Succeeding in a Y/M-Scout calling

Hey gang, now and then we get the chance to actually help one another in the online world.  A participant in the BCC community has recently been called to serve as Young Men’s president in his ward and he is feeling a little overwhelmed by it all.  He requested assistance and advice, and this is our opportunity to pitch in.

He has asked for any insight we can give into the LDS/BSA relationship — how it began, and how to navigate the narrows between church and scout.  He has also wondered how to get the best training, and how to succeed as a YM leader.  

I’ll go first, and offer what I can contribute from my own experience.  I’ve served multiple times as scoutmaster (that’s why my calling and election has been made sure), and also as YM president.  My observations reflect only my own experience.  I hope others will offer help if they can.

First, as far as training goes, the church offers very little beyond the Aaronic priesthood manual and Duty to God manual.  For scout training, you need to go to your local BSA council.  The Youth Protection training is a bare minimum, and the Woodbadge training might be appropriate, depending on your specific calling. 

You need to have some supportive adults to help.  In fact, I would make the existence of a functioning scout committee a condition of accepting the calling.  Going it alone is a sure way to guarantee failure, because the task requires more work than one person gan give.

Develop a thick skin.  There will probably be people in church who think you are too scouty, and people in scouts who think you are churchy, and they will all line up to tell you that ur doing it rong.  I’ve found that the best way to short-circuit the criticism is to extend an invitation to be on the committee.  Then you find out quickly whether people are interested in helping or just complaining.

Beware of program-itis.  Sure, the BSA has lots to offer, but the fact is that probably a third of the boys in your ward won’t be interested in scouting in the formal sense.  You need to be aware of their interests and needs, too.

Do everything you can to help young men serve others.  Organize a way to provide the sacrament to residents of rest homes and shut-ins.  This is a priceless experience, because the young men will develop friendships with people from whom they can learn. 

In the Instructions for Umpires part of The Baseball Almanac, we read:  “Keep your eye everlasting on the ball while it is in play”.  We can modify that advice for your calling to say:  Keep your eye  everlastingly on these precious young men.  Adulthood is approaching them more quickly than they realize, and you are in a position to help them succeed.  Good luck!

Brothers and sisters, the time is now yours for the sharing of your advice and experiences.

Comments

  1. I was just released as YM’s President so I guess I’ll give my 2 cents.

    Get as much involvement as possible. The Bishop and his 1st Counselor should be heavily involved in all things youth related.

    Make sure you have a fully-functioning Scout Committee with a chairperson to oversee the Scouting operations in the ward and make sure monthly meetings are happening.

    Don’t exclude boys from activities just because they’re not interested in scouting. Invite them on the campouts, etc. At the same time, make sure there are plenty of non-scouting YM activities happening each month for all to participate.

  2. I’ve served as a YM president twice, SM once, and raised 5 boys. You’ve hit on the most important things, Mark. Two issues I would like to expand on.

    First, regarding training. The church, as you pointed out, provides little training, and the BSA training, while mostly very good, is not always easily adaptable to the church AP program. And the best BSA training, Wood Badge, is not always available right away to newly called leaders. The best bet is to read the AP/YM church manuals, and get a working scout committee going.

    Second, the relationship between the church and the BSA is tricky, with different sets of expectations from different folks. You will never satisfy them all. However, what I always used as my foundation principle is that the Scouting program is a convenient way of organizing the Young Men’s program, and is in service to it, not the other way around. Have your boys read and repeat, if not memorize the purposes of the AP from the handbook. Those are your goals, and if you can get some eagle scouts along the way, that’s great. And, as Mark pointed out, you will always have some young men who are not interested in scouting per se, but still need to be included and considered in all planning.

    Finally, once you plan an activity, always follow through. If only one boy shows up, still do the activity. Once a month, without fail, have one outdoor activity, either an overnight campout, hike, or outdoor service project.

  3. Also, we received training from the Stake Young Men’s presidency who was more than willing to offer help.

    I should also add that I put one of my counselors in charge of the Duty to God program and one in charge of Scouting (who also happened to be the Scout Master).

