When doing service at a Scout camp in a remote location, improvisation often becomes necessary to accomplish the needed work. A few weeks ago I watched Arrowmen and camp staff members lacking adequate tools attempt to dismantle aged waterfront docks. Todd, an Arrowman with a can-do attitude, grabbed a hammer and started banging away at a nut rusted onto a bolt. The nut soon sheared off. After Todd knocked off several more nuts, others grabbed hammers and joined in. Within a few hours the old docks were disassembled and hauled away. Todd never told people to help, he just led by example.
This is precisely the kind of leadership the Savior constantly demonstrated throughout His ministry on the earth. Instead of ordering people around, He called on them to follow Him. He said, “I am the way” (John 14:6). He said that His followers would do the works He did (John 14:12). In one of my favorite scripture stories, Jesus dressed as a servant and washed the filth from His disciples’ feet. He then invited those that would soon be leading His Church to serve in the same manner (John 13:3-17).
I recently attended a priesthood leadership meeting where we were told that the Church is suffering a leadership crisis at the local level. Part of the problem is well meaning Church leaders that work so hard to provide great programs for young men that the young men are left with only token leadership opportunities. A few years later when these former boys are called to serve in elders quorum presidencies they have no idea how to lead, so their quorums flounder.
Fortunately, the Order of the Arrow is available to help fill the gap. It is a Scouting organization dedicated to leadership in unselfish service. There are plenty of places where young men can learn leadership. Many of these offer self-improvement. The OA is one of the few groups devoted chiefly to serving others. Its focus on selfless service dovetails nicely with the first of the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood, which includes living the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The OA brotherhood is committed to “the youth-led, adult-supported partnership that is the hallmark of the Order’s success” (Order of the Arrow Handbook, , Boy Scouts of America, 99). A few weeks ago my OA chapter had the opportunity of serving at a summer camp held for a group of special needs Scout troops. Several of our OA boys had never done this kind of service before. After the experienced boys trained them for only a few minutes, they were out there serving like old pros, simply because it was expected of them.
As is the case almost every time we serve, those in charge of the camp clearly expected the adults to step up and take the lead. In a scene I have seen repeated numerous times, camp leaders were surprised when the OA boys stepped forward and led the entire activity. I was among the adults that performed support duties in the background.
This principle is so central to the Order of the Arrow that its mission statement says that the Order fulfills its purpose “through positive youth leadership” (OA Handbook, 99). While the OA has plenty of adult members, only youth members lead meetings, hold office, and vote. Each youth leader has an adult adviser whose role is to enable success while allowing the youth to lead.
One of the stated purposes of the OA is to “Develop leaders with the willingness, character, spirit, and ability to advance the activities of their units, our Brotherhood, Scouting, and ultimately our nation” (OA Handbook, 101). My long experience with the Order leads me to add, “and the kingdom of God,” because I have repeatedly seen young OA members grow up to use their acquired leadership skills to valiantly lead in God’s true Church.
Most OA lodges sponsor induction weekends in the autumn. Now is the time to take action so that the boys you serve can have the great opportunity of joining the OA and becoming better servants of God. Reach out now to your local OA lodge or chapter. You can find out how to contact them through your local Scout service center.
Questions to Ponder
- How important is it for Aaronic Priesthood bearers to learn to leadership?
- What value can be found in regularly leading in serving others?
- Did you know that the OA is uniquely suited to helping boys develop these traits?
- What will you do to help your boys have this greater opportunity?
-Scott Hinrichs has been actively Scouting since age eight. He has served in many youth and adult Scouting positions and has been a member of the Order of the Arrow for more than four decades. He and his wife are raising their family in North Ogden, Utah. The views and opinions expressed in this message are solely those of the author.