Why I believe Scouting should be a part of your home-centered learning in 2020 and beyond
I believe in the mission and values of Scouting. In my heart, I believe that Scouting has been and still is an inspired program. A great program full of learning opportunities for both youth and adults. To be honest, despite the years of rumors, I was quite shocked and initially very sad when the announcement was made in May 2018, that the partnership between the Church and the BSA would be ending at the end of 2019. I understand that Scouting is not for everyone and over the months since the announcement I have actually become excited about the possibilities for where Scouting can go. The other day I discovered something, something I knew but hadn’t put together quite like this, that strengthened my personal testimony about how and why Scouting can be an even better fit for members of the Church in 2020 and beyond.
This past weekend as I attended my Stake Conference I realized something and made some new connections. The newest Sunday schedule changes and the Come Follow Me – For Individuals and Families was mentioned. I brought up Pres. Nelson’s talk on my iPad to follow along as they quoted him. While reading along I had a bit of an “epiphany” of sorts of my own relating to the upcoming changes to Scouting within the Church and how they relate to these other new changes as well.
Quotes from the Saturday morning session of General Conference made October 6, 2018, by President Russel M. Nelson:
- “As Latter-day Saints, we have become accustomed to thinking of “church” as something that happens in our meetinghouses, supported by what happens at home. We need an adjustment to this pattern. It is time for a home-centered Church, supported by what takes place inside our branch, ward, and stake buildings.”
- The long standing objective of the Church is to assist all members…we now want to put in place organizational adjustments that will further fortify our members and their families.”
How I decided this relates to Scouting by changing just a few words (changes shown in italics):
- As Latter-day Saints, we have become accustomed to thinking of “Scouting” as something that happens in our meetinghouses, supported by what happens in our home. We need an adjustment to this pattern. It is time for home-centered Scouting supported by what takes place inside our branch, ward and stake buildings. (Nothing taught in Scouting is contrary to any Church teachings.)
- The long standing objective of the Church is to assist all members… we now want to put in place organizational adjustments that will fortify our members and their families that choose to be involved in Scouting.
My realization from Saturday night was:
The “organizational changes” coming to Scouting in 2020, mean that it too will become “Home-centered and Family-centered Scouting” rather than Church centered Scouting. And by doing so it will allow more members (both boys and girls) to benefit from Scouting if they choose. This also follows the churches teachings on agency. Only those who choose to be in Scouting will be, rather than “all boys of a certain age must/should be.”
It seems to me that the recent changes to the structure and programs, including those that effect Scouting, are leading towards less dictated and structured programs and toward more individual and family choice. More agency to choose how to apply the teachings of Jesus Christ in our own lives to become the types of people we need to become in these latter-days. Each of us will play a different part in the preparation for the Second Coming and we will each choose how we will get to where we feel that we need to be.
With or without it being an official program of the church it is still a place to apply and practice living the gospel of Jesus Christ. Just think of the expanded missionary opportunities now as well. For those involved beyond 2019, Scouting can become a better, more meaningful experience than it was before because it is something that they see value in and choose to participate in.
Other thoughts about Scouting:
I have talked to many people about Scouting over the past 15 years that I have been a volunteer. Some love it, some tolerate it and some are openly against it. I have heard many complaints about Scouting and even more stories about how Scouting has changed and saved lives. And as I have discussed the future of Scouting in my area with others over these past 10 months or so there have been a few thoughts that keep being reinforced in various ways that I think are important to know and understand when trying to decide if your family will be involved with scouting after 2020 or not.
Church Members CAN still choose Scouting:
I have run into multiple people who for some reason believe that after 2019 members of the church can not or should not be a part of Scouting. There are many opinions, rumors, and projections circulating among members that are truly not helpful and sometimes flat out incorrect. I’ve heard statements like “The church broke away from scouting because of… (insert many other reasons other than those stated by church leaders)” or “Eagle just doesn’t mean what it used to” or “Scouting is going to disappear in Utah” What? I just don’t get where these ideas come from sometimes. The general authorities have specifically said that they still encourage Scouting for members who wish to participate. Scouting is certainly not at odds with any gospel principles and will not disintegrate or disappear completely without Church support.
