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.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

House Rules

I remember when I first learned about "house rules." Someone told me that earning money for landing on "Free Parking" in Monopoly was not actually part of the real game rules. In disbelief I read through all the rules, and they were right! My family had always played that way, so I assumed that was the way it was.

I made it a point after that to always read and know the game rules. Uno is worse. Everyone uses house rules when they play Uno. I have met very few people who actually know the real rules. It can be a pretty good way to pick a fight.

There is nothing wrong with house rules, as long as everyone knows they are house rules and they are agreed on by everyone before playing. I have seen some pretty crazy house rules for Uno that make the game even more cut-throat, but that can be a lot of fun. If that's the way everyone wants to play, so be it. It's only a game.

However, I have had people say, "This is the way we are going to play." There was no choice. There have also been games where no rules were agreed on ahead of time, and everyone played differently. That's when fights really break out. Or tears.

I think often in Church programs we end up with house rules. A certain ward does things a certain way, and some people end up thinking that is the way things are done, because they have always seen it done that way.

Scouting has the same problem, whether in the Church or not. Maybe that is why the problem seems so prominent in Church Scouting - because it falls under both categories. Does it sometimes seem like Church Scouting has twice as many house rules as anything else?

Like in the games, house rules in Scouting aren't necessarily a bad thing. After all, that's what Scouting is, right? A game (with a purpose). House rules may help fulfill the needs of a particular unit. They may create traditions which give the program more meaning.

It is important, though, that they do not conflict with the real rules. Everyone should know that they are only house rules, and everyone should be familiar with what the actual policies are of both the BSA and the Church.

I have been told several times, "We should ________. That is the way it is supposed to be," but I know it says no where in the training or literature that that is the way it is supposed to be. Like Free Parking money, it is a really good idea that makes the game more fun, but it is not something we absolutely have to do.

House rules need to be flexible. Which is one reason it is important for everyone to know that they are house rules. Even really good ideas that meet the needs of most units may not fit your unit's needs. Even if something fit your unit's needs before, maybe it does not now. Maybe you have a tighter budget now, and you need to find a way to be more provident. (Our primary president used that word in a committee meeting a few months back. I have been thinking about that ever since - looking for ways to be more provident while still accomplishing what we need to.)

We need to know where we can be flexible and where we cannot, because that will help avoid contention. Contention interferes with Spirit-driven programs. The Spirit reminds us what the purpose of the program is, and it helps us know the best ways to meet that purpose in our individual units under our individual circumstances.

If we get stuck on "the way we have always done things" it can make those directions hard to hear. Stop and listen.

And don't forget to read the rules.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Adult Recognition

I have to admit this was one of my early motivators as a scout leader. I think I have mentioned that I have three brothers and was always a little jealous of their scouting experiences. I thought it was cool when I found out that as an adult I could earn a few patches for my scout uniform.

In fact, I did not buy a uniform until close to the end of my second time being a den leader (I put it off that time because I was pregnant when called). Yet, I had saved my "Trained" and "Quality Unit" patches from the first unit I was in three years earlier, just in case I ever did buy a uniform, and now I wear them both proudly. It's a near miracle I was able to keep track of them so long.

Earning patches is certainly not the most pure reason to be a good leader, but it can help motivate someone who needs a push in the right direction. They are also a nice recognition for someone who just is a good leader. For those of us in between those two points, the square knots can act as a guide for ways to "magnify your calling" and do a little better.

The last one is where I am at right now. When I was asked to help out as a Pack Trainer, I was not exactly sure what that entailed. After all, everyone can get their training online now. What I have been doing could be a whole post by itself (I can see now why it's a good idea for every pack to have a Pack Trainer), but one thing I have been using as a guide is the little card of requirements for the Pack Trainer square knot. It lets me know what kinds of things I can be doing to give my pack the best.

