Mac’s Message #7: Become a Trained Scout Leader

Mac McIntire

Mac McIntire

One would never jump into the pilot seat of a cargo plane and try to fly it without first reading the manuals and getting fully trained in piloting skills. Yet many Young Men leaders jump into their Scouting position with no intention of getting properly trained when they’ve been given stewardship for the most precious cargo of all—the Lord’s young men.

“Wherefore, now let every man learn his duty, and to act in the [Young Men] 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).

I hope you will read the above scripture over and over and heed its counsel. These two verses are the final admonition in section 107 of the Doctrine and Covenants—one of the priesthood sections that every priesthood holder, particularly Young Men leaders, are counseled to study.

I plead with you to take your Aaronic Priesthood and Scouting callings seriously. When you accepted the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods you took an oath and made a covenant to magnify your calling. The best way I know to magnify your Scouting calling is to become fully trained in your leadership position.

In the LDS Scouting Handbook it says, “Young Men and Primary leaders who are called to Scouting responsibilities should receive training in Scouting principles, policies, and procedures as used by the Church. Trained Scout leaders who understand and live the gospel, understand priesthood governance, and understand the Scouting program are better able to serve young men and boys involved in Scouting activities.” (LDS Scouting Handbook for Church Units in the United States, 2014, 2.0). Scout leaders are considered trained when they complete Youth Protection, leader-specific training, and Introduction to Outdoor Leader Skills. These courses represent the minimum training you should attend if you wish to learn your duty and magnify your calling.

The BSA training document “What Makes a Trained Leader” will help you determine which training you should complete for your specific calling.

In my opinion the best training you can attend to learn how to pilot your Scouting unit successfully is Wood Badge for the 21st Century. Wood Badge is the premier leadership training in Scouting. This powerful training causes the light bulb to go on for many Young Men leaders. I know your young men will be better served if you attend Wood Badge soon after you are called to your Aaronic Priesthood and Scouting calling.

I dream of the day when bishops will call new Young Men leaders properly, insisting they get fully trained within the first few months of being set apart. It would be wonderful if our Scout councils and districts were inundated with requests for more training from LDS Scouting leaders.


Take a Moment to Reflect

  • Have you learned your duty as an Aaronic Priesthood and Scout leader? Are you truly magnifying your calling?
  • What will you start doing, stop doing, or do better as a result of your reflection?
  • Have you been fully trained in your Scouting position?
  • Have you attended Wood Badge training? If not, when will you commit to go to Wood Badge?
  • Do you attend monthly roundtable meetings and participate fully in the experience?


Turn Your Reflection into Action

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


“Training is essential to understanding Scouting and feeling confident that we can implement the program. Training motivates us to succeed because as we develop a degree of mastery, we gain confidence that we really can be successful Scout leaders.” (David L. Beck, Young Men general president, “Capturing the Vision of Scouting,” Ensign, June 2012)


 -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.

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  1. Daniel says:

    I agree that training is surprisingly helpful.

    That said, I want to challenge one point here. Often we attribute a lack of training to leader motivation that “if they were really committed they would do this”. I have completed my training but I must admit I found leader-specific training and outdoor leadership to be generally underwhelming. From my perspective (and several of those attending with me) it was longer than needed, lacked energy and lacked opportunities for learner participation/engagement. On the flip side I agree Woodbadge is the best training we have.

    Therefore I find it ironic that our best training is not required and the weaker training is required. I wonder if scout training could be changed to make it more efficient, energetic and engaging. Perhaps these changes could enhance training among our leaders.

    1. Mac says:

      Daniel, you’ve hit on one of the major reasons why many adult Scouting leaders don’t attend training — the poor quality of the training provided. I’ve often said that some volunteer BSA trainers have the ability to turn one hour’s worth of material into a one-day training session or a one-minute point into a twenty-minute exercise. I devoted many pages to this point in my Doctorate of Commissioner Science thesis titled, “Why Some Adult Scouting Leaders Fail to Deliver the Scouting Program as Designed by the Boy Scouts of America; and What to Do About It”

      I once spent many months trying to convince a stake president to attend Scouting training. Finally he acquiesced and signed up for a one-day leadership training offered by the local council. Sadly the training was horrible. For several months I heard him complain to others about what a waste of time it was for him to attend the training. Not only did the poor training turn off this stake president, his experience caused others to not want to attend training.

