I don’t often share personal stories in my articles. I know, it’s one of my weaknesses. So in an effort to change that and to illustrate the point I’d like to make in this article I am going to share a personal experiences of my own and talk about why I feel it’s important to consider how callings to Scout leaders are extended.
He asked and I said Yes
When we moved to our current home, I was a young mother of two boys the oldest of which was two years old. I was asked to come in and visit with a member of the bishopric and I knew they were going to give me a calling to serve in the ward. The bishopric member extending the call said that the primary needed some help with its activities and ask me if I would be willing to help. I had been a primary teacher in my previous ward so I knew all about the quarterly primary activities (they no longer hold these) but didn’t know there was a calling to help plan those. I thought to myself… Help plan fun activities for the primary kids once a quarter, sure I can do that! And promptly said “Yes”.
Sometime later I got a call from the primary president asking me to come in and meet with her and the other leader. When I arrived at this meeting the primary president turned to me and said “You will take that eight and nine-year-old girls” and turned to the other leader and said “you will take the 10 and 11-year-old girls” and handed us each a list of the girls in the ward in those age groups. So I assumed that I was planning an activity for those girls at the quarterly primary activity and asked when the activity would be. The primary president responded by telling me it could be any day during the week that worked for both me and the girls… Huh? I was very confused. It took me a few more questions to figure out that what I thought I had said yes to when sitting in the bishops office was not at all what the bishopric or the primary president were asking me to do.
Some of you have may have already caught on… apparently I had actually been asked to be an “Achievement Day Leader” (Now called Activity Days) This was a program that I had never heard of before. It did not exist when I was in primary and I don’t remember ever hearing about it before. I felt lost, confused and completely unprepared for this calling.
My least favorite calling
I will admit that this was my very worst and least favorite calling ever! I fumbled my way through it, doing as little as possible because I just didn’t know what to do. There was no “leader’s manual” and was before the Faith in God booklets. The internet was new and not much help either. I’ll be honest, I didn’t do a very good job and I knew that I wasn’t truly doing what the girls needed. I felt guilty for not doing a better job and just kept hoping they would release me. I don’t think that any callings are extended hoping that the person will limp on by, doing the least possible, feeling bad about themselves and hoping to be released soon. Aren’t calling supposed to be for our own growth as well as to be of service to others in the ward?
Some of the blame is definitely mine, I was young, stupid, prideful or maybe just ignorant. I didn’t want to admit that I didn’t know what to do and therefore didn’t really ask for help. (Actually I did ask once and it was suggested that I could do stuff from the Cub Scout handbooks, which at the time I thought was a ridiculous idea) As I look back on this experience, I have often wondered how much different that experience would have been if when I was called into the bishoprics office that day the calling had been made differently. Why he use the words “help with primary activities” instead of “Achievement Days Leader” I don’t know. But what I do know is that if at that very first meeting I had said “Wait what? I’ve never heard of that. What is it and what will I be doing?” That would have started me out on a much different path.
Cub Scout callings?
Sometimes I wonder how many of our Cub Scout (or even Boy Scout) leaders received similar callings – callings that they say yes to and then find out later what is really expected. Often it’s a bit more than they were told about. How many den leaders are told “It’s just an hour a week”. Any good den leader will tell you it takes far more time than just an hour a week. The den meeting may only last an hour but it takes time to plan the meeting, to get ready and to clean up. And besides the weekly den meetings there are also monthly pack meetings, monthly pack leader’s meetings, monthly roundtable meetings. There is also time it takes to complete leader-specific training – which can all be done online now. I can’t even tell you how many brand new leaders I have met over the years who feel like they were asked to do something that they didn’t fully understand when they said yes.
I think sometimes the bishopric member assumes that everyone knows what it takes to be a Cub Scout den leader. Or maybe it’s because Cub Scout callings have a reputation for being hard to fill that they try too hard to make it sound easy. Assumptions are never good. Not on the part of the Bishopric member or on the part of the person he is extending a calling to. I too had made some assumptions about what I was being called to do based on my personal experiences – I was wrong.
