Mac’s Message #8: Understand How the Scouting Programs Build Upon Each Other

Mac McIntire

Mac McIntire

There is a way to be successful in every element of your life. All you have to do to succeed is figure “it” out. Figure out how to be successful in that particularly portion of your life—and then do “it.” The “its” in life are usually very simple and clear if you think about it. But some people never figure “it” out, ignore “it,” refuse to do “it,” or fight against “it.” And by so doing they fail miserably.

The good news about Scouting is someone has already figured “it” out. Each level of the Boy Scout program is a step-by-step, systematic, developmental process to turn boys into strong men of character. Each individual Scouting program progressively emphasizes different things to nurture a boy through the various developmental stages of young manhood.

The emphasis of the Cub Scout program is on home-centered and family activities. Boys and families work together with adult leaders to build moral strength, character, fitness, and fun. The Webelos emphasis shifts from family to a boy’s peers. Activities are group centered rather than family centered. Parents are placed in a supportive role as a boy works on advancement and his Faith in God Award. The eleven-year-old Scout program emphasizes a boy’s individual role within a group. The boys begin to gain confidence by functioning in a unit and serving in patrol leadership roles.

The emphasis of Boy Scouts is teamwork. Boys meet in patrols, work together on merit badges and rank advancement, and serve in unit leadership positions where a boy learns to be personally responsible for a group. The Varsity program continues the boy’s leadership development where he becomes a program manager responsible for planning and executing the unit’s programs. He also enhances his personal skills and strengthens his values so he can stand up to peers. Finally, the Venturing program is outwardly focused on applying leadership and team building skills for the benefit of others. The program emphasizes service, teaching others, life planning, career development, and putting into practice one’s beliefs. Venturing is the final Scouting preparation for manhood.

Whenever you fail to follow or implement the prescribed Scouting program as designed you thwart the successful development of the boy. You neglect an important building block of a boy’s growth. You replace “it” with something less effective. You miss the mark by shooting from the hip rather than taking a firm stance behind the steady pillar of the expertly designed Scouting program.

As I have done many times before, I strongly encourage you to catch the vision of Scouting, learn the proper program, implement the program as designed, and reap the success with your boys that comes from doing “it” the way “it” was meant to be done.

Take a Moment to Reflect

  •  Are you carrying out the Boy Scout, Varsity, or Venturing program the way it was designed?
  • Are you building a firm foundation at the current level of your boys’ development so they will be fully prepared when they move up to the next level in the Scouting program?
  • Are you fully developed (trained) in your role so you can fully develop your boys in their roles?


Turn Your Reflection Into Action

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


“And I do this for a wise purpose; for thus it whispereth me, according to the workings of the Spirit of the Lord which is in me.”(Words of Mormon 1:7).

 -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. Robert Mortensen says:

    I recently heard about a troop in which the zealous Scoutmaster created a two year program in which every boy who participated would complete all the requirements and merit badges for the Eagle Scout rank. While that Scoutmaster’s organizational skills and dedication are nothing short of impressive…and the boys will probably have a lot of fun and memorable experiences along the way…and the parents of course will be delighted – because “Advancement” is the most important thing to parents, right?

    Unfortunately this wonderful Scoutmaster has missed the broader vision of scouting. He forgot that scouting is supposed to be boy-led and boy-run. By being boy-led, it means more than just asking another scout to lead the Pledge of Allegiance and the Scout Law. These boys have been robbed of the experience of the annual program planning conference, planning and executing the Troop Meeting, and so much more. Can you imagine how powerful a two-year program like that would be had it originated from the mind and heart of the boys and was executed by a series of exceptional Patrol Leaders with adult advisers guiding from the shadows? I would have no doubt that these young men would become the kind of men that Scouting expects to turn out?!! It can be done! We just gotta get outta the way of the boys!

  2. JD says:

    Robert – Mine was that ZEALOUS Scoutmaster! I wish all the LDS Scoutmasters were like him. Yes we had TONS of Fun, more than any I have yet to meet over the last 25 years. Advancement was part of it, leadership was part of it, outdoors was A LOT of it, friendship/challenges, service… He designed the perfect program for us and we all benefited as a result. Most of the boys who are now in our late 30ies have been successful. Without a doubt the program was a part of our future success.

