Sunday, September 25, 2011

Troop Guides

As I was wandering through the sagebrush at work the other day, my mind, as it often does, drifted toward Scouting and the problems and issues we face in our local unit. A lot of the problems in our local unit are, I believe, pretty common to those faced by other church sponsored Scout units. This particular day I was thinking about the New Scouts.

In the church, in order to preserve quorum identity, we don't have the new Scouts (11 year olds) join with the Scout troop (Deacon's quorum) for meetings or activities. We will invite them to Courts of Honor, if anyone remembers they are there. But for the most part, the new Scouts function completely separately from the rest of the troop.

I understand, and agree with, maintaining quorum identity by using separate Scouting programs, but I often wonder if we could do better where our new Scouts are concerned. Too often they are isolated. They are no longer Cub Scouts but we don't let them really be a part of the Boy Scout troop. The new Scout leaders are isolated, too. They aren't always invited to committee meetings. They never meet with the Scoutmaster. They function entirely separately from the rest of the troop and the other Scouting programs of the church.

I believe this should change. Since we use Scouting as an activity arm of the priesthood, we should be using Scouting to help new Scouts prepare to receive the Aaronic priesthood and join the deacon's quorum. The LDS Scouting handbook says that we can have our new Scouts participate with the rest of the troop in "occasional daytime activities" as well as up to three overnight camping experiences. And yet we never do. We should. They should be involved in Courts of Honor with the rest of the troop. We should involve the new Scouts with the troop as much as is reasonably possible for activities while keeping separate meetings to maintain quorum identity.

As I was out at work, wandering through the sagebrush thinking of all these things, an idea struck me. Troop Guides.

At Wood Badge this year I had the opportunity to be a troop guide to the bear patrol. It was fantastic.

The position of troop guide is one that, in a normal troop, is held by a youth member of the troop. His responsibilities are to be a guide to new scouts in the troop. He helps them understand the troop and patrol organization. He coaches the patrol leader of the new Scout patrol in his duties. He helps teach Scouting skills to help new Scouts earn the rank of First-Class.

He should live the Scout Oath and Law. He should correctly and enthusiastically wear his uniform. In short, he should be a model of what it means to be a Scout.

I have never seen it happen but I believe we should be using this position in the Church. Imagine what would happen if one of the more experienced Scouts was asked to attend new Scout meetings and guide them through their first year. He could help the adult leader in teaching skills. He could help train youth leaders. He could inspire the new Scouts to earn advancement. He could encourage proper uniforming. He could be a friend and mentor to younger boys. Most importantly, he could help prepare boys to receive the priesthood and join the Deacon's quorum.

The troop guide, of course, would continue to meet with his own patrol and quorum, but he would also be a guide and mentor to the younger boys. Think of the possibilities, not only for the new Scouts, but for the boy who is asked to take that responsibility.


  1. The Troop Guide is like the Den Chief of Cub Scouts. Often overlooked but vitally needed (both hardly used in LDS units). I would encourage your Scoutmaster to make sure boys earning ranks and advancement complete their EDGE training requirement by teaching the 11 year old Scouts something. They then serve as mentors for not only Scouting but the Aaronic Priesthood.

  2. You have very succinctly described what I have come to call the "Limbo Patrol" (alternately the Dangerfield Patrol or the Red-headed step-patrol). One of my biggest laments in LDS Scouting is how compartmentalized it is. Quorum identity is important, but we should teach our boys to look for ways to grow through reaching out to others. A troop guide would go far to doing so. Unfortunately, when you propose to do things the Scout way, you're grilling someone's sacred cow.