In this article we are featuring the program module for Duty to God from the Program Features for Troops, Teams and Crews Volume 3. (You can also read this article for more information on how to plan using the program resources.)
Exploring a Key Scout Duty
“The Scout Oath begins with duty to God and country, and the Scout Law ends with reverence. The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God.
But, just what is a Scout’s duty to God? And how can we do that duty when our neighbors may have different religious beliefs? Those are the sorts of questions that you will think about in this program feature. By exploring the faith traditions represented in your unit and community—and by serving other people in God’s name—you will strengthen your own faith and learn what it means to do your duty to God.”
This month’s activities should:
- Teach Scouts what it means to do their duty to God.
- Help Scouts understand the role of the chaplain aide.
- Explore the intersection between religion and spirituality.
- Show Scouts how being of service to others relates to doing one’s duty to God.
- Help Scouts gain a better understanding of and respect for others’ beliefs.
As a leadership team, you may want to discuss the following items when choosing duty to God as your program feature during your planning meetings.
- What is our unit’s spiritual profile? Do we have a single faith tradition or many faith
- Which adults in the unit have expertise that could help us explore duty to God in a meaningful manner?
- Who in our unit has earned religious emblems?
- How can our chaplain aide support this program feature?
- Are there local ministerial or interfaith groups that could provide support?
- What do we want to do for our main event?
- Is there a particular time of year that this program feature might work best (such as around
the winter holidays)?
- How can we be sensitive to the beliefs of unit families who may come from different religious backgrounds?
- What changes should we make to the sample meeting plans that would fit our needs better?
- As Scouts arrive, ask them to write their own personal definition of spirituality on a sticky note or index card. (A good general definition is “that which is beyond the material and which gives meaning and direction to one’s life.”)
- Have individuals or small groups list the names of as many different religions as they know about. For each religion, include information about some of the following: sacred texts and scriptures, festivities and ceremonies, customs and traditions, food, clothing.
- Create a matching game where Scouts try to match each religious emblem with its faith tradition. To do so, cut up a copy of the BSA’s Duty to God brochure and write the names of 20 to 25 religions on a whiteboard, preferably ones less familiar to the group. Scouts should tape the various emblems to the correct religions.
- Show a video from WingClips.com about servanthood or selflessness; a good example is Patch Adams: Best Doctor. (Note: The website has a Christian perspective, but most of the clips express universal values.)
GROUP INSTRUCTION IDEAS
Spirituality and Religious Involvement
- Have a trusted religious leader discuss the questions of “What is spirituality?” and “What is Scout spirit?” He or she might use the analogy of the wind: something that is invisible but that has great power when harnessed.
Respect for the Beliefs of Others
- Have a trusted religious leader discuss how Scouting recognizes and celebrates a range of religious traditions. Explain that recognizing and respecting the religious beliefs of others is essential for peacefully coexisting with people of other faiths and cultures and that it requires developing religious tolerance or a nonjudgmental attitude toward other beliefs.
- Have a youth leader, preferably the chaplain aide, discuss what he has learned from earning one or more religious emblems.
Doing Unto Others
- Have a leader discuss the universality of the Golden Rule (which is found in some form in the teachings of all major faith groups).
SKILLS INSTRUCTION IDEAS
Spirituality and Religious Involvement
- Discuss how different faith groups pray and how care must be used so that one person’s religious prayer traditions are not imposed upon other people. For example, one should not direct everyone to remove their hats before a prayer, as those of Jewish and Muslim faiths pray with heads covered. A more acceptable call to prayer would be: “Please prepare yourself to pray according to your specific faith tradition.”
- As a group, write a hymn or religious poem. Choose a familiar tune and write words that express concepts of
praise or supplication.
- Develop an outline for an interfaith worship service. An interfaith service is a brief worship or meditation, specifically designed for Scouting events where there may be members of more than one faith group. The spiritual focus should not exclusively reflect the views of one particular denomination or faith.
