Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Guest Post: Where does the LDS Scouting program go from here?

My last guest post was doomy and gloomy, but since a Scout is cheerful, this one is more upbeat. Everyone in LDS scouting that I have had a chance to talk to believes it is just a matter of time until the church formerly separates from scouts. Here are some crazy ideas about what could happen:

1.     Done. Bye. It’s over. The church walks away completely.
a.      They cut all ties and walk away (I don’t see that happening)
b.     They do an alimony payment for a time similar to what they did for the 14+ scouts in 2017, and give the families who want to continue, a number of months to explore and find other troops. Maybe they fund dues for the first year.
2.     A slow phase out. Maybe scouts for deacons goes away in      2019, and Cubs in 2020.
3.     Things stay as they are as of right now. Possible, but unlikely.
4.     What if something crazy happens?

That is what I’d like to explore. I had a crazy idea of combining the stake into one troop. If only two or three scouts are excited about scouts per ward, and if each stake has seven to 10 wards this would be a troop of 20-30 boys who actually care. This would allow the stake to call a Scoutmaster and multiple Assistants. It would allow our Eleven Year Olds to be a larger and let’s face it more fun program.

A variation of that is to combine troops within a building. On average we have two or three wards in each building. We often combine with the other ward anyway. This would reduce the number of leaders and classrooms needed. The church seems to be reluctant to lose any unit numbers and the concept of the quorum being the troop would have to be thrown out.

Another variation of this is to separate scouts from the young men’s program. Have scouts be on a different night. Have the ward act like almost every other chartering organization that provides space and support. This would allow those that want to do scouts to step up and not wait to be called. LDS troops would be more aligned with every other troop in the country. The Church could still decide not to have female participation. This would also however cause scouts to become just as expensive for those who participate as it is in the rest of the country. One of the things that was helpful was that there was little cost to LDS families. This of course is a double-edged sword and a cruel kindness. The church would probably not be as prominent on the National Board as in the past.

Of course, this is all wild speculation (and probably a little pointless) but it is the kind of stuff that occupies my brain when driving or trying to fall asleep. This exercise however brings me a bit of optimism because I think scouting is worthwhile. I think LDS scouting needs a shot in the arm. As much as I’m trying in my troop, I can affect only a dozen or so boys. A national approach to avoid throwing the baby out with the bathwater would still allow for boys to feel encouraged to participate. This would have the benefit of avoiding the mental conflict for those families that really don’t support Scouting. Maybe we can turn things around and make a program that our leaders will want to support. Rather than banging our heads against a wall, perhaps it will become attractive to boys.

Ask me about my thoughts on girls in Boy Scouts sometime.

Tell me how wrong I am. Tell me if you agree. Either way I welcome your thoughts.


Post Script: The high rate of turnover is a real issue in the church troops. I have a friend who was called as a Webelos Leader and his bishop told him that it would be for at least five years. That kind of blew my mind. I had the chance to meet Charles Dahlquist a couple of years ago, and he said scout callings should be considered tenure callings.  Only he called it "ten-year." In non-scout troops, a ten year scoutmaster is nowhere near unique. This might help bring stability and that really shouldn't be underestimated when implementing a complex program.  

FISHGUTTS: Stake Scouting is what should happen with volunteers and zero callings. I say Stake because that will give you the best possibilities for patrols. Make patrols out of boys who go to the same building and cross-pollinate them with boys that are not in their ward but in their building. My ONLY concern about this is that is if you allow the Stake Young Men's Presidency to "preside" over this you will fail. This program MUST report straight to the Stake President and Bishops as a whole. If you allow the SYMP to run this who are not Scouters you end up with the same problem as before. A crap program that will soon die. They would have zero idea what to do with it. 

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