I got home Saturday from the second weekend of Wood Badge. I went as a participant two years ago and felt like it was one of the most spiritual experiences of my life. It was a little different being on staff, but still a wonderful experience. And one I would love to have again.
It's interesting to me that a Scout camp can be such a spiritual thing. Part of that, I'm sure, is the fact that all of the staff and participants were LDS, so we were comfortable talking about gospel principles along with our Scouting discussions. It would be a little different in a mixed faith setting. I believe, however, that part of why it can be such a spiritual experience, is because the principles at the foundation of the Scouting movement are true and correct. If they weren't the Church wouldn't sponsor Scouting.
For the last couple years, as I've become increasingly involved in Scouting, I've had a real desire to see how Scouting would work when run the way it is supposed to be run. One of the "problems" with Scouting in the church is that, often as not, we don't use the program the way it was designed.
We charter a troop/team/crew with every ward. I understand why we do it that way, but the effect is that we are limited in the number of youth who participate. We can't recruit members outside of our ward boundaries. My experience has been limited but I haven't ever seen a troop bigger than about 8 boys. It's hard to use the patrol method when you don't even have enough boys to form two patrols.
One of the other problems is that leaders don't get the training they should. Part of that comes because the person calling the Scout leader doesn't know what training they should have, or where to go for information. Our new District Executive is working on changing that in our area, but in the past, that has been a real problem.
Without proper training in how to do their job, too many Scout leaders don't train the boys to do their jobs. They often fail to help our youth develop the leadership they will need as they grow to manhood.
Another problem with our Scout leaders is that sometimes they just don't care. They ignore the scriptural command: "Wherefore, now let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence. He that is slothful shall not be counted worthy to stand, and he that learns not his duty and shows himself not approved shall not be counted worthy to stand." (D&C 107:99-100)
It may be a bit simplistic, but it seems that the answer to all of these issues is Wood Badge. If we could just get all our Scout leaders (and COR's and Bishops and committee members) to attend Wood Badge, I think we would solve most, if not all of these problems.
Wood Badge helps leaders learn their duty. In order to attend they have to first have Basic Training in their position. That is an important step, but Wood Badge adds polish to that. Not that it teaches those things specifically, but it demonstrates proper leadership. You learn how to run a program by participating in a well run program.
More importantly, however, is that by participating in Wood Badge, leaders become converted. They go home wanting to "do [their] best to do their duty." They have seen how a program can and should work. They have done the things we expect of our boys, and have a better idea of how to help. And they have made a commitment and set goals to improve.
I love Wood Badge. It has been one of the greatest blessings in my life. I know my experience has made a difference in me, in my young men, and in my family. It takes a lot of time. It requires you to take time off work and away from family, and that can be hard. From my perspective, it's worth it.
Now I need to make it to Philmont.....