In earlier blogs I have written about the application of the fundamental and basic Scout leadership principles as presented in Wood Badge—obtaining and maintaining a personal mission, vision, and goals as we serve as leaders of eleven-year-old (EYO) Scouts. In this blog, I desire to expand on how to transform your vision into action—for a vision is only as valuable as your passion is visible. To be an effective EYO Scout leader, learning and seeing with clarity the relationships between love, leadership, and service will give direction to your program and provide a lasting impact on the youth you lead. By serving them, they will see the gospel in action and feel the Savior’s love through you. They may not always remember how to tie the bowline or recite from memory the five most common signs of a heart attack, but they will never forget how you made them feel because of your love and service.
When we truly love the young men we serve in Scouting, we come to know them personally. We connect with them, show interest in their lives, and more importantly, we listen to them. The focus of our attending the EYO Scout meeting is THEM; not the program or activity of the evening or having conversations with other adults, but genuine interest in the Scout. As an EYO Scout leader, we show concern with their success. We walk beside them when they fail. We stand side by side with them as they try new things until they find success.
I can still recall the faces of Scouts who have learned a skill and have come to demonstrate their new Scout skill to me. As they finished demonstrating their skill, I can still see the look in their eyes as they turned to me and look longingly for my approval. I tried to meet that need with equal excitement for them. How I served them was to celebrate their accomplishment with equal enthusiasm to their need. The results were infectious. Boys excitedly sought me out on Sundays to share things with me or just to talk about their lives. They had a friend, and they knew it. Not just a peer, but an adult. To young Scouts, their leaders (or adults) represent the world, and if we show them that they are lovable, they in turn can learn to love themselves, finding acceptability.
Many young Scouts, despite the fact that they may know a lot of people and have parents and siblings who love them, may be keenly aware of their personal isolation and loneliness. When we as Scout leaders take a personal interest in our Scouts and show our love for them, it helps them feel that they are personally worthwhile. As we get to better know the Scouts in our charge, we are able to attend to their needs, and they then begin to grow, not only in stature, but in their sense of self-worth.
We can use the tools of Scouting for the betterment of the youth. For example, we can brief the board of review on questions to ask to get the EYO Scout to talk about his experiences and solidify in his mind the values he is learning; we can give these hints to the board because we have come to know the Scout and his needs. We can have the Scout demonstrate his skill in the gathering time at a court of honor. We can praise him in front of his parents. By focusing on serving the boys, we learn to bring out the best in each Scout and build him into becoming a leader in the future.
I recall taking over as Scoutmaster in a ward several years ago. There was one boy who was being ridiculed and picked on by the other Scouts. It appeared to be the focus of the group as a whole. I could see how destructive the other boys were being to this young man. So I put this young man beside me at every opportunity. I knew the others would be less likely to torment him if I was next to him. As I modeled for the other young men my genuine interest in and love for this Scout, things changed. As they saw that I could sincerely like him, they changed, treating him differently and with respect, which in turn changed how the Scout felt about himself. This is called the “virtuous cycle.” It was not long before his parents were commenting how this Scout could not wait for Wednesdays, and that he now had a desire to progress in Scouting, whereas previously he had no desire.
Our vision should give us a passion, and that passion should give us the drive, desire, and motivation to work, plan, and train ourselves and the youth we serve in the ways of Scouting. It takes a lot to run an effective Scouting program. Do not let anyone kid you, a Scout calling takes more than an hour a week. In fact, it can easily consume up to 3 to 4 hours a week in planning and executing the program (between personal planning, training the boys, and training ourselves). It takes time as we reflect on each boy in our charge and see their individual needs and ways we can serve them through purposeful design for their success. As you go to training and gain new skills, think how you can use those new skills to better serve the boys. It is one reason we go to training, to learn to serve these young boys in ways we may not have previously envisioned.
Loving leadership means the relationship matters. It inspires and energizes. The young EYO Scout wants to be respected, recognized, and genuinely cared for. By nourishing them through service leadership, we directly influence their progress and elevate them, enriching their lives. As we find our passion to serve the EYO Scouts in our charge we are readily reminded of D&C 4:2: “Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day.”
As you embark as an EYO Scout leader may you find the passion to serve these young men with all your heart, might, mind, and strength.
Stan Stolpe has served in multiple Scouting positions at the unit, district, council, regional, and national levels in the U.S. and overseas. He resides in Alexandria, Virginia, serving in the Mount Vernon Virginia Stake. The views and opinions expressed in this message are solely those of the author