One of my favorite classes of the day was taught by Brad and Sandy Harris on “Raising Successful Missionaries: A Parent’s Guide,” based on their book with a similar title. I recorded the class and am working on the transcript, so stay tuned for some awesome inspiration and insight from the Harrises as they draw from their experience working with missionaries at the MTC.
In the meantime, I wanted to share the part of their message that reaffirmed for me that Scouting, done well, can be one of the best missionary preparation tools in a young person’s life.
Brad shared a conversation he and his wife had with President and Sister Nally, the Provo MTC president from 2013-15. They spoke about some of the challenges these young missionaries face as they first enter the training center, including depression, anxiety, homesickness, and distractions. President Nally explained that if every missionary could have three things before entering the field, they’d be much more likely to succeed in the MTC:
- A significant away from home experience before the mission
- Work ethic
- Leadership opportunities
The Harrises shared with the room full of Scouters how the Scouting program can provide these three important opportunities and encouraged us all to make them a priority.
Scouting provides significant away from home experiences
Scout camp is often the first experience a boy has being away from his parents for any length of time. For that week of camp, he gets to experience a degree of independence while still having a safety net of leaders and staff if necessary. While a week away from home is helpful, two is even better. So when your Scouts are old enough, Brad Harris said to send them to NYLT, then have them be staff for the course next year.
The ultimate away from home Scout experience is for your youth to work as camp staff at a summer camp. Dave Pack wrote an article about his summer camp staff experience and all the things he learned that helped him as a missionary. Your youth will return from their camp staff experience more independent, better able to teach, more responsible, and much readier for the rigors of missionary work.
Scouting teaches work ethic
Scouting programs are built around principles of hard work and service to others. For every advancement in rank, merit badge and activity, Scouts are put to work planning, organizing, and carrying out projects. How many other young people can say by the time they are teenagers that they have participated in or planned service projects that have bettered their community?
Of course, if a Scout really wants to learn serious work ethic, there is no better place to do it than in the Order of the Arrow. Reports of OA service projects are full of pictures and stories of young people who work long hours and days cheerfully doing service. My husband was forever changed by the work and service he did in the OA.
We can’t all have a farm or ranch to teach our kids to do hard work, but we can all take advantage of the opportunities Scouting provides to instill work ethic and selflessness in our youth.
Scouting provides leadership opportunities
Leadership development is one of the methods of Scouting, and a key part of any Scout’s experience. Baden-Powell insisted, “An invaluable step in character training is to put responsibility on the individual.” Scouting is designed to give increasing leadership opportunities to Scouts as they grow older and progress through the program.
Leadership comes in many forms. Not every Scout will be in the quorum presidency, but they can all practice leadership as they take charge of parts of quorum activities, plan Scout activities, and fulfill their assigned role in the troop.
Did Scouting help prepare you for your missionary experience? How has it helped your youth? Let us know in the comments.
Author: Maria Milligan | Grant Writer, Utah National Parks Council, BSA.