes expect ourselves to know more answers to questions about ‘faith’ than questions about ‘facts’). When this happens the ‘guilt’ can fall on us (something else some of us christians specialist in!)
But this does raise further questions; What kind of role model knows all the answers anyway? What does this actually model? – Does any one have to know all the answers??
I think it is important to model that there is sometimes ambiguity or ‘greyness’. There are things about our faith that are still mysterious, that is the nature of faith. The challenge is that when we model not having all the answers we give space to the young people we work with, not to have all the answers themselves. Isn’t that healthy?
The truth is, we fear that ambiguity gives space for doubt, and doubt is potentially more troubling for us, or for parents, or maybe even church leaders. We fear doubt, we shy away from our own doubt and we certainly don’t want the young people we work with to doubt. But this concern really only reflects our own insecurities. We might think… if young people doubt, they might leave, they might find, another church, another person who knows the answers… As an aside an interesting reflection on doubt here.
It is amazing what a driver of our words and actions guilt is and how that is also wrapped up in doubt.
Root in his book ‘Taking Theology to Youth Ministry’ is explaining the story of a youth worker and he says:
She began to realize that if youth ministry were for participating in the act of God, she could live into this only by being honestly human before and with young people, calling them into their own humanity, inviting them to contemplate and search for God in the barren empty spaces of their own lives. pg 46
This kind of youth ministry requires relationship and a value of that relationship. This is much harder in the busyness of a youth club or sunday morning sunday school session, but does make us think about the role model that we are.
The picture above is Mother Teresa she is one of my role models, what little I know of her, she seemed to walk the lines of doubt, genuineness and mystery with some of the poorest people on the planet dealing with the questions and doubts they certainly had.