Mac’s Message #39: Role of the Bishop, Counselors, and Chartered Organization Representative

Mac McIntire

Mac McIntire

Bishops have been instructed repeatedly in general priesthood sessions and stake leadership meetings that their highest priority is stewardship over the young men and young women within their ward boundaries. This includes youth who are not members of the Church.

At a special meeting in the Salt Lake Temple on April 9, 1972, President Harold B. Lee emphasized that the youth of the ward are the “first and foremost of all responsibilities” of the bishop (Victor L. Brown, “Aaronic Priesthood Stewardship,” Ensign, May 74).

As a steward over the young men, the bishop has ultimate responsibility for the Scouting programs in his ward. His role is to ensure the Cub Scout, Boy Scout, Varsity, and Venturing programs are prop­erly organized and functioning as outlined in the Scouting Handbook for Church Units in the United States (Revised May 2015) (4.1) and in Handbook 2 (8.13.4, 11.5.3). The bishop is registered with the BSA and serves as the executive officer for Scouting units chartered by the ward.

Because Scouting is a vital component of the Young Men program, the bishop should have a personal testimony of Scouting and know why it is the activity arm of the Aaronic Priesthood. Hopefully, he sees the inspired connection between the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood and how the activities and values of Scouting help to achieve those purposes. The bishop should be the chief visionary for Scouting and the Aaronic priesthood in his ward.

The bishop’s counselors help the bishop direct the Scouting programs in the ward. The bishop oversees the Venturing program and his counselors oversee the Varsity, Boy Scout, and Cub Scout programs. The bishop also “assigns one of his counselors to oversee the ward Young Men organization under his direction. This counselor discusses Young Men matters regularly with the ward Young Men presidency. He reports on these discussions in bishopric meetings” (8.3.1, emphasis added). This counselor acts as the chartered organization representative (COR). The COR’s primary responsibilities are to help units to be successful and to provide coordination between the chartered organization and the Boy Scouts of America. The COR should attend district committee meetings and roundtables. Other duties are outlined in the LDS Scouting Handbook, 4.2.

To ensure the success of the Scouting programs in a ward there needs to be a strong support system of constant communication, encouragement, coaching, and reinforcement through regular meetings between Young Men leaders and the bishop or his counselors. Too often men are called to Young Men leadership positions and then just turned loose. As a result there is no orientation to Scouting, no shared vision, no setting of expectations, no accountability, no follow-up, and no established process to return and report on one’s stewardship. Sadly, personal priesthood interviews (PPI) are sometimes few and far between, particularly with Scouting leaders.

These discussions between members of the bishopric and the YM leaders need to be more than hallway discussions. They should be formal, structured PPIs that focus on the important issues of Scouting and the Aaronic Priesthood. These encounters ought to be an accounting of one’s stewardship and a sincere dialogue of the things that matter most in dealing with the Lord’s young men. Most important, the PPI should provide a motivational spiritual boost to the Young Men leader that inspires him to further magnify his calling.

Perhaps the best improvement the bishopric can do to strengthen a newly called adult Young Men leader is to thoroughly interview the prospective leader when issuing the call to serve. During the interview he should meticulously orient the individual on what his Aaronic Priesthood and Scouting responsibilities entail. In the November 2014 issue of the LDS-BSA Relationships newsletter, The Scouting Bridge, I mentioned a document I created called the “Bishopric Checklist for Orienting New Young Men/Scouting Leaders.” The checklist provides an easy-to-follow outline of the things that should be discussed during the calling interview. It summarizes nineteen very important duties and responsibilities that will help the new leader start off on the right foot. It helps the new leader hit the ground running in his calling. Since the newsletter article was published over 130 LDS Scouting leaders have requested a copy of the checklist. You can receive a copy by emailing me at mac@imglv.com.

Once these men have been properly called into their Scouting positions, I encourage the bishopric to leave these individuals in their calling long enough to build strong relationships with the boys and to thoroughly immerse themselves in the Scouting and Aaronic Priesthood programs. As I mentioned in Mac’s Message #6, Young Men leaders, and those who call them, should view their YM calling as a long-term commitment. It takes time to learn about Scouting and the priesthood. And it takes time to build meaningful relationships with the boys. Too often Young Men leaders are released just when they are becoming the most effective.

