The Scout-led Troop Blog #7: “Positions of Responsibility” – A Blessing or a Curse?

Bill Chapman

As Committee Chair, I recently met with a Scout who told me he was ready to submit his Eagle Scout application and wanted some help. I asked him what his “position of responsibility” was in his unit and he looked at me like a “deer in headlights.” Unfortunately for me, over the years, this has not been an uncommon experience. What is our attitude toward the requirement for the ranks of Star, Life, and Eagle that a Scout must fulfill one of the specified “positions of responsibility?”

“‘Serve actively in your unit for a period of … months in one or more … positions of responsibility’ is an accomplishment every candidate for Star, Life, or Eagle must achieve.” Guide to Advancement 2017, 4.2.3.4. “The position must be listed in the position of responsibility requirement shown in the most current edition of Boy Scout Requirements.” Id., 4.2.3.4.1.[1]

I have often heard Scouters and other adults discussing the need to make sure every Scout has one of the specified “positions of responsibility” as if it was to be achieved by some perfunctory assignment. Some even refer to it as a “waiting period.” Not only does this attitude raise questions about whether the Scout has met the requirements for advancement, it suggests a missed opportunity for the Scout for personal growth and development.

The “Duty to God” pamphlet observes that the Lord has commanded, “Let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence” (D&C 107:99). Could learning and fulfilling a position of responsibility help prepare a Scout to learn his duty in the priesthood? Could it help prepare him to make and keep sacred covenants?

Elder Holland taught us that covenant keeping is “the heart and soul of our purpose in mortality.” (“Keeping Covenants: A Message for Those Who Will Serve a Mission,” Jeffrey R. Holland, New Era, Jan. 2012, p. 2) In the gospel, “Helping children (Scouts) understand, make, and keep sacred covenants is another key in creating a sin-resistant generation” (A Sin-Resistant Generation,” Joy D. Jones, Ensign, May 2017, p. 89). Can we as Scouters help our Scouts see a connection between fulfilling a position of responsibility and doing our duty to God and making and keeping sacred covenants? What better way to help a young man prepare to serve a mission?

When we assign a position of responsibility just to check off the box, we not only deprive the Scout of an opportunity to grow, but we are not following the program. “When a Scout assumes a position of responsibility, something related to the desired results must happen. It is a disservice to the Scout and to the troop to reward work that has not been done.” Troop Leader Guidebook, Volume 1, page 99.

What is a “position of responsibility”? That depends on the position. Some of the responsibilities of aPatrol Leader” are as follows:

  • “Plan and lead patrol meetings and activities.
  • Assign each patrol member a specific duty.
  • Represent your patrol at all patrol leaders’ council meetings and the annual program planning conference.
  • Prepare the patrol to participate in all troop activities.
  • Work with other troop leaders to make the troop run well.
  • Know the abilities of each patrol member.”

 

When we teach a Scout how to fulfill a position of responsibility, we help him work toward almost every one of the purposes of the Aaronic priesthood. He becomes converted, learns how to fulfill priesthood responsibilities, gives service, prepares for the temple and to receive the Melchizedek priesthood, serve an honorable mission, gain education and he prepares to be a worthy father and husband. If we do not have high expectations of our Scouts with respect to their positions of responsibility, we are depriving them of some of the greatest opportunities for growth they can experience in Scouting and in their years as a youth.

Fulfilling a position of responsibility is simply learning to serve others. “To find real happiness, we must seek for it in a focus outside ourselves,” President Thomas S. Monson teaches. “No one has learned the meaning of living until he has surrendered his ego to the service of his fellow man. Service to others is akin to duty, the fulfillment of which brings true joy.” “President Monson: Service Brings Joy.” Not a flighty feeling that comes from pursuing selfish pleasures but a deep and lasting joy.

The “Genius of Scouting” is that when Scouts are doing fun things they enjoy with their friends and learning new skills, they are more easily motivated to serve each other. What might be viewed as a chore can be turned into an opportunity to serve the “team.” Scouts who might not otherwise take to a new assignment or responsibility are more open to service when it helps them “have fun with their friends.” In the process, they learn to find true joy in serving others.

