By Kimball Vaughn
Mar 28, 2018

Making Leadership Positions More Meaningful in LDS Scouting

It’s Sunday afternoon and you’re feeling refreshed after a wonderful Sacrament meeting. One of the brothers in the ward just gave a powerful talk about the importance of helping the young men in the ward be successful. This causes you to ponder on your role as the Scoutmaster. You begin thinking about all of the Scouts in your troop who need leadership positions in order to earn their Eagle Scout Awards. Ironically, as you’re thinking of names, you see one of your Scouts walking down the hallway and realize that he was one of the names that came to your mind. With a loud, but kind voice, you call out to him.

“David, we need a new Scout historian for our troop and think that you would be the right man for the job.” David shoots you a nervous look, but he agrees to take on the new role. Feeling accomplished, you can’t help but smile knowing that you just helped one of your Scouts make that one last step towards Eagle.

Soon after, six months fly by like a whirlwind and David hasn’t done a thing as the Scout historian. He has just completed his Eagle project and is ready for his Board of Review. He’s ready to make the next leap towards earning his Eagle Scout, but there’s a problem—he hasn’t learned anything about leadership during the last six months. You are ecstatic for him to earn his Eagle Scout award, but you regret that he didn’t develop valuable leadership skills during his time as Scout historian.

Unfortunately, this has been a common problem with many LDS Scouts. They receive a leadership position, maintain that role for six months, and ultimately do nothing with it. Eventually, when they have their Board of Review, they aren’t able to share experiences they had in their leadership position.

So, how do you avoid this problem? You avoid it by doing three things the moment you extend this role to your Scout. First, help your Scout understand that he is the leader, not you. Second, describe to your new leader what his responsibilities will be. Third, ask him what his fears and concerns are.

1. Establish Him As the Leader

This might be the single most important thing you do with your new leader. Your Scout needs to understand that he is the one leading the charge in his role, not you. This will help him be more accountable to himself and to you. If he fails, then it’s on him. If he succeeds, then he is responsible for that success.

You don’t want a leader who is completely dependent on his Scoutmaster—that would completely defeat the purpose of giving him a responsibility in the first place. You want someone who will do the best he can even if that means failure.

Additionally, this leadership position will be one of the safest environments for the boy to fail. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t give him advice or direction. Your role is to be his advisor. When he proposes an idea to you, then you can advise him on what you think. When he is stumped, then you can give him a little direction. Just like a boss at a company wants his employees to succeed, you want your Scouts to succeed too, but that doesn’t mean you’ll do his job for him.

This opportunity to serve in leadership will be an important life lesson that will prepare your Scout for college, missionary service, the workplace, and parenthood.

2. Describe to Him his Leadership Responsibilities

After you help your Scout recognize that he is the leader, then you can describe to him his responsibilities. Whenever a Bishop extends a new calling to a member of his ward, he explains what that person will be doing. He doesn’t just call an Elders Quorum President or Sunday School Teacher without giving them some sense of direction. Additionally, he ensures that they receive proper training needed to succeed. He also provides them with other resources to help be successful and understand their role.

Similarly, when a Scoutmaster issues a call to his troop members to serve, he should teach them their responsibilities and provide them with materials to prepare them for their new role. One of these materials is The Introduction to Leadership Skills for Troops (ILST).

According to the ILST course, “The purpose of the Introduction to Leadership Skills for Troops course is to teach Scouts with leadership positions about their new roles and how to most effectively reach success in that role. It is intended to help Boy Scouts in leadership positions within their troop understand their responsibilities and to equip them with organizational and leadership skills to fulfill those responsibilities.” 

This course will help your leaders accomplish more in six months than just maintaining a title. You can read more about how to use ILST with this article from Scouting Magazine. By having materials and resources, your leaders will become more seasoned and prepared for their duties and responsibilities.

3. Ask Him What His Fears and Concerns Are

Once your new leader knows he is in charge and he knows his responsibilities, you can to find out what his fears and concerns are. This will likely be the first time your Scout has served in a position of leadership, so he will probably be a little nervous.

You should ask him something like this: “insert name __________ This is a very important position we’re calling you to, and we think you’ll do an excellent job. What concerns do you about serving as the new  __________?”

He might tell you that he doesn’t know how to lead. Your leader might mention that he doesn’t feel respected by the quorum. He might make it know that he is shy and would rather stay in the background. These are all normal fears that most young boys face at the age. You can assure him that although he is in charge, he won’t be alone. You will be there to help be an advisor and to guide him along when he has hit a brick wall and doesn’t know what else to do.

Help him see that this is something he can and will succeed in if he will just do his best and rely upon Heavenly Father for help and guidance. There is no fear or concern that cannot be solved without heavenly help.

This will be a lesson that will help develop his faith in Jesus Christ and help him be prepared for all the challenges he will face in life.

It Starts With You

Remember, if you want your Scouts to be truly great leaders it starts with you. You can’t expect your new leaders to succeed if you don’t establish them as the leader, teach them their responsibilities, and ask them their fears and concerns. These three simple steps go along way and can truly help your Scouts become leaders instead of just title-bearers.

So, the next time you see David or John in the hallway, don’t just give them new leadership positions—help them become leaders.

 

Author: Kimball Vaughn | PR Marketing Associate, Utah National Parks Council

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5 thoughts on “Making Leadership Positions More Meaningful in LDS Scouting

  1. Edward Huntington

    The term is “Board of Review”, not ‘border review.’ It’s a small correction, but it’s important, as the Board is intended to review the Scout progress in order to ensure he has had the kind of meaningful experience the article intends to promote.

    Reply
    1. Kimball VaughnKimball Vaughn Post author

      Thanks for the correction Edward. I like your explanation of the Board of Review, it’s simple and clear.

      Reply
  2. DWR

    Although this is directed toward LDS units where the article notes it is a serious problem, the advice is worthwhile for all troops. As a former District Commissioner, I was a committee member in my neighborhood troop when a dad wearing a Scout shirt with an ADC patch walked in, nodded to the SM, and proceeded to appoint Scouts to new or different leadership positions “so the can advance”, and issue position patches.
    A few minutes later, one of the new “troop officers” came to me and asked, “What does a Chaplain’s Assistant do? Does our troop hav a Chaplain?”
    It IS important that the Scout know that leadership is more than wearing a designated patch for six months.

    Reply
    1. Kimball VaughnKimball Vaughn Post author

      Thanks for sharing this DWR! As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and as a Scout, I dealt with this very problem. I was called to the be the historian but had no idea what my responsibilities were and what was expected of me. I guess this problem probably exists in Scout troops of all different faiths. I think it’s crucial that the leader is educated on the various positions of leadership or at least knows where to point the Scout. Do you have any other recommendations to help mitigate this problem?

      Reply
    2. Emily Henage

      I know the Bishopric appoints the Quorum president, who is usually the Patrol Leader, but isn’t it the Patrol Leader’s job to appoint the other Scout positions?

      Reply

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