Mac’s Message #81: The New Teacher-Priest Activity Program

Mac McIntire

As an organizational development consultant specializing in strategic planning, I help company executives define their overarching strategic intentions, clearly understand what business they are in, and know why they exist.

On May 11, 2017, the First Presidency announced that the Church will no longer sponsor Varsity and Venturing programs after this year. This has spurred numerous questions about what this means for Aaronic Priesthood young men between the ages of 14 and 18. Many of the people I’ve talked to are relieved when I tell them nothing has changed. We are still in the same business. We are in the business of saving boys. We still exist to help young men to “come unto Christ and be perfected in him” (Moroni 10:32). Our overarching strategic intentions continue to be to accomplish the eight Purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood. We still exist to turn boys into strong men of character so they can become better missionaries, husbands, fathers, and Melchizedek Priesthood holders.

Some of the people I’ve talked to are glad the Church is no longer involved with the Boy Scouts of America for the older boys. Others are greatly disappointed. In reality, it doesn’t matter which vehicle (program) we use to get to our destination. What matters is that we get into the vehicle and purposely drive it toward our intended end point—accomplishing the eight Purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood. What matters is that we stay focused on the business that we are in and why we exist as adult Aaronic Priesthood leaders. What matters is that we seek the guidance of our Father in Heaven to help us to achieve His purposes for His young men.

In my calling in the bishopric I often have auxiliary leaders come to me with names of people they wish to submit to be called to Church positions within their organization. On occasion, I’ve asked the leader how they decided to submit a certain person’s name for approval. I ask, “Did you make this decision in your head or on your knees?” In other words, did the auxiliary leader just think this person would be good for this particular calling, or did they actually get down on their knees and seek the Lord’s insight into who best should fill the calling. More than once I’ve had the leader withdraw the submitted name and tell me they needed to go home and get down on their knees to find out who the Lord wants in the position.

When it comes to Aaronic Priesthood activities for our young men, I often wonder whether the decision to hold a certain activity was made in someone’s head or on their knees. I think decisions made in one’s head lean toward activities that are fun, entertaining, and occupy a young man’s time with what he wants to do. I think decisions made on one’s knees tend to inspire leaders (both youth and adult) to hold activities that are purpose-driven and focused on what the Lord wants for His precious young men. Mindless fun will not save our boys. Young men become inactive in the Church when they are not fully engaged spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, socially, and physically.

To me the issue is not one of whether we have or don’t have a Varsity or Venturing Scouting program for our teacher and priest-age youth. The issue is whether our priesthood leaders will “get with the program” and do it the Lord’s way. The Lord’s program is purpose-driven. The Lord’s program has clearly defined strategic intentions. The Lord knows what business He is in and why He exists—“to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of [a young] man” (Moses 1:39).

Brethren of the Aaronic Priesthood, both youth and adults, I hope you will get with the program. I hope you will use the vast resources available to you on the Church’s website to choose activities that will save your young men. I hope you will use your knees, rather than your head, to make decisions regarding your youth. I hope you will think less about which program you use, and more about the outcomes you want as you magnify your calling in the priesthood. I hope you will find great joy as you are “about [your] Father’s business” (Luke 2:49).

 

Take a Moment to Reflect

  • Do you know what business you are in as an Aaronic Priesthood leader? Do you know why you exist?
  • Do you have clearly defined strategic intentions (outcomes) of what you hope to accomplish with your young men?
  • Are you focused on accomplishing the Lord’s purposes for His young men?
  • Do you make decisions on your knees, rather than in your head, when choosing activities for your young men?
  • Do your activities engage your young men spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, socially, and physically?
  • Are you about your Father’s business?

 

Turn Your Reflection Into Action

  • What will you start doing, stop doing, or do better as a result of your reflection?

 

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8–9).

 

-Mac McIntire is a dedicated Scouter who has blessed many lives through his service and acute understanding of the Scouting program. He currently lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. The views and opinions expressed in this message are solely those of the author.

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  1. Jason says:

    I am watching our YM’s presidency and hoping to see them begin to make plans for the change but so far, nothing has changed. There is still some time before January 1 but I fear they will wait until then to try and get something going for the older boys that is not scouting. There are several not being served currently by scouting and they need a robust program for those boys. We also have several that love scouting and they will probably spend most of their time with the troop until they decide that they need more than that program can offer. Either way, our YM deserve to have a robust program that is well led by full, active YMs presidencies and actual quorum leadership with boys called to serve in those roles. Currently, we don’t have that which makes me very nervous. It is my hope that our stake YMs presidency lights a fire under the ward’s leadership before January 1st.

    1. Mac McIntire says:

      A reoccurring theme throughout my 81 blog messages is that the quality of any Church or Scouting program is only as good as the leaders and their willingness to magnify their calling by carrying out the program as designed or intended. Accomplishing the eight purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood has been the desired outcomes for the young men in the Church, whether it was through Scouting or not. The sad truth is too few Young Men programs in the wards I’ve been in (or visited) conscientiously target their activities to achieve these goals. So I will continue my efforts in trying to help adult Aaronic Priesthood leaders catch the vision of the Lord’s program for his young men.

