Wednesday, October 26, 2011

To be, or not to be... a merit badge counselor

I just got my wife signed up as a merit badge counselor. It made sense. As our ward's family history specialist she has taught classes at the local family history center and in our ward. She's good at it too, what with a degree from BYU in family history research. After hearing Elder David A. Bednar's recent conference address we've been discussing getting a class started for the young men and young women in our ward. Since there is a genealogy merit badge, we decided that we might as well get her signed up. That way, the young men can take this class and earn a merit badge at the same time. So we registered her as a counselor; it made sense.

This has raised within me the old debate about whether or not I should do the same. I could probably be reasonably qualified for several merit badges including bird study, environmental science, fish and wildlife management, mammal study, nature, plant science, and soil and water conservation. There could be a few others as well (family life, reading, hiking, camping, geocaching, etc) but I haven't looked into those much.

The committee chair in my ward thinks I should. One of his arguments was that if I was registered and we happened to be doing those activities anyway, I could sign off the boys for a merit badge. Pretty much what we were thinking about with my wife and her family history class.

But so far I've resisted; I haven't registered. Mostly because I have been a Venturing leader instead of a Boy Scout leader and merit badges are not a part of Venturing. I've thought that if I'm getting my young men to do activities and we can pass off requirements, those requirements will be for Venturing awards, not merit badges. As a Venturing leader I haven't wanted to get bogged down with merit badges. I haven't wanted to even think about it.

But then I question that decision. Maybe I could be a counselor and help some of the other boys. Just being a counselor doesn't mean I'd have to work on merit badges during our regular meetings. I could actually do it right and insist that the boys come talk to me and set up their own time to work on things and pass off requirements. Maybe I could be a resource to some of these young men. Maybe I could offer them a chance to work on some they wouldn't have thought about before. Maybe I could help some with a few that are required for Eagle.

I haven't registered yet. Maybe I won't until I'm moved from Venturing to Boy Scouts. But then again, maybe I should.


  1. Wow! Stealing my post. I was absolutely thinking about this same thing last night as I was preparing a post. Wow!

    I am of the opinion that you shouldn't register as a merit badge counselor to ensure that there isn't any "I guess we did that so I will sign it off" kind of stuff. Lets not make it so easy for them (but I also don't want to make it difficult either). From reading your posts, you don't sound like that kind of guy. It isn't like a Ward or Stake (let along a list of MBC that the District SHOULD have compiled) shouldn't have the resources for every merit badge out there. Give others the opportunity to serve by letting them be a MBC. One of the points of boys having to go see MBC is that they are to expose themselves to other "good" adults. Since you are around as the Venturing adviser (and the YMP) and should have exposure to Varsity Scouts and Boy Scouts, why not let someone else do it? The boys know you.

    As a Varsity Coach, I am a MBC for about 4 merit badges but my boys don't know it. I work with Scouts outside the unit that don't know me. There are plenty of other good men and women out there that our boys could and should use on their path to Eagle.

    I try to eliminate myself in any leadership "job" other than my Coach job. My primary focus is to train boys in their jobs (Church and Scout), help them work out their concerns in their responsibility and then minister to them on a personal level. I need all the extra time I have to accomplish this. Let someone else do the work of the MBC.

  2. It's a tough decision, but as you said, just registering doesn't require you to do merit badges, but it does make you available for more. :)

  3. There's nothing wrong with putting yourself out there as a resource for the younger boys, especially when you consider that a MBC is a Council resource, not a ward thing (unless said MBC is extremely provincially-minded). For example, my son earned the Robotics MB last summer. It's so new and so specialized that you'd be hard-pressed to find an expert in every ward, but I was able to track down a half-dozen counselors at the Council level, one of whom was fairly close by.

    If you evaluate your skills and abilities and weigh them against what's already available and needed, you may find that your particular skills are just the right fit for someone, somewhere.