      Your point is very valid. We need to have quality training programs if we want to get adult Scouting leaders to attend training. Otherwise we are wasting our time preaching about the importance of Scouting training.

      1. Greg Hart says:

        As a YM President and Crew Advisor, I pleaded with my Asst PQ Advisors to attend position-specific training. They went somewhat hesitently and left early because, in their words, it wasn’t a good use of time. Like that stake president, they don’t speak very highly of the experience and it hasn’t done these advisors’ opinions of scouting any real favor. Well wouldn’t you know it, I teach my first Venturing Advisor LST in two days. I promised myself that I would do my part to make it worthwhile for the participants. Fingers crossed.

      2. James Francisco says:

        I want you all to consider that soul that is at the front of the room at a BSA training. He or She may not be the most articulate or interesting person on the face of the earth. But, they are a volunteer! They are there because they love scouting and youth and are willing to give up their time to share with new leaders the skills and knowledge they need to get started on their positions. This is unlike most LDS leaders in scouting who are draftees and often show it by their disrespect for the sacrifice and effort of the training teams by complaining and discouraging other new leaders from learning their duties. Compassion and kindness for those who are trying to overcome their own weaknesses and help us learn new things is something that we should be living daily.

        1. Daniel says:


          I agree that volunteering to train is a sacrifice and that we should be appreciative of those willing to share their expertise. Certainly we can be considerate of those giving their time.

          The intent of the post as I read it is to figure out how to help LDS scouting leaders get the knowledge and skills they need to effectively run a scouting program. Personally I think it is a hard sell to say, “go spend 3-4 days in training that is generally lecture, dry, and not well done… and by the way be kind and patient with the trainer because he is a volunteer whereas you are a draftee”.

          The intent of my comment is to balance the conversation. Many think that the training issue is due to lack of motivation on the leaders part. I wonder if we can take a supply side perspective and ask, “how can we develop and deliver a training that people would line up to participate?” Interestingly many of the comments support the argument that training can be improved.

          Can’t we work this from both sides? For example, can we find a great trainer within the Stake to take the responsibility to get all scout leaders trained? We could call someone with good presentation skills, ability to facilitate discussion and learner participation. Then have them approved by the scout office to teach our leaders. Then we can encourage scout leaders get trained together to navigate LDS specific issues such as no Sunday camping, small troops etc.

          1. Mac says:

            I really appreciate the dialogue this message has stimulated so far.

            Jeff Bybee, the training chairman in the Scouting district in which I live, is an outstanding trainer. I have attended several of his leader-specific training sessions, even though I am a trained leader, because I knew I would learn something new in his training. Sadly, these sessions had very few attendees. I wondered what Jeff’s response would be to the points made above, so I emailed him. Here is what he said:

            “After reading the comments it’s my opinion that they are dealing with the symptoms of the problem rather than the problem. It has been my experience with training in the LDS scouting arena that asking for peoples’ time is the biggest issue, whether you’re the trainer or trainee.

            “In the early days of the church your physical health was what the Lord called on as a sacrifice to build his kingdom. Before and after the President Snow era it was money that became the area of sacrifice. Today its time. People are much more willing to write a check rather than give a weekend to the scouting program. I have also learned that coupled with the time issue is a fear that if someone gets training they will never be released from the program (there may be some truth to that) again causing them to sacrifice more time.

            “I have tried several ways to make training as convenient as possible by listening to the reasons people won’t or can’t attend training and then removing those reasons. Doing this has still not met with an increase in attendees. As LDS scouters we are ‘called’ to the position and we have a tendency to go through the motions until we are released and called to the next position and then we repeat the same pattern again and again. Whereas outside the church people who get involved want to be there and get trained, rather the training is outstanding or not. They are also the ones that if the training was not effective tend to become part of the solution to make it effective.

            “Bottom line, like most everything else it is the attitude of the individuals involved that make the difference.”

            Of course Jeff’s final point is the main thesis of my blog messages. My hope through these messages is to help Aaronic Priesthood and Scouting leaders obtain the proper attitude about their Young Men calling. Hopefully, when they gain a vision of the Scouting program these leaders will want to be trained. And, hopefully, as James and others have pointed out here, when they do go to training, that training will be of high quality.