So what are the square knots? Just about every position in scouting has at least one you can earn. Each award has a tenure requirement, which cannot overlap another (for example, if you were a Den Leader and wanted to earn both the Den Leader knot and the Cub Scouter knot, you would need to spend at least three years in your position). However, I believe the tenure does not have to be continuous, so if you spent a year here and a year there, that would be okay, as long as you met the other requirements. There are training requirements, which usually involve completing basic training and attending either University of Scouting or Roundtables. Then there are the performance requirements, which are the ones that let you know ways you can improve what you are doing. For some of the knots you need to complete all of the performance requirements. For some, you only need to complete a certain number.

You can read about the different knots here. You can also download the progress cards here.

If you were a scout as a boy, you may also wear knots for certain awards you earned. If you earned the Arrow of Light, Eagle or the religious award (this can be either as a Cub Scout or a Boy Scout) there are knots you can wear on your uniform representing each of those.

There is also a religious knot you can earn as an adult. You can see the requirements for the LDS knot here. Cards for this knot (there is also a medal that can be given with it) can be obtained from the Distribution Center (sometimes) or the LDS-BSA. Your bishop should provide a card for you, but occasionally a Scouter may want to take the initiative of procuring his own card. The tenure for this award can overlap your other awards. Interpretation of the award is up to your bishop. So if something seems vague (for example, you may wonder whether the three years serving in primary or young men need to all be in the same ward) you should ask your bishop. It's up to him to decide.

Once earned, the knots are to be worn centered, directly above the left pocket of your uniform (you can see this in the insignia guide and uniform inspection sheets). After three knots, you start a new row above the first (I saw Scouters in Omaha with multiple rows of knots). If you want to get things just right, the side of the knot with the loop on top is supposed to point to the right. There is no set order, but traditionally the knot that means the most to you is placed furthest right.

Good Scouters work hard and recognition is important. This is one way to recognize them. Bishops and Committee Chairs, I encourage you not only to encourage your leaders to earn knots, but to also find other ways to recognize and support them. Strong Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs will strengthen your whole ward, and that is worth some thank yous.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

"The problem with Scouting in the Church is..."

I have heard it said over and over. I have heard it from those who don't like Scouting and those who love it. I have heard it from members of the Church as well as traditional Scouters. "The problem with Scouting in the Church is that it is a calling. The leaders don't necessarily want to be there. They are not invested in the program."

I can see at least one flaw in this argument. Me.

Twice I was called to be a Cub Scout leader when I did not particularly want to be. I had no son in the program, no vested interest. My experience up until that point with Scouting was watching my brothers have fun that I wasn't having.

In fact, the second time I was called, I had specifically mentioned to a member of the bishopric a couple of weeks earlier that I had done Cub Scouting before and would rather not do it again. You should have seen the look on his face when he told me what they wanted me to do and asked me if I would accept. I have thought back on that many times with a smile. There is no doubt in my mind where that calling came from. That bishopric would not have given me the assignment otherwise.

As often happens in life, the Lord chose better for me than I would have chosen for myself. In both cases I gained valuable experience and learned valuable things. Those led me later to learn more things on my own. I have grown a lot since, and much of that growth started with seeds planted during those two brief callings. Scouting has even affected the way I parent.

An article from the Young Men General Presidency states, "Many have said that, 'Scouting is for the boy,' In reality, it is for the adult. Boy Scouts of America provides the training, programs, and resources necessary to help adults effectively prepare young men for today and their future."

It turns out that those experiences were not just for my benefit. Now I am part of a program in a relatively young ward. We currently have many leaders who are willing to build a great program, but most have no experience in Cub Scouts. They have no idea where to start. The things that I learned in other wards can now benefit this ward.

When my own sons become scouts, I will be able to support them properly. I will already know the program and what my role is. If I had not had that previous experience as a Den Leader, I would probably be one of those parents who drop their sons at the curb once a week, then show up for the awards ceremony when it is time to pin the badge on.

I am very thankful the Lord gave me the experiences he did. We have all heard the phrase, "The Church is perfect, but the people aren't." We need to have patience with those people at whatever level they are at and trust that the Lord knows how to run His Church. His ways are not our ways, and we do not always see the reasons for things until long after they happen. Sometimes we never do.