Mac’s Message #23: Never Cancel an Activity

Mac McIntire

Mac McIntire

 

This week’s message may seem like a small, insignificant matter, but it is so vital it deserves individual attention.

Two weeks ago I stressed the importance of “being prepared” by calendaring activities in advance so boys know what to expect when they attend Scouting and priesthood functions. Once these activities have been determined, the calendar should be set in stone. You should never cancel a planned activity, service project, campout, or outdoor experience—except in very rare circumstances. My own son eventually became disinterested in Scouting and Church activity because his excited anticipation of an activity too frequently turned into disappointment when the event was canceled by his adult leaders.

Except in rare situations for safety reasons, never cancel an activity because of bad weather. Remember, a Scout is Brave. This includes braving the elements, toughing it out, facing one’s fears, and doing hard things. There are few better character-building experiences than a cold, wet, snowy campout or a strenuous bike ride in the wind or rain. Such conditions certainly test the mettle of a young man and show whether he can be Friendly, Courteous, Kind, and Cheerful even in difficult situations.

A Scout is also Trustworthy. This means doing what one says he will do—even when it is hard, inconvenient, or uncomfortable. As a leader over the youth you need to model the values you’re trying to teach. Future missionaries need to be taught to get out of their apartments and do the Lord’s work even when the weather is bad. Potential Melchizedek Priesthood holders need to learn how to respond without delay to promptings of the Spirit. Young men need multiple experiences requiring them to do what is right, even when they don’t feel like it. Faithfulness means doing a thing even when one may not want to.

I cannot stress enough the great lessons you teach when you never cancel a scheduled event, even if only one boy is willing to go. To serve faithfully in the priesthood one must learn perseverance. The Lord requires more than “fair weather” obedience. He wants priesthood leaders who are committed to His gospel and to serving in His kingdom regardless of the conditions or circumstances in which they are placed. He wants young men who are Loyal—who “stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places” (Mosiah 18:9), even if the weather is cold, wet, windy, and miserable.

 

Take a Moment to Reflect

  • Do you ever reject or cancel a Young Men activity just because you don’t want to do it?
  • Do you teach your boys how to work and play hard, even in tough circumstances?
  • Do you always hold activities, even if only one boy shows up? Do you recognize these situations as opportunities to reach the “one” or to seek after the “lost sheep” who are missing?
  • Do you show up, on time, for every Young Men priesthood and Scouting activity, even though you may not want to or you are too busy?
  • Do you model the priesthood and Scouting values you’re trying to teach to the boys?

 

Turn Your Reflection Into Action

  • What will you start doing, stop doing, or do better as a result of your reflection?

 

“Youth is the seed-time of full age, the molding season in the little space of a human life, the turning point in the history of a man’s mind” (J. C. Ryle, Thoughts for Young Men).

 

-Mac McIntire is a dedicated Scouter who has blessed many lives through his service and acute understanding of the Scouting program. He currently lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. The views and opinions expressed in this message are solely those of the author.

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  1. Brian says:

    Another great lesson in what should become one of the core resources for LDS adults called to scouting positions. This blog series has been amazing. Thanks for the time you’ve taken to write it.

    I once read something similar to the following on an LDS scouting email list and it’s stuck with me ever since.

    An adult scout leader had a daughter as part of a YW group. They’d planned an activity and that night only this daughter showed up. The adults cancelled the activity as a result of the low attendance. The daughter went home in tears and told her parents it felt like “they not only cancelled the activity, they cancelled her”.

    What an important lesson – an activity should never be cancelled. There’s always a way to make it work.

  2. Randy Sorensen says:

    Mac, Your to consider list has several references to “even if you don’t want to “. I would say if this is a serious problem for anyone they need to have a talk with the Good Lord on their knees. If that does not help then maybe a talk with their bishop is in order. Scouting is no place for those who do not want to be there. The young men we serve are too precious and their lives to vital for us not to want to be there.

    1. Mac says:

      Randy,

      You are correct, of course. The ward “has need of willing men who wear the worker’s seal” (Hymn 252). Sadly, the labor pool of willing men is thin in many wards, particularly those interested in being involved in Scouting. My previous ward had been without a scoutmaster for over four months when I finally gained my testimony of Scouting (Mac’s Message #1).

