Mac’s Message #42: How to Encourage Priesthood Leaders to Fully Embrace Scouting

Mac McIntire

Mac McIntire

I had originally intended to write this blog message as the final post in my series on support roles for Scouting in the Church. But, in view of the numerous comments in the reply section of the last few blogs and my experience at Philmont this past week, I decided to address this issue now.

Since I started writing this blog over forty weeks ago I have received several phone calls and emails from readers asking for help with specific problems they encounter in their Scouting or Aaronic Priesthood calling. By far the majority of those calls and emails express dismay at the perceived lack of support the person feels from those in authority over them. Sadly, some have said they face actual opposition from their ward Young Men presidency, members of their bishopric, or stake leaders when they try to run their Scouting program the way it has been designed by the Boy Scouts of America and adopted by the Church. The lack of vision and understanding from priesthood leaders seems to be an overarching concern for too many adult Young Men and Scouting leaders in the Church.

As I have stated many times in my blog messages, in my opinion the greatest need in Scouting and the Aaronic Priesthood in the Church is for all priesthood leaders to gain a personal vision and testimony of why these two programs are so intricately linked. My constant prayer is that all adult leaders responsible for the young men in the Church would receive a personal witness similar to the one I experienced and shared in my first blog message.

How does one give feedback to those in authority over them when one feels a priesthood leader is not fulfilling his role as one may hope? How does a person provide “corrective counsel” to priesthood leaders in the hierarchical order of the Church? Is this even possible without overstepping one’s bounds? Will the priesthood leader be receptive to the feedback?

Let me first state that priesthood leaders should listen to input from those they serve, for that is how the Lord has designed His Church. That is why there are so many councils at every level throughout the Church. The purpose of councils is to hear the input from others and draw upon the collective insight and experience of the council members. “Come, saith the Lord, by the Spirit, unto the elders of his church, and let us reason together, that ye may understand; let us reason even as a man reasoneth one with another face to face” (D&C 50:10-11).

This scriptural instruction from the Lord provides you with the first indicators of how to offer your feedback to priesthood leaders—do it face to face, and be reasonable when you do it.

The best way I know to ensure you are reasonable when you address tough issues is to ensure you have the Spirit of the Lord with you before you open your mouth. My advice: “If ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach” those in authority over you (D&C 42:14). For this reason I highly suggest you fast and pray for guidance regarding how to encourage your priesthood leaders to fully embrace Scouting. I testify the Lord will both tell you what to say and how to say it if you petition Him for guidance on how to approach your priesthood leaders.

May I also caution you not to buttonhole your priesthood leaders with your advice if you have within you a spirit of contention, anger, criticism, or complaint. The Holy Ghost will not be with you if you harbor these feelings. Please realize that it is impossible for you to inspire others to change their attitude or behavior if you exhibit a bad attitude or poor behavior. The way to soften the heart of another is to approach them in a spirit of love, kindness, gentleness, meekness, compassion, and charity.

Before you give someone feedback I also encourage you to take some advice from Stephen Covey: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood” (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People). If you feel overwhelmed in your Scouting or Aaronic Priesthood leadership role, imagine the burden members of bishoprics and stake presidencies must feel. They have a lot on their plates. They have a load of conflicting priorities. They cannot be experts in every area of their stewardship. They can only focus on a few things at a time. Not everything can be a high priority to them, even though the youth of the Church should be at the top of the list.

Therefore you must simplify what you want from your priesthood leader. You must be specific. You should know what actions you want the leader to take. And you must make the burden light. Present a plan instead of just pointing out problems.

May I suggest you consider the following before you talk to a priesthood leader:

  • What do you want from the priesthood leader? What is your hoped for outcome from talking to him about your concerns?
  • What actions do you wish the leader to take? Does he have to take those actions or could someone else do it? Perhaps all you want from him is permission for you to take action.
  • What other responsibilities does the leader have in his life? Is his plate so full that dealing with one more issue would be overwhelming and demoralizing? Are there ways you can lessen his burden rather than adding to it?
  • Knowing that most people can only handle one improvement issue at a time, what is the most important change that needs to be made? Is there a sequence for all of the other changes you want? Success breeds success. Let your priesthood leader work on one thing at a time. Celebrate his success. Then offer another suggestion for improvement.
  • What is the leader’s perspective or understanding regarding Scouting in your ward? Does he recognize there may be a problem? What are his goals? What are his concerns, if any?
  • How does the leader perceive his role in Scouting versus his role as the leader of the Aaronic Priesthood? Does he understand the link between Scouting and the Aaronic Priesthood?
  • Do you and the leader speak the same language? Are the things that are important to you important to him, and vice versa? Are the two of you on the same wave length?
  • How can you best inspire the priesthood leader to gain a personal testimony of Scouting?
  • What is the payoff for the leader to do what you want? What is in it for him besides more work? 

