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.