When I was young, I attended Primary on Wednesday afternoon. When we changed to the consolidated 3hr Sunday block did that mean that my parents should have confined our gospel study to Sunday’s only. Of course not. And the most recent schedule and curriculum changes indicate exactly the opposite. Years ago the church had a very robust church-sponsored sports program. When they discontinued that program did it mean that members should no longer participate in sports? No! Do we ask permission from our local or general church leadership before choosing to put our daughter in dance or gymnastics or our children in karate? Or do we only participate in those if they are offered by the Church? Of course not. We as individuals choose to participate in and learn about the things that interest us. Things we think are fun and will help us grow in some way. As a family, we choose what we will invest our “free time” doing. Scouting will become just another opportunity or choice that some families will make and some won’t.
Scouting still has the same mission and values:
What is the #1 goal of Scouting? I’ll give you a hint, it’s not to produce Eagle Scouts. The mission of the Boy Scouts of America has been and still is “to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.” The values of the Scout law have been and still are – Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent. With recent changes in leadership standards and membership requirements, including the addition of girls to Cub Scouting and Scouts BSA, apparently, some people are under the impression that the BSA “has lost its way” or that “it doesn’t mean the same thing anymore” or whatever thoughts they have about the program. I just don’t see any evidence of this.
Were these types of membership decisions made just to combat the falling membership numbers? That may have been part of the discussion, but as I see it, what really matters is that this great program is now available to more “young people”. If more youth in our country can be taught about being Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent. More youth who are taught to “Do Your Best”, “Be Prepared”, and “Do a Good Turn Daily”. What’s the downside of that?
Family Scouting is now a better fit for the whole family:
Because Scouting at all levels now includes girls (or at least those who choose to participate) it can be an even better fit for families looking for activities to do together. How many sisters have attended pack meetings and felt a little sad that their brothers are getting special recognition and they don’t? Many sisters have tagged along to den meetings as well, especially when a parent is the den leader. Many sisters have memorized the Scout Oath and Law and have participated enough to have completed much of the advancement and yet they couldn’t actually earn the belt loops or the rank badges.
Cub Scouting especially is a family program and much of the advancement can and should be done at home. Have you ever used your Family Home Evening to complete a requirement that your son needed for his next rank? Now those sisters can attend their own den meetings and participate in pack meetings as a Cub Scout. They can be recognized for those advancement requirements that they complete also. Have you talked to a girl (sibling or not) who has joined Cub Scouting? There are hundreds in our council that have already joined and are having a great experience!
Younger kids can participate too and what a great way to spend time learning and having fun with your child:
Have you heard of the Tiger Cub (renamed Tigers in 2015) Program? It’s been a part of the BSA since the 1980s but many families in Utah have never even heard of it. There is also a program called Lions for even younger children (new in 2018). Lions is the part of Cub Scouting for Kindergarten age children and Tigers is for 1st Graders. (Wolves is for 2nd graders, Bears is for 3rd graders and Webelos is for those in 4th and 5th) The unique part of both Lions and Tigers is that each child that registers must have a designated “parent partner” who attends every meeting with them.
How many parents actually take the time to play with their kids these days. Lions and Tigers can be an awesome way to have a structured, regular, calendared “play time” with Mom, or Dad, or Grandma (whoever that parent partner is) that is not only fun but introduces them to the values of Scouting and other good learning experiences. And it’s still you helping them learn these things, you participate together. It’s not you dropping them off for someone else to teach. It’s truly “home-centered learning” with their friends. What a great opportunity to be involved in our kids fun and learning. Think of how this could really strengthen your parent/child relationship.
The BSA teaches Character, Citizenship, Fitness, and Leadership all at once?
Scouting is a well-rounded, age-appropriate way for our youth to learn about some important things. Like what it means to be a good citizen and to not only learn about it but to participate in it. To have real-world leadership positions and learn to set goals and work towards something. A built-in way to learn more about fitness than just what they learn in PE. To focus on the character traits of the Scout Law (Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent). As has been reinforced by the church leadership with the recent changes – parents have the responsibility to teach their children. And so if there were something already out there that had these aims (goals) built into its program, why would a parent not take advantage of and use that tool?
And what about the other skills they can gain? Where else are they taught about first-aid, knot tying, cooking, outdoor ethics, and SO many other topics? It’s already built into the program. Does Scouting teach all the pertinent skills? No of course not, for as much as it does cover there is much that it doesn’t. But it sure beats starting from scratch. It reminds me of the old saying “Why re-invent the wheel? So much is already there if you use it. (Forgive me for not talking about or mentioning other organizations that do teach these things. My intention is not to slight any other programs or organization, only to point out these aspects of the BSA programs)
Units full of true volunteers and Scouts who choose to be there – game changer!
