Monday, September 12, 2011

Committee? What Committee?

One of the struggles I have had with Scouting is on the committee end. In the three and a half years I've been working with the Venturing program, I have not had a committee functioning. I wasn't really even sure what they were supposed to do, which made things a little tricky when the Wood Badge troop guides decided to do their staff project about Scout unit committees. Anyway, this is what we came up with (click on the image to see a larger size):

We developed organizational charts to explain the committee functions and responsibilities. Perhaps the first thing to notice is that the Scoutmaster/Coach/Advisor is not actually a member of the committee. I think we often do that wrong in the Church. Too many times the Scoutmaster/Coach/Advisor are the committee.

You'll also notice we have a separate committee for each group. The reason for that is that they are separate programs with different emphases and responsibilities; they deserve separate committees. I have never seen an LDS ward do this. We usually end up with two: one for cub scouts, and one for everything else. Part of that is probably because most wards I've seen ignore the varsity and venturing programs and just worry about the boy scouts. That's wrong, in my opinion.

I've been told by several people that having separate committees might be a good idea but would never work. "How could we ever get separate committees when we can't even get one?" That is a valid concern but not a reason not to try. It reminds me of a quote from one of our Wood Badge participants: "Just because that's the way you've always done it, doesn't mean it isn't incredibly stupid."

I think the real problem with Scout committees in the LDS church is in who we choose as the chair. If you get a good chairperson, they can make the committee work. And if you had three good committee chair persons you could get functioning committees for each of the older boy programs. The trick is in who you ask. As I was working on the organizational chart for Venturing, the thought I kept having was that the most practical choice, the obvious choice, of chairperson would be the Bishop.

Extend that out a bit further and have each member of the bishopric serve as the committee chair for each of the older boy programs. I've shared this idea with a few people and the response is always negative. "That would never work." "The bishopric are too busy, they have too many responsibilities already. You want to make them go to more meetings?"

I see it a little differently. Each member of the bishopric is already responsible for one of the quorums of the Aaronic priesthood. The bishop is president of the priests quorum. They should be intimately involved with the quorum anyway. Having the bishopric serve as the committee chair for that quorum's scout group would facilitate their existing responsibilities to that quorum and those young men. It would provide a framework for them to do what they should be doing anyway. The LDS church handbook on Scouting says that a member of the bishopric should serve on each Scout committee anyway--why not make them the chair?

Yes, Bishops and their counselors are busy. But they have responsibilities for the young men anyway. If we could get ward councils, Elder's quorum and Relief Society presidents, and High Priests group leaders to take over more responsibilities (like we've been asked) then the bishopric could be freed up to fulfill their responsibilities to the young men. And the committees could provide a framework for that.

I had one person tell me that this idea actually goes against what the church is trying to do. "The bishopric should be on the side of the boys--encouraging them--and the scout committee sometimes has to say 'no, you can't do that.' The bishopric shouldn't have to be in that position." My response is that the bishopric is already in that position. They review our activities in BYC and tell us when we can't do something. I also said that the committee should also be on the side of the boy--it isn't an antagonistic relationship. He tried to tell me

Having the Bishopric serve as committee chairs would also solve another problem I see with LDS scout committees. We usually call someone as committee chair who isn't already involved with the young men. They may or may not have a relationship with and/or interest in the boys, but they are coming from outside the young men's organization. And that often leaves them out of the loop.

As young mens president, I sit in on ward council and PEC meetings. We'll often get scouting information coming down through the stake by way of our high councilman. It gets handed directly to me. The committee chair never even sees it. They are out of the loop. Having the Bishopric serve as committee chairs eliminates that problem.

It also eliminates the problem I mentioned earlier. We often can't get one committee functioning because we can't get the committee chair to function. I believe if the bishopric members served as committee chairs, they would be able to get their committee to function. A good leader will create a good team.

There is another obvious choice for who could serve as the committee chairs--the young mens presidency. Generally, they are called either as the Scoutmaster/Coach/Advisor or assistants, but there isn't any reason I can see that would prevent them from being committee chairs instead.

Sure, these ways of doing things would create other issues but the more I think about it, the more obvious it seems. Have the bishopric serve as the committee chair for three separate Scout committees. It makes sense. I think it would work.

Of course, I say that having never been either a committee chair or a member of the bishopric....


  1. Please do! And feel free to modify them as you see fit. They were put together by other volunteer leaders and probably aren't perfect.

  2. This is a great idea. I have another response to the "we can't do it because he's too busy" argument: “Of course he’s too busy to do everything, that’s what the other committee members are for.” It’s called delegation. The committee members have defined functions (see David Olpin’s start-up guides at for ensuring that the behind-the-scenes stuff is taken care of. It means changing exactly what you described: Scoutmasters, Varsity Coaches and Crew Adivsors as the de facto committee. Here’s the first reason that can’t work: Scoutmasters cannot sit on a board of review. It has to be three committee members.

    When I was on Active Duty, I had a Squadron Commander. His job was to oversee the all squadron operations and personnel. Guess what happens in a squadron of around 300 people in 40 different specialties, and the Commander has expertise in none of those? That’s right, he delegates to those who do. He can’t do it all and he relies on the captains and majors to effectively and professionally carry out their responsibilities. I’ve heard it this way: Leadership is convincing others that they want to do what you want them to do, and that it was their idea in the first place.

    By the way, there is always one automatic Scout committee member after the chair: the primary presidency member with responsibility over the 11YOS. It’s in the Green Book.

  3. This is awesome, about a month ago I read all the scout leader manuals of all ages and did the same thing you have. Made a list showing the need for 4 different committee's because they run differently. I then came to the same conclusion that it made great sense for the Bishopric members to be committee chairs (the responsibilities are similar and our units don't have enough parents/leaders to run 4 separate committee's). I then took the thought to our district trainer who said it can't work for registration reasons. Organizational heads and COR's can't be duel registered as Committee Chairs. I've never researched it further, just took his word for it.

    1. Just in case anyone reads this in the future - CORs can absolutely be dual-registered as the Committee chair - it says so right there in the application."No one may register in more than one position in the same unit, except the chartered organization
      representative (who can multiple only as the committee chairman (CC) or a committee member (MC))"

  4. When I was called as the Cub Master for my ward I told the Bishop that there was going to be a lot of changes in my Pack. I have always found that the church members feel that LDS Scouting is so different than a traditional pack. The only two differences is we can't go camping (which I find other Packs not able to do either) and we don't have Tiger Cubs. I went to this meeting explaining that we have broken sections with in the group, my Primary President is filling in for our Wolf Leader who was deployed... she did that for nearly the whole year.

    We are now looking at our committee to get it up and running... So that my Committee Chair and I can finally share the load!