Tuesday, September 24, 2013

An experience, or a checklist?

I just got my latest issue of Eagle's Call magazine (formerly Eagle Scout Magazine). One article is about the recipients of the latest National Eagle Scout Service Project of the Year Award. The winner rebuilt a playground at a cost of over $35,000 and over 5,000 hours of labor. One of the runners up spent two years collecting over $130,000 to build a veterans memorial. I can't even imagine what it would take to do either of those projects, but those Scouts did. Amazing!

When I first read the article, one of my thoughts was that those projects put to shame all of those I've seen locally (including my own many years ago). Of course, that's why they are winning awards.

As I thought about it today, I realized there is a big difference between those projects and the ones my Scouts have done recently, and I'm talking about more than size or cost, or time spent on them. It is obvious from the descriptions of these outstanding projects that they are personally and deeply meaningful to the Scout. Most of the projects I've seen locally are not like that.

That's not to say that we don't have good, meaningful projects, and I'm certainly not trying to suggest that each Scout needs to raise tens of thousands of dollars and spend thousands of hours working on his project.  What I am suggesting is that most of the time we could do much better than we have. Most of the Scouts I talk to about Eagle projects are simply looking for something to get done so they can get their award. Instead of being an opportunity to serve, or a chance to do something they really care about, it's little more than an item on a checklist.

I've seen this attitude in relation to the Eagle Scout award itself. In the last five and a half years I've been involved in Scouting I have seen five Scouts earn the rank of Eagle. One more is just waiting on a board of review. Every one of those six Scouts was over 17 years old when they finally finished off their Eagle rank. Four of them waited long enough that their board of review was not held until after they turned 18. With perhaps only one exception, each of those Scouts treated their projects, and the rank itself as something they just had to finish before they could move on to the next, more important thing. It was simply an item on a checklist.

And some parents (and some leaders) out there aren't helping the situation.

I cringe every time I hear a Scout (or his parent) say that he is not allowed to get his driver's license until he earns his Eagle. In my opinion, this does nothing to help and actually diminishes the real value of the program.

Scouting should be about the experience. It should be an opportunity to do something of value. It should be a chance to learn and grow. Advancement is an important part of the experience, but if we elevate it to such a prominent position that all the other important things become nothing more than obstacles to climb over then we are failing to accomplish what should be our real purpose.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Proud of my Bobwhite

A few weeks ago I went to Wood Badge again. This was my third time being on staff and this time I had an easy job--Assistant Scoutmaster over Troop Guides.

The best part of this year's course was that my wife got to go with me. We were a little concerned, starting out because we are expecting a baby soon. We were very blessed, however, in that she was healthy and able to go. In fact, in many ways she felt better at camp than she has at home.

The hard part for me was trying to find the right balance. On the one hand, I knew she would need some specific attention and help with certain things. And I wanted to spend time with her. On the other hand, I wanted her to develop a real, lasting relationship with her patrol members, so I wanted to stay away when I needed to. I hope I hit the right balance. I know she had a good experience, and I now feel as strong an attachment to the Bobwhites as I do the Bears.

She is currently working hard on her ticket and making great progress. She'll probably finish the first of her goals this week and one other one within the next month. The others, of course, will take longer.

I am so grateful that I can do Scouting things with her. It has been really fun to help her with her Webelos den meetings and activities, and we have seen some great things happen with her boys. Two of them will be getting their Webelos badges at Pack meeting this week, and they are so close to earning their Arrow of Light award.

I am so proud of you Christine! You are doing great work.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

To the young men

This is the "lecture" I would really like to give to our Teachers quorum this Sunday:

"I want to talk to you guys for a minute. Something happened this week that I can't stop thinking about. We had several young men show up here on Wednesday night, but most of you weren't here, and none of the leaders were either. Now, I know the plan was to go up to the lake to help P---- with his Eagle project. I wasn't able to go up so I don't know what actually happened, but those who did go went up earlier than your usual meeting time.

"The problem is, not everyone knew what was happening and came here instead, expecting an activity. One of those who was here was N----. From what I could tell, he was rather upset that nobody let him know what was going on. The more I have thought about it, I believe that N---- will be making a very important decision in the very near future. On the one hand, he can keep coming to this thing we call "Scouts," hoping that somebody will be here and there is a plan to do something fun. On the other hand, he can give up on all of this because he thinks that those who he thought were his friends don't really care about him after all.

"See, we have a tendency in the church to talk about our weeknight activities during quorum meeting on Sunday, and whoever is here then knows what is going on and can make it and everyone else is left in the dark. Sometimes, if we think about it, we talk to a few others who weren't there to let them know, but I'm afraid that doesn't happen very often. That has got to change.

