Mac’s Message #38: The Role of the Scouting Committee

Mac McIntire

Mac McIntire

There is a strong support structure available to you in your Cub Scout, Boy Scout, Varsity and Venturing leadership in the Church if everything is run as it is designed. Hopefully you are using these support roles properly to help you run a quality Scouting program. Perhaps your most important, and often the most underutilized, resource for your unit support is the Scouting committee. 

The purpose of the Scouting committee is to relieve the burden of the unit leaders—both boy and adult leaders—by providing the necessary funding, equipment, resources, manpower, transportation, and other needs to ensure a quality Scouting program. The Scouting committee should handle all unit administrative functions so the adult unit leaders can focus on the boys instead of on the logistics of the Scouting program.

If “the spirit and the body are the soul of man” (D&C 88:15), may I submit that the spirit and the body are also the soul of Scouting. The unit leaders should focus on the spirit of Scouting—the boys. The Scouting committee should focus on the body of Scouting—the flesh (programs), bones (resources), and blood (finances) of the Scouting unit. Both are necessary for a thriving Scouting program. 

Sadly, too often in the Church the Scouting committee is dysfunctional. It has no clear purpose. Its members have no defined role or responsibilities. In many wards there is little for the committee to do because most of the work is being done by the adult Young Men and Scouting leaders. Sometimes the Scouting program is being run in an unplanned, haphazard, ad hoc manner week-by-week so there is nothing for the committee to support. The committee membership may consist of less-active or new members of the Church who are placed in their role as a means of finding a calling for every member of the Church. Interest in committee meeting attendance quickly wanes when the right people are not in the right place at the right time doing the right things for the ward’s Scouting programs.

The primary reason why Scouting committees fail is because the first step in the committee process is weak or non-existent. In Mac’s Message #21 I explained the importance of having an annual or quarterly plan of your Scouting activities. The annual or quarterly plan is the roadmap for the Scouting committee. The committee uses the plan to determine what resources they must provide to support the unit’s activities. As can be seen in the graphic below, without a calendar of activities the members of the Scouting committee don’t know what support they can provide to the Scouting unit. (please click on the graphic to enlarge it)

macsblog38-1

 

The roles of the various members of the Scouting committee become clear when the boy leaders provide a quarterly or annual plan to the committee. For example, each planned activity probably has a financial component. The committee may need to provide manpower for the event, such as merit badge counselors, instructors, certified range officers, two-deep leaders, or other specialists. Transportation may need to be arranged. Camp reservations might need to be made. Equipment and supplies may need to be acquired. There may be merit badge or advancement opportunities embedded in each activity. Courts of honor or other ceremonies or celebrations may follow the activity. And the event may be perfect for recruiting new youth members to the Scouting unit. Each of these logistical needs can be addressed by a designated coordinator on the Scouting committee.

When the activities are known in advance, the bishopric can staff the committee with the people who have the appropriate skills to support the Scouting unit. The Scouting committee chairperson can then run the committee as a committee, where the members have assigned duties and responsibilities linked to the planned activities. The members can be given assignments, fulfill their assignments, and return and report on their progress at the next committee meeting. The committee then provides the needed resources for the activity so the boy leaders can actually plan and conduct the event. Once the activity is over, the boy leaders should provide feedback to the committee so the committee can better support the future activities of the Scouting unit.

A well-run, effective Scouting committee is critical to a quality Scouting program. It allows for clearly-defined separation of responsibilities between those assigned to the adult unit leaders and those assigned to the Scouting committee as outlined in the graphic below. (please click on the graphic to enlarge it)

 

macsblog38-2

 

Once again I urge you to engage the boys in developing an annual plan of your Scouting unit activities. Your plan will give purpose to the Scouting committee. It will make it easier for your committee to hold regular, meaningful meetings that allow them to provide you with the full program support you need. With the program burden removed from your shoulders you can focus on your boys and help them to become the strong men of character the Scouting program is designed to create.

 

Take a Moment to Reflect

  • Do you have an annual or quarterly plan? Are you sticking to your plan?
  • Do you have a Scouting committee properly staffed with the right people in the right positions with the right skill sets?
  • Do your youth and adult leaders meet with the Scouting committee to seek the resources you need for your planned activities?
  • Does your Scouting committee meet regularly to discuss upcoming activities, make assignments, report on assignments, and provide you with the resources and support you need?
  • Is your committee chairperson on top of everything regarding your Scouting program?

