Monday, September 24, 2012

Every Scouter should STAFF Wood Badge

I'm one of those guys that thinks every Scouter should go to Wood Badge. It is fantastic training that will bless the lives of not only those who take the course, but all those with whom they interact afterward. I believe it made me a better person and helped me improve my Venturing crew more than anything else I did as an Advisor. Everyone who has an adult leadership position in Scouting should go to Wood Badge.

I also think every Scouter should have the chance to be on staff, too. Here's why:

You learn more. Wood Badge has been described on multiple occasions as drinking from a fire hose. There are so many skills and principles taught, demonstrated, and experienced that I'm not sure it's possible for any normal person to pick it all up the first time. 

Not only do you learn more of the leadership skills being on staff, you actually have time to study them. As a participant you have one week (or two weekends). Sure you have up to 18 months to put them into practice by working your ticket, but unless you take really, really good notes and study them you're probably going to forget. When you are on staff, you are working on presenting some of those skills. You have months where you need to study the course with all of the material at hand. You also get to sit through all the presentations again and learn things you may not have picked up on the first time. All that repetition drives home some of the messages that are missed or forgotten as a participant. 

As a participant at Wood Badge, you get to experience in a patrol setting many of the concepts being taught. You actually go through the stages of team development. You practice listening and communicating. You may get to do a bit of conflict management. You are using the steps of project planning to develop presentations. You do an assessment every day, and you are constantly thinking about your vision. The experience is an essential part of the course, as it helps you better understand the principles being taught.

As a staff member you also get to experience some of those things in your associations with the other staff, but you also have a greater opportunity to observe how others are experiencing those things. Several times I found myself watching a patrol (or an individual) go through a challenge and thinking that they could apply the skills learned in a presentation they were just taught. You have a greater opportunity to see how those leadership skills can and should apply, and since you have a greater knowledge to back it up, those experiences can be more meaningful. You get to see how the course is put together and that everything in it teaches something important.

Many have seen the difference made by one Scouter who attends Wood Badge and works his ticket. Imagine what would happen if that Scouter had the opportunity to do the same thing every year (or every other year) after that.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Scouts and politics

A couple days ago I saw a news story on our local television network that showed Mitt Romney being greeted at the airport by a troop of Boy Scouts. I commented to my wife that someone really messed up on that one. BSA policy frowns on that sort of thing. Last night they did a follow-up story. You can watch that one here.

The issue was addressed on the Scouting Magazine blog earlier this year (I think that's why I knew about it). You can find that post here.

Let me give some constructive feedback to the BSA--make it easier to find these policies. I can't find it anywhere on the BSA website or my council website. Even the blog post above doesn't reference any written document. The only written statement I can find is on the youth application for membership (but not the adult application...) under the heading "Program Policies." Here it is:

"Citizenship activities are encouraged but partisan political activities are prohibited."

That's it. That's all I can find. The news story I link to above does include this statement of BSA policy:
"Uniformed unit members or leaders may participate in flag ceremonies at political events and may lead Pledge of Allegiance; however, they should retire after the ceremony and NOT remain on the speakers' platform or in a conspicuous location where television viewers could construe their presence as an endorsement or symbol of support. In addition, photos of candidates or Scouts in uniform or BSA marks and logos are NOT allowed in political materials of any kind.
"The Boy Scouts of America does not endorse any political candidate. Care must be taken to not make implications that we do."
The source the news cites is simply "Boy Scouts of America." They don't have a link to it written anywhere so I'm not sure where they got it.

So, if anyone from National (or who has connections there) is reading this, it might not hurt to make these kinds of things more well known.

For now, though, I'll do my part in spreading the word.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Messengers of Peace

I recently found out about a new program called Messengers of Peace. It is actually an initiative of the World Scout Committee that started in September 2011. The Boy Scouts of America joined up this year.

There are relevant materials at two websites:
World -

In looking through the materials on both sites I found myself really stirred by this initiative. The goal is essentially to "help Scouting create a better world."
MOP emblem - from BSA website 

Scouts who want to participate simply do service under one of three dimensions (personal, community, or environment) that promote peace. There is no approval necessary--the unit decides whether or not the service qualifies. Service hours are entered into the Journey to Excellence website ( and those who participate are eligible to wear a special ring patch around the World Crest on their uniform.

I see this patch as less of a reward for doing service (or bribe to convince boys to do it) and more of a reminder about what Scouting can and should be. It's a symbol of a Scout's commitment to "help other people at all times" and to be "a friend to all" and "a brother to other Scouts." It's a reminder that through a simple good turn a boy can make a difference in the world.

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and someone who claims to follow the Prince of Peace, this really resonated with me.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

How is this supposed to work?

In my new responsibilities as Chartered Organization Representative in my ward, I want to do all I can to strengthen our Scouting program to help our youth. We have several problems I'm trying to figure out how to address (committee support, adult leader commitment and training, etc.), but there's one thing that I am powerless to address. We are a really small ward.

Looking at our youth we currently have one 11 year old scout (with one boy who will turn 11 this month), one 12 year old scout, three active Varsity scouts (one other who occasionally shows up and one we never see), and three active Venturers (and a couple others we never see).

Our cub scouts are few enough in number that our ward actually combines with the adjacent ward for all den/pack meetings.

In other units it's a matter of recruitment. We could hold events to recruit boys to Scouting to raise our numbers. In the LDS church we can have non-church members associated with our units. That is a possibility, but they have to reside in our ward boundaries. Given the demographics of our ward area, I doubt there are more than a handful we don't already know about and haven't been able to reach.

And then there's the problem of leaders. We have been missing a Varsity coach for several months now and our committee chair just moved. To make things worse, we don't have much to pull from for replacements.

Again, it goes back to the demographics of our ward. We currently sit around 25% attendance at sacrament meeting with from 100-120 people in attendance. Our elder's quorum consistently has five or fewer in attendance and two of them will be leaving on missions in two months.

The young men aren't the only one's needing help, either. We are missing secretaries in both our Elder's and Young Men presidencies. Our Sunday school president doesn't have any counselors. We've been out of a ward mission leader for months and can't find enough people to fill our primary classes.

To top it all off, we have received several "threats" from various ward members that they will be moving soon. Included in that number are:
  • 1st counselor in the bishopric (his twin boys are the ones going on missions)
  • 2nd counselor in the young men (his wife is the president of our young women and their two boys are some of our most active)
  • 1st counselor in the Elder's quorum presidency
  • Sunday school president
In our bishopric meetings we often find our conversation turning to "when will they dissolve our ward?" How are we supposed to make it work without people?