Scott’s Brotherhood Blog #14: The OA Helps LDS Scouts Serve at the District Level

Scott Hinrichs

The first time I visited our BSA district’s Scouting for Food collection point years ago, a number of young men wearing the distinctive Order of the Arrow sash made up a noticeable part of the staff. And so it has been every year since then.

In March, on a Saturday morning, I watched a group of OA Scouts work their tails off as vehicle after vehicle rolled into the collection area to drop off food collected by troops. The Scouts and leaders dropping off food worked alongside and under the leadership of young OA members to sort the food into bins. After several hours of work, the OA boys were tired but happy.

Among the reasons the Church is a strong sponsor of Scouting is that Boy Scout troops and Varsity Scout teams offer excellent opportunities for deacons and teachers to develop valuable leadership skills. Priesthood leadership is essential to the functioning of the Church, its programs, and most importantly, its covenants and ordinances. Since leaders all eventually move on, a new crop of leaders is constantly needed.

Why stop teaching leadership at the local unit level? Scouting offers chances for boys to develop and demonstrate leadership at the district and council levels. Among these are Order of the Arrow and camp staff. These programs are especially worthwhile from a Latter-day Saint perspective, because they embody the servant leader model, the same pattern employed by the Savior, whose example should be followed by every priesthood leader in the Church.

I mention the OA and camp staff in the same context because the Order is inextricably intertwined with Scout camping, as I explained in Blog post #5. There are valid reasons that most council camp staffs give hiring preference to young men that are active members of the OA. These young men know how to camp, how to serve, and how to lead out in service. We need more of this kind of thing in the Church.

Deacons and teachers with servant leader qualities are needed to lead Aaronic Priesthood quorums. In a few short years their service will be needed in mission leadership positions, Melchizedek Priesthood quorums, auxiliary organizations, and bishoprics.

The Order of the Arrow can play a valuable role in helping young men in the Church develop into the kind of servant leaders that are adept at following the Savior’s leadership pattern. If you are unsure about how you as an adult leader can help your deacons and teachers join the OA, contact your local OA chapter or your local Scout service center. They will be glad to help.


Questions to Ponder

  • Do you want the young men you serve to become Christlike servant leaders?
  • How open are you to the help offered by Scouting institutions such as the Order of the Arrow to develop these traits in your boys?
  • What will you do to better enable the youth in your unit to become servant leaders?

-Scott Hinrichs has been actively Scouting since age eight. He has served in many youth and adult Scouting positions and has been a member of the Order of the Arrow for more than four decades. He and his wife are raising their family in North Ogden, Utah. The views and opinions expressed in this message are solely those of the author.

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  1. Jason says:

    I am sort of ambivalent about OA. I know some scouts and adults love it and others do not care for it. I have always beleived that if a scout or adult leader wants to do it then they should go for it but if they don’t care or do not want to do it then they should not be pushed into it. We have very few OA members in our troop. I think we have one active scout in OA and a couple adult leaders. The current scout master moved here from another state and he is really big on it. At the last OA election he forced all the scouts to be in the balloting that met the qualifications to join even though all of them verbally told him they were not interested, including the scoutmaster’s own son! One scout was voted in but when he was told he had been elected he reminded the scout master he wasn’t interested and was not going to do it. He is an Eagle Scout but already has a full plate with school and other activities. He also does not want to pay the dues each year for something he does not see value in and does not want to be a part of. The dues is something that causes many boys to think twice about joining. The ward budget does not cover it and many parents and boys are loathe to pay for it themselves. I do not believe it helps grow numbers in OA to push boys into doing it if they do not want to do it. I think an added challenge for OA in our area is that attending meetings requires over a half hour, each way, of driving time and this requires a parent to do the driving. The ordeal is also held at a scout camp several hours away requiring more driving. Thus, even if a boy decides to join OA from the troop, the chances of being active in the program are slim to none. The OA in our area also had a policy, at one time, of requiring scouts to attend the ordeals on Sunday which eliminated LDS scouts from participating. When asked by local church leadership to make a change, they were denied. This led to a couple generations of LDS Scouts not participating in OA and some hard feelings towards the program. Many of those scouts are now parents of scouts and so they do not offer much support to their sons to join even though things are different today. Many of these parents are Eagle Scouts and there is encouragement to become an Eagle but almost none for joining OA unless the parent came from outside the area where the situation and their experience was different. For me, personally, I don’t see the value in joining for our particular troop due to the travel distance to be active in the program. A scout or adult that joins will go through the ordeal, get a sash, and probably never participate again in an OA activity because of the travel distance. Wasting money on something that a scout or leader does not plan on being active in seems a little silly. In other areas where the scouts are close to where the OA meets then the situation might be different.