Respect for the Beliefs of Others
- Teach Scouts how to participate in a “roses, thorns, and buds” reflection (where roses reflect the best part of the day, thorns reflect the worst part, and buds are the things participants are looking forward to).
- Every Scout activity should conclude with a time for reflection as participants ask, “What have I learned from this experience to help me in serving and building up my own faith and the faith of others?”
- With the help of a knowledgeable leader or guest, explore a religion that is different from your own.
- Read a sacred text or watch a documentary about the religion’s beliefs and practices.
- If possible, plan to visit a worship service of a religious faith other than your own.
- Plan a Messengers of Peace service project. Such projects are designed to contribute to world peace
across three dimensions:
1. Personal (harmony, justice, and equality)
2. Community (peace as opposed to hostility or violent conflict)
3. Relationships between humankind and the environment (security and environmental and social welfare)
- Discuss the religious emblems program and the requirements involved. Help Scouts learn what emblems are
available to them depending on their faith tradition. If possible, have materials on hand for faith traditions represented in your unit. (Note that some faith traditions don’t have religious emblems Scouts can earn.)
- Discuss the role of the chaplain aide. See the Handbook for Chaplains and Chaplain Aides in Boy Scout Troops and Venturing Crews.
- Discuss the Venturing TRUST Award and how this program can help you become a resource and example to other youth and young adults. (See the TRUST Handbook: Venturing Religious and Community Life Award.
Doing Unto Others
- Discuss good deeds. Have participants develop a list of realistically achievable good deeds that youth can do in the following areas: family, faith group, community, school, and nation.
- Plan a future activity where Scouts can truly do a multitude of good deeds.
- Discuss the concept of cheerful service, including how cheerful service creates positive ripples.
- Discuss how the Order of the Arrow emphasizes cheerful service.
- Plan an activity where Scouts can provide service and “pay it forward.”
- Have a Scout who has attended NYLT or NAYLE (or an adult who has attended Wood Badge) discuss servant leadership. Form two groups; have one group create a skit that demonstrates servant leadership and the other create a skit that depicts “leader first” leadership. Discuss which approach is more effective and inspiring, and why.
BREAKOUT GROUP IDEAS
- Discuss what faith traditions are represented in the group and plan a field trip to a member’s place of worship.
Getting Ready for the Main Event
- Menu Planning (if applicable)
- Duty Roster Planning (if applicable)
- Patrols discuss what special items they will need for the main event.
Preparation for the meeting’s game or challenge
GAME AND CHALLENGE IDEAS
- Yurt Circle
– Method: Participants stand in a circle facing the middle, join hands, and expand the circle outward until all feel some gentle pull on their arms from each side. (There must be an even number of players, so you may need to add someone from outside the group.) Participants spread their feet to shoulder width and in line with the circumference of the circle, and then count off by twos. All the “ones” slowly lean in toward the center of the circle, while all the “twos” slowly lean out (without bending at the waist or moving their feet). Once they have done so, they reverse positions. With practice and cooperation, the reversal should be quite smooth.
Note: Try the activity several times to see how fast the group can switch positions.
- Trust Walk by Faith
– Materials: One blindfold for each troop team, obstacles such as tables and chairs
– Method: Arrange tables and chairs to create an obstacle course within the room. Form two or more equally sized teams and blindfold one Scout on each team. The object is to lead the blindfolded team members to the far end of the room using only voice commands. Members of each team can walk alongside the blindfolded player and provide directions. However, the opposing team can also try to trick the player by giving false directions. The Scout who reaches the end of the room first wins a point for his or her team; however, a Scout who touches or runs into an obstacle takes off the blindfold and is out for the round. Once the round is over, someone else is blindfolded as the race continues.
– Scoring: The first team to earn 5 points wins.
Author: Makenzie Wistisen | is a Marketing Associate for the Boy Scouts of America-Utah National Parks Council, Communications major from BYU, outdoor enthusiast, and lover of chocolate.