Whatever the motivation or reason behind the way a calling is extended, I do know that too often leaders are given incomplete or even incorrect information. I know a committee chair that was pulled aside and asked to serve in that position and told “You really don’t do anything so it will be easy” I know of another leader who was asked to be the cubmaster and meet with the boys each week. Talk about confusion… cubmasters run the monthly pack meeting, it’s the den leaders that meet with the boys each week.
Scout Callings are Unique
Scout callings are kind of unique callings in the church. No other church calling asks you to register with another organization which includes providing references and a criminal background check. No other calling asks you to buy a uniform. Most other callings don’t require quite so many meetings on a regular basis. And then there is the Scouting “language” that takes a bit of time to learn. However there is also no other calling that comes with as much training, resources and other people willing to help you. However, leaders can only access these many resources IF they are told about them.
Scouting provides, to parents, boys and leaders, a tool box full of lots of different tools. You won’t use them all at once and some you may never use depending on your position in Scouting but all leaders should be told about and encouraged to use the tools available help them. Tools like training, roundtable, BSA literature, and SO much more. They should never have to feel alone or wonder what it is they are supposed to be doing.
When a Scout calling is extended we need to make sure that leaders know what is expected of them. We need to explain the basic responsibilities of the position we would like them to accept. If we let them know we expect them to be in uniform, they will be. If they are told they need to attend roundtable, they will. If we let them know when and where the meetings are they will be more likely to attend. All Cub Scout leaders should be given access to, if not their own copy of, the Cub Scout Leader Book. If we hand a brand new den leader a Den Leader Guide which includes 3 weeks of lessons already planed for each month… that’s huge. No Scout leader needs to re-invent the wheel, its already been invented and improved with plenty of room left to personalize. All Scout leaders should be encouraged to download the LDS Scouting Handbook available in the LDS library app and read it. A new Scoutmaster needs to be handed a copy of Program Features and taught how to use it with the troop. How great would it be if while extending the cal to serve, the bishopric member goes over the basic responsibilities of the position and gives a copy of those responsibilities along with a list of the other leaders in the pack or troop, a list of when and where the meetings are held along with a “New Leader Checklist”.
A New Leader Checklist could include items like:
- Create an account on my.scouting to take the Youth Protection Training
- Get registered with the BSA (Now that it’s online it’s SO easy)
- Start taking the other trainings provided on my.scouting
- Get a uniform and any resources needed from the scout shop.
- Plan to attend roundtable and the next committee meeting.
- Plan to have lots of fun with and learn to love the boys!
Is “No” an option?
Armed with that list of responsibilities, meetings and resources I believe a leader should be allowed to consider and possibly even pray about the calling been extended to them. Some will say No and some will say Yes. I believe those that say yes will be more committed to the calling and more willing to do whats expected if they really know before hand what will be involved. Compared to making it sound easy – “just 1 hour a week” and only after they accept do they find out about even more expectations. I think a Scoutmaster’s wife needs to be on board with his new calling too. He will spend not only a week day evening but weekend nights and a whole week in the summer with those boys. After having been in the ward pack in various roles over the past 14 years and seeing many leaders called and released, I believe it is far better for someone to say no in the first place, than to say yes (because that is what we are taught to say) and then not fulfill their calling. Not only does it hurt the boys who are not getting the program that they should but it also hurts the individual who knows they should be doing better – remember my experience above. There are times when it is difficult to fill a calling quickly so parents and committee members need to know that it’s their responsibility to step in and help out until a new leader is found.
Are you a bishopric member scared to call someone to be a Cub Scout leader? You don’t need to be either. Just lay it all out, let them know everything that is expected and help them know where to go for help.
Author: Annaleis Smith is a Stay at home mom of 5 (3 boys 2 girls). She has been a Cub Scout leader since 2003. She has been a cubmaster, den leader, pack trainer, Boy Scout Committee Chair and is now the cubmaster for the 2nd time. She has been involved with roundtable at the district level since 2008 and involved in various council committees since 2010. She loves Cub Scouting and her favorite thing to do is to train other Cub Scout leaders. She currently serves as the president of the commissioner college cabinet for the UNPC.