This is part 1 of an 8 part series. You can read the other posts here:
- How to Better Serve LDS Scouting Partners
- Adapting and Implementing Scouting for LDS Purposes
- Unified Alignment and Service Model
- Leadership Training
- The Impact of Technology
- The Cost of Scouting
- Summary and Conclusion
Michael Surbaugh, Chief Scout Executive of the BSA, was a keynote speaker at a summit of Western Region Scouting leaders that met Tuesday December 8, at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building for a day-long session held in Salt Lake City. The meeting was convened by Larry Gibson, Western Region President, who welcomed us and introduced Elder Dane O. Leavitt of the Fifth Quorum of the Seventy, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who offered an invocation.
Surbaugh then came to the podium, first thanking Western Region leaders for offering this forum. He said that Scouting had had an interesting year. With his new position he feels there is no downside to transparency in answering the tough questions that come from the turbulence Scouting has seen in the last six months.
He said that he believes parents are finding BSA’s values propositions more important than other options for their families. Pointing to the Tufts study, he explained how it shows that Scouting really works. He said: “Scouts don’t know what character is until their first rainy campout on a hill” and then explained when Scouts are soaking wet and then get more wet, character starts to show through. It shows even more when a camping pal burns the eggs and accidentally kicks the bacon into the fire and they both quietly eat it.
He told of his recent visit to the LDS Missionary Training Center and Welfare Square and said he had gained insights into the LDS Church’s use of Scouting to build character competencies, which are fundamental to their leadership needs. “Inside the Church is a primary place to make character fundamental to program. Others accept positive engagement from sports, but they do not always build good character.” He stated that while a certain percent of young men make a varsity team, every boy can make the Scouting team. “Scouting offers a presence in the home that is missing for boys who fall off the sports pyramid,” and that is what the Church wants.
He asked the group to take their relationship with the LDS Church seriously and explained it by this example: He and the other members of the National Key 3 will visit the First Presidency, Elders Holland and Christopherson, and other general church leaders twice a year to ask “how we can be of service; asking first, what does the Church want.” He also pledged two personal additional interim visits that he will make to LDS Church headquarters. He said, “We will be eager listeners!” and then explained that both he and Robert Gates, BSA’s National President, had attended the Church’s most recent General Conference.
During those visits he said they offered Church leaders a plan for a worldwide Scouting program, but disclosed that the church doesn’t have an interest in such a program at this time. Surbaugh, however, thinks some program activities may be useful to the church, such as the patrol method. He pledged that the National Key 3 will make a white paper on how to use Scouting programs and to get the outcomes the church wants.
He went on to explain his enthusiastic ownership of the relationship between the church and BSA, which he said was an “incredible partnership.” He intends to take council from the Young Men General Presidency and get BSA legal counsel to work closely with LDS legal counsel on matters of policy. “We will be there for the Church as long as the Church wants to use Scouting,” he emphatically stated. “There must be open dialogue with the First Presidency and Young Men’s Presidency and the National Key 3. Our legal teams are tied together, rock solid. We need open dialogue with Scouters everywhere.”
In tomorrow’s post I will cover some of the topics we discussed at this summit.
Author: Darryl Alder | Director of Strategic Initiatives, Utah National Parks Council, BSA.