Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Which is more important?

A conversation yesterday with our ward's scoutmaster got me thinking about something. I'm not sure I have any real answers, I'm just mulling things over in my mind and decided it might help to write down my thoughts. The question I've been pondering is: which is more important, having a well-run Scouting program, or blessing the lives of the boys in the program?

I realize this isn't really a fair question. After all, having a well-run Scouting program will bless the lives of the boys in that program and will, I think, always bless their lives more than a poorly run program will. I guess it comes down to where our focus is. Do we focus on the boys, or on the program?

Again, that might not be entirely fair. Maybe that dichotomy doesn't really exist. We can focus on the program because we realize it will benefit the boys and we can focus on the boys without neglecting the program. So what's the big deal?

I guess I wonder if too often we get focused so much on the details of the program, on trying to do things the way we think they should be done, that we sometimes lose sight of why we are doing it. I have talked with several dedicated Scouters in the LDS church that get really frustrated with the way the church does things. They get upset that we don't have enough boys in the ward to have multiple patrols in the troop. They get upset that the committee doesn't function the way it should and they have to do all the work themselves. They get upset that they don't have a large enough budget to do some really big things that would be really fun to do. They start to wonder why the church bothers to do scouting at all if certain constraints mean it can't be done exactly the way Green Bar Bill did it. I admit I have thought all those things myself.

As a Venturing advisor, I used to get so focused on trying to do the program the way it was outlined in the book that I maybe didn't give the boys the attention I should have. I'm not saying I was wrong to try to do things the right way, but I wonder if sometimes my focus sometimes moved away from the boys because of concerns over the program. I wonder how often that happens with other leaders.

I'm not trying to suggest that if we care about our youth that we can abandon the program. What should happen is that our focus on the boys drives our desire to build a good program. In reality, I think it does most of the time. I hope it does most of the time. But I also think that sometimes we can lose sight of the boys because we are overly concerned with details. I think it's something we should watch for in ourselves.

Robert Baden-Powell said it this way:
"Let us, therefore, in training our Scouts, keep the higher aims in the forefront, not let ourselves get too absorbed in the steps. Don't let the technical outweigh the moral. Field efficiency, back woodsmanship, camping, hiking, Good Turns, jamboree comradeship are all means, not the end. The end is CHARACTER with a purpose."


  1. Nice post and a great reminder. It is easy to get caught up in the details and keeping the end in sight is hard to do sometimes, but extremely important.

    Just a few random thoughts to add.
    - A strong committee is THE place to fret and sweat the details (at least in getting it staffed) - especially for a Scoutmaster (or Crew Leader, or Chartered Org Rep, etc.). Having a functioning committee should take many of the day-to-day administration off of the direct contact leaders so that they can focus on ministering and mentoring and administering.

    - While I 100% agree with your post, one of the things I really appreciate about scouting is that, for the most part, it's set up to succeed. When we focus on doing the program the best we can (as mentioned, we don't always have large units or budgets, etc. but can do our best), we can trust the process to produce the desired results. I feel like I sometimes push too hard to let the youth lead and others in our Ward/units look a little strangely at me, but I know that if done right, I can trust that the process will give the youth the opportunity to really grow and become men of character (I have to make sure that I'm mentoring and ministering in my assigned ways during that process).

    Thanks again for sharing this important reminder.

  2. Clarke Greene answers your question: the Patrol System's the thing.

  3. I think I understand where you are coming from. It is my opinion that the good of the boys should always be first. I lleaders are truly making that priority, then the program will be in good shape.

    I have seen, especially as a unit commissioner, most everyone misses some little details here and there, and often it is not a big deal, but sometimes it is. My measuring stick is to take a look at the purposes/aims and determine whether that's the direction the unit is pointed. Are they trying to build character, strenthen the family, etc. Or are they trying to hand out more badges? That is what we try to do as a pack, and that is what I try to look for in other packs when they don't have everything quite right. That, to me, is how a unit shows it has the boys' best interests at heart.