We stand up and make a spirited plea for anyone to help with this or do that. You take out your paper to write down names, but you hear only crickets and see only blank faces.
Maybe you see a friend at the grocery store, and they ask why you are buying so many blue and yellow plates and forks. After you explain the fun event your planning, their only comment is,”I’m sorry.”
When you have the fire of Scouting lit within you, it may be hard to hear or understand when others are less excited about Scouting. It could be a friend, family member, member of your ward, your assistant den leader, or even your Bishop who expresses a dislike. Sometimes those negative opinions can affect your attitude or the attitude of the boys. You may also feel a lack of support.
Volunteers have been asking me this question for years. I recently attended an inspiring Little Philmont under the direction of Elder Dale H. Munk that finally gave me the answer. Here are a few steps you can take when others take issue with Scouting:
1. Spend Some Time
You can start out by taking a little time with the individuals who have negative feelings toward Scouting. You can’t understand someone unless you spend time with them — It’s that simple. Taking time to get to know them may help you see where they might be coming from or help garner trust. That way, when a conversation about Scouting comes up, they trust you to tell you their feelings. We should never assume anything before we get to know them.
Another way we can spend time is to offer our time in exchange for their time in Scouting. We all have busy lives and not everything important to us can be our first priority. Sometimes a person isn’t all that into Scouting because of all the other parts of their lives that require their immediate attention. You might be able to help by offering a ride to roundtable, asking if you can help babysit kids during pack meeting, or taking some one-on-one time training them.
2. Listen, Listen, Listen
Most people do things for a reason, and the reason will come out as you talk. Again, we should never assume we know why someone might not like Scouting. Once you have gotten to know this person, you might start to understand their life, responsibilities and attitudes, but this does not mean you know everything. Now, it is time to listen to their point of view.
They may bring it up on their own, or you may have to ask them why they don’t like Scouting. Whether the flood gates open, or you have to ask follow up questions, listen intently and with empathy and compassion. At this stage, I would discourage adding your own opinions or defenses. Listening and understanding is most important at this time. You may want to ask for their permission to look into their concerns and ask if you can talk about it again another time.
3. Dispel Falsehoods and Misunderstandings
Try to understand where they are coming from. In my experience, very often, a negative view of Scouting comes from a bad experience in the past, or inappropriate application of the program. Sometimes it is a misunderstanding of policy, or it may be because of inaccurate portrayal in the media. Either way these are difficult issues that have affected this person and should not be taken lightly.
I once met with a stake president who had a long list of complaints about Scouting. I met with him personally to try to understand why. After going through the list, I found that almost everything was a misunderstanding due to bad experience with the Scouting district that had happened almost 20 years ago. I believe our conversation after went a long way in mending that relationship with Scouting.
Lovingly correct misunderstandings and falsehoods. If you don’t know the answers, you can always meet with someone like your District Executive to help explain. You can also read articles here on The Boy Scout or other Scouting sources for truth, or read a variety of sources to come to your own conclusion. Also, feel welcome to visit the Scout office, or make comments here, and we can all help walk you through it. But, it is also okay to just say you don’t know.
Facts are great and all, but often what is more convincing is the positive impact of Scouting. Show them the good Scouting does in our families, neighborhood, communities and the world. An inspiring story is more likely to touch their heart than facts and arguments. I’m sure there is an example right in front of you in your own local pack and troop, but if you’re looking for some ideas, The Boy Scout and the Voice of Scouting are great places to start.
4. Offer a Vision
Sometimes a negative view of Scouting comes from the way things are but not how they should or could be. Think back to before you “got it;” before the fiery testimony of Scouting started to grow. What got you to where you are now?
For me, it was Wood Badge. I didn’t have a lot of exposure to Scouting growing up, so it took some time for me to learn the ropes. Wood Badge offered me a vision of what Scouting really means and what it could mean for the youth I served. At Wood Badge, you’re asked to create tickets (goals) to work on in your ward. Through our tickets, my fellow Wood Badgers and I worked hard to create a great program for the youth. Wood Badge showed us the way, and we wanted it to happen. How can anyone be expected to run a great program, if we don’t know what a great program looks like?
We might also offer a vision of the struggles that the youth in our ward are currently facing and what in Scouting might be able to help. Without clear expectations and outcomes, how can we expect any improvement?
5. Be an Example
After everything, there’s only one thing we can control, and that is our own actions. You may not be able to convince others, but you can be an example. With time, your example of service may inspire others to do a little more, or see the good that Scouting can be in their lives and the lives of their children.
We have to be aware that others will be watching us — how we react, how we teach, how we serve — so, just as we are representatives of the Church, we must remember that we are also representatives of Scouting to our friends, family, ward and community. Christ-like service and love is a greater teacher than words will ever be. Your example is more likely to lead to forgiveness, revelation and healing.
I believe you’ll find as you reach out to others about their perceived dislike for Scouting, opportunities to help heal old wounds and misunderstandings will come. In the end, an open conversation can lead to more support for the program which leads to better service to the youth in your charge.
What do you think? Any other guidance on how to work with others who have a negative opinion about Scouting? Let me know in the comments.
Author: Melany Gardner | “The Boy Scout” Editor and Marketing Specialist, Utah National Parks Council