Even though members of the bishopric are extremely busy, I urge them to learn more about Scouting by getting trained. My blog message #7 explains why proper training is so important. The members of the bishopric should attend committee member training (Troop, Team, or Crew Committee Challenge) for the age group for which they have stewardship. The live course “Training the COR” is also required by the BSA for the COR. Most important, although it requires a commitment of several days, Wood Badge is the best training available to help bishopric members fully grasp the tremendous power Scouting has to turn boys into strong men of character. Wood Badge will help priesthood leaders gain a vision of why their Scouting programs should be conducted as designed by the Boy Scouts of America. Wood Badge training will also help bishops and bishopric counselors to be better stewards over the other areas of their ward responsibilities, not just Scouting.

Finally, members of the bishopric need to be involved with the boys outside of normal Church meetings. As often as possible they should attend outings, campouts, courts of honor, and other activities where they can rub shoulders with the boys in a casual setting. Mutual night should be a time for the bishopric to be with the youth, rather than focused on other administrative or ministerial duties. Bishops, in particular, need to free up their time so they can focus on the priest-age boys.

I am convinced that the most important determiner of the success of the Young Men program in a ward is the extent to which the bishopric is actively involved as leaders over the Aaronic Priesthood and Scouting programs. I believe more can be done to strengthen new Young Men leaders. The bishop and his councilors cannot abdicate their responsibility to ensure the Lord’s purposes are fulfilled through His inspired Aaronic Priesthood and Scouting programs. Calling Scouting leaders properly, following up regularly in PPIs, leaving YM leaders in place, getting properly trained, and spending time with the boys  are just some of the ways the bishop and his counselors can fulfill their stewardship over the Lord’s young men.

 Take a Moment to Reflect

  • Are the bishop and his counselors effectively focusing on the young men and women of the ward? Have they made the youth their priority?
  • Is the bishopric appropriately directing and involved in the Scouting programs in the ward?
  • Is the COR fulfilling his duties within the ward, the district, and the BSA local council?
  • Are Young Men leaders being properly called with a thorough explanation of their duties, responsibilities, and training requirements?
  • Are the Young Men leaders being left in their callings long enough to have an effectual impact on the boys?
  • Has the bishopric been trained in Scouting? Have they completed basic training and been to Wood Badge?
  • Do members of the bishopric participate in Scouting outings and Mutual activities?

 

Turn Your Reflection Into Action

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

 

“Bishopric and other priesthood leadership involvement at every level of Scouting helps mentor a boy in the priesthood and offers more opportunities for spiritual experiences. Bishoprics and other leaders should sit around the campfire with the young men to bear testimony and share mission experiences. Our young men’s camp experiences need not be any less spiritual than our young women’s” (Paul Tikalsky, “Be Prepared to Be Men of Integrity – Delivering a Quality Program for Our Young Men,” The Boy Scout, May 28, 2015).

 

-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. David Ripplinger says:

    You mentioned that, as stated in the LDS Scouting Handbook, the COR should attend district committee meetings. A while ago, I first learned of this, and as the unit commissioner, I encouraged our new COR to come to a district committee meeting. He came, but he felt that the meeting was a complete waste of his time. I actually agreed with him. I didn’t see how his attendance helped him, the unit, or the district.

    Interestingly, this policy in the LDS Scouting Handbook actually stems from the BSA training for the COR. The reason behind the policy is that the COR is a voting member of the district. However, in practice, I don’t see sufficient incentive for a COR to vote at the district level, nor do I see any voting take place other than at the annual meeting.

    Unless a COR takes on a role on the district committee, I don’t see the value of him attending its meetings. Does this mean my district’s committee meetings aren’t being run right? Or is this policy truly ill advised? If anyone has any of their experiences to share on the subject or words of wisdom, I’d appreciate it. I want to make sure I help my ward in the best way possible.

    1. Robert Mortensen says:

      I was just released from being COR for two years and my district did not hold the district committee meeting. They also did not have Position-Specific Training…until I asked for it and they very willingly provided it to three of us. I’d love to see COR break-outs at Round Table too. David, you hit on a great point…COR’s and Unit Commissioners should volunteer to teach and train at the district level. They are usually some of the best personalities for training and it brings the quality of training at the district level up to the level leaders want to attend.

    2. Mac McIntire says:

      O, wouldn’t it be wonderful if everybody — including district leaders — fulfilled their Scouting role the way it is designed by the Boy Scouts of America.

