To lay the foundation for our discussion, we need to start with exactly what the Church guidelines are regarding how we fund our programs. There are many expenses in Scouting. In traditional (non-LDS) troops and packs, these expenses are often covered by pack/troop dues and door-to-door sales of products. Church policy does not allow charging of any dues to either members or non-members to participate in Scouting. Door-to-door sales and the sale of products are also not allowed. Instead, most of the money needed to fund Church programs is provided for in Stake and Ward budgets.
The newest edition of the Church Handbook (see section 8.13) explains the policies thus:
o The Church pays all or part of the fees for registering young men and adult leaders in Scouting. The Church also pays for unit chartering. Registration and chartering expenses are paid from the stake general checking account. The Church provides these funds in addition to the budget allowance.
o Funding for Aaronic Priesthood activities, including Scouting activities where they are authorized by the Church, should come from the ward budget.
o If the ward budget does not have sufficient funds to pay for an annual extended Scout camp or similar activity for young men, leaders may ask participants to pay for part or all of it. If funds from participants are not sufficient, the bishop may authorize one group fund-raising activity annually that complies with the guidelines in 13.6.8.
o If possible, equipment and supplies that the ward needs for annual youth camps are purchased with ward budget funds. If these funds are not sufficient, the bishop may authorize one group fund-raising activity annually that complies with the guidelines in 13.6.8.
o Church funds may not be used to purchase uniforms for individuals.
Sometimes there isn't enough in the ward budget to cover everything. In the case of insufficient budget, the boys can be asked to help pay for one annual camp. One fundraiser a year may also be used to help pay for an annual camp and needed equipment. That's it. Exactly how this is handled is going to be different from ward to ward and is ultimately up to the Bishop.
A caution is also given in the handbook: "In no case should the expenses or travel for an annual camp or similar activity be excessive. Nor should the lack of personal funds prohibit a member from participating."
Care should be taken when asking boys and their families to help cover camp costs. This is something that should be done under the direction of the Spirit and the priesthood.
Leaders should carefully evaluate the expenses of activities. Is there any way you can pare down what you have planned to save your ward money? Is it all absolutely necessary? While there are many inherent expenses in Scouting, we should be careful not to confuse an expensive program for a quality program.
In a 1990 talk, President Monson addressed this issue:
It is the desire that restraint be used in programming youth activities and that consistency between Young Women and Young Men programs be achieved.
The primary responsibility for building testimonies and providing faith-building experiences in our members, including our youth, resides in the home. The Church should continue to support the determination of the family to do this. Priesthood leaders will wish to increase their efforts to build strong, gospel-centered homes. Families vary in size and composition. All are to receive our devoted attention. The building of testimonies is not related to financial costs. It is not necessary to buy the activity of our youth. Our youth activities depart from the pattern of the world.
To measure the goodness of life by its delights and pleasures is to apply a false standard. The abundant life does not consist of a glut of luxury. It does not make itself content with commercially produced pleasure, mistaking it for joy and happiness.
To find real happiness, we must seek for it in a focus outside ourselves. No one has learned the meaning of living until he has surrendered his ego to the service of his fellowmen. Service to others is akin to duty, the fulfillment of which brings true joy.
In some respects, many of our youth activities in recent years have supplanted the home and family. There has been a tendency to trend in our thinking to the position that an activity must be exotic to be successful. Faraway places with strange sounding names beckon as a Pied Piper for our youth to follow. Featured in our Church publications at times are glowing accounts of excursions to Hawaii, the Sacred Grove, historical sites, and other tempting locations. The word spreads, the cost escalates, and yearning increases, while objectives dim and time commitments of leaders and youth border on the burdensome. Errantly, we have used the term “super-activity” to encourage the exotic rather than the practical.
Many units are now planning major youth conferences on a two-year or three-year basis rather than each year. Some have discovered that through careful scheduling, there are sites and facilities very close to home available for productive youth activities. One stake reported holding its youth conference at the stake center, utilizing the parking lot and grounds for some of the functions and the recreational hall and chapel for others. The report: “One of the finest youth conferences we have ever held!”
When we turn our attention to outdoor encampments, let us remember that the same moon, the same stars shine forth from the heavens from hilltops close to home as the ones which shine over the Himalayas. The campfire glow, the sharing experience, lessons from leaders, and that inner feeling of closeness to God do not depend on distance. They are available to all.
In every location there are places of historical significance which can provide a focal point for a successful activity. You can identify such treasures. Even the local cemetery is a backdrop for effective teaching.
Boyd K. Packer also shared some thoughts along the same lines:
Most of the deciding must be left to you, the members of the Church, acting in harmony with the principles announced in the guidelines. The change will require some considerable adjustment in our thinking. It will not be possible to do all of the things we have been doing in the same way we have been doing them. It will bring an inevitable reduction in programs. That was intended. There will need to be some “pick and choose.” Nothing essential will be lost; rather, essential things will be rediscovered, be found!
Some of you have asked why this change should come just when the forces of temptation are surrounding our youth as never before. You ask, “Do we not need more impressive activities and more meetings, rather than fewer?”
Sometimes more can be less, and sometimes less is more. Even with all we expend and all we do, we are not doing as well as we should and have little evidence that the expensive activities really secure our youth.
There is a lesson, a profound lesson, in the Book of Mormon. In Jacob’s parable of the olive tree, the lord of the vineyard wept because he had worked so hard but the trees brought forth wild fruit. “What could I have done more?” he asked. “Have I slackened my hand, that I have not nourished it, and digged about it and pruned it and stretched forth mine hand almost all day long? What could I have done more for my vineyard?”
How many bishops with disappointing results have felt to say those very words in their souls? “What could I have done more for my ward? Why wild fruit after all our work?”
It was the servant—it always is the servant—who said, “Is it not the loftiness of thy vineyard—have not the branches thereof overcome the roots which are good? And because the branches have overcome the roots thereof, behold they grew faster than the strength of the roots, taking strength unto themselves.”
“Nevertheless,” the lord of the vineyard said, “I know that the roots are good.” Then he brought cuttings from the trees he had planted in poor ground, for he found them to be strong; and grafted them in that “the root and the top may be equal in strength.”
This change in budgeting will have the effect of returning much of the responsibility for teaching and counseling and activity to the family where it belongs. While there will still be many activities, they will be scaled down in cost of both time and money. There will be fewer intrusions into family schedules and in the family purses.
I strongly encourage you to prayerfully read both talks in full, especially if you are struggling with budget issues in your program. I think the counsel is as relevant today as it was twenty years ago.
In planning our youth programs, we need to make sure that we are covering the essentials and providing ways for the boys to fulfill the requirements of the program. We also need to carefully evaluate every expense using the Spirit to decide whether it is necessary and whether it helps meet our ultimate goal of bringing young men to Christ and helping them fulfill their duty to God. You may find that "the way we have always done things" is not necessarily the best or only way.
Church leaders have agreed that sometimes fundraising is necessary. In tomorrow's post we will cover fundraising guidelines and suggestions.