By Darryl Alder
Jun 13, 2016

What are Districts?

Have you ever asked that question? Recently, I had to answer it for a new Scoutmaster. This is what I told him:

District MapA district is an area designated by the council executive board to offer service to units. In our case, nearly every district in the council is a geographic mirror of the LDS coordinating council it is in. However, in other areas of the country a district might be a municipality, county or multi-county economic group. It just depends on how the council wants to serve its units.

In our case, since districts are arranged around the LDS stakes in a given coordinating council, the districts vary from one stake in a sparsely populated area to as many as 25 in Utah Valley. Because the leaders of those stakes are also the leaders of Scouting in the districts, Scouting aligns nicely with priesthood authority.

District leaders are called or recruited to mobilize resources in the area to ensure the growth and success of units in the district. Districts offer units assistance in four areas:

  1. Membership to organize new Scouting units and recruiting new members for existing units. 
  2. Fund development to see that the district provides its share of funds to the total council operating budget.
  3. Program to help units with camp promotion; special activities, including community service; training adult volunteers; and advancement and recognition.
  4. Unit service to provide direct coaching and consultation from high councilors, Young Men presidencies, and Primary presidencies of each LDS stake, and by other assistant district commissioners who assist other chartered organizations. All of these commissioners help ensure the success of every Scouting unit by seeing that each of the leaders and Scout committees understand how Scouting works. They offer assistance, advice and coaching to assure that every boy gets the quality program he needs in his troop.  That takes a lot of time and commitment, and the commissioners have to make sure that the load is divided among enough commissioners that it doesn’t become a burden.

The membership, fund development, and program functions are carried out by members of the district committee. The unit service function is carried out by the district commissioner staff. Of course, because there is an LDS majority in our districts and because Scouting leadership is organized to align with priesthood leadership, Scouting in your area will have an LDS feel. That doesn’t mean, however, that other churches and organizations who sponsor Scouting aren’t involved or don’t have a voice. They do.

Key 3 OutdoorsDistrict Leadership (The Key 3)

The Key 3 leads the district, and is made up of a chair, a commissioner, and a district executive (DE), who works full time for BSA.  Together, they offer leadership and vision to the district’s volunteers. The district chair works with the membership, fund development and program committees, while the commissioner works with unit and roundtable commissioners. The DE works full time behind the scenes and is the only salaried person in the district, so all the action you see in the district comes from other volunteers like you—folks who volunteer their time for Scouting, managing to fit in with their family and church responsibilities.

District Meetings

The district gets its work done through three meetings: district committee meeting, commissioner staff meeting and district roundtable. 

In district meeting, volunteers coordinate training, advancement, outdoor program, activities and civic service to support units. In the monthly commissioner staff meeting, assistant district commissioners and their respective unit commissioners review the health of units and plan ways to help units succeed. They decide who will help meet specific unit needs during the month ahead. Also at this meeting, a selected set of commissioners plan the upcoming roundtable.

Your Boy Scout roundtable is a form of commissioner service mixed with supplemental training. The objectives of roundtables are to provide you with program ideas, information on policy and events, and training opportunities. These meetings are a forum for sharing experiences and enjoying fun and fellowship with other Scout leaders. Roundtable should inspire, motivate, and enable you to provide a stronger program for your Scouts.

I hope this behind-the-scenes glimpse gives you a feel for your support team. You’re certainly not alone in you new assignment as a Scout Leader.

Author: Darryl Alder | Strategic Initiatives Director, Utah National Parks Council, BSA, has  served as a Scoutmaster, new Scout leader and as a Team Coach. Look for his tips for Scout leaders weekly in this blog

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