 

I know as you prayerfully ponder these questions the Lord will guide you in knowing how to give feedback to those in authority over you. Consider how Christ might handle the situation. Consider how the general authorities handle similar situations. Typically they gently and humbly teach, instruct, admonish, and reinforce. They always talk encouragingly. They use scriptures, handbooks, and stories to make their points. They shed light through the Spirit. They are never critical. They are always positive, hopeful, and supportive.

Finally, remember that the bishop and stake president have been given the keys and authority to direct the affairs of the ward or stake. Even the general authorities offer counsel, but allow the local leader to make the decisions regarding how they will govern their Church unit, within the bounds of Church policies and the scriptures. Likewise, you can offer your input, but never force an issue or violate a priesthood leader’s agency. Once a decision is made, support the decision of the one whom you have sustained.

I bear testimony that as you prayerfully seek the Spirit, the Holy Ghost will enlighten your mind and broaden your understanding so you can view the situation with more than your individual perspective of the issues. If you have the Spirit with you, the Holy Ghost will soften both your heart and the heart of the person to whom you are giving feedback. Through the inspiration of the Spirit, the Lord will open an effectual door at the right time so you can discuss your issues without causing offense.

I wish Scouting in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints operated perfectly because I have such a strong testimony of the value of Scouting and its potential impact upon the lives of young men. I know Scouting can be a critical component in helping boys to become faithful missionaries, husbands, fathers, and priesthood leaders. I wish every Young Men and priesthood leader knew this. I wish all brethren would do their duty to God to the very best of their ability. I wish they would magnify their priesthood calling. I wish I had a magic wand to make everything perfect. But, instead, like you, I must continue to plug along, hopefully making progress one “convert” at a time.

May the Lord bless you that you may strive to do your best to do your duty to God by magnifying your priesthood and Scouting callings. As you do so I know you will be “sanctified by the Spirit” (D&C 84:33) and your “confidence [will] wax strong in the presence of God” (D&C 121:45) when you give advice and counsel to your priesthood leaders.

Take a Moment to Reflect

  • Do you know what you want from your priesthood leader? Do you know what actions you want your leader to take? Have you simplified those actions so the burden is light?
  • Are your expectations of your priesthood leader reasonable?
  • Have you sought first to understand by taking into consideration the priesthood leader’s perspective and understanding?
  • Have you fasted, prayed, and counseled with the Lord regarding how to approach your priesthood leader to address your concerns?
  • Have you mapped out a plan of what you will say in your feedback and how you will say it? Have you thought about how your priesthood leader will respond to your input?

 

Turn Your Reflection Into Action

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

 

“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves . . . . For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you” (Matthew 10:16, 20)

 

-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. Scott Mears says:

    Mac:
    I don’t make it habit of on-line commenting, but I felt the need to express my sincere thanks to you for your blog. This one in particular was both timely and excellent. I have been fighting the same battles as you for a number of years and your messages have strengthened my testimony and helped change the hearts of other leaders in my Stake. Please continue to keep this part of the Lord’s best work going forward. If you ever need a wingman, I am happy to volunteer.

    1. Mac McIntire says:

      Scott,

      Thank you so much for your kind comment. Although you wrote this several months ago, it just got posted today.

      It’s interesting how the Lord operates and how kind He is. Every time I get a scathing email from a naysayer about Scouting I feel bad and start thinking that I should never have written my blog messages because I don’t like being a target for criticism. But then I read your comment and it brought peace to my soul.

      Had I read your comment several months ago it may not have been so meaningful to me. But, this message is exactly what I needed to hear today. The Lord in His mercy allowed this one to go to spam so it could come forth at the very time that it was needed most. What a blessing. And what a testimony of the Lord’s love. I am humbled by His mercy!

  2. Robert Mortensen says:

    Thank you Mac! This post is a direct answer to my prayers and fasting yesterday.

  3. KC Norseth says:

    I love these posts. Have you ever considered providing a Spanish translation? I work with the Spanish units in the Trapper Trails Council and they would benefit from these.

    My Spanish translation skills have a lot to be desired or I would attempt and trying some summary translations myself.

    YIS
    K.C. Norseth

    1. Mac McIntire says:

      KC: You can translate these blog messages automatically into Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, and Korean merely by clicking the translation button in the left column under the place where one subscribes to the blog.

  4. Marla Thomas says:

    I refer to this process as being taught by the “Refiner’s Fire” as both the student and teacher are “refined” through their interactions one with another. Hopefully, both participants will learn the needed lessons of an exchange of this sort.