[1] For Star and Life ranks: Patrol leader, assistant senior patrol leader, senior patrol leader, troop guide, Order of the Arrow troop representative, den chief, scribe, librarian, historian, quartermaster, bugler, junior assistant Scoutmaster, chaplain aide, instructor, webmaster, or outdoor ethics guide  (or carry out a Scoutmaster-approved leadership project to help the troop). Eagle requirements are the same as above, however, bugler is not an approved position of responsibility for the Eagle Scout rank; likewise, a Scoutmaster-approved leadership project cannot be used in lieu of serving in a position of responsibility. Boy Scout Rank Requirements, pages 11-13.

 

-Bill Chapman lives in San Clemente, California, and 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. Nat says:

    Such a good reminder of what the whole point of scouting is.
    I think it would be helpful to watch the individual Scout’s interests and strengths and help bring about the opportunity of responsibility based on that criteria.

    1. Bill Chapman says:

      Nat, good perspective when we train our SPL and patrol leaders when they nominate Scouts for positions of responsibility. Scouting Handbook for Church Units in the United States, Revised May 2015, §5.2. https://www.lds.org/bc/content/shared/english/young-men/35814_scout-handbook_eng.pdf?lang=eng

  2. S. Allred says:

    Good article. I wish you would have addressed the difference between troop leadership positions and quorum positions. Being deacons quorum secretary is not listed as an acceptable troop leadership position. I often hear that the scout has served in the quorum. Not the troop. We need to teach and apply the correct positions as defined by guide to advancement.

    1. Brian says:

      I would think church callings and troop positions are completely different.

      SPL and PL are elected by the troop and then they chose who serves in the other positions in the troop.

    2. Bill Chapman says:

      Good suggestion. I will put that on my list for future blog posts. Helping young men understand the concept of being responsible for certain duties and for the well-being of others is an important part of both Scouting and the Aaronic Priesthood. But there are differences and this is a good idea. Thanks for your input.

  3. J. Mick Epperson says:

    Scouter Bill has written a wonderful overview of why the church adopted Scouting as the ACTIVITY ARM of the Aaronic Priesthood. For over 100 year the Prophets have given we leaders in YM and Scouting (whoops. Aren’t they kinda the same?) the vision of building YM to serve, prepare and be the future. Make a goal today to have your Priest Quorum 1st Assist.,Teachers Qourum Pres. and Deacons Quorum Pres. make responsibility assignments. Do it now. Tomorrow might be to late for even one boy.

  4. Brian says:

    Bill,

    Could you or someone else possibly write a blog post about dealing with very small troops of 2-5 boys?

    Thank you.

    1. Bill Chapman says:

      Another good suggestion, Brian. I will put this on my list. You are not the only one to ask and it is a very common question in LDS Scouting. Thank you for reading and commenting and sharing your insights.

    2. James Taylor says:

      As long as I have been part of Scouting in the Church I’ve heard that question. Every time I wonder why the answer in the Handbook of instruction, the supplement “Scouting Handbook for Church Units in the United States”.

      That is:
      If a ward or branch has only one or two 11-yearold boys, the objective for them is the same—to prepare them to receive the Aaronic Priesthood and help them advance through the Boy Scout program. Possible approaches to administering the program in this circumstance include, but are not limited to, the following:
      1. Increase the size of the patrol through activation and missionary efforts.
      2. Use the Lone Scout Program from the BSA.
      3. Combine with neighboring wards or branches after considering distance, expense, and time demands that this option might impose on the families involved.

      Remembering that Scouting is teaching through *doing*, what better Missionary practice is there than inviting involvement from youth in the community? In lieu of this great option, combining unit to provide the leadership and teaching opportunities to the youth, to prepare them for service in their own Quorums, Ward and Stake leadership seems desirable.

      Too frequently none of those options are employed, and a classroom experience is given, rather than encouraging and teaching responsibility and activity. Outright fabrications fill the gap between what the youth has done, and what is required for advancement.

      The program changes for the older youth are an explicit recognition that this adult behavior doesn’t teach good principles to young men, or model service, hard work, or ethical behavior by Priesthood holders. It also explains the declining numbers of YM involved in Missionary service – and the increasing reliance on the Young Women for Missionary service.