 

Turn Your Reflection Into Action

  • What will you start doing, stop doing, or do better as a result of your reflection?

 

“And this shall be your business and mission in all your lives, to preside in council, and set in order all the [Scouting] affairs of this church and kingdom” (D&C 90:16).

 

-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 Las Vegas, Nevada. The views and opinions expressed in this message are solely those of the author.

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  1. Eagle Trainer says:

    I appreciate your comments about the dysfunctional scout committees! I have found it true for but not necessarily because of the Scout Committee Chair- for they are not a part of ward council, and the frustration to get another meeting scheduled is difficult.
    I have been CC for 3 plus years, and had to have 1 on 1 meetings more so then ever wished.
    I believe as a ward council meeting is set, that the counselor over the scout committee should have a Scout committee meeting at the same time, with a counselor from YM and Primary also present with the scoutmaster and senior patrol leadership! But, this is my suggestion, so!

    1. MarlaThomas says:

      Scout committee meeting should probably be a week or two after BYC (Bishop’s Youth Committee) Meeting so that the newest calendars (created in BYC and at patrol, team & crew meetings) can be presented to the scout committee. If no current calendars or calendars will be changed then the scout committee may be doing work in vain. Just sayin’. Things constantly change.

  2. It’s always important to stand strong and see what new doors will open up for you. And seek new opportunities to keep moving forward. And see what’s important for you to you can do in the future.

  3. James Francisco says:

    The way that the scouting committee is set up in the church is a prescription for failure because the committee has responsibility, but no authority. All that would need to be done to mitigate that would be to actually organize scouting the way that the BSA has designed it. In the Troop Committee Guidebook, on p. 13 it states that “The troop committee is the troop’s board of directors and supports the troop
    program.” The organizational charts in that manual clearly show the committee in a position of authority with respect to the troop. In the Church, the scouting committee exists out to the side and has no real line responsibility for the scouting unit. On p. 21, the Troop Committee Guidebook states that ”
    a key function of your troop committee is assisting in the selection of the best possible
    person to be your Scoutmaster.” and that “the troop committee has the responsibility to make leadership changes when it is in the best interest of the troop.” While in the Church, the scoutmaster is, usually, the 2nd Counselor in the YM presidency and the Scouting Committee Chair is as surprised as everyone else in the ward when that new individual is sustained without having been previously registered and approved by BSA, as is the usual practice in the wards that I have been in, despite Church statements to the contrary. From that point, the committee has no authority to guide, direct, counsel, or correct the scoutmaster since they have no authority over him. This is a significant cause of the poor performance if LDS units.

    1. JD says:

      James

      The Unit Key 3 (Chartered Org Rep – Bishopric Member, the Committee Chair, and the Unit Leader) are key to the success of the Unit.

      As for: “the committee has no authority to guide, direct, counsel, or correct the scoutmaster since they have no authority over him”
      – The Committee Chair and COR always have the ability to advise and guide. If the Scoutmaster is not up for feedback and council from the COR and Committee Chair, then get with the Bishop and express your concerns. In most Community Units, the COR and CEO (IH – Institutional Head – Bishop – almost never get involved). In LDS Units, we have a great resource that calls new leaders and takes a more active role than the Community Units. Thus Committees play a higher role in selecting leaders.

      Annual Plans, Patrol Method, Journey to Excellence, Duty to God, Guide to Safe Scouting, Training Materials, and BSA + LDS Handbooks, should be enough so there doesn’t need to be any major corrections toward a Scoutmaster. He is there for the boys and the Committee is there to support him and the program. Scoutmasters, like Bishops, can get busy and need help.

      No one wants to be controlled or told what to do, but rather encouraged, and guided to know what to do.

      The Scout Committee in the Church, when implemented correctly, works great. Having a Bishop to choose leaders is awesome. Having a Bishopric Member and several parents on the Committee to break of various duties works great. Having the Chair help coordinate all of this and suggest names for the Bishop is great. Then again, I have a super Committee Chair and a great committee, so I know it can be done – because I have seen it.