  5. Mimi Paez says:

    I wish our YM President would not have said in front of all of the YM that he does not see why scouting is needed. He has done fine without, served a mission and he was previously a bishoe. Then, he proceeded to cancel scouting for those 14 and older……

    1. JD says:

      Mimi-
      I recommend that your YM Pres read the May 2015 LDS Handbook – Scouting. It helps him understand his role a little more. You are experiencing a very common issue among LDS Leaders who don’t see Scouting for what it can be. Without a doubt Scouting help make good men – great. When they begin to see Scouting through the eyes of the Spirit and how it can be used in “Rescuing” lost boys and their fathers (and thus families), strengthening boys that may come from families who may be struggling, and giving boys and opportunity to exercise their priesthood. There are boys, such as your YM/Bishop, who would go on to be great regardless of what they do in Young Mens. There are others, who Scouting with the Priesthood will make a difference. It starts on the leaders knees to begin to see Scouting for what it can be.

      For boys 14 and older their is Varsity and Venturing – both age appropriate that challenge the boys differently and appeal to them in ways that Boy Scouts do not.

      Another great program is the Priesthood Leadership Conference on Scouting.

      https://www.lds.org/bc/content/shared/english/young-men/35814_scout-handbook_eng.pdf?lang=eng

    2. Mac McIntire says:

      I always wondered what a person’s alternative is when they say this. Basketball? Soccer? Laser Tag? What alternative do they think is better for developing faithful priesthood leaders than the program the Lord has established for his choice young men? I agree that Scouting done poorly has limited value, but I would love to hear a person’s counter-argument for why they feel whatever they are doing with the young men is of greater value than what the Lord has designed.

      Of course, anyone who has read my blog message #1 realizes this person was me many years ago. I, too, thought I had a better program for the Young Men–and I was wrong!

      1. Bill Chapman says:

        Let me know if you hear what that program is. If you have read, “Century of Honor: 100 Years of Scouting in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” you can see that the Church tried very hard to develop its own young men’s program prior to scouting, including what was essentially another Sunday school class on a weeknight, which was a dismal failure. They tried sports and were still struggling when the Scouting movement hit the USA. Some wards created troops even before the church became a sponsoring organization. Initially, the brother and rejected the idea but later reconsidered and decided to enter into the partnership with the BSA.

        I agree with Mac that I think those who are failing in scouting are not really doing scouting at all. And that generally does not bode well for their “alternative” approaches, either. I also agree with Mac that I have never seen or heard of a program that is better than scouting for young men. If anyone is aware of one, please let us know.

  6. Bill Chapman says:

    Mac, another great post on a topic many of us are wrestling with. Some of us are so passionate about scouting, myself included, that I think we run the risk of allowing anger, the spirit of contention, etc., into our hearts when we think someone is preventing us from doing what is right. Your post has really caused me to think and pray about how I interact with other individuals regarding scouting in the church.

    Just this morning, at a breakfast meeting of the BYU Management Society in our area, a non-LDS friend of mine who is currently serving as Council Commissioner told me he had been meeting with a lot of LDS scouters who had the same concerns and frustrations. I have been scoutmaster (for the 3rd time) for a little over a year now this time around in our ward and we have worked very hard to implement to the “patrol method” with amazing results.

    Our troop has combined 2 other wards that meet in our building and were struggling and asked if they could join us. We got priesthood approval about a year ago and now have about 31 scouts, 7 nonmembers. Our SPL and one of our ASPLs are nonmembers but are doing a great job. We have a functioning PLC, great patrol leaders who are learning and growing in the scouts are loving what we are doing. We have a balanced meeting following the sample LDS Troop Meeting Agenda with a preopening (scouts start arriving 30 minutes before the meeting for some games and activities and most are there at least 15 or 20 minutes before the actual meeting starts). We then have an opening, skill instruction, patrol meetings, interpatrol activity/game, closing and then PLC for 30 minutes after.

    We try to balance the desire of the committee and are priesthood leaders on advancement while still implementing the “patrol method” and having a Scout led Troop. Those who visit our troop meetings are typically surprised at how rowdy and chaotic the meeting seem at times but they also are amazed that the SPL is in charge of the Troop and the patrol leaders are in charge of their patrols and are able to get a lot of great things done.

    In the past, when I was scoutmaster, we would frequently be talking to our scouts about not wadding up there Scout shirt and throwing it in the corner, wearing the proper uniform, etc. Now, we never say anything about even wearing the uniform and we have probably 75% of our scouts wearing a full or almost full uniform. It is a beautiful site.

    They come early, enjoy what they are doing and some who are not even members of the PLC want to hang around and observe or give their input. I believe when we give them real authority and decision-making while doing the things scouts do and abiding by the Scout oath, law, motto, slogan and outdoor code, young men are naturally drawn to what we are doing.

    Based on the request by my friend who is the Council Commissioner, we are discussing ways to help other scoutmasters and scouters learn how to use the “patrol method” and Scout led Troop in an LDS setting. We are considering holding a quarterly council wide LDS scoutmasters/Assistant scoutmaster training/roundtable to discuss problems they are experiencing and how to overcome them. If anyone has any thoughts on how to do this, I would be very interested in hearing them.