      1. Bill Chapman says:

        James, excellent thoughts and points! Thanks for reading and responding to this post. You have given us a very valuable reminder of a resource that will answer many of our questions, the Church’s “Scouting Handbook,” available online for free here: https://www.lds.org/bc/content/shared/english/young-men/35814_scout-handbook_eng.pdf?lang=eng.

        If we train our young men to be in charge and give them real responsibility through the patrol method, they will get excited, invite their friends and their friends will want to become a part of it. I have seen this many times over. As our founder, Baden-Powell has said, It such a proven method that it works because “[i]t cannot help itself!” Lord Baden-Powell of Gilwell, Founder of the Boy Scout Movement, Aids to Scoutmastership, A Guidebook for Scoutmasters On The Theory of Scout Training (London : Herbert Jenkins Ltd., 1919), p. 22.

  5. Bill Chapman says:

    In the Church, the SPL is “nominated by the bishopric and sustained by the quorum members. For scouting purposes, this constitutes an election…Other youth leaders of the Scouting units are nominated by the quorum presidency, approved by the bishopric, and sustained by the quorum members.” Scouting Handbook for Church Units in the United States, Revised May 2015, §5.2.

  6. Steve Faber says:

    What does a position of responsibility look like in practice for a 14-18 year old young man who wants to advance in scouting? The Church stated that young men who want to advance to Eagle are still “encouraged” to do so, but now the adults in the YM organization have got to figure out how that happens in practice.

    After Dec 31 this year, there are no more scouting positions of responsibility for teacher/priest age young men in LDS wards because Varsity and Venturing will not be chartered, so a teacher/priest age young man will need to have a position of responsibility that would normally be filled by a deacon age boy. Not that there are many young men in this age group who still want to advance (because they’re typically more interested in sports, girls and jobs), but those young men who do want to advance now place an increased burden upon the Scoutmaster/Asst. Scoutmaster/Adult advisers in the Deacon’s Quorum, a burden the former Varsity Coach and/or Venturing Crew Adviser will no longer need to shoulder, because, they don’t do “Scouting” anymore.

    In addition to monthly Roundtable, monthly camp outs, a week-long summer camp, PLC, etc. (none of which the adult advisers over the teachers/priests need to worry about after Dec 31) the scoutmaster now needs to find a position of responsibility that fits for that young man, and help him “do his duty” for the time period required. In practice it seems that to really “follow the program” and have a true “position of responsibility” as you indicate, the teacher/priest age boy needs to perform his duty by interacting with the deacon age scout troop leadership. Does the teacher/priest age boy perform his duty during weekly scouting activities or monthly camp outs – thus taking him away from his own teacher/priest quorum activities that may happen at the same time? Is it possible that the same boy would need to choose between going on the week long summer camp with the scouts to fulfill his position of responsibility by truly following the advancement program, instead of going with his own quorum on their non-scouting activities?

    I hope that those young men who are truly interested and motivated to advance in scouting to attain the rank of Eagle will find the right way to meet the requirements, but I fear that in practice, what will happen in the shadow of untrained adults, is what has happened in the past in the Church, the box for “position of responsibility” is checked because they are the teachers quorum president or 1st assistant to the Bishop, etc., and they move on.

    1. Bill Chapman says:

      Steve, great comment, and great questions. I wish I had all the answers, but we are still waiting, with you, for some guidance from the Church on these questions. For now, I would suggest we look at the Guide to Advancement 2017, 4.2.3.4.3 Meeting Unit Expectations, which says the following: “If a unit has established expectations for positions of responsibility, and if, within reason (see the note under “Rank Requirements Overview,” 4.2.3.0), based on his personal skill set, the Scout meets them, he fulflls the requirement. When a Scout assumes
      a position, something related to the desired results must happen. It is a disservice to the Scout and to the unit to reward work that has not been done. Holding a position and doing nothing, producing no results, is unacceptable.
      Some degree of responsibility must be practiced, taken, or accepted.” Although all of the approved POS are in the troop, we will need to see what that looks like after Dec. 31. There also may be some changes or adaptations from the BSA going forward. I am sure that’s why the announcement was made now to give everyone some time to sort these things out and adjust. We will keep you posted if we hear anything else on this.

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