The Scout-Led Troop #1: The Scout-Led Troop and the Priesthood of God – Introduction

Bill Chapman

Bill Chapman

Years ago, just before the beginning of an Eagle Scout court of honor, I was standing in the back of the chapel and overheard a conversation between two of our wonderful young Eagle Scout candidates. One of them said to the other, “Right after this meeting, let’s burn our Scout shirts!” They both laughed and we moved on to a wonderful evening of recognition of the accomplishments of these young men and the others who had achieved the highest award in Scouting.

Even though I knew these Scouts were “half” joking, this one statement continued to haunt me because I knew there was a kernel of truth in it. My initial reaction was to blame the Scouts and ask them to have more respect for the Scouting movement and all that their Scout shirts represent. However, the more I thought, pondered, and prayed about this comment, I realized that it was not so much a reflection on these Scouts as it was on the program that we, their adult leaders, had delivered to them.

The program that these Scouts had experienced, and at the time I was a strong proponent of, was one in which the Scouts would show up for their troop meeting on a typical Tuesday night and the adults would teach the Scouts and test them on whatever they needed to know or do to pass off the next merit badge. To these Scouts, and many others like them, I imagine it felt like they were going to another class just like the ones they go to at school. An adult stands at the front of the class lecturing the “students.” The students take notes and try to understand and remember the material being taught; they may have homework to do after class and will be tested on their mastery of the subject matter. Many Scouts don’t like school very much and, hence, the comment about burning their Scout shirts. Where did we go wrong?

Several months after I heard the comment about Scouts wanting to burn their shirts, I was called (for the third time) to be Scoutmaster in my ward. Although about 30 years earlier I had completed what was then-called “Scoutmaster Basic Training,” as well as a great deal of other Scout training such as Wood Badge, Philmont, etc., I decided it would be appropriate for me to update my training. I attended an all-day “Scoutmaster Leader Specific Training” where I live in Southern California.

Up to this point in time, I had always experienced some level of anxiety each week leading up to our troop meetings, wondering whether the Scouts were going to approve of the activities that I had prepared for the meeting. Of course, I would do my best to discuss the planned activities before the meeting with my senior patrol leader, but, in reality, he had little to say about what was going to happen and did not seem to have much interest, anyway. From the comments during the leader specific training and speaking with other Scouters at the breaks, I was amazed to hear them talk about how much fun their troops were having and how involved their Scouts were in planning their activities and troop meetings. I was glad I had updated my training and felt like this “Scout-led” troop concept was a totally new idea, but at the same time was something I already knew about. It resonated with some gospel principles I understood, like moral agency, priesthood keys, missionary preparation, etc.

Even prior to this training, I was well aware of the idea of a “Scout-led troop,” and at least theoretically endorsed that concept. However, hearing the Scouters talk about it at the training led me to believe that the LDS troops that I have personally been involved in, and others I had observed, were far from achieving the goal of a “Scout-led troop” as described by the Scouters in the training.

Thus began my passion to learn about and implement a “Scout-led troop” in our ward. I attended a non-LDS troop’s patrol leaders’ council meeting to see what this would look like in real life. I was amazed at what I saw. This was a fairly large troop and the PLC consisted of about 10 to12 Scouts. The senior patrol leader and his two assistants ran the meeting like a bishopric or stake presidency. Other than me, their invited guest, there were no other adults sitting at the table where the PLC was held, although there were a few adults in the back of the room and the Scoutmaster would occasionally come over and check on things, answer questions, etc. But it was clear who was in charge. The adults would answer questions and act as counselors or advisers, but it was the Scouts who were running things.

In all the bishopric youth committee meetings, stake youth council meetings, etc., I had never seen anything quite like this. I thought, “This is what the Lord had in mind when he said we need to train our young men at an earlier age to become effective missionaries, fathers, husbands, etc.” However, I was concerned that although Scout literature and the training I received clearly taught that the Scouts should be running their own program, a typical Boy Scout troop includes Scouts from ages 11 through17. I thought to myself, “There is no way we can expect a 12- or 13-year-old Scout to conduct a meeting and lead a group of other Scouts like this 17-year-old (who looked like he was already shaving) did.” Nonetheless, this was such a powerful experience that I wanted to do an experiment and try this out in our own troop.

As I studied, pondered, and prayed about gospel principles relating to the things we were going to do, I felt like I began to receive personal revelation. Almost everything I have ever read or heard the brethren say when addressing the youth begins with some statement about the confidence they have in our youth. For example, on page 5 of the Duty to God pamphlet, the First Presidency states the following: “Heavenly Father has great trust and confidence in you and has an important mission for you to fulfill.” Similarly, on page ii in the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet, the First Presidency repeats this message, as follows: “Our dear young men and young women, we have great confidence in you.”

Are the brethren just patronizing our youth or do they know something we don’t know? Is it enough for a deacons quorum president to stand at the front of his quorum, announce the hymn, who will be giving the prayer, sit down, and wait for the “real” leaders to take over and run the quorum? Is that what it means to hold and exercise the keys of the priesthood? Or, in a troop meeting is it enough for the senior patrol leader to give a few announcements and turn the time over to the Scoutmaster or assistant Scoutmasters, who are really running things?

The Lord has never been reluctant about putting youth in charge of big responsibilities. He gives 12-year-old young men His holy priesthood. Although it is the “lesser” priesthood, it is God’s holy priesthood, nonetheless. (See D&C 84:26.) These young men hold real power and authority to do God’s work on the earth. They have the duty to administer holy ordinances, such as the sacrament, collect sacred fast offerings on an errand from the bishop, and they even hold “the keys of the ministering of angels” (D&C 13:1). The Lord called a 14-year-old boy to lead the Restoration of the gospel and His Church on the earth.