      1. Bill Chapman says:

        I would love to hear about other LDS troops who have implemented and are using the “patrol method.” As quoted in the patrol Leader’s handbook and numerous other sources, the founder of Scouting, Robert Baden Powell said “The patrol method is not a way to operate a Boy Scout truth, it is the only way. Unless the patrol method is in operation you don’t really have a Boy Scout troop.”

        Many of us are familiar with the first sentence of that quote but often the last sentence is dropped off. You will find the full quote in the patrol Leader’s handbook, page 37. It is a very powerful statement. Essentially, Baden Powell was saying that the patrol method is part of the Constitution of Scouting and cannot be changed by majority rule.

        I am thinking about starting a Facebook page entitled something like “LDS Boy Scout Troops Using the Patrol Method” and invite all troops who are using the patrol method to join and post what they are doing and learning. I will have to give this more thought but I am thinking the criteria would be to achieve a score of at least 150 points on the self-assessment tool found here: http://scoutmastercg.com/troubleshooting-the-patrol-method/. Let me know if you think there would be any interest in such a project.

        I think Clarke Green’s website/blog/podcast, etc. (scoutmasterCG.com) is the best resource out there for learning about the patrol method. Mac’s site is the best resource for helping LDS scouters apply those principles in an LDS troop.

        1. Bill Chapman says:

          Sorry, if I’m going to quote Scouting’s constitution, I should at least spell the words right. My voice recognition software converted the word “troop” to “truth.” Here’s the correct quote:

          “The patrol method is not a way to operate a Boy Scout troop, it is the only way. Unless the patrol method is in operation you don’t really have a Boy Scout troop.”

        2. Dave Johnson says:

          I really have enjoy all of Mac’s and now Stan’s posts. I’ve been an eleven year old scout leader for about a year now and continue to struggle with how to properly implement the patrol method with the EYO scouts. I feel like we’ve done good things but I also feel like I’m having to invent ways to fill the gaps of not having regular interaction with older scouts and the PLC and a Senior Patrol Leader etc. I’d love a resource titled something like “LDS EYO Scout Patrols Using the Patrol Method”

          1. JD says:

            Dave – you can have a Patrol Leader or 2 and Assistant Patrol Leaders. You can use the ILST and Patrol Leader Training Manuals (Scout Shop) to use the Patrol Method. The Boys would then learn their duties, Plan, and Lead Meetings and help prepare for outings and anything else they can do. Before overnighters, doing Pack Inspections are good – and let the boys lead the backpack inspections. Duty Rosters, Food/Menu Planning, Weekly Openings for Scouts can all be done with 11 year old boys. Also, just because you can’t camp doesn’t mean you can’t do some great hikes. There are a lot of Day Hikes you do. My 1st Day hike as an 11 year old was a 22 mile hike to the beach in the heat of August. There are peaks you can summit in 1 day, bike rides, canoeing, Discover Scuba at Sports Chalet, Horseback Riding, etc – all of which the boys can pick and choose and plan and practice the Patrol Method just like the 12-13 year olds.

            The 5 things I learned as an 11 year old where the 10 Essentials, 13 Articles of Faith, Hiking, and the love for Scouting, and the love for my Scout Leader.

            ILST Training:
            http://www.scouting.org/filestore/training/pdf/ILST%20FINALS%202011%20-%20Item%20Number%20511-016.pdf

  7. Jack L Beckman says:

    In regards to the YM President who thinks he can “cancel” Scouting……he doesn’t have the authority to do that. The YM President doesn’t have keys, doesn’t have approval/disapproval authority over what the handbook says is the Bishop and the Stake Presidency have as their responsibility, namely organizing and chartering Scouting units. He is exercising unrighteous dominion and the Bishop needs to deal with it. Quickly.

  8. James Taylor says:

    This message is on point and poignant, in light of the announcements over the last year.

    I would comment only that *always* one of the lessons of Scouting is that when feeling overwhelmed, that answer is to train and delegate – train for the work and delegate the authority to accomplish it. Before we accept responsibility it’s our obligation to determine the requirements, and the need to bring in that aid; it’s also our responsibility to be sure those tasks are accomplished. When a group is always dependent on a group of “usual candidates” to do a new job, rather than to raise up and train folks who have been uninvolved, we miss our best opportunity to be missionaries to our own, to love and connect our members and possible converts, and to bring people closer to Christ.

    One consequence of that closed group is that no discussion or patience will convince a man to do a calling they’ve accepted, but are determined not to understand or do, whether for reasons of politics, dedication or will.

  9. Mac McIntire says:

    It’s nice to see people are still reading my blog articles. When I re-read my blog articles it is like reading a journal. I feel that same Spirit again that I felt when I wrote them.

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