Friday, January 25, 2013

Home Teaching the Scout Unit

My home teacher pulled me aside the other day and asked how my family was doing. My wife is eight months pregnant, and he was interested in being of service. Even though my wife and I aren’t first-time parents I appreciated the gesture, and mentioned a couple of things he might be able to assist with. What a blessing it is to have a thoughtful home teacher at those times when life gets even crazier than usual.

Scouting can be equally as exciting and daunting as running a family. Navigating the Scout programs’ many rules, methods, and traditions can be daunting for the newly called leader and the veteran alike. Fortunately, there’s a guide on hand – the Unit Commissioner (UC).

The UC is assigned to make a monthly visit to the unit to see where he or she might be able to help, and to provide advice and support for unit leaders. Sound familiar? That’s right, Unit Commissioners are essentially home teachers to Scouting units.

The Unit Commissioner’s responsibility is that of a mentor, advisor, and coach, and even occasionally medic, trainer, and shoulder to cry on. The Unit Commissioner doesn’t take over a unit’s program, instead he or she acts as a guide, pointing out potential hazards, possible pathways, and scenic vistas along the way.

In the BSA every unit should have a designated unit commissioner appointed by the district.  In the LDS world, unit commissioners are generally assigned by the stake and are drawn from the ranks of the stake high council, stake young men’s presidency, and stake primary presidency.  

Unit Commissioners report that they made a visit, and also provide a brief report to an Assistant District Commissioner (ADC), who in most cases is the Stake Presidency member responsible for Scouting in the Stake. Through this return-and-report process, the Stake Presidency can stay in touch with each of the Scouting units in the Stake, understanding needs and being aware of successes as they occur.

The UC provides key support at certain times of the year, and is responsible for helping the unit complete the Journey to Excellence documentation (typically in December of each year), runs the annual charter presentation meeting, and is a source of advice for the COR during the rechartering process. Unit Commissioners can also be particularly helpful for newly called leaders, providing support, advice, and on-the-job training.

Like most Scouters, UC’s undergo ‘basic training’ to prepare for their role, and they also have the support of the entire district and council commissioner structure behind them. That means if a UC doesn’t know the answer to a question, he can find someone that does.

Like home teachers, the best Unit Commissioners develop a relationship of trust and respect with the units they visit. They look for opportunities to support and sustain unit leaders, and take a genuine interest in the unit’s success. When Unit Commissioners are assigned, trained, and diligent, their impact on the units they serve can be profound and meaningful.


  1. That is exactly how our district commissioner described it at the first commissioner meeting I attended - "home teaching for scouting units" (75% of the units in out district are LDS). I have found the analogy really does fit perfectly and makes it very easy to understand the job.

    BTW, visit reports are generally done online now. Our district is so small, I don't even know if we have an ADC. If we do, it definitely isn't anyone from our stake presidency. (I guess things are done a little differetly here, though. I was recruited by the district, not the stake.)

    Great post. I am really enjoying your blog.

    1. Thanks for your comments Evenspor. Yes, reporting is now done online. Ideally an ADC (if you have one) would also get some sort of verbal/email report so that he is in touch with what's happening at the unit level.

  2. Great post! Thanks! Just an fyi. We recently spoke with a member of the general primary board who informed us that the unit commissioners are not supposed to come from the stake primary presidency. They can certainly be one but it is in no way shape or form part of the job. She said that a very well meaning person published this as LDS church policy but it is another "false tradiation" floating around out there. Love the analogy you made!

    1. Thanks for that clarification. Even if it's not mandatory, it still seems to align very well with their calling overall!