Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Bishops and Scouting

I have now been the bishop of my ward for almost four months. It has been a rather eye-opening experience. During that time I have had the privilege of interviewing many of my ward members regarding a wide range of topics. I've done many temple recommend interviews, several priesthood advancement interviews, and baptismal interviews. I can't count how many times I have extended a calling to someone to serve in a certain position in the church, and I have occasionally been turned down. I've met with people who, through various circumstances, find themselves deciding if they should pay rent or buy food. I've seen cupboards and refrigerators so bare you'd think there was no way they could survive another day or two. I have been surprised at the number of people who have come to me for help in overcoming addictive behavior, and wonder how many more need help but haven't come forward. I have even been to the county jail to visit people incarcerated there.

I also know very well that there are challenges still to come. So far I have not conducted any funerals, although a couple people had me worried for a while. Nor have I performed any weddings. I have also not yet had anyone come to me for marital advice or counseling.

Through all this, I am regularly reminded that my priority should be the youth. And while I feel strongly that I need to do all I can to help them, I must confess that I haven't done a great job of it. My wife has reminded me on more than one occasion about the frustrations that I had as the Young Mens president, in regards to what I hoped the bishop would be doing.

It has been a struggle to figure out how to schedule everything in and focus on what is most important. It seems like everything that comes up has to be done now. We need a ward mission plan. We have a financial audit coming up an need to watch these training videos. We need a new president for (fill-in-the-blank) auxiliary. So-and-so will be turning 12 this month and needs to be interviewed. This young man needs to get to the temple before he goes on his mission. That young woman needs an interview to finish her personal progress. The person who is currently serving as (fill-in-the-blank calling) will be moving soon and needs to be replaced. And on and on and on.

I know that some of these things can and should be delegated to others, but many of them can not be. I realize I have counselors, clerks, and a secretary who can help out with some of these things, and I do rely on them, but there still seems to be so much for me to do.

Scouting is still a priority for me, but I find that having been in a different position for a while that I don't have the focus I used to. I have forgotten much of what I struggled with and what I needed help with, but I still feel that it is vitally important. I help my wife with her Webelos den as much as I can. I will be on staff at Wood Badge again this fall, with my wife attending as a participant. I am trying to make sure we have all the leaders we need for each of our programs, but haven't gotten there yet. And then there are the committees. We are making progress, but I still have a long way to go.

I'm not sure what my purpose is in this post. I guess what I'm trying to say is be patient with your bishop. There is so much to do, and so much to think about. Even knowing and feeling that the youth are a priority I still struggle with how to actually do it.

Maybe your bishop is more capable than I am. Maybe he has figured out better how to get everything accomplished and still give the youth the focus they deserve. Maybe he is doing everything you think he needs. Then again, maybe he isn't. Keep providing gentle reminders about what you need. Help him fulfill his responsibilities by being the best that you can be. And please be patient. I'm sure he is trying. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Scouting as the Activity Arm of the Priesthood?

“I shudder when I hear someone say that Scouting is the activity arm of the priesthood. That lessens it’s role. It is really the Priesthood in action.” - Elder David A. Wilson, LDS Philmont Chaplain
I took this from The Boy Scout, the blog of the Utah National Parks Council. See the full post here.

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Scouting Relay

In High School I used to run on the track team. While my usual events weren't often involved in relays, I did participate in one or two in those years.

In order for a relay to be successful, there are certain things that have to happen.

First, you have to have a team. Each individual on the team runs a specified leg of the relay. All the relays I remember had teams of four members. If I remember correctly, the best person on the team usually ran the last leg. The next best person usually ran the first leg. That way the team gets a great start and an even better finish. But no relay can be really successful unless all team members do their best.

Second, you have to have good hand-offs. Most of the problems in running a relay come during the hand-off. The starting team member begins carrying a baton. That baton needs to be passed from one team member to the next at a specified area on the track. If the hand-off is not completed within the marked-out area, the team is disqualified. An additional problem that frequently occurs during the hand-off comes when the baton is dropped. Whether from a mistake made by one or both team members, a lack of communication, or some other reason, if the baton is dropped, it could easily cost the team the race.

Third, each team member must stay in their assigned lane on the track. If a team member veers outside of their assigned lane, the team is disqualified.

If everything goes well in the relay, the team performs well, but if there are problems in any of these areas, even the best team can find themselves losing the race.

In the LDS church, we have a sort of Scouting relay. The team members are Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Varsity Scouts, and Venturing. The baton that is passed between each team member is an individual boy.

In the LDS church, youth are baptized into the church at age eight. At the same time, the boys join the Cub Scout pack chartered to the ward. At age eleven, those youth are handed-off to the Boy Scout troop. At age 14, they join the Varsity Scouts. At age 16, they join Venturing.

Too often in the church, we don't run this relay effectively.

Sometimes, we don't have good team members to carry the boys through the entire course. We might get a good start in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts only to give up once we hand them off to Varsity and Venturing. We may even have team members who don't want to run their assigned leg and would rather go back and re-do one that has already passed. How often have you seen or heard a Venturing leader panic that a boy hasn't yet earned his Eagle. They give up on a good program because they think the last one hasn't been "finished" yet. This is symptomatic of a deeper problem. They focus so much on one leg of the journey that the lose sight of the final goal.

Sometimes our team members decide they don't want to be running a race at all, and the relay is changed to unorganized basketball.

Other times we find ourselves running outside of the lines. "We'll just call this a priesthood activity, not a Scouting activity." This comes with its own set of problems.

Our hand-offs are particularly bad. We really need to do better at making sure our Scouts are properly registered in the appropriate unit. How many times do we have Scouts participating in Varsity or Venturing for months before they are actually registered as such?

We really need to do a better job of coordinating between the programs so that our hand-offs are effective. We usually do pretty well bridging a boy from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts, but when he turns 14 he is just thrown in with a new group. He is given no explanation of what this new program is or where his place is in it. There generally isn't much to look forward to in the hand-off from one program to the next. Why not create a special ceremony to transfer a young man from Boy Scouts to Varsity or from Varsity to Venturing? Why not make the exchange a big deal?

In the LDS church we actually have another leg of this race. It's when we send a boy on his mission. His mission experience will further his development so that when he comes home he is better prepared to be a father and a leader, both in the church and in the community. The "finish line" of this relay isn't really a distinct line but rather an ideal. We want them to become something, not just accomplish something.

In the LDS church, we use Scouting to help our boys become men. From the day they are baptized to the day they leave on their mission, one Scouting program or another is there to help them along the way. How many boys never make it that far because someone in the relay dropped the baton, or decided their job wasn't that important? 

We need each of the programs. We can't ignore part of the relay and hope it works out anyway. We need to work together and coordinate more effectively. We want to win this race.

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There are probably lots of other parallels you can draw between running a relay race and our Scouting relay. These are the thoughts I had, when I heard this analogy from a member of my Stake Presidency, who heard it at Philmont this year.

Kids v. Scouts

I just read a fantastic post on the Ask Andy blog. He describes so well some of the things I have thought about over the years. Make sure you check it out: