Following is the letter Dave wrote to the stake president:
You asked me to describe to you what the ideal Wood Badge course would look like. I think that I should start by saying that any course can be a life-changing experience for those who participate.
Like any other spiritual experience, you receive back equal to the amount of effort that you put into it. That said, there is a big difference between a well-organized priesthood-driven course and a regular Wood Badge course.
I will try to stick to a priesthood-driven course, because I don’t think that we should shoot for anything less. The impact of a good course can completely change how the Aaronic Priesthood functions in a stake and have a deep impact on the number and quality of missionaries that a stake sends out in the field. I think that you would agree that the highest impact is our goal.
What I mean by Priesthood driven is to include as many key holders as possible in the organization and delivery of the course. All bishops and stake presidency members need to be on staff, if possible. If this happened, we would greatly increase the knowledge which, in turn, would increase the inspiration that could be applied in the life of a boy to help him come unto Christ. In order for all of them to participate on staff, they would have to complete a course as a participant and finish their course goals.
How would a bishop benefit from this? In order to receive revelation, we must first “study it out and ask if it be right.” Many bishops in the Church are challenged to give leadership to the Aaronic Priesthood, because they haven’t yet learned how to apply the doctrine in the life of a boy.
As the president of the Aaronic Priesthood, he must learn how to apply it in order to be successful. If he doesn’t know it, he can’t teach it. Wood Badge tends to be a full emersion experience that allows revelation to flow freely.
A staff experience is more impactful than participating in the course itself. Some may say that they don’t have time to do it. I would say that the knowledge that you receive is accomplished faster from going to Wood Badge than any other way. It actually economizes the learning process and they get the knowledge they need sooner. Even though this experience is great for the bishop, he will actually benefit from the course more by getting members of his ward to participate.
Each course is broken down into patrols of eight people. For each patrol, a staff member, called a troop guide, is assigned. If a bishop was the troop guide and several members of his ward’s leadership was in his patrol, the long lasting outcomes from that experience would propel his ward into stronger priesthood function for years to come. The benefits would last long past the course and the relationships would last forever. I would propose that as many bishops as possible serve as troop guides.
How does a stake president benefit?
It seems to run true that the stake follows the lead of the stake president. I have watched for a long time the effects in stakes of an engaged stake president in the Aaronic Priesthood. I have kept track of that engagement in hundreds of stakes across the United States and it holds true every time.
Revelation comes through the key holder and, if the key holder is educated and engaged, it flows faster and greater. Don’t get me wrong – every key holder needs an army of helpers to implement the work, but the inspiration and direction has to come from the stake president. I recommend that stake presidents serve on staff, if possible, and are Assistant Scoutmasters or Quartermasters, giving them opportunity to influence the direction of the course and for the rest of the stake to see their commitment to the success of the Aaronic Priesthood.
What is the stake leader’s role in the course? All of the Young Men presidency and high counselors over Young Men need to be on staff. We have several positions, including Scribes, Quartermaster, Assistant Quartermaster, three Assistant Scoutmasters, Troop Guides, and instructor that need to be filled. They will be your eyes and ears as to what is going on in the stake as we prepare for the course.
As we move forward, it is important to understand that it is the content of the syllabus that creates the environment of inspired learning. A priesthood-driven course adds the element of inspired leadership with the added benefit of long lasting outcomes, because the participants return home having a shared experience that their bishop and stake president participated in, improving the paradigm of leadership in the Church for years to come.
Yours in Scouting,
Dave Pack, Scout Executive
Utah National Parks Council, BSA
Author: Dave Pack | Scout Executive, Utah National Parks Council