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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.