      I always say members of the Church fall into two categories — chair-carrying Mormons and non-chair-carrying Mormons. These two types can further be reduced to three sub-categories within the non-chair-carrying group.

      The best opportunity to view the four types is at a ward dinner or other Church social event. At the end of the activity the chair-carrying members willingly help with the clean-up. They don’t wait to be asked. They immediately start putting away chairs and tables. They grab a broom or vacuum and make sure everything is put away where it belongs. They stay until the very end so those who organized the event don’t have to do everything themselves.

      The non-chair-carrying members seem oblivious to the need for help. They stand around while the chair-carrying members work around them. Non-chair-carrying members do nothing but get in the way of those who are working.

      The non-chair-carrying mem-bers can be broken down into three categories.

      Eventually a few of the non-chair-carrying members turn into half-hearted helpers, but only after someone asks them to help. These people only become aware of the need for their assistance after the need is pointed out by those already engaged in the work. They probably would not help out if they hadn’t been asked. And, I’m sure, some may even be irritated that they had to stop the pleasant thing they were doing to help with the work.

      Another subset of the reluctant worker group consists of those who carry chairs when asked, but they only do the minimum amount of work necessary to make it look like they are helping. After a half-hearted effort they seek a reason to slacken off and eventually stop working. Some even quietly sneak out after fulfilling their minimal obligation.

      The last group of members is those who absolutely refuse to work regardless of the need. These people typically leave immediately after an event or, worse yet, right before it ends, so they aren’t available when the work needs to be done.

      Sadly, the number of chair-carrying members in the Lord’s vineyard is few. The Lord’s Church runs on STP — the same ten people (or twenty, or thirty). What one hopes is more people will catch the spirit, see the vision, have a conversion experience, and join the ranks of the true and faithful. That is why I’m writing these messages.

      1. David Parker says:

        Mac, this response deserves its own weekly post! What a great metaphor!

  3. Brenden Taylor says:

    I’ve done many a campout with just one scout, but I’ve had to cancel a good many, too, because my two deep leadership bailed on me and I couldn’t find any other adults to go.

    1. Randy Sorensen says:

      You are a dedicated leader. God bless you for your efforts. Next time two deep leadership is an issue consider calling the president of the Aaronc Priesthood.

      1. Marla Thomas says:

        Of course, that would be the bishop!

  4. Kevin Fitzpatrick says:

    I agree with both Randy and Brenden. If there was a “like” or “thumbs up” button, I’d click on it!

  5. Montana Burr says:

    I know how a young man feels when an activity is cancelled. One Friday, just a few years ago, my unit was supposed to go on a campout. Due to bad weather, the campout was cancelled, and I was devastated.

    If something comes up, work around it, even if that means moving the activity to the church building or rescheduling the activity.

  6. Kerry says:

    When I was 14 years old, our newly called Varsity Team Coach scheduled a campout for our Varsity Team. As the campout approached, every youth member of the Team backed out except for one person. Mr. Burgess, our Team Coach, was a busy father and small business owner and had every reason to cancel that campout for lack of interest. Significantly, he did not cancel the campout! He took just one young Varsity Scout camping that weekend, me.
    Thirty years later I still remember that campout for one primary reason: Mr. Burgess did not tell me I was important, he showed me that I really mattered. He showed me that even if I was the only person attending, I was worth it to him. Through the years, that experience continues to be a source of strength. I only hope I can “pay it forward.”

  7. Chris says:

    Almost agree. Never cancel, but be sure to have a great plan B. I would hate to see more youth killed because “an activity was not cancelled” or used a plan B. Yes, youth have been killed because an activity was not cancelled.

    1. Mac says:

      I just want to reiterate what I said twice in the message — never cancel except for safety reasons. Scouting leaders should ALWAYS abide by the “Guide to Safe Scouting.” Perhaps I need to write a message solely on the subject of safety to strongly support your point.

