Thursday, February 24, 2011

Leadership Skills

When I attended Wood Badge training last fall, one of the goals I set for myself was to teach the Venturing Leadership Skills Course (VLSC) to my young men. I had been looking into it and felt like it would be a major step in moving our crew toward the ideal of youth-led. It was a major project for me, and a great experience.

A few months ago I heard that the VLSC would be replaced. A couple weeks ago I went into my local Scout office and asked if they had the course materials or if they knew when this replacement would be available. They didn't know.

The very next day I found it on-line. The new training is being called Introduction to Leadership Skills for Crews or (ILSC), and can be found on the website. (I've included a link here, and on the "Helpful Links" section to the right.)

I've spent a little time looking at the new materials and I think it will be good. It includes quite a bit of the material from the VLSC combined with specific position training and a few new things that remind me of stuff we learned at Wood Badge.

The course is divided into three modules. They are:
  • Unit Organization--This module includes descriptions of unit leadership positions, crew organization, and introductions to vision and servant leadership.
  • Tools of the Trade--This module focuses on skills that will help Venturers lead, including communication, organization, planning, and teaching.
  • Leadership and Teamwork--The final module addresses characteristics of teams, team building, ethics and values of a leader, and a more in-depth discussion of vision.
Just for fun, lets compare that to the VLSC. It had eight modules in four distinct areas:
  • Vision
  • Communication
  • Organization
  • Synergism
The modules for VLSC were simply games and activities followed by reflection to teach principles related to one of the four leadership areas. The syllabus was direct, specific, and easy to follow. I especially liked the page layout/formatting. It was easy to see and follow.

In the ILSC, the page layout and formatting are harder to follow. Part of that might be due to a little "give" in the course materials. There are very specific things that are addressed, but the teaching seems to focus more on discussion than on presentation (although there is some of that). The syllabus therefore includes a lot of text that should probably be brought up in the discussion but not necessarily read from the book.

There are also games to play (followed by reflection), associated with each topic. Some of the games are identical to those used in the VLSC. Some are new. One thing I really like, though, is the appendix of "alternate games." This allows for a bit more personalization and variety.

Upon completion of the ILSC, trainees are then qualified to wear the "Trained" patch under their position patch on the uniform. There is not a special ILSC patch like there was for the VLSC.

In general, the ILSC seems to be focused more at crew officers, while the VLSC was intended for every crew member. There are some things I really liked about the VLSC that I haven't seen in ILSC, such as the discussion of Vision. The ILSC discussion of vision is more specifically focused on the crew's (or crew officers') vision for that crew. While that is really a good thing, I liked the general discussion in VLSC.

I'll need to look through the materials more before forming my final opinion on the ILSC. Aside from the awkward name, and less-friendly page format, I think there is a lot of good in it. I look forward to trying it out. Although just looking through it brought back a lot of the stress and anxiety I had while preparing for the VLSC last summer. I guess I'll need to learn to get help with big projects.

P.S. The Venturing Silver award requires Venturers to complete the VLSC. I haven't heard if the requirement language will change (probably) or if the ILSC will count (it would in my book), or if we'll just have to do both (not likely, but I might anyway).

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Eagle Scout

I was able to attend an Eagle Court of Honor yesterday afternoon. It was wonderful. It was formal and dignified. In my opinion, it was just what that occasion should be.

We have quite a few boys in our ward who seem to have lost interest in Scouting as soon as they turn 14 or 15. Part of that, I think, is the chronic lack of leadership we have had in that age group. Between leaders who haven't pushed Scouting, and other influences, many of our young men just decide not to keep going.

This particular young man was in that same boat. Until last summer. He had some friends who convinced him to be on staff at the High Uintah camp. He spent two weeks on the mountain immersed in Scouting. He saw what it was supposed to be like. And he fell in love.

Upon coming home he went to work. He earned the Religious Life Bronze award in our Venturing program. He finished his Eagle project. He is on-track to finish the Venturing Gold and Silver awards within just a few months. He has really grown.

At his Court of Honor yesterday he asked me to present the award to him. And then he surprised me by giving me his Eagle Mentor pin. I thought he might give it to one of the people from his High Uintah camp staff. I thought they probably had more to do with his finishing Eagle than I.

I believed I have worked hard to make a difference here. I knew I had made progress. But I didn't expect to be honored in that way.

I suspect that yesterday's Court of Honor will also push a few more of our young men into finishing their work. I think they liked what they saw. I think they saw something they wanted to be a part of. Hopefully, we'll be doing a few more of these things soon.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Last week I was approached by a member of the Bishopric. They were talking about having some of the young men speak in church about how Scouting has helped them develop a testimony of the gospel. I thought it would be a great idea. Then I was asked if I would speak as well. My topic is why the church sponsors Scouting.

I've struggled a bit as I've thought about what I might say. I considered explaining the history--how in 1913, the Church became Scouting's first chartered organization. I thought about all the statements from church leaders in favor of Scouting (see here for examples). The more I thought the more I felt that these approaches would be completely wrong.