"Now, I know we need to re-organize your quorum presidency. There has been some confusion about who should be leading. I am sorry for that. That is my responsibility and I am working on it. I had hoped to have that taken care of by now, but things haven't worked as well or as quickly as I would have liked. We are close, however, and that might help solve some of the problems. Hopefully, having a quorum presidency in place and actively meeting each week will improve the situation.

"In the mean-time, however, we need to figure out a way to make things work. When you are sitting in your quorum meetings and talking about your upcoming activities, do any of you think about who isn't here? Do any of you step up and volunteer to talk to N---- or C---- or any of the other guys who aren't here and let them know what the plan is? I would hope that if the topic comes up that each of you would be willing to raise your hand and say "Here am I. Send Me."

"Each of you bears the Priesthood of God. Each of you has it within yourselves to be a leader. Robert Baden-Powell once said that "a Scout is active in DOING GOOD, not passive in BEING GOOD." The scriptures say essentially the same thing: "For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward. Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; (D&C 58:26-27)"

"As Scouts, and especially as Priesthood holders, you need to be active in doing good.

"Of course, if we had strong quorum leadership we could assign somebody to talk to N---- and C---- and make sure they know what's going on. But I don't think that's the best option.

"I hope you realize that N---- is at a crossroads. I also think it's important to realize that you're close to losing him. Now, maybe you don't really care that much about him. Does it make a difference that he isn't a member of the church? Does that make him less important? Or just easier to forget?

"Our goal here isn't just to make sure he knows what the plan is for Scouts each week. Our goal is to have a positive influence on his life. As bearers of the Priesthood, that is your duty. But you need to remember what the scriptures say: "No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; (D&C 121:41). Now what do you think "love unfeigned" means? Unfeigned means not faked. If you want to have an influence on anyone, you have to love them, and you have to be genuine. It can't be assigned and it can't be faked. It has to be real.

"I think I've lectured enough. I don't mean to get after you and tell you you're a bunch of bums, because you're not. It's just that I can't stop thinking about how disappointed N---- looked on Wednesday night. I can't stop thinking about how frustrated he was that nobody had talked to him and let him know what was going on. I think he is reaching out for help. I think he desperately wants your friendship. Each of you has an opportunity right now to make an influence for good in that boy's life. He may never join the church, but I guarantee the interactions he has with you will change his life. I just hope you'll decide to change it in the right direction."

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Challenges of leadership

I just got back from Wood Badge. This was my third time on staff. I'll post more about this experience later, I'm sure. Part of the effect of Wood Badge is that it gets me thinking.

I have now been involved in Scouting for about five and a half years. I know it's not as long as some, but I've had some pretty good experiences in that time. I've gone to just about every training available (and taught or staffed many of them). I've had lots of conversations with lots of other dedicated Scouters, and lots of not-so-dedicated other folks who I cannot properly call "Scouters." I've learned a lot. I've had a lot of ideas over the years about how to properly implement the Scouting programs. Some of them have been good. Some haven't. Some have worked in my own practice and some probably would work with someone better at the helm. In any case, I love Scouting. I believe in it as a tool we can use to really make a difference in the lives of our young men. 

I've also been struggling lately with how to get my current adult Scouting leaders to get the training they should have, and to start using the programs the way they were intended. It is so easy to judge them against my own thoughts and feelings and experiences, and to wish they were doing more. That's not to say they aren't doing anything--they each have their strengths. But it's so easy to look at the shortcomings. I keep thinking that if I got them to Wood Badge that they would become more converted and things would improve. But most of them aren't converted enough to go to round table, let alone Wood Badge. How do I get them to that point?

I wish there was some way I could just "download" everything I have learned and experienced and felt about Scouting from my mind and heart and implant it directly into the minds and hearts of the adult Scouting leaders in my ward. But I can't.

I could talk, and lecture, and beg, and plead, and try to persuade until the cows come home, but I'm not sure how much that will do. Maybe we would move somewhere, but it seems just as likely that everyone would just get sick of me "pestering" them.

I can't just transfer everything I have directly to them. As much as I might like the idea, it doesn't work that way. Everyone needs to learn and experience it for themselves. Nobody is ever going to have exactly the same experience I have had. What I currently have took years to develop. I can't expect anyone else to develop the same way. Hopefully, they will make a decision to try.

I can share with them my vision, but unless that starts a fire within them, it doesn't go anywhere. While outside influences can have an effect, ultimately it has to come from within.