Sunday, October 31, 2010

Youth Leadership

I noticed something to day. I was sitting in church today, watching the young men in our ward perform their priesthood duties by administering the sacrament. Each week these young men show up and perform their duties in this sacred ordinance without being told what to do, or reminded that they need to. They just do it. And they do a very good job.

I've seen this every week. I often think about the good job they do and thank the young men for being so diligent in fulfilling their priesthood duties. But what I thought about today was a little different. Today I saw in these young men, ranging from 12 to 17 years old, their extraordinary capacity for leadership. Not only do they participate in this ordinance, they lead it. They come early and prepare; they make assignments; they organize each other; the older boys teach the younger boys their responsibilites; they help each other.

As I was watching the young men, thinking about what they were doing, I thought about one of the purposes of the Aaronic priesthood--to prepare them to receive the Melchizedek priesthood. By performing these assignments now they are learning how to become the future leaders of the church. I thought of the wisdom in this plan to give young men responsibilities to prepare them for more.

And then it hit me. If the young men have the ability to lead in this one thing, wouldn't they have the ability to lead in other things, Scouting for instance?

How many times have I heard that Scouting is supposed to be led by the boys? And yet, I don't know that I've ever seen it actually happen that way. Why? Is it because as leaders we don't trust them to lead? Well, if the Savior trusts them to lead one of the most sacred ordinances in His church, why shouldn't we trust them to lead an activity?

Maybe the young men don't really know how to lead Scouting activities. In the ordinance of the sacrament, they have grown up seeing others do it and knowing that one day they will be entrusted with that responsibility. When they get there, other young men who have experience show them what to do. And as they grow, they take a turn teaching others.

It seems a little different in Scouting. If they don't see that leadership in other boys and don't have older boys to teach them, they don't learn how to lead. They must rely on adult leaders who, either out of frustration, impatience, ignorance, or lack of trust, often abandon the idea of teaching boys to lead and just do the leading themselves. I know I've been guilty.

But why can't the youth lead the way they do in administering the sacrament? I think they can but I'm not sure how to get there. Some of these boys have never been expected to lead a meeting, or plan an activity, or cook their own meals on a campout. They've grown up expecting that the adults will just take care of it.

I'm going to try to do better. I'm going to try to trust the young men to plan and lead activities. I'm going to try to teach them how. I know things won't change overnight. I'm sure some will do better than others. We may have a few activities fall through, but I suspect we'll also have some resounding successes. Either way, I'm going to try.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


I went to round table this past week and started thinking. In the last two and a half years I've been to nearly every round table meeting there has been. I think I missed one or two about a year ago because I temporarily forgot which day it was. I still showed up, I was just a week late.

Anyway, what got me thinking was the number of people who weren't there. There are 30 registered Venturing Crews in the district. All of them chartered to a priests quorum in an LDS ward. Each crew should have, at least, an advisor and associate advisor. That means there should be upwards of 60 people at each round table. Since the Bishop is the president of the priests quorum, it would be entirely appropriate to have the Bishop in attendance as well. Now, I don't expect that there will ever be a time when every person who should be there will be there. People often have work or other scheduling conflicts that would prevent their attendance. Even so, I would think that the majority of those involved should be able to attend the majority of the time.

So, with around 90 people who could be at round table each month, and 60 who really should be there each month, guess how many people we had last week.

Go ahead, guess.

You're probably guessing too high.

Try three. Four if you count the instructor. In the last two and a half years I don't recall ever attending a Venturing round table that had more than ten. Most of the time there are less than five.

I don't really understand it. Round table has been, for me, one of the most helpful meetings I've attended. I get to meet with others who are having similar challenges. We get to talk about what works and what doesn't. We share ideas and give encouragement. I don't know how anyone can effectively lead a scout group without the support and help of other leaders, and for me that has come principally through round table.

I have often told other people that it took me at least a year to learn what it is I am supposed to do as a Venturing leader. And another year to learn how to do it. Without round table, I'm sure it would have taken much, much longer.

I simply don't understand why more people don't come.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Centennial Camporall

This past weekend I took a few of the young men to the Centennial Camporall. in Heber City, UT. We had a great time.

We arrived on Thursday afternoon and set up camp.
Notice the lack of chairs. Just one of several things I forgot to pack.

There was supposed to be a service project, but we never got any information about it at check-in, so we missed it.

At the opening ceremony, we heard from the council president and had a flag retirement ceremony. Then a fireworks display.

Following the fireworks we watched the movie "Scout Camp." I'm not going to give a thorough critique, but I will say that it had good potential. It just didn't seem to take off. If I were in charge we would have watched "Follow Me Boys" instead.

Friday morning came early--before the sun came up--and it was cold. Given the setting of the camp, we weren't allowed to have fires. That would have been nice.
We fired up the stove to make breakfast, but it was so cold we couldn't get any fuel out of the tank. It worked fine the night before but in the morning it just wouldn't put out any heat. We were able to get just enough to warm up the pre-cooked bacon. It took a half hour to half cook a pancake. So, we made do and started the day.

We were allowed to register each young man for up to three activities. Several of the activities were competitive in nature, complete with awards. One young man took third place in his mountain bike ride. Two others placed first and second in the cowboy action shoot. And that was just Friday morning. The awards were a special addition "ghost" patch in gold, silver, and bronze. Here's what the bronze looks like.
There were full color versions available to those scouts who visited 10 different venues. None of my young men wanted to get one and I didn't find out adults were eligible until too late. I'll have to check ebay to see if anyone is selling theirs. I would really like one. They are cool.

Friday afternoon we had signed up to go rappelling. I have to admit, I was a little disappointed in the rappelling. It was really just a climbing wall and anyone was allowed to participate. If I had known that's what it would be like I would have registered them for something else and they still would have been able to do the climbing wall.

Anyway, I think they boys had fun. They were also able to do the ropes course and zip line. We also crashed the chess tournament for a game or two.

There really were a lot of activities to participate in. There was a guy showing boys how to do flint knapping, a mountain man bartering post, a traveling scout museum, and a visit from the national guard.

Friday night saw us attending another program. This time we heard from a professional football player with the Utah Blaze (don't ask me his name), as well as Elder Ochoa, the Second Counselor in the Young Men's General Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We also sang happy birthday to Leonard "Woody" Woodward, the Nation's oldest Scouter, who celebrated his 99th birthday the day before.

Also friday night was a concert from a band I've never heard of and never care to hear again. 

Saturday morning, like Friday, came early and cold. Knowing our stove wouldn't be able to cook our french toast, we went to McDonald's instead. That is one good thing about camping in town.

After breakfast the boys headed off to their ultimate frisbee tournament. Because of differences in size of the various groups, one of our young men played on a different team than the others. That team ended up taking second place in the tournament, earning him a silver patch.

That made four winners for our crew, which put us into fourth place overall in the total winnings.
The boys didn't know there would be awards for the best overall groups and wanted to skip out on the closing ceremony. I wouldn't let them. I think they enjoyed it though.

Overall, it was a really good experience. Sure, there were things I would have liked to see happen differently, but that will happen with just about any activity. We all had a really good time and I think there were some memories made that will last for quite a while. And maybe, just maybe, those young men will become better people because of it. And isn't that what scouting is really about?