A pack or troop (or crew or ship for that matter) is only as good as it’s leadership. After 2020 there will no longer be an ecclesiastical leader be choosing the leadership. All the leaders will be there because they want to be. No more leaders or Scouts who are “voluntold” to participate but only true adult volunteers and youth who really want to be there. When all the leaders and Scouts are there because that is what they choose to do with their time, think of how great of an experience that could be. Think of how rewarding it could be to a part of a unit like that.
Community/Traditional Scouting will require more parental involvement:
Scouting, the way it has been designed by the BSA, requires parents to be a part of and support it. As a trainer for the Boy Scouts of America, we often joke that BSA does not stand for “Big Silly Adults” or “Baby Sitters of America”. Just like parents become a team’s coach or the band booster or drama parent. Scouting needs parents to be involved as well. Its the parents of the youth in that unit that have the most to gain from a well-run unit. Most units will require at least one adult family member to be involved in some way. You might a parent partner, a den leader, the cubmaster, Scoutmaster, assistant Scoutmaster or a member of the committee. A parent should expect to help the unit succeed.
Yes, there are some adults that will volunteer their time to Scouting without a child in that unit. (I myself no longer have any Cub Scout age children but I will continue to be a Cub Scout leader) but for the most part, it will be the parents of the youth that will be the adult leaders. That’s the way it’s designed to be and the way that it will have the most success.
But won’t Scouting cost more after 2019?
Another valid question and a common concern is the cost of Scouting. Just the cost of a uniform has been widely and regularly complained about. However, we all know when we think about it logically that we always find the money (and the time needed) for the things we truly value. Lots of parents spend hundreds (sometimes thousands) of dollars a year on their child’s sport or band or drama or other hobbies. Yet the thought of paying their own BSA registration fee of only $33 dollars a year is “too much”. For what you get from the program – I think it’s a steal of a deal!
And yes there are “dues”. The amount of the dues will vary, determined by the individual unit. When a unit has their annual planning and decides what activities they want to participate in for that year that can affect the cost – another really good reason a parent should be involved in the unit leadership. However, the unit will also offer and participate in fundraisers that could potentially cover the entire cost. Part of teaching a Scout to be thrifty is to learn to pay his/her own way. Church members don’t often see the cost of Scouting because registration and the budget for the pack and troop have been provided by the church. Where does that budget money come from? If you pay your tithing you are essentially paying dues. As one member replied when this was pointed out “Those are some big dues”
With multiple fundraising opportunities available and the right to choose your unit, It really doesn’t have to be that big of a deal. So, yes, cost should be a consideration but don’t let it be the reason you don’t participate
Choose the Scouting experience that’s right for you:
With pack and troop boundaries no longer decided by the ward that you live in you can choose almost ANY unit you wish. If you hear of a troop 30 miles away that really focuses on a specific topic you are interested in and you are willing to drive there – you can. The pack near you meets on the same day that your child has dance or baseball practice, you could choose another one. If your teenage son and daughter would rather be in a co-ed unit than in two separate troops, you might look into a Venturing Crew near you. You get to decide if you join an all-girl pack, an all-boy pack or a family pack. If you don’t like the leadership in your unit – switch to another. If the cost of the activities is too high for your family budget, look for another that doesn’t do quite as much or travel quite as far.
The choice is truly yours. Not all packs, troops of crews will be the same. Some will focus their efforts in a specific area where another might focus on another. Find the unit that fits your budget, your schedule, your interests, your family’s Scouting wishes. And if you can’t find one that is quite what you want, you might even think about starting one yourself.
Are there going to be any program differences than what I’ve been used to?
The answer there is Yes and No. It will partially depend upon the unit(s) you choose for your family. As I mentioned above some may focus more of their effort on different parts of the program. But it’s also yes because there are some basic differences you will need to understand – I’ll give some Cub Scouting examples:
- Grade-based advancement – Cub Scouts move from den to den all together at the end of the school year (not on their birthday as we have been used to) Ask anyone who has been a den leader in their ward’s pack if this would have made things easier and most likely they will respond with a resounding “Yes!” It’s much easier to plan and calendar further ahead when you know that youth won’t be coming in and going out multiple times throughout the year. Most dens will have (or will develop) a yearly schedule that may remain relatively similar from year to year. All the kids in the den are working on the same requirements at the same time and assuming they are active they will all advance together as well. (Sound like another change the church just made?)