I keep getting the feeling that despite all the support from Church leaders, there are a number of people who still don't see it. They don't understand why we do this. I hope I'm wrong, but I've been thinking that without actually experiencing Scouting, they will never really understand.

And that got me thinking about my experiences. I've remembered a lot more than I thought I had. I've remembered some things better than others. Some things have been more meaningful to me than others. But all of them, I suspect, has had a role in shaping who I am know.

So I wanted to share a few of my Scouting memories.
  • I remember being a cub scout, and having den meetings at our den mother's home.
  • I remember my pinewood derby cars. One of them I even built completely by myself, carving it entirely with my pocket knife. It was pretty ugly and didn't do very well.
  • I remember the Webelos Woods camp. I don't remember much of it, but I have a vague recollection of standing on the mountain, my dad standing next to me with his arm around my shoulder.
  • I remember a backpacking trip with my older brother and one of his friends. My pack was too big for me. It was painful and difficult. I think my parents still have a picture of me at the end of the trail, trying to hide my tears. I'm sure my brother and his friend were kind of annoyed at having me along, but they didn't leave me behind.
  • I remember a winter camp where an older ward member brought dinner up to us. It was mutton stew. To this day I consider mutton stew one of the best foods there is.
  • I remember the Klondike derby. Our sled was so big and so heavy it didn't ride on top of the snow so much as plow through it. I remember nobody wanted to be up front pulling the sled, especially since the snow was quite deep. They all wanted to be pushing from behind where it was easier. We had so many people pushing that they ran over those who were in front pulling. I remember thinking we needed to work together better if we wanted to win. I do not remember whether I was pushing or pulling.
  • I remember my younger brother and I building a shelter for our Wilderness Survival merit badge. We slept in it, too. And it rained. Our shelter didn't provide much shelter.
  • I remember the 50-miler. 10 miles per day for 5 days. I remember being in the small group in front. We took the right trail. Somehow everyone else took the wrong trail and ended up traveling far more than 10 miles that first day.
  • I remember going to the BYU merit badge pow wow with my brothers and our best friends. When our friend's parents drove, we listened to Garth Brooks. They had a great stereo in their truck. I remember the road construction in Provo Canyon. I remember noting the progress of the bulldozer on that one hillside as we went back each week.
  • I remember a trip to High Uintah camp were our leaders were our mothers. Apparently our leaders couldn't take a week off of work. It was important enough to our mothers that they broke nearly every rule in the book to take us to camp.
  • I remember on that same trip, we had to share a campsite with a troop from the city. By the time the camp was over, we were pretty good friends.
  • Also on that camp, my best friend took charge of one of our dinners. It was a dutch oven chicken and potatoes. Easily up there with mutton stew as one of the all-time best foods.
  • I remember a week-long backpacking/camping trip to the Ashley Twin Lakes. I remember talking with one of my leaders, but I don't remember what we talked about. It seems, though, that for that camp at least, he was more than a leader. He was a friend and a brother.
  • I remember going to the Timberline--our district's (our council?) youth leadership camp. I remember seeing a flag retired for the first time. It was one of the most sacred experiences of my life, up to that point. I remember walking slowly and silently back to camp, so grateful for the country in which I am privileged to live.
  • I remember my Eagle Court of Honor. I believe my grandfather was there. He was so proud to have a son and grandsons who earned the rank of Eagle. He never got that far. 
  • I remember being in charge of a combined YM/YW activity. It was a road rally. I put it together and led the whole thing. I made several mistakes, but it was my activity.
  • I remember a trip to Lake Powell for a week of water skiing and jet skis. (I don't know what the Guide to Safe Scouting said about that activity at that time--it says NO now.) I remember being pretty nervous about using the jet ski. My leader knew me well enough that he was able to say exactly what would get me to try it. He told me to find a scripture that would explain why I should. I won't tell you which scripture I found, but the next morning I tried the jet ski. I quite enjoyed it.
I'm not sure what these memories mean, or what the lesson is behind them. I'm not even sure if there is a lesson here. But they are a part of who I am.

I am grateful for the Scouting program. I am grateful for my leaders and parents who supported me. I am grateful that the church sees the good in Scouting and continues to support this great organization.

If any one reading this wants to share any of their memories, please do so in the comments.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Scout Sunday

The Boy Scouts of America was officially chartered on February 8th 1910, and so each February, the BSA celebrates it's birthday. In conjunction with this anniversary, the Sunday before February 8th is designated as "Scout Sunday." That's this week! While the BSA does not dictate specific religious beliefs, it is founded in a moral code that includes reverence and duty to God.
I recently found a video of President Thomas S. Monson discussing the strengths of Scouting. It was apparently put together to celebrate the BSA's centennial in 2010. I thought it an appropriate way to celebrate Scout Sunday this year. Check it out.