In your calling with the young men the Lord wants you to recede into the shadows. One of the key purposes of Scouting is to “train boys to lead boys.” The Aaronic Priesthood program is designed to help each young man to “serve faithfully in priesthood callings and fulfill the responsibilities of priesthood offices,” “to prepare to serve an honorable full-time mission,” and to “prepare to become a worthy husband and father.” (Handbook 2: Administering the Church , 8.1.3). Each of these roles requires leadership abilities.
Young men cannot learn to lead from behind. Your boys will become more faithful priesthood leaders, missionaries, husbands, and fathers if you give them ample opportunities to practice their leadership skills. The Young Men and Scouting programs are perfect stepping stones to missionary work. When carried out properly, these programs prepare boys to become “elders” by teaching them self-motivation, self-direction, and self-accountability—the very attributes they will need on their mission.
In the mission field nobody else plans the young man’s day. No one makes his appointments. No one checks on his daily obedience. He is responsible for himself. Young men need six years of leadership experience in the Aaronic Priesthood so when they are on their mission they can concentrate on serving the Lord rather than trying to learn what they should have learned under your tutelage.
Shadow leadership was implemented in the APMIA (Aaronic Priesthood Mutual Improvement Association) program on September 1, 1973, to better prepare young men for the future. In shadow leadership you should advise, remind, encourage, train, and mentor your boys in private. You should meet with your quorum presidency and youth Scouting unit leaders to go over rules and responsibilities, to discuss the realities of the budget, and to teach boys how to plan with a purpose.
Show your boys how to conduct effective meetings and meaningful activities that will strengthen their quorum brethren and help them face the challenges of life. Take a few minutes when activities are over to let the boys evaluate the event and determine how they can improve their leadership skills.
The boys should be the choreographers and actors of all that occurs on the performance stage in Young Men and Scouting. When you resist the temptation to take over you allow your young men to grow into the next generation of Church leaders. A young man who learns to lead and take upon himself the burdens of those he serves will strengthen his testimony as he sees the Church in action through the magnification of his priesthood calling.
Take a Moment to Reflect
- Are you a mentor to the boys rather than a puppeteer? Are you in the shadow rather than the spotlight?
- Do you meet with boy leaders before and after meetings and activities to help them plan and conduct successful events?
- Have you provided your boys with the information, tools, and resources they need to be effective leaders?
- Are you providing opportunities for your boys to improve their leadership skills by making sure they plan, conduct, and evaluate every meeting, activity, and outing?
Turn Your Reflection Into Action
- What will you start doing, stop doing, or do better as a result of your reflection?
“Wherefore, now let every [young] man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence. He that is slothful shall not be counted worthy to stand, and he that learns not his duty and shows himself not approved shall not be counted worthy to stand.” (D&C 107:99-100).
-Mac McIntire is a dedicated Scouter who has blessed many lives through his service and acute understanding of the Scouting program. He currently lives in Evanston, Wyoming.