      1. James Francisco says:

        JD,

        Let me share some of my experience with your suggestions over the last 23 years as a scouting volunteer.
        The Unit Key 3… are key to the success of the Unit.
        Suggested to the COR that he hold Key 3 meetings. Gave up after suggesting it every month for one year.

        If the Scoutmaster is not up for feedback and council from the COR and Committee Chair, then get with the Bishop and express your concerns.
        Shared my concerns with the COR and Bishop, they blew me off.

        Thus Committees play a higher role in selecting leaders.
        I’ve never seen an LDS unit committee that was allowed to do it’s BSA defined responsibility to evaluate and select leaders. Unit leaders are always selected by the bishopric with no input or advice from the scouting committee. This is the exact reverse of the proven BSA model.

        Annual Plans – Suggested this and got told by YM presidency, “we’ve never done that, quarterly is good enough.”

        Patrol Method – average time to get a new patrol leader approved by the bishopric, 60 days. Could have been done in a week if the boys were allowed to actually vote on troop youth leaders.

        Journey to Excellence – Got told by YM presidency, “we’ve never done that, it’s too hard to track all that stuff.” Went to bishopric, got blown off.

        Duty to God – I have to admit that I hate what this has become. An excuse to say that it is so much more important to have Aaronic Priesthood bottoms in seats getting lectured about something vaguely related to a gospel topic than be actively engaged in scouting activities that will prepare them for the temporal and spiritual challenges of missions and life.

        Guide to Safe Scouting – Ignored at best. LDS units have the highest injury accident rate in the BSA. In one small council that I served in, all of the injury accidents for the year came from one LDS ward, In another ward we had a leader and youth hospitalized for dehydration while on a summer “super-activity” and a youth admit in fast and testimony meeting that while on their event, his quorum violated the buddy system and did not stay together on a trail.

        Training Materials – Getting LDS leaders trained is like pulling teeth on a live predator. I was told by the recently released COR of my ward that BSA training was not important and he would not lead his unit leaders to get trained. I am personally in favor of councils implementing a 100% trained top leader rule for units to be permitted to recharter. It would be a little difficult in the first year as 50-75% of the LDS units in my council would lose their charters for a time, But, after the first shock, they would learn.

        BSA + LDS Handbooks – Ignored. While the LDS Scouting Handbook mandates that registration be completed before a leader is sustained, that has not happened in my ward since it was formed two years ago.

        The Scout Committee in the Church, when implemented correctly, works great.
        THe only way that it could ever really work is to strictly follow the guidance in the Troop Committee Guidebook. The way outlined in the LDS Handbook on Scouting is a failed model that leaves LDS units at the bottom of the performance curve.

        1. JD says:

          James –

          I am sorry to hear about your experiences. I usually see this from leaders who didn’t have a quality Scouting program themselves, while they were a youth. As a result, they don’t put a lot of emphasis on the program, because they didn’t see it done properly and they “turned out just fine”. Unfortunately, the boys that need the program the most are the ones who don’t always get the program. I know a quality program can change the course and lives of these young men, thus the push to make change happen. I went through a model Cub Scout and Boy Scout Program, so I have experienced what a wonderful program taste like and looks like – so I wouldn’t judge the entire LDS Church by the actions of a few. The Mesa District, for example, is doing some wonderful things with the Varsity Program.

          Good news…Bishops usually change every 5 years or less. This means an opportunity to start over every 5 years and change the culture and create lasting traditions within the Unit. Like each Mission President, each Bishop has a unique set of talents that they can use to bless the lives on those whom he serves. Sometime priorities may be different.

          When I have run into Bishoprics with a poor tradition of Scouting, I have tried what you did. Next we share Trails to Testimony and have as many Leaders read it as possible. I then look for another Bishop in the Stake who has a wonderful view or a better view of Scouting and “as a Commissioner” (ask the District Commissioner have you assigned to the specific Ward/Unit), begin to help make their program the model program for the Stake. Help find experiences that can be shared with other leaders who may not see the program for what it is.