  2. Bart Saunders says:

    The title of Message #81 is “The New Teacher-Priest Activity Program”. Did I miss something? What is the new program?

    1. Mac McIntire says:

      Here is the link to the announcement and description of the new teacher-priest activity program:

      https://www.lds.org/youth/ymactivities?lang=eng

  3. Excellent message. I loved the part about making decisions about the Lord’s work on our knees.

  4. J. Mick Epperson says:

    As I stood in line at the Scout shop I realized I had been a Varsity Scout Leader for over 10 years. Now I was surprised to realize that there are NO RED epplets. Since we are all SCOUT TROOP leases I’m now GREEN.

    Mac, l agree with you 100%. In the eight purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood their lies the trail to eagle. I have young men who are ready to get the Stake Provided Eagle Scout Watch and the Engraved Eagle Scout Buck Knife. With our Young Men Quorum Presidents and First Assistant lies the ability to have them be the better part of choosing those activities. There are over 200 to chose from. The Lord does have a plan for our youth. Now we know what it is. I have 9 grandsons who are great Youth and Young Men. They are on the trail they want to be on.

  5. Cain says:

    It will be interesting how the new guidance is carried out. The new program looks simplified with the 2-3 campouts. 1 High Adventure “OR” Youth conference. With church guidance, youth conference comes from the Ward budget, the fundraiser goes to one long term camp or equipment. If wards choose youth conference, a fundraiser might not be needed.

    We were asked if shooting would go away as well, as the BSA provided the insurance.

  6. Bill H Moore says:

    Mac, I’ve been involved in Scouting on all levels from unit to Region totaling 36 years. I worked with youth nearly 20 years before that using Scouting principles. As a District Commissioner, I confronted LDS leaders who 1) did not know Scouting and tried to re-invent the program, 2) did not like Scouting and did as little as possible, 3) were good Scouters who cared about the program and the young men, but failed to completely implement the Church program. If you are old enough to recall, Elder Featherstone was the Church spokesman who in about 1981 said that leaders should incorporate gospel teachings into our Scouting activities. As an example, when teaching Orienteering, bring in a discussion of the Liahona and how and why it was used. I know some units did this, but not many. When Baden-Powell introduced Scouting, it was for the purpose to prepare young men to meet the challenges of adult life – mind, body, and soul. Many in the LDS organization have repeatedly managed to disconnect the soul part from Scouting or so water it down to be ineffective. Now, they cheer disconnecting the mind and body part to focus on the soul.

    Several days after the announcement a member of the Young Men’s Board was in town and I brought this to his attention, the expression on his face went blank. At the same time, our young men and their parents did not want Scouting to go away and became vocal about their wishes. Their Young Men leaders and I had already begun formulating a plan to keep Scouting and all three aspects together to meet their needs and wishes. Those who do not will once again fail at their re-invention attempts and fail their young men.

    By the way, having served in Bishoprics as well, I fully understand your position on who makes the calls for service. I was happily teaching the Temple Preparation class when our Bishop extended the call to chair the Scout Committee. He said it was what the Lord wanted. Within weeks came the pronouncement on Scouting. With the Lord’s help, we will continue to provide the kind of Scouting Baden-Powell and the Church want to prepare our young men (not boys) to be leaders in the Church, community, and home.

  7. Darryl Alder says:

    Has there been an elephant in the room the last few months or what? Thanks for acknowledging what was there the whole time and for helping us take a thoughtful look at it’s size and scope.

  8. Bill Chapman says:

    As always, great post, Mac! You have consistently taught the message that there is a higher purpose in what we do in Scouting you bring that home again in this message. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and inspiration.

  9. Michael 2 says:

    “Many of the people I’ve talked to are relieved when I tell them nothing has changed.”

    It’s still basketball ;-)

    “were good Scouters who cared about the program and the young men, but failed to completely implement the Church program.”

    That would be me. I implemented the Scouting program; the Patrol Method, complete with Real Elections. Perhaps as a consequence, fully half the troop earned the rank of Eagle (or I was very lucky to have an unusually good batch of young men and a superior scoutmaster).

    Church is a top-down hierarchy and that is right and proper for a church led by God not committee. But Scouting is bottom-up! Boys choose what to do; leaders facilitate those choices within bounds established by chartering organizations. In this those boys learn firsthand the natural consequences of both wise and foolish decisions.

  10. Kyle Echols says:

    As a long time scouter serving in units chartered by the LDS church as well as those chartered by other organizations, and at all levels of responsibility from Den Leader to district positions, I have often been a ‘lone voice in the wilderness’ of LDS scouting trying to get LDS leaders to get trained so they can conduct an effective program and not only retain membership but keep themselves from getting burned out in frustration. I had already recommended to my ward and stake leaders to stop the confusion and complexity of chartering Varsity Teams and Venture Crews while not actually executing those programs and just have 3 patrols within a single Scout Troop (4, if you count the 11-year old Scout patrol). I do not quite agree with the reasoning in the official announcement that the programs are too complex to implement, however, but look forward to seeing how and if the church and local leadership enact their own program better. I still foresee the same obstacles existing but maybe the shift in program will rejuvenate enthusiasm somehow. I pray for the success of us all for the sake of our boys.