- Webelos and Arrow of Light ranks will be earned over a two (4th & 5th grade) year schedule instead of just one like it has been for our 10yr olds. This allows them to get the full experience rather than being rushed through the basics.
- More Camping Opportunities – Traditional Cub Scout Packs will often plan an annual “Pack Overnighter” A parent must be there and it’s usually planned for the whole family. Webelos dens, who are learning about the older programs, will have additional overnight opportunities to observe and learn about troops that they might join in the future. While overnight camping is not required for Cub Scouts or Webelos there most likely will be additional opportunities that were not there before.
How do I find a pack/troop near me? Where do I get more information?
Eventually, the best place to find out about units located near you will be at www.BeAScout.org – however maybe not yet. BeAScout uses the national database of units to let you search using various criteria that you can pick (feel free to go check it out). However, in Utah (most specifically the Utah National Parks Council) very few units will be listed there – yet.
The UNPC is currently over 99% sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Imagine being in a School district where 99% of your schools along with most of the teachers, for whatever reason, faded away and disappeared in a matter of 1 or 2 years. That’s kind of what we are facing here in Utah. The number of children has not diminished (in fact it’s increased because of the addition of girls and younger youth) but it’s like there will soon be no teachers and no schools to meet in.
The UNPC, along with other councils here in the Western Region, is in the middle of a historic undertaking. We need to find new Charter Partners (and lots of them) willing to sponsor a pack, a troop, a crew, a ship or a post or multiple units. We were given a 19-month window to work with but it’s still a huge undertaking so please be patient! The council is working very hard at finding new charter partners. They are working on identifying the current Scouts and adults who would like to continue and the girls who would like to join. You can do the same. Talk to those around you.
There will be units to join later this year. Some communities have already started new packs, troops, and crews. And a number of Scout BSA troops for girls are finalizing their paperwork in anticipation of the official launch date of Scouts BSA on Feb 1, 2019. So, know that it will happen but it will be a smoother and faster transition with help from lots of you.
Consider how you can be involved in the future of Scouting in Utah:
If you, or someone you know, has a desire to continue Scouting in any way, please go to http://www.utahscouts.org/join and fill out the survey on that page. Or you can call the Scout Office near you and let them know that you would like to help.
Scouting will need lots of volunteers. Den Leaders, Cubmasters, Scoutmasters, Assistant Scoutmasters, Committees, CORs and of course Charter partners and places to meet. And that’s just at the unit level. The districts will also need volunteers – unit commissioners to help the new units get up and going strong, trainers, district committee and roundtable staff. If you love Scouting there is a place for you! There is still so much to organize and put in place before the end of 2019.
From the outside, it may look like very little progress has been made so far. But take it from someone who has been in a number of meetings lately where this topic has been focus #1. Progress is being made and while it seems kinda slow right now it will gain momentum. There is still so much to do.
If you would like to explore the possibility of sponsoring a unit please let the council know. In some areas, we have leaders and Scouts ready to form a unit who are still looking for sponsors. Our council has a special position this year of “Scouting Ambassador” to help with this momentous undertaking. Please, please consider at the very least, becoming a Scouting Ambassador.
Like lots of other things the council website will change, more information and links will be created. If you are frustrated by what seems like a lack of information, please be patient. Call the Scout Office, take the survey, become an ambassador, talk to your DE… but for now, continue Scouting.
The boys that are in our program right now may or may not continue. Be the leader, the parent, the Scouter who helps ensure that during 2019 they have a great experience to look back on whether they continue in Scouting or not.
Note: If you are reading this post before Feb 23rd, 2019 consider registering for the University of Scouting in Orem. Along with a long list of great classes for current leaders, there will be some very specific classes to help those who want to know more about the council’s plans for the future. Classes about being a Scouting Ambassador, Family Scouting, Fundraising, Lions &Tigers, How to start a new unit, etc.
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 also been involved with district roundtables since 2008 and various council committees (including Akela’s Council) since 2010. Annaleis currently volunteers as a Cubmaster, Committee Member, Assistant Roundtable Commissioner, President of the Commissioner College Cabinet and as an Executive Board Member of the UNPC.