As I discussed my proposal to let the Scouts plan and run their own troop with my assistant Scoutmasters, bishopric members, and committee members, I could see that there were mixed reactions to this proposal. A number of parents and other adults involved in Scouting in the ward had very high expectations that our troop would continue to place a heavy emphasis on advancement and that this “experiment” might dramatically reduce that advancement. However, we received enough support from the bishopric and my assistant Scoutmasters that we decided to move forward with the plan.

Time and space in this initial blog post do not permit a detailed description of what happened next, but a few examples will suffice for now and I will share more examples in future blog posts. Suffice it to say that we have had our ups and downs but from my personal perspective, the results have been nothing short of miraculous. I have seen a troop go from being largely adult led to Scout led. The Scoutmaster and assistant Scoutmasters train the senior patrol leader how to run the troop and, as long as everything is done within Church and BSA policy, the Scouts run their troop.

At troop meetings, the Scoutmaster and assistant Scoutmasters sit in the back of the room along the wall. The senior patrol leader or assistant senior patrol leader conducts the meetings. The patrol leaders conduct their patrol meetings. Occasionally, whoever is conducting might ask a question of the Scoutmaster or assistant Scoutmasters but those interruptions are rare. The only time the Scoutmaster or assistant Scoutmasters address the troop in a troop meeting is during the “Scouter’s Minute,” which literally lasts about one minute.

After each troop meeting, the patrol leaders’ council meets on one end of the room and, again, the Scoutmaster and assistant Scoutmasters sit up against the opposite end of the room. The PLC has real authority to plan their troop meetings, campouts, service projects, and other activities. If they go “out of bounds,” or start to plan something that is not within Church or BSA policy, the Scoutmaster or assistant Scoutmasters train the Scouts on what those boundaries are.

The meetings have a lot of energy, noise, and enthusiasm but some very important things are happening. These young men are having an opportunity to exercise real leadership and authority under the supervision of adults. What I see is a group of very young men taking on some very significant responsibilities, doing the best they can, and achieving amazing things.

I would invite any of you who read this blog post and feel so inclined to share your experiences—both positive and negative—in the comment section below. The goal of this blog is to open up a dialogue among LDS Scouters nationwide so we can learn from each other and bless the lives of these young men! I look forward to hearing from each of you.

_____________________

Bill Chapman is a business litigation attorney, has been a Scoutmaster, assistant Scoutmaster, Varsity Coach, council VP-Varsity Scouting, Wood Badge Owl, district chair, district roundtable commissioner, and Philmont instructor. He is married, has four children and one granddaughter, and lives in San Clemente, California. Bill loves to surf, trail run, backpack, camp, do anything in the outdoors, and watch young men achieve the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood through the Scouting program. The views and opinions expressed in this message are solely those of the author.

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  1. G says:

    Thank you for this great blog post. “boy-led” seems to take a major leap of faith, but usually works out.

    What do you suggest for elections? Most LDS units I have been involved with issue a “call” to a youth, and have a troop/team/crew sustaining, which is counted as an election. That seems to me to avoid the “buy-in” that an election provides, but maybe I’ve just seen and done it wrong?

    1. Gary Backus says:

      Posting my name instead of initial

      1. Bill Chapman says:

        Gary, this is a very good question that we have struggled with. As you correctly point out, the Scouting Handbook for Church Units in the United States, Revised May 2015 states the following in section 5.2, Youth Leadership: “Each Scouting unit should be led by a young man who is nominated by the bishopric and sustained by the quorum members. For Scouting purposes, this constitutes an election. This leader is usually the quorum president or an assistant in the priests quorum, but another worthy young man may serve, whether a member of the Church or not. Other youth leaders of the Scouting units are nominated by the quorum presidency, approved by the bishopric, and sustained by the quorum members.”

        This process clearly outlines how the Church wants us to handle the issue of elections. You might consider using this as an opportunity to train the quorum presidency on the importance of their role in selecting leadership as well as taking the time to train the entire quorum on the importance of following priesthood keys and how they seek for inspiration to know who to call. If you feel you need more clarification on this issue please visit with your bishopric. I hope this helps and thank you for the very relevant question.

  2. Kevin V Hunt says:

    Bill … Welcome to the world of blogging. And great job – especially for your first one. I am sure that you will sometime cover these things, but the keys to having a boy-led troop are to train the boys in their duties and to help them stage an Annual Planning Conference.

    1. Bill Chapman says:

      Kevin, thank you for your support and encouragement. And yes, I agree that the “Annual Planning Conference” is critical to the success of any Boy Scout troop. The BSA has also acknowledged that. And, Marla Thomas posted a great comment on this thread about the adults’ role in providing input and doing homework that will help the scouts plan their calendar. I will definitely include this in the future post. Thanks again for your input!

  3. Dwight Wiest says:

    Please elaborate on how this can be implemented in “typical” LDS units, where the Troop consists of 4-5 deacons plus a couple 11 yr olds, and there is a separate Varsity Team, and Venture Crew. Rarely do we fold all the young men into one super-unit, when maybe that’s what we need to do? The conventional Scouting model and Patrol Method assume that there is a large enough critical mass that these budding leaders have someone to lead besides themselves.

    1. Bill Chapman says:

      Thank you for raising this issue. It is such a relevant and critical issue that I will address it in more detail in a future post. However, for the time being, I recommend you listen to a podcast by my good friend, Clarke Green, who is not LDS but addresses this issue in a very thoughtful way. You can find the podcast here: http://scoutmastercg.com/podcast-287-small-troops/.

      1. Dwight says:

        Thank you, Bill – I’m a huge fan of Clarke Green/Scoutmaster CG! His inspiring podcasts are my point of reference on this topic. Can’t wait to hear how we can better implement a boy-led program in what are presently three disjunct quorums/units.

    2. John Linford says:

      When I was 12 I only had one other active deacon in the ward, but my leaders still made me feel I carried the lead. I reached out to less active members, planned activities and coordinated joint activities with the beehives, etc. I don’t see how small numbers diminishes the opportunity to let the boys lead. In fact, I think its an opportunity to excel at it based on my personal experience as a boy. The most powerful and memorable experiences were be trained to lead one on one by a Priesthood Leader.

    3. Marla Thomas says:

      The best way to have larger scout units is through fellowshipping and missionary type work. (This does not mean that those joining the scout unit have to become baptized members of the church. Participants just need to agree to live the church standards & abide by the policies while participating and accept that prayers will begin and end the meetings.) The church (from church headquarters) pays for the registrations of any youth whether they are members or not and whether they are active or not. Individuals are asked to supply their own uniform and purchase their own handbooks usually. (But, sometimes not if there is a budget for those things or someone sponsors for those items.) If larger scout groups of at least three or four youth at each level are not achieved then units could be combined temporarily. Each ward would provide adult leadership and have their separate unit numbers. Small ward units can be combined with neighboring small ward units until the group is big enough to split (at usually seven to eight boys). When combining units the church intends for units of like kind to be combined. For example, 11 year olds would meet together with the other ward’s boys of 11 year olds while the 12-13 year olds of both wards would meet together. The 14 -15 year olds of both wards would meet together and participate in some activities together and the 16 – 18 year old young men of both wards would participate together. The church does not, necessarily, intend for the 11 year olds to meet with the older groups. Also, there is not an intention for the 12 – 18 year olds to meet together very often unless there is just no one else available to fellowship with. That would be in very isolated situations. Yes, there will be some combined youth activities; but, for the most part they should be meeting with those of the same age. There need to be enough youth and or leaders to meet the Youth Protection guidelines of “no one on one contact”. The bishop(ric) would prayerfully be the determining factor for how involved the two or three wards would be involved at each level together. Prayer is an essential part of this process and youth scout leaders need to be supportive and sustain their priesthood leadership when those decisions have been made with the attitude of “making it work” and creating a positive environment!

      1. Bill Chapman says:

        Marla, thank you for pointing us back to the handbook. For those who may not know, below is the reference to the handbook Marla is talking about. As always, in the Church, we look to those with priesthood keys in the handbook for guidance when there are difficult questions.

        8.4 Combining Scouting Units
        The stake president may authorize small units
        to combine for weekday activities as long as each ward maintains a properly registered unit; each is staffed with adult leaders; and retention, recruitment, and activation efforts are maintained by each ward or quorum.

    4. Gary Miller says:

      The key is faith. Faith that the Lord and the brothers he sent to investigate scouting as an activity for young men knew what they were doing.
      Faith that the programs as set forth in the church handbooks through the Prophet is the program we should be implementing.
      Once you have gained this faith and a testemony of the scouting movement. The size of the units no longer become an issue.
      It’s been my personal experiance that only leaders who don’t have true faith and trust in the program as outlined by the church and BSA are the ones who most worry about the size of the unit.

      1. Kevin Hunt says:

        Excellent comment, Gary! Send me an e-mail and I will send you a book that might be of interest to you it is a history of Scouting in the Church and contains many fabulous quotes of past Prophets and church leaders in support of Scouting. Kevin Hunt (kevin@scoutingtrails.com)

  4. Meredith says:

    Great insights and examples for how a youth led program can truly work.

    1. Bill Chapman says:

      Meredith, thank you for reading my post and for your comment. If this is the Meredith I think it is, I’m sure you can use this in your work with the young women, as well!

  5. Austin Dove says:

    This is amazing!!! I was hooked!

    1. Bill Chapman says:

      For those of you who may be reading this, the author of this comment, Austin Dove, was our senior patrol leader during this major transition phase. Much of this 1st post in many of the stories that will be coming in future posts will include at Austin as the hero of the story. By the way, he is not LDS, but was an example to all of our LDS Scouts and Scouters! Thanks for your comment, Austin.

  6. Julie Kirkham says:

    My 30 year old son called me after receiving a calling as a scout leader. “Do you still have my Eagle Scout shirt?” He asked. “Yes” I replied. He was so happy and proud to wear it as an example to his YM. I am grateful to the YM/Scouting program that produces great leaders and men.

    1. Bill Chapman says:

      Julie, thank you for raising such a wonderful young man who has Scouting in his blood! This needs to be a multi generational movement and I appreciate all the wonderful Scouting Moms out there who have caught the vision. Thank you for sharing your positive experience.

  7. MARLA THOMAS says:

    This blog post is spot on! A copy should be handed out and reviewed as each leader influencing youth is called to a position. It is fantastic guidance! (The concept can even be applied to the Young Women and their relationship with their leaders.

    1. Bill Chapman says:

      Marla, thank you for reading my first post and commenting. Over the years, I have read many of your comments and been amazed at your background, experience and passion about Scouting. I look forward to reading more of your comments and learning from you as this blog develops.

      1. Marla Thomas says:

        Thank you! I do have a passion! It totally revolves around my personal testimony of the power of the Holy Priesthood of God. My passion comes because of my love and desire to expose members to and help facilitate their feeling this power of God in their own lives.

  8. Mike says:

    Very well said, Bill. Yours and my experiences have several parallels.

    1. Bill Chapman says:

      If this is Mike Smith, that is literally true! I would love to hear you share your experience with the change in your son’s’ attitude about participating Scouting, if this is my good friend and fellow Scouter, Mike Smith. If not, I was still love to hear your parallel experiences.

  9. Mark Francis says:

    Thank you for taking the time to put this blog together. It is very insightful and gives a great example of what can happen when we allow the boys to actually lead.

    1. Bill Chapman says:

      Mark, thank you for giving me the opportunity to create this blog. I hope a lot of other Scouters will read it and share their experiences and thoughts so that we benefit from different ideas on this critical topic of the “Scout-Led Troop.” I look forward to working with you in this great cause.

  10. MARLA THOMAS says:

    CALENDARS! Adults can be extremely helpful with a skeleton calendar projecting one year out showing reflections of traditions with planned activities & meetings for church, stake, ward, school, scout council, community, sports, work, etc This should be created by the adult leaders and parents for the youth to utilize. Adults can bring the updates to the youth on a regular basis as discovery of new events, activities and meetings come. Reflected should be dates for Courts of Honor, Pioneer Trek, High Adventure, Stake Sports Tournaments (basketball, kickball, volleyball, etc), ward camp-out, Girl’s camp, Boy Scout camp, EFY, Cub Day Camp, District &/or council Camporee, Webelos Woods, Pinewood Derby Races, Blue & Gold Banquet, Service Projects, Emergency Prep Fairs, Dances, Prom(s), regular YM/YW meeting nights, Adult & Youth Training courses offered such as NYLT, Wood Badge, etc.) This helps the youth in their planning and provides them a vision of the future. Most youth do not come from large families with experience of the traditions of the various communities that they will be participating in. Some adults will not know the traditions either. At least 6 months out reservations should be made by the youth (with adult guidance). The 3 month calendar should have specific times and places listed. This is helpful for youth, parents and persons who have to travel. It will be helpful to project what activities may be happening when they are travelling or when they should schedule to be local. It will, also, be helpful for those friends and family (such as grandparents) to plan if they want to come support or observe. The one month calendar will be even more detailed with assignments for who is planning and conducting each activity or meeting. Invitations will be able to be made within 3 weeks of the event and scout Tour Permits will be able to be submitted in plenty of time. Assignments should be made by then. Of course, these calendars will be “living” and not “rigid”. There will be some changes and the skills of how to effectively communicate any changes will be significant in teaching the youth how to reach everyone interested in participating. When taught effectively these life skills will prepare the youth for adulthood with skills to plan business trips, family reunions, vacations, etc well in advance to be self-reliant and to BE PREPARED!

  11. Bill Chapman says:

    Marla, wow! Your past experience in the many dimensions of Scouting shows through in this comment. Great thoughts and insights. As you suggest, scouts learn by “doing,” and we want to maximize the opportunities for doing and experiencing things. Providing the patrol leader’s council with the tools they need such as a calendar of all those events you mentioned (anyone doing their annual planning conference would do well to read the list you provided above which is about the most comprehensive list I have ever seen) is certainly within the limited role of adult involvement. Thank you for sharing these great thoughts!

    1. Marla Thomas says:

      My parents did not always attend all church meetings; but, my grandmother and grandfather fostered a desire in me to attend all meetings whenever there was “anything happening” at the church. As an eighth grader my grandfather paid for half and my parents paid for the other half of my registration for me to attend the BYU Girl’s Youth Academy (I am not sure what they called it back then). I believe it was one of the first ones offered. My impression is that EFY Especially For Youth weeks developed out of that program. Then when I was a junior in high school I was sent as a representative by my stake in California to attend the Laurel Leadership Conference at BYU. Me and the other four girls from our stake were to take the leadership skills we learned back to our home stake and present a Young Women’s Conference locally. And that is what we did! It was a fantastic experience and we were actually the leaders. The adults were not leading us. We were doing the leading. We did attend stake meetings in which the adults were present; but, they did not tell us what to do. They simply gave us guidelines and found out what we had planned. Of course, we were trained by our experience at the BYU Laurel Leadership Conference. I am the oldest of 7 children and, also, have a foster sister who attended church activities & seminary with us and began living with our family full-time while we were in high school. She met a boy at a church youth conference and dated him for two years. Then he went on a mission and she was very active with us in Young Adults. She met a different guy and had four children. She has a super strong testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ in its fullness to this day. My four brothers were active scouters and probably achieved First Class or close to that. They liked going on the campouts. My husband and I have been parents to 7 children and now have 14 grandchildren. My husband is a Life Scout and was active as an Explorer when he was in high school. He remembers his high adventure trip to Wyoming from California back in “the day.” He served his mission in Uruguay and loved it. He goes to camp as a leader in our ward each year and has served as assistant scoutmaster and is now an assistant varsity coach. In my past parenting years I was a Girl Scout leader for about 7 years. Also, I have been an active registered Boy Scout leader in some form or capacity since 1989. I was intensely active in my Young Adult groups, Institute group (especially Lambda Delta Sigma sorority), schools and church groups. Our groups were very good at fellowshipping other peers our age who had not been actively participating in church activities. We all had a blast! Now we have made re-connections via Facebook and other social media. There is a real bond of friendship and camaraderie no matter how our individual lives have twisted and turned. We truly loved and cared for one another and still do! I have every desire to share those methods with others to help to bring them that happiness and those kinds of positive feelings.