      The purpose of the district committee meeting is to discuss issues affecting the Scouting units within the district and to share information about upcoming district events. I was in a district in Las Vegas, Nevada, that had outstanding district committee meetings and excellent unit commissioner meetings. Because the agenda had valuable issues to address, the attendance at these meetings was very good. We often had people standing along the walls because we did not have enough room for the attendees in the Relief Society room. Also of note, these meetings were always attended by the Key Three of the district!

      Now, for the opposite view, I have attended district committee meetings in another area that had only two people in attendance — me and the district commissioner.

      Sadly, like everything else in Scouting, the value of a meeting or activity is always determined by the commitment — or lack thereof — of the leader(s).

      1. David Parker says:

        Mac, can you give a few examples of agenda items that might be of interest to COR’s? Training opportunities, policy changes and upcoming Scouting events come to mind right away, but I’m sure there are others.

        1. Mac McIntire says:

          Let me first instruct. There are four types of agenda items for a meeting — Informational, Advisory, Problem Solving, and I Need Help.

          Informational agenda items are merely a presentation of information, such as sharing what is going on at the council or district level. Usually, these agenda items are brief announcements with very little participation from the group other than asking clarifying questions to ensure one understands the information.

          Advisory agenda items are issues where someone is seeking advice from those in attendance at the meeting. For example, during a district meeting CORs may seek advice on how to conduct a more effective Friends of Scouting campaign. Or they may seek advice on how to get LDS Scouting leaders to attend training. Or they may seek advice on how to fund their Scouting program within the guidelines of the Church.

          Problem Solving agenda items are used to resolve a problem or issue that may be occurring in the district, such as “How can Scouting units attract more Hispanic and Latino boys into their unit?” Or, “How do we get more council units to attend council summer camps?” Or, “How can we get LDS units to run their Scouting program the way it has been designed by the Boy Scouts of America?”

          I Need Help agenda items are put on the agenda when someone would like to solicit help from other leaders in the meeting on a particular issue unique to that individual. The issue is not addressed in the meeting, but rather the person is asking for others to assist him or her outside of the meeting with a particular activity or issue.

          Now, having said this, let me state that the reason why many district meetings are boring and not worth a person’s time is because they are almost entirely Informational meetings. No one wants to go to a meeting just to receive information that they could have just as easily received in an email.

          The purpose of district meetings ought to be to draw upon the collective intelligence of the experienced Scouting leaders in attendance. It out to be a meeting full of Advisory and Problem Solving agenda items. It ought to be a place where Scouting leaders can go to get advice or help in resolve the problems or issues that arise in their Scouting role.

          In my opinion, a district meeting ought to consist of no more than 15 minutes of information. The rest of the time should be spent in addressing real issues and providing real help to Scouting leaders. I believe people would be happy to attend district meetings if the meeting provided them with helpful tools, techniques, methods, and ideas that met the Scouting leaders’ specific needs.

          Now, with the above as a guideline, I believe you should be able to think of scores of ideas for agenda items that would make a district meeting interesting and productive.

          1. David Ripplinger says:

            Thanks, Mac, and everyone else, for your replies! They are very insightful.

          2. Marla Thomas says:

            This was very helpful to give these examples of what can be covered in a district committee meeting in order to have meaning, purpose and productivity. Thank you.

    3. John Solomon says:

      Hi David, I have often found that round table for adult scouters mirrors and models the experience of the youth. I suspect that many feelings of “district meeting or round table doesn’t really provide me with much” stems from the misconception that it is something to be provided to us rather than to be engaged in. The youth often struggle with the same feelings at the beginning of their scouting experience as well and have to learn otherwise by being engaged to actually doing it rather than having it provided to you. One of my favorite General Conference quotes is Elder Bednar’s about being agents to act for ourselves rather than objects to be acted upon. I’m not quite sure why in Scouting we forget that and want to be acted upon and when that doesn’t happen we complain and quit. In our area there is exactly 1 BSA staff in a district of13 stakes. All the rest of the staff and district program needs to be run and provided by the sponsoring organizations in the district. There are no magic “others” designated by BSA to provide the district program and training. The CORs and other stake YM leaders really need to be the active participants in the district staff for the district to really be able to function as it should.

    4. David Parker says:

      David, I struggle with the same issue with the COR’s in my stake. They are already very busy and multiple COR’s that attended district meeting after some gentle prodding by me, but felt like they had wasted their time afterwards. I’m still looking for ways to change the meeting to be more relevant.