      3. Geoff says:

        Mac: I would be interested in reading your thesis. Is it available? Thanks.

        1. Mac says:

          If you will send me an email request to I will send you my doctorate thesis. I’d love to get your feedback on it. Anyone else who would like to read it is welcome too.

  2. For those that do not have money to attend Wood Badge remember to encourage your stake and wards to leave some room in their budgets for this purpose.

    “Stake Young Men and Primary presidencies also provide ongoing training and support for ward Young Men, Primary, and Scouting leaders. In addition, the BSA provides monthly roundtables to help leaders learn Scouting methods and skills; it also offers a variety of optional training courses such as Wood Badge, the Trainer’s EDGE, and others. Stake and ward budget allowance funds may be used for adult Scouting training.
    LDS Scouting Handbook May 2014, Section 2.1

  3. David says:

    As a district training chair I’d like to make a few points. First, the leader specific training (LST) is written by the BSA in such a manner that it is very dry and uninteresting. This is partly because the LST training requires us to discuss the position in abstract terms, and to spend a lot of time on the administrative side of the position. But just like in the Scouting program itself, training becomes much more fun and exciting when you get into the outdoors (Introduction to Outdoor Leader Skills and Wood Badge).
    Second, if you found your training to be less interesting than you wanted it to be, have you considered volunteering to be a part of you district’s training team? No training chair worth his salt will turn down a good leader who volunteers to help. Additionally, we are instructed in the Church Scouting manuals to volunteer to help at the district level. So we should all be looking for some way to help.
    Third, LST is intended to be an introduction to leadership in Scouting. If you feel that something wasn’t covered to your satisfaction, go to your district Roundtable and ask questions. The purpose of Roundtable is to give leaders a place where they can ask the questions they have and get answers from other, more experienced leaders. Roundtable is the most important meeting held at the district level, and at the same time, the worst attended meeting at the district level.

  4. BC360 says:

    Train the trainer to be a good trainer.

  5. Robert Mortensen says:

    If Stake YM Presidencies, the Stake High Councilor, and the Stake Presidencies would get trained, they could then become the trainers at District and Council level trainings. How awesome would that be?! Leaders at the stake level are too often too detached.

  6. Randy Sorensen says:

    Thanks again Mac. I find it interesting that comments on most of these blog posts end up being directed towards bishops and stake presidents. Why do you suppose that is the case? What should we be learning from this?

    1. Mac says:

      My answer: For the same reason in the workplace one should focus on the manager, rather than the employee, when an employee fails to perform to standard. A manager cannot abdicate his or her responsibility for the performance of one’s employees. It is the manager’s role to ensure results are achieved.

      Often men are called to leadership positions in the Young Men and just turned loose. There is so accountability, no follow-up, no “return and report” on one’s stewardship. Personal Priesthood Interviews (PPI) may be few and far between, particularly with Scouting leaders.

      Handbook 2: Administering the Church, 8.3.1. says “The bishop 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.”

      I hope these are more than hallway discussions. I hope they are formal, structured PPIs that focus on the important issues of Scouting and the Aaronic Priesthood. I hope they are an accounting of one’s stewardship and a sincere discussion of the things that matter most in dealing with the Lord’s young men. (Perhaps I need to write a future message on this topic.)

      Hence, in my opinion, the thing that determines the success of the Young Men programs within stakes and wards is the extent to which the stake presidencies and bishoprics are actively involved as leaders over these programs, And, hence, why this blog is directed toward stake presidencies, bishoprics, stake and ward Young Men presidencies, and adult Scouting leaders–in that order.

      1. Randy Sorensen says:

        Well put Brother Mac!!

  7. Bruno says:

    People normally will find time or make time for the things they like or believe in; that is the vital difference in LDS scouting, where some people who are called, see it as sacrifice or struggle, instead of an opportunity to love or believe in the program….
    About time….humans make time for the things they enjoy, trust and love deeply, but if you are called or not, is a “lottery game” where the real winner or losers in the end, will be the boys. They have only one chance in a lifetime of being young, to take the advantage to grow and learn in this great game of life, that we call scouting.

  8. Mac McIntire says:

    I heard this statement recently:

    “The worst an adult Scouting leader is trained, the more likely they are to lead the program. The more trained they are in Scouting, the more likely they will let the boys lead the program.”

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