      1. Bill Chapman says:

        Marla, you and your story are a role model for us in an example that these principles do not just apply to young men! I really appreciate you taking the time to share your stories as I think that is how we learn best. The Savior used stories or parables to teach and we should do the same. What a wonderful example of what “scout” (or in your case, girl) led looks like.

  12. Paul Thomas says:

    You say ” The Scoutmaster and assistant Scoutmasters train the senior patrol leader how to run the troop”

    I think I know the answer to this… but I will ask: How do you train your Sr. Patrol Leader and your Patrol Leaders to run the troop? Do you use Introduction to Leadership Skills for Troops (ILST) and National Youth Leadership Training (NYLT) as well as all of the other youth leadership training that BSA offers? (Think Wood Badge for youth)

    My experience is that this training is NOT emphasized by church leadership for use by our young mens programs so it goes wholly un-utilized. Church leadership is good at emphasizing we teach doctrine but most don’t even recognize that this gap in true leadership skills/training exists.

    This forum is a good start – but this message needs to come from Stake Presidencies and Stake Young Mens Presidencies and given priority.

    1. Bill Chapman says:

      Paul, thank you for your comment and question. I have used ILST and we have had youth attend NYLT. These trainings are all great but they have one limitation and that is generally the attention span and interest of our Scouts.

      Personally, I have found the most effective training is what I would call “on-the-job” training which means addressing an issue that arises on the spot through the process of guided discovery. Rather than telling the Scout what you want him to learn, as you know, we ask questions that will lead him to discover the answers for himself. You have raised a very big issue which I will spend more time on in a future post.

      As far as the need for this message to come from the Stake Presidencies and Stake Young Men Presidencies, I wholeheartedly agree. However, obviously, you and I have very little influence over those individuals but I can assure you that we are going to beat that drum on this blog and try to get the word out to those individuals as best we can. Thanks again for your support and valiant labors in this great cause!

      1. Marla Thomas says:

        Refer your ward and stake leaders to http://www.ldsbsa.org since this is direct information from the General Young Men’s and General Primary Presidencies of the church. The information on that site is getting better all of the time! It didn’t have much a few years ago; but, it is jam packed now!

        1. Bill Chapman says:

          Marla, thank you for supporting what is happening on ldsbsa.org. You are exactly right, it is getting better all the time and the more people who share their thoughts and ideas, we can refine the resources to fit the needs.

          I love your idea about video clips of what a “scout led” troop looks like. I will look into that and get back to you.

  13. Lee H says:

    Great blog Bill. Just an observation of mine. I have been involved in scouting now as a leader for about 25 years. Many of my original boys are married now with their own families. The concept of a “Scout led troop” is a correct principle. I have had many boys come through my program now who have experienced the vast range of human trials and difficulties. In my early years I thought my role as a leader was to protect the boys from life’s trials and shield them some how. I didn’t not allow them to fail or have struggle. But after a few years I learned that shielding and protecting wasn’t my role. My role was to help them learn how to pick themselves up from the tragedy of poor decisions and their consequences and move forward. Some of the boys experienced divorce and child custody issues. Some have lost their way and are incarcerated or addicted to drugs. And some have suffered not because of any fault of their own except for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Do I weep for them? Do I feel emotion and concern and share their sadness? YES! Every day. But I know they have the tools necessary that they learned at a young age how to work through it. Think about what the Scout Law, Scout Oath, and Motto can teach you about repentance and the Atonement. And how to deal with life’s tragedies. And also how to be happy and have success. Or how the principles can teach you to be a better father, husband, and missionary. I learned that the application of the “Scout led troop” helped me accomplish this. Allowing the boys to struggle through the process teaches them exactly how to right their own ships. Some leadership decisions were poor ones and the troop suffered because of it. Some were great and the troop excelled and grew. It is especially critical now since we are the last major touch point as they leave for their missions. Some never see an Elder’s quorum before they go right into the mission filed. So is implementing a “Scout led troop” a good idea? Yes. It’s critical.

    1. Bill Chapman says:

      Lee, I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciate your comment! Life is full of challenges and we believe that there is “opposition in all things.” That is part of the plan and a way for us to learn, grow and progress. As you mentioned, we teach them correct principles and as long as they are following BSA and church policies and procedures and “doing the things scouts do” (more on this in a future post), they get to choose what they want to do. I such such a huge change when we switched from the adults planning the activities to the scouts planning them because when we plan them, the Scouts were apathetic. When they started planning their own activities, they knew what their own age group wanted and they were wildly successful! Thank you for your participation in this blog.

  14. Great post. I was committed to the boy-run troop when I was called to serve as Scoutmaster. We had a large troop that sometimes had four full patrols.

    The first year was pretty rough. It was hard to get rid of traditions that didn’t mesh well with the boy-run concept. But as the adults demonstrated that they were serious about the boys taking responsibility and being accountable for the troop, youth leaders learned to step up and take charge. Yes, a 13-year-old senior patrol leader can do it. He just has to know what is expected of him and how to do it.

    A few years after I was no longer Scoutmaster, I started to wonder whether my memories of boys running the program were clear. Fortunately we had captured a lot of ad hoc video clips from that era. By reviewing these videos it is easy to see that it is the boys that are running the program.

    Not only is a boy-run program possible, it makes the jobs of the adult leaders far easier.

    1. Marla Thomas says:

      Wouldn’t it be fun if some of those “ad hoc” video clips were posted on http://www.ldsbsa.org for examples of just what “real life” example are. Would love to see them! Is there a way?

      1. Bill Chapman says:

        Marla, what a great idea! Let me look into this and see what we can do.