    1. Jason, I agree that no one should be forced to participate in the OA. The OA is Scouting’s national honor society. Joining should be an honor. There is no reason for a boy to join if he does not see honor in it. Education and outreach may change a boy’s view of the program. But coercion is antithetical to the Order’s purpose.

      Make no mistake, joining the OA requires sacrifice and commitment. It’s no accident that the induction is called the Ordeal. Each new member obligates himself to a lifetime of cheerfully serving others unselfishly, even after he is no longer a member of the BSA. Active membership requires continuing sacrifice. This program is not for boys that want things easy. But over the years hundreds of thousands of Scouts have found lasting fulfillment in doing the kinds of hard things entailed in vibrant OA membership.

      1. Jason says:

        I’ve found that nearly all the failures of scouting to function correctly rests squarely on the shoulders of the adults who think they know better than the BSA and the church on how the program should be run. When mess ups happen like forcing scouts into elections for OA that do not want it, those scouts then get a negative view of the program and their leaders. I think scouts are more likely to engage in cheerful service and sacrifice when the adult leaders run it correctly. None of the boys in the troop could be described as wanting things easy. They would do much better with dedicated leaders that ran the program as the BSA intended.

  2. Bill Chapman says:

    Scott, wonderful post. When I was scoutmaster recently, and after we switched from an adult run to Scout run troop, we gave the Scouts information about OA and held an election. It was all voluntary and we had several Scouts elected, some chose not to participate but several did and seemed to enjoy it as another opportunity to grow and progress. Not for everyone but where is a fit, it seems to be a great opportunity.

  3. Wade says:

    My local OA chapter is defunct. The district executive told me they can’t get anyone to volunteer to lead it. When it was active, they had a hard time finding boys that met the camping requirements for membership.

  4. Kenneth Moss says:

    The OA dues are not expensive, generally 10 to 20 dollars per year. The benefits of the program are worth exponentially more than that.

  5. Michael says:

    Scott – great post! and would that all could see the benefit of OA service in leadership development.
    As in all things scouting…. most things described negatively about the OA are due to a lack of understanding or knowledge about what it really is and how it really operates. (Granted there are the exceptions with personal experiences and where things are not run properly which create the negative experiences) When properly educated and informed no-one would be feeling “forced” into the OA due to having their name placed on a ballot as being eligible to be voted for. Being elected in and of itself would be perceived to be an honor since it means that his peers view him to be a good example. Also then the young man would know that the decision to follow through with the Ordeal and joining – or not – is entirely up to him. Similarly they would understand that on-going active registration with the lodge by paying dues is voluntary and no-one would/should need to feel coerced to continue their active membership if their circumstances do not permit. Whether an “active” participant in the lodge, or an “inactive” dues paying member, or even a inactive non-dues paying (considers self “former”) member – the youth that has been elected and completed the ordeal has learned that he can serve at a different, higher level and has learned through an additional method the value of making promises (covenants) – in this case the duty of a life-time of cheerful service no matter how unpleasant the task. That kind of experience sticks with him! And in the end-run isn’t that what Priesthood service is all about? A life-time of cheerful, Christ-like service?

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