As the eleven-year-old (EYO) Scout leader, you will enjoy so very many opportunities to be with the youth of the Primary, especially the boys you serve. From the moment they first meet you, they will be sizing you up and trying to “figure you out.” Most of them will not realize it, but they need you. They need you to touch their lives. They need you to lift them up. They need you guide them. They need to know from you that they can succeed. They need you to bless their lives. They need you as an example of ways to be. They will be looking to you, as the EYO Scout leader, to help them figure out “what do I want to be like”?
Now you may think that is quite the burden to bear but, thank goodness, Scouting provides you so many opportunities programmatically to do all those things and more. As THE Boy Scout leader of the Primary, you will have weekly interaction with your boys in Scout meetings, Scout outings, meetings with your patrol leader and assistant patrol leader, and Sabbath day activities.
Here is what helps. First of all, recognize that all the elements of Scouting also apply to you in many ways. So, be prepared. Take time to think about your “what next” from a daily, weekly, monthly, and annual basis. Ponder each boy individually. Then seek the Lord’s guidance (D&C 9:8) and listen for the inspiration. Set the example; live the Scout Oath and Law in your life. My wife often tells me, “You’re such a Boy Scout.” I simply say, “thank you.” But she is right; the Scouting trail is good for us too. Develop the skills and capabilities in yourself and live them for the youth you serve.
If we are to touch the lives of our youth, then we need to draw them in. Ask a boy what he wants and he will tell you he wants to “have fun.” Well, you have the Program Features for Troops, Teams, and Crews— volumes one, two, and three that are jam packed with fun things to do. All the requirements that the EYO Scout does from the rank of Scout through First Class are opportunities for fun. Each weekly meeting is an opportunity for fun. Each monthly outing is an opportunity for fun.
Boys need to see YOU having fun. Now, all types of “fun” are not the same. Demonstrate for your EYO Scouts that you can have fun and what the right type of fun is. Shared laughter and joy is a powerful force in the lives of others. I allowed only two parts of Scout meetings that I would be in charge of (the boys were in charge of the rest). One was the Scoutmaster’s minute, and the other was choosing a Scout game. I preach “boys come for the fun, but leave with the message.” Scout games are games with a purpose and are a powerful tool to keep them close.
You have the power of fire. That’s right! Not even the bishop has fire. No other program in the Church has fire. But you do! Light that campfire and the EYO Scouts will gather. Time spent around a campfire will be some of their strongest memories. Fires set the mood for joy, laughter, spiritual moments, long conversations, and just listening. It is the magical tool that no other leader has. As the flames go down, and the embers glow, the mood softens and boys open up. Here is your opportunity to get to know them individually and to see them as God sees them. You will get to see and complement them on their good qualities. You will get to have opening and closing prayers with them. Prayer prior to turning in, following thought and reflection around the fire, will stay with these precious souls for a lifetime.
You have advancement requirements, the Scoutmaster’s interview, and boards of review. Scouting is experiential learning; the ways boys learn best. You get to have these shared experiences with these lads and to congratulate them on their success, struggle with them as they learn, and excite them about their future one requirement at a time. The Scoutmaster’s interview is a tool and your opportunity to “let the boy talk.” That is its real purpose. You ask the poignant question, he answers. Draw him out, spend time listening. Boys do not often have someone who will truly listen to them. Get them to talk about the experiences you have shared as well as other experiences in their lives. Be a mirror for them in reflecting back to them the value of their experiences in a gospel setting and reflect for them how God has blessed their lives. Celebrate the joy of their success as they beam from ear-to-ear walking out from their board of review.
Let the spirit take you by the hand as you use the unique tools given to the EYO Scout leader to make powerful connections with the boys as we prepare them to be young men and receive the priesthood. Your genuine interest in their lives will help you guide, touch, and lift the youth of the Primary in your charge. Scouting gives you the special tools that will make the difference in their lives. We are here to enable success in the lives of those in our charge. Be the trusted guide; draw them near to you.
-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.