    2. Bill Chapman says:

      Scott, I am curious to know where you live. I love hearing these success stories where LDS troops have really allowed their scouts to run the troop. How did you train? What were the keys to switching from adult run to scout led? Would love to hear more details when you have time.

      1. Bill, I live in North Ogden, Utah. By the time I was called to serve as Scoutmaster I had been Woodbadge trained and had served for several years on the district training staff. I had also been the assistant SM and had served in a variety of other Scouting positions. So I wasn’t a raw recruit. I had a good idea of what should be accomplished.

        The cut over from an adult-run to a boy-run troop was, as I noted, challenging. Frankly, it took some of the older boys moving into the Varsity Scout team for the troop culture to shift. Most of the youth training occurred on the job. The boys responded quite well to expectations. Tell them what they should be doing and let them do it. They failed a lot. We held reflections and corrected.

        We persisted. Things got better gradually. Eventually it felt pretty good to me. I think that if you ask the men that were boys in the troop back in those days, they will tell you the same.

        1. Bill Chapman says:

          Scott, I was curious where you live because I find where I live in Southern California most of our LDS troops are very small by BSA standards. It is not uncommon for a Ward to have just a handful of 12-13-year-old scouts. This can make it challenging to get a critical mass to really run it like a scout troop. Sounds like you had quite a group!

          I appreciate you sharing your experiences and challenges shifting cultures from adult led to Scout led. As you can probably see from my post, we experienced some of those same challenges although mainly from adults and parents who were more focused on advancement than with letting the scouts run their own troop. As you can see from my post and will see in future posts, and I assume you agree, I believe the “patrol method” envisioned by Baden Powell in which still is the “only” way to run a Boy Scout troop, will help us achieve the purposes of the Aaronic priesthood much better than if the adults from the troop. We will be exploring this more in future posts but I want to thank you for your contribution here.

          I would like to encourage any others who have experiences, either positive or negative, to share them so that we can all learn from each other. Thanks again for your comments.

          1. Indeed, the patrol method is “the only way” to run a troop. Small troops don’t just happen outside of the Wasatch Front. About a year ago our troop was down to two boys, since birth rates fluctuate over time in any area. Approaches to this challenge require customization based on the location and people involved.

          2. MARLA THOMAS says:

            When there are only a few young men in an age group it is a perfect time to teach those few young men how to fellowship. Not to necessarily do missionary work; but, to simply learn how to make friends and get other young men their age to join them in their activities; especially, scouting activities. It is a great time to visit any young men already listed on the rolls of the church. Also, it is a good time to search out any young men their age who live in their ward boundaries, go to their school or their extra-curricular activities, sports and clubs whether a member of the church or not.
            It is a good time to teach the young men how to pray for opportunities to “grow the unit.” Perhaps, new young men their age will move into the ward as a result.
            Also, this is a good time to teach the young men how to make friends with the other young men their age in their stake and neighboring stake(s). Some activities &/or meetings could take place with the others from other units their age.
            Cub Scouts might meet others at Cub Day Camp or their parents might meet others with Cubs at scout round table meetings. The stake 11 year old overnight camp and merit badge fairs in addition to the district and council camporee and activities including stake sports for the 12 to 13 year old Boy Scouts is a good place for the boys to meet others their age. Stake & regional youth conferences, activities and dances at the Varsity Team and Venturing Crew level are good places for the older young men to meet each other and find out what is happening in each other’s units.
            An example: The past few years the Boy Scouts of the two wards who meet in the same building combined and attended scout camp together. They functioned as two separate units; but, did share adult leadership to maintain the “two-deep leadership” requirements for the week.
            There are BSA provisions for exceptions to be made by your council leadership at re-charter time; especially, this is available for LDS units. It is not a good thing to let a charter expire. Instead there is a form “Request to Charter a Unit with Less than 5 paid Members” that can be submitted for council approval at re-charter. So, if a unit only has 1 or 2 young men in their unit on the first day of re-charter (such as 1 Jan XXXX) this form should be submitted with the re-charter so that the charter is not lost.
            The most important thing is that the unit is formed and available so that any young man can be a scout participant when there is even at least one young man the qualifying age of a unit. The only time a charter should not be renewed in an LDS unit is if there are no young men anticipated to be in that unit during that whole charter year. For example, if there would be zero (0) boys aged 8 – 10 years old in a Cub Scout Pack during the charter year or zero (0) young men aged 11 – 13 in a Boy Scout Troop during the charter year or there would be zero (0) young men age 14 – 15 on a Varsity Scout Team during the charter year or there would be zero (0) young men aged 16 – 18 on a Venturing Crew during the charter year.
            Even if a 16 -18 year old has not made First Class by the age of 16 he should be registered in a Venturing Crew and work on the awards for Venturing. The award requirements for Venturing were updated in 2014 and are all about the young man setting personal and leadership goals. There is the possibility to earn awards such as the TRUST Award, Quest Award & Ranger Award which are carry-over awards from the previous award program. Then there are the new awards which are Venturing Award(which is super easy), Discovery Award and Pathfinder Award along the way to the Summit Award (which is as highly esteemed as the Eagle Scout Rank). It is truly a program to prepare a young man for a mission.
            There are seldom times to dissolve an LDS unit charter unless the ward or branch is dissolved.
            I expect that there might be a few of you reading this who have opinions regarding the above advice. I would be happy to hear them as a reply to this post.