      1. Marla Thomas says:

        Why would attending meetings as representatives of the Lord’s church be wasting time? How can our influence be felt if we are not there participating? There are always opportunities to meet others of our faith and not of our faith and to share positive experiences and solutions. If one attends such meetings with a prayerful heart it will be amazing what can take place!

        1. Mac McIntire says:

          Well said Marla

  2. Robert Mortensen says:

    This is a copy of a letter we discussed and provided YM/Scout Adult leaders when we extended callings to them – with all the hyperlinks of course:

    Dear Brother,

    Yours is a sacred calling requiring a high level of personal consecration to the building up of God’s Kingdom by helping young men come unto Christ. The time commitments of your calling are similar to that of a member of the bishopric or stake presidency and should be approached with same level of enthusiasm and effort. We invite you to leave behind all preconceived notions about what the right way is of running the Young Men and Scouting program, to have a willingness to abandon false traditions of how these programs have functioned in the past, and to learn how to do this work in the Lord’s way.

    We, the Bishopric, Ward Council, and Scout Committee, are here to help you be as successful as possible. In an effort to do this, we present the following commitments that you and your family will need to make:

    GET TRAINED (Required)
    LDSBSA.org New Leaders: http://www.ldsbsa.org/new-leaders/
    Youth Protection – online (before being sustained and set apart)
    Review Church Handbook 2, Section 8, Scouting Handbook & Scouting Handbooks covering your role – most of this is online (within the first week – and revisit regularly)
    Learn about the “Come Follow Me” curriculum and commit to teach and lead with those principles – online (before your first meeting with the youth and on-going)
    Review the “Duty to God” program – online (within the first week and on-going)
    Fast Start – online (before your first meeting with youth)
    Complete additional online training so that activities can be done safely (before first outing)
    Position-Specific Training – workshop by the Scouting district or council (as soon as possible – within the month or two of being called)
    Outdoor Leadership Skills – usually a weekend overnighter by the Scouting district or council (as soon as possible – within the first six months)
    (Encouraged Additional Training)
    Wood Badge – a week-long or two weekend training. (as soon as possible after other training)
    Read the book: “Trails to Testimony: Bringing Young Men to Christ Through Scouting”
    Subscribe to Mac’s Messages at LDSBSA.org

    COMMIT TO ATTEND THE FOLLOWING MEETINGS & EVENTS
    Sunday Quorum Meetings
    Troop/Team/Crew Meetings – usually Wednesday evenings
    Aaronic Priesthood Presidency Meetings – held regularly, we encourage at least twice monthly
    Combined Activities – usually on mutual night, but occasionally on other days.
    Round Table – Scout District monthly training – the first Thursday of each month (except June and July) at the LDS Church, 190 S. Locust Grove, Meridian (just South of the corner of Locust Grove and Franklin) at 7:00PM.
    Monthly campout or outdoor adventure
    Youth Temple Trips – usually a couple times per year
    Scout Camp or High Adventure (week-long – commit to attend for full week)
    Young Men Presidency Meeting for the YM Presidency and others by invitation
    Young Men President has these additional meetings:
    Bishopric Youth Committee Meeting – once per month
    Ward Council – once or twice per month
    Priesthood Executive Committee – once per month

    1. Brent Thompson says:

      Robert,
      This is a very comprehensive document. THANK YOU for sharing this in this forum. As a Stake YM President I will share this with the Stake Presidency. Thank you very much.
      Brent

    2. Mac McIntire says:

      Thanks for posting this. This is excellent!

      I particularly like that it instructs people to subscribe to these blog messages. By subscribing at the place listed to the left of each message, people can get these messages automatically each week.

    3. MarlaThomas says:

      Yep! This list could scare a new leader away; but, since he will have been “called of God” he will need this instruction.

      It does seem good to let him know what will actually be expected of him and it is truly a big challenge and calling to serve as a youth leader. It is, truly, a perfect opportunity to learn to prioritize and be an example of how to keep work, family, church, scouting and other activities prioritized and balanced.

      God bless our youth leaders and help them to proceed with wisdom, strength and humility.

    4. Aaron Rasmussen says:

      Robert, thanks for posting that letter! I’m going to ask my bishopric to use something very similar to convey expectations!

  3. MarlaThomas says:

    When I was a female scout committee chairman back in the 1990’s I was trying to figure out how to give the youth, the Scoutmaster and the other scout leaders (such as the Varsity Scout Coach and the YM Leaders of the older young men) support from the bishopric and vice versa (the other way around).