  8. I agree that no activity should be canceled except in extreme circumstances. I also agree with Chris, however, when he says to have a plan B — in concert with being prepared, as discussed in Mac’s previous post. Each adult leader should take the BSA’s hazardous weather training module every two years. The principles taught in the module should dictate whether to modify an event.

    It was raining heavily one Saturday morning when our troop was scheduled to go on an 11-mile hike to a mountain peak. There was no thunder or lightning and temperatures were mild, so we refused to cancel, despite parental pressure (including pressure from the bishopric).

    Several mothers refused to let their boys go, although, the boys had been trained on how to handle these kinds of weather conditions. These moms were very angry with me for not canceling the event. Oddly enough, I had seen some of these same parents allow their sons to play soccer in worse conditions.

    We hiked anyway. It was wet and muddy, and the going was very slow. Those that hiked learned some important lessons about the quality of their preparations. But they were eventually singing and laughing as we hiked.

    While on the hike, the Patrol Leader Council decided that our pace was slow enough that we should hike to a closer peak in order to have a timely rendezvous at our pickup point, so we modified the event accordingly. It took serious work to clean the mud out of my vehicle after getting home.

    I noted that the boys that hiked remembered that experience and talked about it extensively over the next several years. Some of the boys that didn’t attend admitted feeling like they had been short changed.

    That hike set the tone. When everyone realized that we would never cancel an event our participation rate increased dramatically. Consistency is extremely important in running a quality Scouting program.

    1. Stanley Stolpe says:

      I often ask at Eagle Scout board of reviews, tell me about your most memorable Scout outing. It often begins, “It was a cold and rainy . . . ” A smile comes to me as I see the pride in the young man of having done something arduous.

      Of course, we exercise good judgement and follow The Guide to Safe Scouting. Many a good lesson is also taught in having the good sense to abort because it is wise to do so.

  9. Stanley Stolpe says:

    Mac is exactly correct. YM’s advisors should not schedule over Scouting activities once the calendar is approved without going to the patrol leader’s council for approval. We say it is their program then ram other activities displacing Scouting events. There just are not enough days in a year to accomplish all the Scouting events necessary to fulfill the advancement program as it is. Carefully consider calendar changes and the impact on this core program. If we say it is the activity arm, then make it so.

  10. Just Trying to Serve says:

    THANK YOU MAC For this Blog, and this post in particular!!!!

    I am a Scoutmaster. My SPL and I have been planning a camp out this weekend for several weeks. The focus of this camp out is to conduct ILST Training for the boys in the Troop. We selected a camp area we know well that has no “improvements,” but has a beautiful natural outdoor “classroom” under some amazing oak trees. They/We are all excited about it.

    As seems to be the LDS custom and practice, my ASMs were unexpectedly just released and I have new ASMs who are great men, but have little or no Scouting experience…and one told me less than 24 hours after being sustained that “they called the wrong guy, I hate to camp.”

    Of course, now less than a week before this camp out, the weather report shows a small chance of rain, and and I am getting huge pressure from several well-meaning Aaronic Priesthood leaders and parents to cancel the camp out and “just do the training at the church” because “the boys won’t learn anything when they are cold and wet.”

    My “THANK YOU” to you comes from my ability to send these well-meaning friends a link to your Blog when I explain to them why I am still taking the boys camping and going forward with the ILST training as planned. I am especially thankful I can send them the link to this one, #23! :-)

    1. Mac says:

      The only campout I remember from my brief Scouting experience as a youth is one where it snowed five feet over night and buried our tents. We had to dig ourselves out of our tents in the morning. We also had to dig down to find the firepit and our cooking stoves. We froze our rears off, but we had a lot of fun. I can still remember how exciting it was.

      I recently heard a wonderful comment by a Scouting leader I greatly admire regarding camping ion bad weather. He said,

      “There is no such thing as the wrong weather for camping; just the wrong clothes.”

      What a great philosophy! And so true. Proper planning for the weather conditions is the difference between a fun camp in the rain or snow or a horrible experience.

  11. fjb says:

    I can honestly say I’ve never cancelled an activity because I didn’t want to do it, or because only one of the boys showed up.

    Sadly, though, I have (more than once) cancelled an activity because *none* of the boys showed up.

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