  15. Rick Chappell says:

    I appreciated the comments. I’m not sure why, but it seems many leaders have never gotten the idea of a boy-led troop and seemed to miss it in training. Maybe it’s because of “the way we did it when I was a kid” syndrome. I completely agree with the ability of young men. When I first became a Scoutmaster after several years of being a Cub Scout leader, I really worked to build up a youth led program and it was amazing to see a young quorum president take on the leadership role. I’ve called it the “Mantle of Leadership” and watched some of the boys with the most behavior challenges step up as if they were a different person.
    Of course, we have to provide the support and teaching to get them there. I hear so many leaders complain that their boys won’t tell them what they want to do and they won’t help plan anything. Yet virtually never do they do any training on program planning or give them the actual responsibility.
    With the Scouting program, we have an amazing opportunity (along with the tools to do it) to prepare boys for leadership. From the time as a denner in Cub Scouts until they finish to go on their mission, we have training – the ILS for troops as a 13 year old, NYLT and Academy at 14-16, NAYLE and Kodiak. I can’t find any better prep for missions and careers (or Church leadership) any where else. All we have to do is let them go.

  16. Bill Chapman says:

    Rick, I love your comments. I agree that if we take a young man who was rebellious, train him and give him real responsibility, he will often rise to the occasion and blossom into a great leader. I also agree that if the scouts are used to seeing the adults run things and we asked them what they want to do they don’t feel like they have real authority. We have to actually let them lead after training them and support them. Then, once they realize they actually are in charge, it will take off. And I think you are right on about Scouting being a major part of the Lord’s way to train young men for missions and the Melchizedek Priesthood. One of the purposes of this blog is to highlight success stories about using the patrol method and having a Scout led troop. In some ways it is a very simple concept but takes a lot of discipline and understanding it on a deeper level to implement. That is why we are going to continue talking about it. Thanks again for your comments.

  17. Kurt says:

    The challenge as a Scoutmaster is that we serve at the pleasure of the Bishopric. If they want things done a certain way, then that is the way they should be done. That usually means do things the way they have always been done or don’t upset the moms because the worse thing for a Bishop is moms in his office complaining about the way things should be done.
    Fight the Good Fight. Use the Handbook as a shield. Remember that “Scouting activities should be planned to fulfill gospel-centered purposes” and nothing is a better purpose than becoming Christlike (Trustworthy Loyal Helpful Friendly etc.) and recruiting others to be the same.

    1. Bill Chapman says:

      Kurt, I appreciate your sharing the challenge of serving when you disagree with the bishopric on how the troop should be run. I agree with you that, in the Church, we sustain our priesthood leaders and follow the lead of those who hold keys, even if we disagree with them. Sounds like a good topic for a future post. Thanks again for your comment.

    2. Gary Miller says:

      Even Bishopric need to be trained. I found that often the Bishopric sometimes don’t understand the program as it should be implemented. By sitting down with them and talking about the correct principles they will come on board and see the light.
      Moms are sometimes really reluctant to the true boy lead program because often it moves away from the current advancement program they are use to and desire. When this happens I try and help them understand how advancement is suppose to work and things we as a unit are doing to promote advancement. When that happens moms usually feel better.
      For those moms who still are adamant that we work on MB durning troop meeting I just challenge them to show me where that is in the guidelines. That usually ends the discussion since they quickly realize I have a much more thorough understanding of the program.

      1. Kevin Hunt says:

        It is too bad that so many people – and especially the moms – believe that the Scoutmaster’s duty is to provide a steady diet of merit badges for the Scout meeting. That puts a great amount of pressure on the Scoutmaster and is pretty traumatic as he tried to get every Scout to complete all requirements – even if they miss a meeting. There is plenty to do in the Scout meetings with a specific focus on Scouting skills.

        1. Bill Chapman says:

          Kevin, good observation. The Scoutmaster has a big job trying to train young men to run their own troop. If we turn Scouting into another lecture/classroom setting, the Scouts get bored, lose interest and miss the whole vision and purpose and joy of Scouting. Thanks for keeping the discussion going. I love these comments!

          1. Gary Miller says:

            When we turn scouting into MB classes we often hear from leaders who don’t understand the program that the youth don’t want to do scouting. When in actuallity it’s because the youth and the leaders don’t know what true scouting is.

      2. Bill Chapman says:

        Gary, thanks for reading and posting. Another good thing to share with parents and adults who do not understand the role of advancement is the sample Troop Program Agenda, which is recommended by both the BSA and the Church. In fact, LDS BSA.org has slightly adjusted the BSA version which is almost identical but adding a reminder to include something on “Duty to God.” Here’s a link to the LDS BSA.org version: http://www.ldsbsa.org/leader-resources/how-to-plan-an-activity/ and the one for the BSA is here: http://www.scouting.org/filestore/pdf/34425.pdf. Amazing how similar they are and balanced. Neither the church nor the BSA recommends a singular focus on advancement and that is because they have over 100 years of experience and know what works in addition to being inspired. Sounds like a good topic for a future blog post. Thanks for starting the discussion.

      3. MARLA THOMAS says:

        If parents and leaders completely understood the merit badge process there would not be so many expectations of merit badges being taught on activity night. Really the program is designed to have two or more young men contact a merit badge counselor on their own and then those young men are to meet with the merit badge counselor. The process of contacting the merit badge counselor and setting up the meeting is part of the process of obtaining a merit badge. Now, of course, there are merit badge clinics and scout camps that offer merit badges; but, in fact the young scout learns skills as he (along with his buddies) contact the merit badge counselor to be instructed and complete the process. It is an amazing way for these young men to learn and develop their skills if utilized to the fullest degree.

        1. Mike Overson says:

          All wonderful comments! We’ve been transitioning to a scout-led troop for about 6-8 months now and I’ve noticed the shift in focus from merit badges/advancement to other activities. Other adults in the ward are noticing, too.

