“We were excited to have them join us but we were also a little nervous because by then we were very much a Scout-led troop and we were not sure the eleven-year-old patrol was ready for this,” wrote Chapman.
While they were on the Camporee, one of the eleven-year-old Scouts approached Bill to see if he thought they “should leave their campsite to join the troop to start participating in the competitions and activities.”
“They were in the middle of cleaning up their campsite, but knew program was starting. Bill said, “This is one of those moments that tests us and our response will reveal how well our training has really sunk in. Fortunately, not only had I recently retaken the ‘Scoutmaster Position-Specific Training,’ but I had listened to over 200 podcasts on the scoutmastercg.com website and I knew how to handle this question. My answer was, ‘Have you asked your patrol leader?’”
If more LDS Scoutmasters ask that question, we could be certain boy who given the keys can exercise them. Bill explained that his question baffled the young Scout.
“He knew I was the Scoutmaster and for five-and-a-half years before that had been his bishop. I was close to his family and he clearly looked up to me as a person in a position of leadership and authority. I was an adult, he was a kid. I could tell by the look on his face that he probably did not even know what a patrol leader was, much less who his own patrol leader was.”
“I walked him over to his patrol leader, who was just about as surprised and perplexed when I told the patrol leader what the question was and asked him if he could answer it.”
When he was sure the patrol leader had it under control, he walked away and “let this young patrol leader actually lead.” Bill didn’t really care what the patrol leader’s answer was. He just wanted “these two young men to understood that in our troop and as long as the eleven-year-old patrol was going to camp with us, the Scouts were the leaders of the troop, not the adults. We have confidence in our Scouts and they have real authority to lead.”
He went on, “Teaching, training and mentoring Scouts to be leaders takes time. But it is time well spent and will benefit these young men throughout their years in the Aaronic Priesthood, in the mission field and beyond.” Sure he could have given an answer, but “what would have been certainly lost would have been an opportunity for a young patrol leader at age eleven to grapple with a problem and solve it. When we train Scouts, then let them solve real problems as they arise, we have really trained a leader.”
Bill concluded with his thoughts on allowing boys to lead:
“Agency is a catalyst for growth. It has been my personal experience that when the adults run the program, young men develop a dislike for Scouting… When we let them plan their own activities as long as they ‘do the things that Scouts do,’ abide by the Scout Oath and Law and Church and BSA policies, they are happy to take on the natural challenges that come with running their own program. They willingly tackle difficult problems because they want to succeed at their own game. This creates the perfect environment for the type of mentoring, coaching and training that maximizes the influence of a Scoutmaster, assistant Scoutmaster or other adult advisor.
But, “when a Scout asks an adult to solve a problem that a patrol Leader can and should solve himself, the question, ‘Have you asked your patrol leader’ will do more to teach young Scouts about the ‘Scout-led troop’ than just about anything else we could say.”
Read his entire post at at LDS/BSA entitled “Have You Asked Your Patrol Leader?”
Bill Chapman lives in San Clemente, California, and loves to surf, trail run, backpack, camp, do anything in the outdoors, and watch young men achieve the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood through the Scouting program.