Wednesday, January 23, 2013

When Thou Art Converted, Strengthen Thy Brethren

Recently my stake presidency mounted a serious campaign to get all young-men advisors in our stake to attend Wood Badge in 2013. They extended personal and group invitations by email, in Bishopric training meetings, and in hallway chats.

More than fifty answered the call, with many signing up for a single Wood Badge course. Entire Bishoprics registered, as well as members of the stake and ward Primary Presidencies, and a combination of Venturing, Varsity, Boy Scout, and Cub leaders from every ward in the stake.

My own ward has five Assistant Scoutmasters, none of which have attended Wood Badge, but none of them signed up to go in 2013. With sons in the program, this was a concern to me so I asked one of the ASM's what the deal was. His response both intrigued and disturbed me.

"The problem is," he explained. "Attending Wood Badge sends a signal that you're willing to serve in Scouting for the next five years! While I'm happy to do my part, I'm not really interested in making this a long term thing."

I was pretty shocked. I had never considered Scouting to be one of those assignments that you're just waiting to be released from (I thought that was limited to clerks and the nursery). I was also concerned about the level of commitment that this line of thinking indicated. 

I pondered this for a couple of days, and then it struck me. What I had observed was a clear example of an individual that hasn't experienced his 'Scouting conversion' yet... 

When Thou Art Converted
We talk about the 'spirit of Scouting', in a non-Holy Ghost sort of way, to indicate a passion or belief in the Scouting program. But what we really mean is an actual conversion to Scouting as a principle of the Gospel. Everyone must gain a testimony of Scouting, in much the same way we gain a testimony of temple ordinances, tithing, or any other aspect of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I think the Learn, Act, Share model helps us here. As we apply those steps to our Scouting experience, they will lead us to understand and recognize the inspired nature of the program.

As Alma teaches us, we must first desire to believe, meaning that we must be open to the idea that Scouting is more than just a fun activity program. Learning about Scouting comes through receiving the appropriate training for our position (see my previous post -  Are You a Trained Leader).  This learning should be ongoing, and includes attending Roundtables, Scouting Universities, and other programs offered by the district or council.

As we act on what we have learned, we apply the methods of Scouting to our individual callings, running the program as it was designed. In many cases this will take more work than running the program as we may have seen it in the past. But hey, no-one said this was an hour-a-week calling, right?!

As we seek to magnify our responsibilities, we will make mistakes along the way. Some events, activities, camps, and interactions with young men won't go the way we wanted. But, we'll learn from those experiences too. Our guide in all of this will be a strong desire to teach young men to be the best that they can be. And we'll never give up on that.

... Strengthen Thy Brethren
Along the way, we should share our experiences with other adult advisors, parents, and Priesthood leaders. We can 'compare notes' regarding what's working, and what isn't. Scouters with a little more experience that you will provide insight and encouragement as you continue learning and acting.

In time, your sharing will bring insight and encouragement to others following along the same path. Forums such as district Roundtables and stake Scouting events, will provide a great environment for you to share ideas and concerns, strengthening and being strengthened.

Over time, many aspects of the Scouting program will get easier and intertwine themselves into your nature. Issues that concerned you in the past, such as uniform or youth leadership, will make more sense and will become valuable tools as you work with each generation of young men that pass through your stewardship.

Before you know it, Scouting will have ceased to be the calling you were just 'doing your part' in, and will have become a labor of love. That's right, teaching the gospel to young men will always be a labor! That won't change, but as you Learn, Act, and Share your testimony of Scouting will "swell within your breast" and begin to be "delicious" to you. On that day, you'll truly be a leader of young men!

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