    I am totally for a Trail to 1st Class 11 year old Group, and an organized approach to Merit Badges/Outings for 12-13 LDS Deacons. Many Scoutmasters are not that organized & trained to put together a solid 2 year program. The advantage of a 2 year program is that it rotates and every boy gets the same program. It provides and great foundation for the older programs where boys are more independant and even more capable of taking on more in-depth leadership roles. If each Level of Scouting represented the EDGE Method, then a 3 year Boy Scout Experience would be the Demonstrate phase transitioning the boy to a Guide Stage (Varsity), and finally to Enable (Venturing). The Patrol Method is still a great way to enable the boys to lead and serve, but they don’t need to plan 100% all of the events. At 12 years old, I didn’t know what was available to do. 6 Different Peaks, Grand Canyon RIM to RIM, Mormon Battalion Trail, 2 Scout Camps (+Super Troop Awards), Mt. Whitney, Water Skiing, Snow Camps, Camporees, Desert Dunes, etc. At 12-13 I didn’t know these places existed let alone would have chosen them even if I did. I am glad they picked hard hikes to accomplish.

    In a Community based unit, the dynamics are different because most “Boy-Led” Units have 14-17 year old Boys who are the Patrol Leaders and SPLs. These Units run differently because of the broad age. You won’t see to many 13 Senior Patrol Leaders in a Community based Unit, and few Patrol Leaders. In LDS Boy Scouts, we have 12 Year Old Patrol Leaders and 13 Year Old SPLs.

    My experience as a result of the Zealous Scoutmaster (and former Bishop) program…Eagle at 13.5 years Old. Full Time Camp Staff 14 & 15. Now I am in my 30ies and a District Commissioner. My Scoutmaster Rocked!

    I didn’t feel robbed of Annual Planning and executing because we planned our weekday meetings and stewardship meetings weekly in our Presidency Meetings. We had Patrol Breakout Planning for our Backpacking in which we planned and prepared for upcoming super-events. We had the opportunity to lead the meetings and even teach them, but at 12-13 our teaching skills were pretty weak because we we not experts. There are opportunities to do Annual Planning/Quarterly Planning in Varsity & Venturing. Certain opportunities may have been delayed 2 years but now we had 2 years worth of awesome activities we could use as experience to plan our own events.

    When a new leader is called, the transition goes much smoother. I had an AWESOME experience. As a result I recommend all of my Scoutmasters do the same.

    As for the Shadow Leadership (GUIDE – in the EDGE Method), Varsity is a better place, in my opinion for this because the boys are moving from dependence and seeking independence. The program is also setup for Coaching-Mentoring by design.

    In Venturing, the Boys and now the Leaders and the Adults are the Advisors. The sad part is most LDS Units don’t make it past the Boy Scout model.

    Mac – Great Articles/Advice! Keep them coming…

    1. Marla Thomas says:

      Thank you to J.D. My only difference in perspective is that the opportunities are offered to the 12 & 13 year olds without the expectation that the young scouts will accomplish everything the first time round. Personally, I believe the each young man needs to work at his own pace and know that is acceptable to the adult leaders. It is not a competition amount the scouts to get to various ranks first. But, it is sure nice for youth who want to move forward to have a model or plan to get there as effectively and efficiently as possible. From my experience of scouting and LDS units most young men are finally mature enough to be able to actually lead for his Eagle project at the age of 15 years old to get the true effect of the purpose behind the plan. There are a few exceptional youth who would benefit at 13 or 14 years old.e

  3. Carlisa says:

    JD .. care to share the ZEALOUS Scoutmaster program? private message ..

  4. Marla Thomas says:

    The types/forms of leadership in each program build upon each other as a scout develops from a boy into a teen aged boy into a young man and eventually into a mature man. The Cub Scout Pack demonstrates a home based family environment with “den leaders” or “parents” as caretakers/leaders. Then the Boy Scout Troop fosters groups outside of a family/community nurturing environment where the youth become more independent and reach out to their friends by forming patrols and planning activities to do with each other. They organize their trips by utilizing an organization similar to a “job” environment where there would be a boss to organize and give assignments and to carryout meetings. There is somewhat of a hierarchy among the boy-leaders with the senior patrol leader, patrol leaders and assistant patrol leaders at the troop level. The scoutmaster is the “big cheese” who, along with his assistants, teaches the skills the scouts need for their adventures. He is, also, their overseer and guide to protect them from themselves and any avoidable situations they might find or create. At the Varsity Team level a new type/form of leadership is introduced demonstrating a “team” approach where most of the youth leaders are on an equal level and have their own sphere of influence in the decision making of the group through the utilization of program managers. The team captain is the coordinator to represent all of the equal voices of the team program managers. Those youth leaders are directly shadowed by observing adults who are offering guidance only as needed. Finally, as we approach Venturing a corporate type organizational structure is introduced. There is a president/chairman, treasurer and secretary along with any number of needed vice-presidents/vice-chairmen and other officers who vote regarding what the group will do. There are subcommittees to be formed for varying lengths of time according to their purpose. There are adults as mentor advisors; but, these older youth are very capable of planning and leading others and helping others in a very independent fashion. They will have become the organizers, planners, leaders and doers. They will have matured and most likely will be developmentally, ready, functional, independent adults!

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