  11. Neal Robison says:

    Mac – great post, as usual ; ) Quick question – in your experience, or those that follow this blog, how will you accommodate Teachers and Priests that want to continue to pursue Eagle. Specifically, serving in unit/troop leadership positions, while remaining in Teacher/Priest quorums? I wondered if anyone had solid suggestions on this one…

    1. Mac McIntire says:

      Teacher and priest-age young men who wish to pursue Eagle rank past age 13 can register with their ward’s Scout troop. If several boys wish to continue Scouting, they can form a teacher, priest, or teacher/priest patrol with the accompanying leadership responsibilities. Or they can act as a Troop Guide to the younger Scouts or serve in one or more of the other positions of responsibility listed here: https://meritbadge.org/wiki/index.php/Positions_of_responsibility

      Ward adult Young Men leaders should work with a young man to help him accomplish his Scouting goals while also maintaining his relationships and activities with his respective Aaronic Priesthood quorum brethren.

      1. Bill H Moore says:

        Every young man from age 11 into his twenties needs consistency and direction in order to thrive and succeed. The Sunday Quorum meetings provide the religious training which they need. Scouting reinforces and supplements that instruction through formal and informal lessons and activities.
        What hasn’t been mentioned is that on Aug. 30th every Varsity Scout had his membership transferred to his Ward’s Scouting program. Varsity leaders were not automatically transferred. In our Council, that was done by a simple eMail.
        As to organization, we formed an Executive Committee consisting of the Bishop and his Counselors, Scout Committee Chair in association with the YM President, and the Scoutmaster. An Administrative organization was formed headed by the Scoutmaster consisting of his Assistant Scoutmasters, a Senior Patrol Council with a representative from each of four patrols (EYO, Deacons, Teachers, and Priests). Those representatives are the individual patrol leaders to coordinate join activities. Each patrol operates using the BSA patrol method. Because we have 16 of our 37 Scouts holding the rank of Eagle, they serve 1) in their Quorum patrol and 2) in a special Eagle patrol which acts as advisors to the Scoutmaster, providing teaching as requested, plan, conduct, or help with service projects, and have an occasional Eagle only activity. That program went into effect Sept. 1. Each Assistant Scoutmaster (2-3 per patrol) along with their patrol council are now reviewing the BSA courses on programming and the Journey to Excellence before planning the coming year’s activities. The JTE is central to any success. As these plans begin to come together, the Committee’s Chaplin will begin working with the patrol leaders as how to best implement the religious aspects. At the October Committee meeting, each patrol will present their yearly plan for review.
        This is a large, active, and dynamic Scouting ward with many adult Eagle Scouts, professional administrators, military officers, and experienced Scouters. This basic organization would work in smaller units so long as the BSA methods are followed.
        I am reminded why Lord Baden-Powell formed the Boy Scouts and why the Church adopted the BSA program. It is at the end of the Scout Oath –…”To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.” Body-Mind-and Spirit. Each is important and work together to prepare our young men for their life ahead as husbands, fathers, and leaders.

        1. Mac McIntire says:

          This is a perfect example of how Scouting in the LDS Church is supposed to work!!!! Thanks for sharing this information.

  12. Michael says:

    Mac, your messages are always a great source of inspiration. While teaching a class on “Implementing the 14-18-year-old program” in a Little Philmont this past weekend, I recommended that my class participants read this blog, and well.. all of your’s and the other blog postings on this site. As I taught, I looked to reinforce direction that has been provided from the Church and the LDS.org website as well as in the two Church News articles by the General Young Men Presidency – the three key principles and methods. (Be with them, connect them with Heaven, Let them Lead & Counsel together, identify local needs/resources, Annual calendar) I felt to point out that one of the things they as adult leaders need to do is spend time on their knees listening for inspiration on how to guide the implementation for their specific group of young men in their ward or branch. I felt that I should stress the importance of the councils as a part of letting the boys lead. My greatest fear is where previous scouting programs failed, if the adult leaders don’t change the paradigm and get with the Lord’s intent on this “new” program there will be no difference and we will continue to lose young men to the worldly influences. The following morning, I was reflecting upon the classes I taught and attended; and some of the questions raised in classes I taught. Many of these were along the lines of “what do we do if…” During that reflection, it came to me that a single, apparently simple sentence is an answer to many of the questions: “It all lies in the power of the priesthood council”.

    1. Mac McIntire says:

      Or, said another way, it all lies in the power of the priesthood keys. The Aaronic Priesthood quorum president, in council with his counselors, has the key to calling down the powers of heaven to guide, direct, and bless the quorum. Together, with the Lord’s help, they can determine the right course of action to keep the young men active in the Church. There is no greater power than that of getting on one’s knees to petition a loving Heavenly Father for guidance through His Holy Spirit regarding one’s priesthood responsibilities.

      My favorite Church video is called Brother Soria. It shows the long-lasting impact a faithful deacons quorum president can have on the members of his quorum. You can view it here:

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