Welcome to the LDS Scouter Blog. We hope to provide you with valuable information, share useful resources and maybe even improve some attitudes and Ward Scouting programs. The recommended way to use this blog is to start with the post, "Why I started this blog." Then browse through the post titles in the archive (found in the sidebar) for topics of interest.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Is Scouting a personal financial burden?

As a leader, scouting can be expensive. You should set a good example for the boys, which means purchasing a uniform. You can skimp and buy just a shirt, with a few patches, but that could still set you back $50 (adult shirts start at $29.99 on Scoutstuff.org). If you opt to go in for a belt, pants, socks, hat and the whole ball of wax you could be into it well over $120. The first time I was called to be an Assistant Scout Master I decided to ramp things up a bit for myself and went in for the shirt, belt, and pants. The pants snagged on something the first time I wore them and I shredded my nifty $60 pants. I swore off Scout pants then and there. (I’ve since found that olive-colored Levi’s are far superior in longevity and they go well enough with the uniform).

Then there’s camping equipment, if you’re in with the older boys, or crafts, games and snacks for younger scouts. When I was a scout my family was not in the money. Our camping equipment was generally sub-standard. I still enjoyed camping, but there were a few times when not having the right equipment made our excursions miserable. (Imagine 13-year-old me wearing cotton gloves and tennis shoes the morning after a sleepless winter night in a summer-weight sleeping bag; I couldn’t move my fingers; the tears were freezing on my cheeks; I couldn’t fix my breakfast. I was not a happy camper. Fortunately, I had an advisor that eventually realized I was going into the early (or middle) stages of hypothermia). As a result, I hate winter camping. After having nearly frozen to death on several Klondikes and snow cave events, I swore off winter camping and avoided it studiously for years. I want nothing less than insulated 2x4 walls between me and a cold winter night. So when I was called to scouting as an adult, I started collecting (as I could afford it) equipment suited for winter camping. It’s not cheap, but I’ve learned that sleeping on the cold ground isn’t so bad if you have a good 2” sleeping mat ($80) and a winter-weight sleeping bag ($50 on clearance, good to -20°F). The only thing keeping you up at night is the Scouts complaining that their tent ($20, end of season clearance) is blowing away.

The second time I was called to be an Assistant Scout Master I was in a rather well-to-do ward. I was excited about the prospects and asked where the scout closet was so I could inventory equipment. I was told, somewhat sheepishly, that the “scout cupboard” was in one of the church house classrooms. When I finally tracked down someone with a key, I found about 135 merit badge books (133 of which were outdated), two or three seriously dented pans, a ball of twine and a bunch of junk. I asked where the camping equipment was. They told me most of the kids supplied their own tents and sleeping bags. I asked about cooking gear and my jaw dropped when they told me the boys “usually bring pans from their mother’s kitchens.” At that point, I’d been involved with scouting for well over 20 years. I knew how those pans in the cupboard got dented. I knew how my mother would react if I said I was going to take her pans on a camp out. We eventually got organized enough to actually go on a campout in the high Sierra’s. (By “high” I mean nearly a mile and a half elevation). Someone had rounded up a gas camp stove to cook breakfast on; no campfires permitted in that area. That’s when I learned that not all camp stoves are created equally. It took an hour and a half to cook a half dozen eggs. When I got home from that trip, I logged onto eBay and found a high altitude cook stove ($100 plus shipping, used).

By now you’re probably wondering where I’m going with this. Yes, Scouting can be expensive. But as a calling in the church, it shouldn’t have to be. In my opinion, a calling to scouting shouldn’t cost you anything more than the bare minimum. You shouldn’t need to buy much more than your uniform shirt; everything else should be provided. All training costs (and you really do need to go to training) should be covered by the troop or pack. As President Monson stated in this April 1990 talk, “many costs heretofore borne by individual Church members now being covered through their tithes” and “The budget allowance program was created to reduce financial burdens on members” and “Members should not pay fees or be assessed to participate in Church programs.” In short, to fully participate in the Scouting programs, you should be registered and trained and the costs should be borne by your local Church unit. It is my contention that the boys we are responsible for deserve well-training leadership. That being said, however, if you happen to be financially well-off enough to cover some of your own expenses, funds may be used for activities or equipment that would also benefit the boys.

The last time I went to training, a faithful brother, who has been unemployed for some time now, told me that he has been saving for over a year so that he can afford to attend Wood Badge. It is my personal belief that he will likely get a lot more out of Wood Badge for his efforts in getting there. However, it concerns me that his unit leadership is so uninvolved in the Scout programs that they are unaware of his desire to get the training he is supposed to have. If they are aware, why have they done nothing to resolve the situation?

I find nothing in the new Administering the Church handbook that contradicts what President Monson stated in 1990. I encourage you to take full advantage of the opportunities in the Scouting program without letting it become a personal financial burden to you. Speak with your leaders if you find that you’re spending an inordinate amount of money on your activities. There are options other than doing without or going into debt.


flash said...

The expenses associated with Scouting would not be a burden at twice the cost. Most items pruchased for the execution of one's duties in scouting (uniforms, books, mileage, etc.)are tax-deductable anyway (consult your tax advisor).
Proper uniforming with BSA approved items set an example to the boys and are a sign of one's commitment to the program. Take a moment and read what Baden-Powell said about uniforming and manner of dress.
Many units do adopt a "class-B" uniform, that would include items such as Levi's, etc., for wear on outings to preserve the scout uniform for occasions that would not be so rough on them.
Training costs for the most part are and should be covered by the Church (check with your Bishop or Stake leaders) but, there is something to be said for taking ownership or making an investment in the program and calling. Think for a moment about the first major item you bought for yourself with your own money. How much did you cherish that item.
One does not have to buy the most expensive equipment to be outfitted for scouting. There are two things to remember when buying equipment; one is from a former special forces soldier... you don't have to buy the most expensive equipment but, buy the best equipment that you can afford. Next, remember that you usually get what you pay for.

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that the parents that say the uniform is too expensive are usually the same parents that have no problem shelling out hundreds of dollars on sports uniforms and equipment.

I remember years ago when my son was in a full uniform troop. We went on an outing and all the boys were expected (and required) to be in full class A uniform. It was to the "Daughters of the Utah Pioneers" museum. There were plenty of other troops there, LDS troops, that day. Their boys were either in no uniforms or only a shirt (most of whom were not tucked in). These boys were running wild all over the place and I could see the frustration not only on the staffs faces, but their leaders as well. Our boys were well behaved and had a great time. Finally one of these partly uniformed leaders came up to me and asked me how we kept our boy so well behaved. My answer was that "we require the uniform and when they look like scouts, they tend to behave like scouts should." He said he wished they could require full uniforms. Leaders, if you want your boys to wear the uniform, set the example and get a full uniform yourself.

Evenspor said...

It is true. How they dress does affect their behavior. So does how their leader is dressed. I have noticed they treat a leader in uniform a lot differently than one without.

shelens said...

Great blog! I agree that Wards should fund scouting but have never seen it happen. We are a military family that has belonged to Wards all over the world and have held various Scout callings. I have turned in receipts and never been reimbursed; perhaps a portion of training would be covered but never all; purchasing a manual has always been a personal expense. Even the expense of camp as a parent (of three boys) is not considered when fund raisers are never allowed by the Ward - although fully sanctioned by the Church for camps. Now, as a Primary Leader, I am very disappointed that awards are purchased at personal expense with the hope of reimbursement. An account should be available for this purpose. There are families that pay their bills, have some extras but are burdened when the last $100. in their account is used to support a calling.