  4. For reference, here are the Purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood (paraphrased):

    To help each person who is ordained to:

    1: Become converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ
    2: Serve faithfully in priesthood callings
    3: Give meaningful service
    4: Prepare and live worthily to receive the Melchizedek PH and temple ordinances
    5: Prepare to serve an honorable full time mission
    6: Obtain as much education as possible
    7: Prepare to become a worthy husband and father
    8: Give proper respect to women, girls, and children

  5. Training training training (and go to Wood Badge ASAP… sez this Bobwhite). Become familiar with the potential of the Varsity and Venturing programs (sez this mother of a boy who got his Venturing Bronze:Religious Life award last night). Those two programs are too easily overlooked, but contain excellent solutions for what is felt to be missing in working with boys ages 14-18.

    Also, check out the Church Website, under Serving in the Church. There are a lot of good helps there, especially on the big-picture of how Scouting and Duty to God work together to accomplish the Aaronic Priesthood purposes.

  6. PS. I’m going to emphasize this again because I see above the suggestion “make sure there are plenty of non-scouting events…”

    PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE invest in getting Varsity and Venturing materials. Read them. Notice that at this older level of Scouting, there is MUCH MORE than camping/outdoorsmanship going on. There is a place for sports (including an entire award sequence for dedication to sport-related talents in both Varsity and Venturing) and for other interests. The Venturing program, which emphasizes service and teaching (as we would hope our older boys, preparing for a mission, would be personally involved in), is loaded with opportunities for the “non-scout” version of activities, including fine arts, sports, education, and multicultural experiences.

  7. 1. Remember you are the YM president, not the “#1 Scouting Cheerleader”. You have essentially two parallel awards programs to administer: Duty to God and Eagle.

    2. Non-LDS scouters will tell you “this is the way Irving (TX) does it”. LDS scouters will tell you “this is the way SLC does it”. I would recommend doing it the way SLC does it.

    3. I think #3 has an excellent idea about counselors.

    4. Don’t challenge the parents to “support my presidency/leaders or else”. You don’t really have an “or else” to fall back on. *WORK* with the parents. Understand that there are non-YM activities that provide experience and opportunity to the boys that you can never do (music lessons, sports teams, after-school academic programs). Figure out how to work with that. Boys will have to miss some activities sometimes, but if you work with the parents, you’ll minimize it…

  8. If you are having a combined mutual with the Young Women, and you are in charge, come prepared.

  9. Make sure you put the boys and their needs first. My view is that the purpose of the AP programs is retention which leads to the fulfillment of the purposes of the AP as laid out by Kevinf.

    Each boy and each quorum has its own individual needs and personality. never forget this. Ignore stake instructions ideas etc and focus exclusively on what each boy needs to stay active. As Bishop my father would regularly get chewed out by over driving stake YM’s leaders. He would ignore them and focus on the boys. Do the same. If its once a month PS2 game nights then so be it. Do activites that create a sense of friendship amongst the boys. This will go a long way towards retention. A boy that feels he has friends will keep coming to church. For example last night the teachers came to my house and we made mini pizza’s and played games at my table.

    The BSA program gets really really tricky as the boys get older. After 15 its impossible in my exp to get them interested much in Scouting. Do scouting activites like campouts but do not call them scout campouts. Call them chilled out campouts. Make the campout unstructured and just chill. Our favorite camping spot involves fishing, swimming and target shooting. Watch major sporting events together with food. Do high adventure trips that are cool.

    Have a quorum party involving food and video games prior to dances. This will get them going to dances. Go to the dance with them.

    Strong teaching in quorum is a must. If you cannot effectively teach teenagers find somebody who can. ID the spirit when its present in the lessons all the time. Always bring up the LOC/WOW. If they go inactive this will most likely be why. Tell them why they should wait for sex and how good it is between married couples. Never let a disparaging comment about girls go past. Always challenge it and teach them to respect women. This is the only place they will encounter outside hopefully their homes respect for women. If you see bad behavior at a dance towards a girl correct it right away.

    Attend temple baptism’s with them.

    Stay out of the impulse to just play sports every week.

