University of Scouting was absolutely one of the best things to ever happen to my Stake. Period. I could stop there and make this a really short entry, but some of you may wonder why. Fair enough.
About 3 years ago, I was serving as a bishop. I had previously served many years in Scouting, even worked my ticket in Wood Badge, so I had a reasonable understanding of how our Scouting program should work. I had a terrific COR, great young men leaders and great boys. I had all the right stuff for a great program. That said, we also faced all the challenges that most wards face with a conscripted leadership.
Our leaders were willing to work, but they had full-time jobs, other church duties and families, leaving precious little personal time. Add to that my requirements that they run a good program, meaning meaningful weekly activities, monthly outdoor experiences, exciting pack meetings, day camp, summer camp, and high-adventure. Let’s make no mistake, we ask a lot of our Scout leaders—and they didn’t even ask for these responsibilities. And to all that, I asked that they get trained. Oh, and the thanks for a job well done? They wait a long time for that. Oh, I feel it, brothers and sisters—preaching to the choir.
In spite of that grim picture, here’s something that I learned the hard way. I did all of the above as a Scout leader—grudgingly at times, but I did it. The one thing that I resisted most of all, though, was the training. Come on! The bishop’s already getting his pound of flesh out of me. Did I seriously have to go through the hours of training, to boot?
At the best of times, it’s often not exciting fare (my sincerest apologies to trainers everywhere). Then I became an assistant to a scoutmaster who ran the nicest weekly activities and camp outs I had ever seen. He loved doing it and he didn’t spend any more time than other leaders on it. The key was simple training and sharing ideas. The training, I learned, made the difference. I learned to be more efficient and make the program work for me.
So back to University of Scouting. I wanted some opportunities for my leaders to make the same discoveries and get more ideas, so I asked them to attend University of Scouting. They were hesitant, but I got some of them out there. And do you know what happened? They liked it—they really liked it. They got ideas and they told the other leaders about it.
The following year, just about every Scout leader came out to U of S—and they loved it. Our stake leaders were also in on this action. That year, we had almost 100 people there from our 6-ward stake. This year, we’ll have more than that. Many of our Scouting leaders throughout the stake now understand that U of S gives us great opportunities to get smarter and more excited about Scouting. And the new leaders? They’ll learn.
Author: Andy Wagstaff | Unit Commissioner, Hobble Creek District, has served on multiple Wood Badge courses. He was the Bishop in LDS Springville Ninth Ward and currently serves as Stake YM President in Springville West Stake. At University of Scouting he teaches a course on how to motivate your ward leaders from a Bishop’s perspective.