How Not to Get Lost

Scouts BSA Journey Series #1- Jim Fuller

Scouting is a big program with lots of moving parts. It can be easy to get lost in the details and lose sight of the big picture. Here is a handy compass to keep you and your troop on the right path.

It is easier to get lost in the woods than you might think. Without a compass to guide them, people have walked for miles in circles thinking they were headed in the right direction. The BSA is a big program with lots of moving parts. Outings, advancement, training, equipment, finances, youth leaders, adult leaders, Camp-o-Ree, Scout-o-Rama, Scouting for Food, Popcorn Sales, etc. It seems that there is always something going on. It is easy to get buried in the details, and drift away from why we do Scouting.

The purpose of the Scouts BSA program is not to go camping. It’s not even to make Eagle Scout. Here is the Mission of the BSA: “The mission of the Boy Scouts of America 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.” It can be summarized as “We build young men and women of character”. It’s why the BSA exists.

How we get there employs a number of methods to provide challenge, opportunities, and leadership roles that lead to character development. Going camping is not only fun, it is an opportunity for a patrol leader to practice leadership, communication, team building, coaching, problem solving and decision making. Merit badges are not just a pathway to the Eagle rank, or the opportunity to explore a potential career choice. Scouts grow and mature in the process of working with an adult expert to achieve requirements that can be quite challenging and demanding.

However, simply belonging to a Scout Troop does not result in character development. Character is not absorbed. Character is forged through challenge, effort, failure, and determination. And it is here that adult Scout Leaders can first start to drift off the path. We want our Scouts to enjoy the program, and be successful. So we step in to help. Then we start to do it for them. Finally, the Scouts become spectators at a troop run by the adults. Lest you think this an exaggeration, during a training event, an Assistant Scoutmaster (ASM) indicated that their Scouts were bored during campouts. To shorten the discussion that went on, it turns out that the parents were doing all the menu planning, shopping, cooking, and cleanup, leaving the Scouts nothing to do, nothing to learn, and no challenges to confront. Boredom indeed, and no development either.

The solution is to pull out your leadership compass, which always points north and keeps you from getting lost. Here it is: “Never do for a Scout, things that can do for themselves”. Yes, as experienced adults we can do it better and faster. But better and faster is not the goal. Will the Scouts struggle? Yes. Will they occasionally fail (within allowable boundaries)? Yes. Will they grow as they pick themselves up and try again to do it successfully or better? Also yes.

This is why being a Scout Leader is a growth challenge for us. We need to take on the role of the coach, who never steps on the field of play unless the game needs to be halted. Their work is coaching skills before the game and reviewing results after (there is plenty of info on how to best do all that in Scout Leader Training). While our parental instincts make us want to rush into the Scouting activites to “make them better” our leadership compass points us to a camp chair with a hot beverage to watch the action and step in only when absolutely necessary.

Will they burn breakfast? Yep. But a few overdone eggs is a really low cost to watch Scouts grow into extraordinary men and women of character. Enjoy the journey, and don’t forget your compass.

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