I remember accepting the assignment to be Teacher’s Quorum Advisor and Varsity Scout Coach. Though it was a long time ago, I recall the frustration of trying to make Sunday and weekday meetings work. At the time, I felt a bit overwhelmed, but I was young and filled with the spirit of adventure that is part of the 14–15 year old program.
I loved the outdoors and couldn’t wait to take the Young Men on high adventures, where I knew they could grow most. But then Sunday came around, and there I was, with a Teacher’s Quorum Lesson manual that seemed out of date.
Varsity Scouting was new and the Varsity Scout Task Force was delivering suggested activities nearly every month, but connecting the Sunday lessons was tough—my team members were getting a disjointed program, one that compartmentalized Sunday stuff to the Sabbath and Scouting to mutual or the weekend.
Tying Gospel Themes to Outdoor Activities
About that time, my wife and I were asked to chaperone our stake’s youth conference. The conference included a tour of a half dozen church history sites. Each played an important role in spirit of the conference, but none more than the Sacred Grove. We all stood in a circle discussing the events of the First Vision and then had quiet personal time. It was a powerful time for most of us, as we read from the scriptures and prayed privately, each in our own sacred, private part of the grove.
After that, testimony meetings and scripture study become a part of most of our campouts, but these were not ordinary campouts. We climbed the West Rim of Zion’s National Park on a three day trek during fall break. Each morning and evening there were devotionals and time for individual study. We also took our youth on a trek through Coyote Gulch (click here to read that tale of adventure); each morning and night there were opportunities to discuss our faith and share testimonies. Most of all the scenery in both these adventures demanded discussions of creation and God’s hand in making this stunning earth so rich with visual pleasure.
Tools for Today’s Coaches
If I were a Varsity Scout Coach today, I would surround myself with these tools:
- Team Journey to Excellence, which is your job description as Coach, along with the other adults
- Come, Follow Me Sunday lesson for quorum teaching and learning
- Duty to God to help them develop spiritual attributes and become better priesthood holders.
- Troop, Team and Crew Program Features, that give weekday structure within the Varsity Scout Program
Let’s consider each of these individually:
As a Team Coach this outline is a great job description, but not yours alone. Early each year, you and the Team Committee should consider the four main areas of successful Team operation: Planning and Budget, Membership, Program, and Volunteer Leadership.
When you complete the Bronze Level you are on your way to insuring that the things your church wants from Varsity Scouting is what it is getting. However, when you go gold, things will be … well, excellent!
Just prior to quorum meetings, you have a Sunday School curriculum where the 14–15 year old youth work to make connections between things they are learning in various settings, such as personal study, seminary, other Church classes, or experiences with their friends. The Sunday School teacher is supposed to help them see the relevance of the gospel in daily living and is an important partner in helping see relevance in their lives between mutual activities and Sunday instruction.
Then of course there is your own quorum instruction, where you help them learn, let them teach and engage the young men. Each lesson lets you adapt your plan according to your youth needs. But remember there is no teaching where there is no learning, so active learning on their part is vital—you must invite action and application.
For example in this month’s theme of Apostasy and Restoration, you can use your “Main Event” over spring break for an extended High Adventure activity that surely can include your own Sacred Grove experiences! Get your Captain and Program Managers together to plan now for a Tier II or III event (see Troop, Team and Crew Program Features pp. 2-12–13)
Don’t try to take this all at once. The LDS Church Duty to God website states:
Fulfilling our duty to God is a lifelong experience. For this reason, the Duty to God book should not be seen as a list of tasks that the young men must hurry through in order to earn an award. Help the young men focus instead on how the plans they make can help them develop spiritual attributes and become the kind of priesthood holders God wants them to be.
The nicest thing about the Come, Follow Me curriculum, is that at bottom of each month’s theme introduction, you will find ideas for mutual and Duty to God. For example in April it suggests:
Consider how you can plan activities that connect with what the youth are learning. A youth activities site is available to assist you. Many of the learning activities in these outlines could also serve as effective Mutual activities. Work with quorum presidencies to select and plan appropriate activities that reinforce what the young men learn on Sunday.
Duty to God
The following sections from the Duty to God book relate to the lessons in this unit:
This resource is second to none in all BSA resources. The camping section in volume one is a great way to be sure your Varsity Scouts have the skill they need for High Adventure (remember High Adventure means doing hard things and hard things, build men with confidence). If your team is a bit rusty or the majority don’t have 20 days and nights of camping yet, you may need to stay at the Tier 1 level. But remember these Scouts are Varsity Scouts, they have been doing this stuff for three years. It’s time for more.
For example at the bottom of the Tier 1 Main Event (see Troop, Team and Crew Program Features pp. 2-11) it suggests and added challenge by planning for all Scouts to reach camp under their own power—hiking, cycling or canoeing. If possible, have them carry their own gear. All could travel by the same means or each squad could choose a different option.
If however, your Varsity Scouts already have their Camping Merit Badges, it’s time for a challenging Tier II adventure. Program Features suggests you return to Scouting’s early days of camping by using techniques found in the earliest Scout manuals. Do an internet search for Baden-Powell’s Scouting for Boys. Research early camping methods, then compare them to Joseph’s life and times. Use this main event to really take your Varsity Scouts back to the 1800’s. Have them consider how it might have felt for him, a boy the same age as them, to be thinking deeply, when daily living and chores took nearly all the time and energy he and his family had.
(Note: some early camping techniques violate Leave No Trace principles, keep the spirit of the early methods, but adapt as necessary)
Well there you have it, a menu for success for any team and teacher’s quorum. Sure I had the examples of men who had shown me the way; my past Quorum Advisors and Bishoprics. But you have 30 years of tools developed to help you succeed in preparing 14 and 15 year olds for missions and for life.
Author: Darryl Alder | Strategic Initiatives Director, Utah National Parks Council, BSA