          The other good news is that you have identified a huge opportunity to make a difference in Scouting. While it may be frustrating to be part of something broken, it is also a great experience to be part of something that begins to work. There is a lot of opportunity to serve in this capacity. It takes patience, love, dedication, persistence, and hard work. It will be challenging and rewarding. The process, when done properly, will not only bless and change you as a person, but also change the lives of all of those who participate.

          James – you can be a light and encourage those around you, showing them a better way and spread hope and love OR you can be darkness and suck all of the light out of others around you.

        2. Mac McIntire says:

          Yep, I’ve seen all of these problems in my experiences with LDS Scouting.

          After writing these blog messages for almost two years, I’ve come to realize that we don’t have Scouting problems in the Church as much as we have PRIESTHOOD problems. We have a culture in the Church where many priesthood holders at the ward level (and also at the stake level) fail to fulfill their sacred priesthood responsibilities as the Lord wishes they would. I’m sure the Elders Quorum President and High Priest Group Leader have similar laments as yours outlined above regarding their own stewardship areas. If the priesthood brethren were truly obedient and “true and faithful,” they would be magnifying their priesthood calling at a much higher level, whether it be in the Aaronic or Melchizedek priesthood.

          In my opinion, Scouting in the Church will never be stronger than the priesthood brethren who lead it at the local level. I’ve heard many brethren yearn for the Church to do away with Scouting and create its own program for the young men. What most of these brethren seem to fail to realize is that many ward leaders have already created their own program for the young men — and it usually entails merely occupying the time of the boys with classroom instruction and fun-focused activities. I would love to believe a non-BSA, Church-designed program would be fully carried out by the priesthood leaders at the ward level, but, unless we change the current culture of the priesthood, I’m not sure it would be any more successful than Scouting. Where there is faithful priesthood leadership, Scouting works in the Church. Where there is not faithful priesthood leadership, Scouting does not work.

          1. James Walter Taylor says:

            Amen.

            I would add that after moving from an area with a great Scouting tradition to an area with multi-generational “failure to launch”. I struggle with those thoughts and how to move forward.

            One large part of Scouting is that it is a community. I suggest that to make a positive change you need to be in a place to affect change. Be involved in District and Council. Find positive roles – you will find like minded Church members. Start to build a trained group trying to make change. Involve the Church and the Scouts in the community through Scouting.

    2. Lance Proffit says:

      As the counselor in the stake presidency responsible for Scouting in our stake, I recommend that a member of the bishopric chair the Scout committee(s) and a member of the Primary presidency chair the Cub committee. They can call an assistant to take care of some of the “busy work,” but it is more in harmony with the BSA definition of committee chair.

      1. Mac McIntire says:

        Great suggestion!

        1. Phil DeHahn says:

          The Troop is only as strong as the weakest link. If the Scout Committee, YM Pres., Scoutmaster or any others cannot understand and train the Scouts to Train the younger scouts all could be lost.
          I am the HP Group Ldr., Scout Committee Chair and Advancement Chair. I pray with the Bishopric at times for more inspired leadership. And without this program direction could be lost at the local level even more so.

  4. David Ripplinger says:

    Great post again, Mac, thank you! So many of these posts remind me the importance of having well trained bishoprics in scouting, since it’s always up to them to issue callings for scouting positions, even for the boys. This is different from non-LDS units, and it makes it so that it’s difficult for an LDS unit to do well without the bishopric being properly trained.

    1. Mac McIntire says:

      The bishop’s role is critical to the success of the Scouting efforts within a ward. Blog message #39 will discuss the role of the bishop, bishopric, and chartered organization representative (COR).

  5. Marla Thomas says:

    One thing to remember is that since the charter organization determines specific policies and guidelines of how to apply BSA Scouting in their units that there is some diversity between various scouting units in a district and council. Diversity is encouraged in the BSA. Some charter organizations have more defined policies and guidelines than others. (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has the green scouting handbook on-line for the purpose of explaining the LDS unit’s policies and guidelines.) In fact, charter organizations that are churches tend to have the more defined policies and guidelines; whereas, other than church charter organizations tend to just be happy with the scout policies and guidelines with no tweeks for their organization’s purposes. An interesting read might be: http://www.scouting,org/About/FactSheets/operating_orgs.aspx

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