          I understand the principle of the YM initiating the merit badge process, but I still think there’s more that should be done to help them. I feel like the scouts are missing a sense of being accountable. In a scoutmaster conference I can ask about their progress, but I’m thinking they need more frequent reminders. Maybe that could happen if the troop Scribe is charged with maintaining a record of the scouts’ advancement, perhaps with the aid of the Troop Committee Advancement Coordinator. I’m hoping to engage our Advancement Coordinator to actively follow up with the scouts to see what help they need and to try to remove obstacles.

          I’d love to hear how others follow-up and motivate scouts to work on advancement as part of a scout-led troop.

  18. Marla Thomas says:

    Encouraging the bishopric members to read the short LDS Scouting Handbook (which is on-line at http://www.lds.org) and be trained in their scout callings (usually Pack committee member & Troop committee member for the 2nd Counselor, Team committee member for the 1st Counselor or Crew committee member for the Bishop) will make the most difference. All committee member training is now on-line in short segments that someone like a Bishopric member can access just about anytime. These are fantastic and will make a tremendous difference. Also, the bishopric members must be Youth Protected at either Y01 or Y02 level according to the age groups they are working with. Really Y01 should be taken by all level leaders (especially the Bishop even though he is designated as the IH) since working with youth directly at all age levels. In addition, any bishopric member who really wants to understand the role of their unit leader should attend or read the syllabus course manual (this all can be “googled”) of their level(1st counselor the Scoutmaster Position Specific Training & Cubmaster Position Specific Training or 2nd counselor the Varsity Coach Position Specific Training “The Varsity Vision”) and attend an overnight IOLS – Introduction to Outdoor Leader Skills course or at least read the syllabus course manual. The Bishop (since he is president of the Priests Quorum) can access the on-line Adult Venturing Advisor Position Specific Training. If your unit has a district trainer available these courses can be organized at the ward, stake or regional level. You just need a qualified, trained facilitator who can attend, preside and issue training cards at the completion of the course.

    1. Bill Chapman says:

      Marla, you are such a fountain of knowledge and good information! Thank you for sharing all of these resources and your insights on this site. Now, if we could just spread the word throughout the wards and stakes across the United States, we would see amazing things happen and our young men would truly be better prepared for their missions, the Melchizedek priesthood, marriage, fatherhood and on and on and on. Great to hear from you!

  19. EdwardM says:

    Thanks so much for your insightful information about how Scouting works in our Aaronic Priesthood quorums. I was commissioning yesterday evening in a town over one hour away from me. We met with a group of wonderful Church leaders who have recently experienced a split in their one Ward into a new Ward and a Branch. The Branch has plenty of young men, but they do not have any Teacher aged boys (Deacons are really young and none will turn 14 next year…) . They have Priest aged boys also. Their big challenge is calling enough leaders for each quorum Scouting organization. The new Ward, on the other hand, has very few Aaronic Priesthood youth. In the past year or so the associated (former Ward before the split) only chartered a Troop and a Pack… The Ward replaced their YM / Scout leaders frequently and didn’t maintain any continuity…some of their young men lost interest in Scouting and now want nothing to do with Scouting. Now I went there with the LDS Scouting Handbook and with references to LDSBSA.org and offered to help them grow their program. I made sure they knew that eventually they could recruit other youth (show the Young Men how to fellowship…invite others to their activities. I recognize that these challenges caused by smaller number of youth presents an opportunity to do Missionary work… I pray they will find that blessing as they look for solutions in the future.

  20. Bill Chapman says:

    Edward, thank you for your encouraging and insightful comment. I love hearing all the success stories and even the struggles as we try to magnify our callings in this wonderful cause of the gospel and scouting! Keep spreading the word and sharing how things are going in your area. By the way, it would be great if everyone would include their location and their post just so we know where you are at. By the way, I am in San Clemente, California.

    1. Kevin Hunt says:

      Kevin Hunt – the Scouting Trails blogger … from Mesa, Arizona!

  21. MARLA THOMAS says:

    You hit the nail on the head. But, why do the leaders who think they really have faith resist the instructions? Are the instructions not clear enough? Are traditions of what a young man “thinks” is the way impeding the intentions of the brethren? Why is this still such a “fuzzy” area? One thing is that http://www.ldsbsa.org
    is definitely helping to clear some of the “fuzzy” instruction. I am convinced that proper orientation of a person’s calling is the key.

    1. Gary Miller says:

      Marla, I think it come down to leaders feel they understand scouting because they were scout once. The problem is there are so many poorly ran programs in the church in which the handbooks aren’t being followed that leaders think it the way scouting is suppose to be done. And even when leaders go to training they still fall back to what they know because it is the easy thing to do.
      We all know it’s allot more easier to do it ourself than to train a 12 year old to do it. But those of us that have followed the program as out lined know that when we take the time to train the youth the reward is so much better.

      1. Bill Chapman says:

        Gary, LDSBSA.org has also provided an outstanding resource for bishopric members to use in extending Scout callings in the Church. In You can find it here: http://www.ldsbsa.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Scouting-Positions-Calling-List-2016-06-09.pdf. One change I would suggest is that it is not the job of the Scoutmaster to “hold” PLC meetings but rather to train the Senior Patrol Leader to hold them.

        Of course, there is much more to it than just the basics listed, however, I think bishopric members often are in such a hurry that they may not have the time or knowledge to clearly communicate expectations to those who are called in scout positions. Using this simple tool should help a new scout leader understand what is expected and where to get the proper training.

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