“I joined the Order of the Arrow as a boy,” the man said. “I went through the Ordeal but I never did anything else with the OA.” This fellow is just one of many that have said something similar to me at various Scouting functions over the years. The most common answer as to why they didn’t participate more fully in the Order is that they never heard about other OA activities.
Even in the information age communication challenges exist. But the real problem these men experienced as new youth OA members was a lack of personal connection. No one from the OA took an interest in them. Fortunately that doesn’t need to be the case nowadays.
One of the best ways to help a new OA member also helps his own Scouting unit. Did you know that each Boy Scout troop and Varsity Scout team can have its own OA representative? Not only is there a cool uniform patch for this position, OA troop or team representative is one of the positions that can fulfill the leadership requirement for the Eagle rank.
The OA unit representative acts as the liaison between the troop or team and the OA lodge. He promotes the Order to unit members, arranges and conducts unit OA elections, works to get candidates to the Ordeal and Arrowmen to OA activities, and helps new OA members serve effectively.
If you are a Scoutmaster or a Varsity Scout Coach you are probably thinking that this sounds great for the Order of the Arrow. But you are also wondering how it helps your troop or team. Consider this; the OA unit representative also leads at least one troop or team service project for the community or charter partner during the year and may serve as the unit service chairman.
Wait, that’s not all. The OA unit representative also serves the unit as a “trainer of leadership and outdoor skills” and sets a good example of the Scout Oath, Scout Law, and OA Obligation. Imagine the value of having a boy leader in your unit whose actual job is to set an example for other Scouts of the three points of the Scout Oath and the twelve points of the Scout Law, to teach leadership and outdoor skills, and to lead out in serving others.
A wise Scouter shared a secret with me when I was a Scoutmaster preparing to take my troop to summer camp. “I know you’re itching to get those boys around the campfire each evening and impart your wisdom to them,” he said. “Instead of doing that, train your youth leaders to do it. The younger boys can’t see themselves becoming like you at this point in their lives. But they can see themselves becoming like those older more experienced boys.”
As a unit leader, you might be as true to Scouting ideals as Baden-Powell. You might be a great Melchizedek Priesthood bearer and a wonderful mentor to your boys. But at their ages they can’t see themselves as a 35-year-old father like you. They could, however, see themselves becoming like their OA unit representative, who should be a dedicated Aaronic Priesthood holder who strives to live up to his priesthood and Scouting oaths and who reaches out to serve others.
How does a boy become an OA troop representative or an OA team representative? The obvious first step is to become a member of the Order of the Arrow. Then the senior patrol leader or Varsity Team captain appoints the unit OA representative with the approval of his unit leader. It’s that simple. Well, what are you waiting for?
Questions to Ponder
- Did you know that the boys in your unit can benefit from the high principles of the Order of the Arrow by having a youth OA representative embedded in your unit?
- Do you know what those principles are and why they are important in the lives of the boys you serve?
- What will you do to better enable the youth in your unit to learn and live these worthy principles?
-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.