Scouting can be equally as exciting and daunting as running a family. Navigating the Scout programs’ many rules, methods, and traditions can be daunting for the newly called leader and the veteran alike. Fortunately, there’s a guide on hand – the Unit Commissioner (UC).
The UC is assigned to make a monthly visit to the unit to see where he or she might be able to help, and to provide advice and support for unit leaders. Sound familiar? That’s right, Unit Commissioners are essentially home teachers to Scouting units.
The Unit Commissioner’s responsibility is that of a mentor, advisor, and coach, and even occasionally medic, trainer, and shoulder to cry on. The Unit Commissioner doesn’t take over a unit’s program, instead he or she acts as a guide, pointing out potential hazards, possible pathways, and scenic vistas along the way.
In the BSA every unit should have a designated unit commissioner appointed by the district. In the LDS world, unit commissioners are generally assigned by the stake and are drawn from the ranks of the stake high council, stake young men’s presidency, and stake primary presidency.
Unit Commissioners report that they made a visit, and also provide a brief report to an Assistant District Commissioner (ADC), who in most cases is the Stake Presidency member responsible for Scouting in the Stake. Through this return-and-report process, the Stake Presidency can stay in touch with each of the Scouting units in the Stake, understanding needs and being aware of successes as they occur.
The UC provides key support at certain times of the year, and is responsible for helping the unit complete the Journey to Excellence documentation (typically in December of each year), runs the annual charter presentation meeting, and is a source of advice for the COR during the rechartering process. Unit Commissioners can also be particularly helpful for newly called leaders, providing support, advice, and on-the-job training.
Like most Scouters, UC’s undergo ‘basic training’ to prepare for their role, and they also have the support of the entire district and council commissioner structure behind them. That means if a UC doesn’t know the answer to a question, he can find someone that does.
Like home teachers, the best Unit Commissioners develop a relationship of trust and respect with the units they visit. They look for opportunities to support and sustain unit leaders, and take a genuine interest in the unit’s success. When Unit Commissioners are assigned, trained, and diligent, their impact on the units they serve can be profound and meaningful.
Author: Mat Greenfield | Council Trainer, Utah National Parks Council