    It seemed to me that some of the easiest times for the bishopric to get to really know their youth and the leaders who have been called is to be on a camp out with them. Each bishopric member can then assess the relationships of the youth with their scout & youth leaders. This is a time for inspiration and to assess what needs to be emphasized and taught to the young men leaders and the youth leaders of the ward. It is, also, an excellent time to invite a less active, non-member or new young man of the ward to join them.

    The idea I came up with was that each bishopric member and maybe one of his clerks or the executive secretary would calendar and attend camp three times per year (when the young men are actually camping at least once per month) through coordination with the others of the group. Now that is not really that much of a sacrifice — three times per year to be with those who they have direct stewardship over.

    If there are conflicts or emergencies at least the bishopric member could come for campfire the first night or be there in the morning for breakfast without actually camping all night. It is all determined by the other meetings, activities and ministering service that the one assigned that weekend has (and to the bishopric member’s personality); but, this is an excellent time for the bishopric member to really come to know and minister to the young men and their leaders in the ward. Being there the whole time on the assigned weekend is “better”; but, coming to breakfast or being at camp fire can be a “best”. If not possible to meet up at camp to be at the meeting place as they leave or as they return can be a “good”. Just remember the “good”, “best”, “better” routine.

    How can the youth really follow the bishopric member’s by example if they only see them sitting near the podium each week and in their suits and ties? The examples of the day-to-day activities really need to be shown and shared with each young man of a ward &/or stake.

    When these calendars and arrangements for leaders and who will be chaperoning on an outing are arranged with prayer and thought involved the program and results can be astounding in a positive light.

    As I watched my four brothers in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s mature in some sort of loose scouting units the glue that kept them organized and together with some direction was the bishopric and Young Men’s leaders who assisted in planning and creating an environment where the boys & older youth wanted to continue attending church. They did this by encouraging my brothers to attend camp and participate in the sports programs along with attending “boring” church on Sundays.

    The bishopric and young men’s leaders were always hovering in the background. It started young when they were in mid-week Primary. Sister Gallagher (the Cub Scout leader) would pick them up for Primary (they would sit on the rock out by the fence until she came) and my mom would pick them up after work when Primary was over. Bro. Gallagher was the Cubmaster and did lots of fun stuff!

    Then as they got older the Young Men’s leaders and bishopric members were very influential. In fact, one of the best scout leaders they ever had, Bro. Charles Berteaux, just passed away last week. He was one of those who was constantly re-applying the “glue” of the gospel to the programs to help my brothers grow in the “light of the gospel”.

    The bishopric usually asked our parents, who were not attending church, to help transport the young men to camp. My parents always felt that that was a very reasonable request that the bishopric and young men’s leaders would make. It, also, meant a lot to us kids. But, a bishopric member was always in the background and there as the boys met to leave for week-long scout camps, pioneer treks, etc.

    My brothers have grown into great fathers and are faithful men. Yes, a couple of them went through some hard times; but, in the long run they are real “family men” who love their families and all that the gospel brings. They all served as LDS missionaries. They are not without their challenges with their own families; but, they have a desire to be truthful and to live in the “light of the gospel”. The scout law, scout oath and scout motto is forever at the forefront of the lessons that they know they should live.

    I am thankful for those of the bishoprics in the wards that I grew up in. It was so very helpful in the long-term for their own families and to each of the families in their wards.

    So thankful for the bishops, their counselors, the executive secretary and the supporting clerks!

    1. Mac McIntire says:

      Marla, I always appreciate your wise and inspiring counsel. Thank you so much for sharing your insights.

  4. Greg lyman says:

    I seem to recall a document on ldsbsa.org which showed an alternative organizational chart. For example, bishopric counselors were Unit Commissioners and the Stake YM President was an ADC, etc. The way it is outlined now is really hard when your stake covers multiple districts… advice?

    1. Mac McIntire says:

      Greg,

      You are correct that members of the stake YM presidency used to be ADCs. The policy has now changed, as you will note in my blog messages and in the current LDS Scouting Handbook (May 2015). It was always a bad idea to have members of the bishopric as unit commissioners since a UC should not oversee his or her own unit.

      Having said this, your stake president has the authority to designate how he wishes to assign ADCs and UCs in his stake. Of course, the Church recommends he follow the guidelines, but the reason why stake presidents are given keys and the gift of discernment is because local situations and circumstances differ throughout the Church. Follow his counsel when it comes to Scouting role assignments.

      Mac

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