Thursday, March 17, 2011

What does success look like?

Last summer when I taught our young men the Venturing Leadership Skills Course, I told them that Vision was a "picture of future success." I don't know where I heard that definition--I can't find it anywhere--but I think it's pretty good. Whatever it is you're working on, imagine what "success" would look like, and that's your Vision. It's pretty easy.

The hard part is getting there. You have to break it down into more manageable chunks, set goals, and work toward them. And you have to realize that it may take a long time to ever achieve your vision.

So what am I getting at? I'm not really sure myself. And I know that nobody is reading this, so I'm just using this as a place to let off a little steam. I'm a bit frustrated.

Last night, two of our young men got into a fight over a basketball. They're not my Venturers--I would hope they are more mature than that--it was two of the younger boys. They insist on bringing a basketball every week and playing before and after our meetings. Normally I would let it slide, even though you have to almost drag them out of the gym into the meetings. But this week, being a combined activity with the young women, we were meeting in the gym. We were running late (everyone is always running late) and trying to get things set up, and these two just would not put down the basketball and help. So I confiscated it. I locked it in my car until after the meeting.

Everything went well for our activity, and when we were done I took some things out to my car and brought the ball back in. When I got in, these two were fighting over a second basketball. Fighting. In the church. Scouts, who are supposed to be helpful, friendly, cheerful, and all that. Fighting. Over a basketball. And then I wasn't too cheerful.

On top of that incident, we had a committee meeting. Or we were supposed to. Nobody showed up. The only ones who were there were the four leaders we had at the activity and the COR who was there for Bishopric meeting. We were able to discuss some matters of importance, including our upcoming court of honor, but it was a little discouraging.

In the (almost) three years I've been involved in the Scouting program in our ward our committee has met exactly twice. Once when I first came in, and once two months ago to plan an Eagle Court of Honor. For two and a half years we were functioning essentially without a committee. We would be able to round up a few people here and there for a board of review, but that's it.

So back to my original point. What does success look like? Not this. I have an idea of what I would like to see, but how do I get there? As a Venturing crew we have made leaps and bounds of progress toward my Vision, but I'm afraid that as a ward our Scouting programs are failing miserably.

We have had a chronic lack of adult leadership. We still don't have an Assistant Scoutmaster. It's really hard to get your two-deep leadership without two leaders. We've made some progress recently, but we're still a long way out.

We have had an even more chronic lack of youth leadership. It's like pulling teeth to get the young men to step up and take do anything for themselves except play basketball. My Venturers are coming around but we can still improve.

Our Boy Scout program is miserable. I think they go on one camp a year. Part of that is certainly due to work schedules of the adult leader. Part of that is that we only have one adult leader for that program. If you asked one of they boys who their patrol leader was, they would probably give you a blank stare and ask "what's that?". It's hard to implement the patrol method with only four boys, but still, we should be able to do better.

Our Varsity program has really suffered. For a long time, we didn't have any leaders there. We now have two good Varsity coaches who are doing really well, but it will take time. It's hard to do much with only three boys, but they are working on it. They at least are moving in the right direction.

But don't even get me started on uniforms. 

In some ways I wish I could take over everything. I wish I could be the committee chairman. I think I could improve things there. I wish I could be the Scoutmaster. I have some ideas I'd like to try. I wish I could just do it all, because then it might get done. But I can't. There's just too much for one person.

I was told once that the difference between a successful Venturing Crew and an unsuccessful one is one person. I was told that one person really can make a difference. And that's true, to an extent. We have come a long way in the last three years.

I don't know that I've done anything special. I have simply tried to "do my best to do my duty to God". I received a calling in the church that has asked me to fulfill this responsibility. I have tried my best to learn all I can by getting trained and going to roundtable. I've tried my best to make the Venturing program work, and it's starting to work.

I don't want this to sound like I'm perfect or that I'm doing everything right, because I know there are things I'm not good at. There are lots of things other leaders do better than I. There are lots of things that I have let slip through the cracks. But there are just too many cracks. Our other leaders probably feel the same way.

So where do we go? How do we move things along? I have a feeling it needs to come from the youth but I'm not sure how we get that going. We also really need some support from a committee. I have even fewer ideas about how to get that started.

Like I said before, I have an idea about what I would like to see--what success looks like. What I can't see is any possible way to get there.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Scoutmaster Conference

I had two scoutmaster conferences last night. That's a bit unusual for me, especially since in the Venturing program, the scoutmaster conference is not a requirement for anything. But I did two last night. One was for the young man who was awarded his Eagle not long ago, which I mentioned here. It has been three months since his board of review and he is ready for an Eagle palm.

The other scoutmaster conference was for another young man who just finished his Eagle project. This one was a bit more difficult. This young man was largely absent from our activities and church for a year. I, along with several others, questioned whether or not he would be able to pass a board of review if he hasn't been doing his "duty to God." We wondered, if he didn't finish his project on time (he turns 18 next week) what this would do to a family already on the edge.

Throughout his leadership service project I wondered how much leadership he was actually showing. At times it seemed like his mother was doing the leadership and the son was doing the work, without getting others to help. There were questions about signatures on his workbook. When he did put together a day to get volunteers to help everything went well. He had good support and we got a lot done. (I just realized I should have posted about that...) But, it seemed like his mom was doing most of the leading. (I think she has a hard time letting someone else take charge.)

I had been looking forward to this Scoutmaster conference because I would finally have a chance to talk with this young man without his mother present and dominating the conversation. At the same time, I was dreading it, because there were some serious issues I thought we would need to discuss.

I had specifically wanted to discuss the issue of doing his "duty to God" and what he thought that meant, how he had done that, etc. As we talked, those issues became a little less of a concern. I got to know this young man a little better. I felt more comfortable with where he stands. We talked about coming to church more regularly, and he made a commitment to me, and to himself, that he would. We talked about what it would mean to be an Eagle Scout, and the example he would have to set for the other young men.

In the end, I felt comfortable with recommending him to his board of review. I suspect they will have some of the same concerns I did. There's a good chance they will question whether or not he has really demonstrated "Scout spirit by living the Scout Oath and Law in [his] everyday life." Those are important questions, but I hope the board will reach the same conclusion I did.

As we talked, and as I thought more about this, I decided that the Scout Oath doesn't require us to be perfect. It asks that we "do our best." Sometimes, in that process, we fall short. That doesn't mean that all is lost. It means we pick ourselves up and try again. I felt, and now believe, that this young man is in that position. He stopped for a while; he gave up. There were other issues with him and his family that influenced that, but for a time he just didn't care that much. But he is starting to make a change. He is trying again.

Some may say that he is only doing it to get his Eagle, and they might be right. But that's one of the great things about the Scouting program. It uses these methods to promote the development of an ethical and moral character. And if getting his Eagle is what will get this young man and his family back to church, then I'm fine with that.