    Let them become friends with your wife and kids. Model proper husband/father in front of them

  10. Having been thought most of the YM programs, my best advise is to get a Ventrue Crew started. This program is better suited for YM 14-18. They can still get their Eagle and other really good awards gearded to the modern boys thoughts and interests.
    Scoutng is not for every YM but the DTG program is very good for each YM. Blend the programs where possible. Make the weekly activity interestng to all YM. Cut out all the planning meetings during the week and let the boy and men leaders do this at a different time. Most boys hate planning meetings and leader use them when not pepared.
    My final advise is don’t try and compete with the world (schools, community, etc) they have bigger budgets, super activities and dedicated people. Do the church programs geared to your YM, be prepeared, get the best advisors, get training and be interested in each and evert YM.
    Love them, talk to them, pray for them and let them know they are important to you, the Savior and the church. Don’t be phony. This will more than likly be the best calling you will every have.

  11. For training, Tim J’s idea of contacting the stake YM is a good one. I’m afraid I’ve too often looked askance at the stake leadership of the auxiliaries I’ve served in, thinking they are useless/don’t know what’s best for our ward/are too bossy/want to take too much of my time with their trainings/etc. Usually once I get over it and listen, I end up regretting that initial knee-jerk reaction. Your stake leadership should also be able to connect you with your counterparts in other wards who will have some excellent tips and ideas.

  12. Thinking about both 9 and 10, be careful not to push kids in Venturing. There are a *lot* of kids who get their Eagle at 14 and 15 and are *done* with anything resembling Scouting. If you attempt to simply push more scouting, you’ll lose them. Once a boy finishes his Eagle, make sure you’re focusing on him finishing his Duty to God Award.

    And your Eagle tracking needs to plan on him finishing by 15 at the latest. You get the “fumes” (car fumes and perfumes) interfering when they turn 16.

    Also – remember that most LDS kids outside Utah are involved in early morning seminary. It’s really tough to get up at 6am, do seminary, go to school, focus on homework and other activities, and consistently attend another church activity on a Wednesday night. Recognize sometimes that seminary takes priority and plan accordingly.

    My final advise is don’t try and compete with the world (schools, community, etc) they have bigger budgets, super activities and dedicated people.

    Don’t compete – absolutely. And part of that means “don’t make it a choice between YM and the outside activities”. Figure out how to work with/around.

    Leaders *need* to know when students have major tests that affect every student (like the standardized statewide or national benchmark or promotion tests). Leaders need to know when there’s a week of final exams in a high school. Be sensitive to kids who have a major project due in a class and might not come. (Leaders don’t need to know a kid’s class schedule or homework schedule, but there are some obvious weeks that are stressful that should be observed. Like, don’t schedule big campout or a Super Saturday or a youth conference the weekend the SAT or ACT is being taken).

  13. Responding to 12…

    Agreed, but there’s not really anything to “push” with Venturing. As with Duty to God, the kids are already doing many good things, and Venturing/Duty to God (which complement, not compete) are really ways of helping the young man to shape lifelong habits. A leader who has caught the vision takes time to sit with each boy on a regular basis, with the requirements of various awards in mind, and see what has been accomplished, and what might–within the interests of the boy and his family–be a good area of work to consider next. In that fashion, all these awards are earned. The Venturing program is helpful because it gives Boy-Leaders (who should be leading their quorums and Scouting Movement units) ideas and activities to explore that they might not think of themselves.

    There should *never* be pushing of boys to do anything. The boys should be leading. Adult leaders must always remember that the boys must lead. Adult leaders model appropriate behavior, listen and give feedback, and give counsel on how to accomplish the goals of the individual boy and of the quorum.

    Thus, under this paradigm, there would never be any attempt to fit a boy to some imaginary Aaronic Priesthood mold, but rather brother-to-brother individual service.

  14. Focus on the kids. Whatever they are interested in, do it and tie it into ways to build character/esteem/skills/friendships.

    I agree with the suggestions to be trained in Venture and Varsity Scouting to help the older kids, and adapt the activities accordingly. 14-17 yr-old kids who want to progress in Scouting will have a program in which to advance and feel like they’re a part of something bigger than themselves, and those who don’t want to progress in Scouting will still have fun activities to do with their friends.

    Avoid the temptation to ditch Scouting for older kids just because the kids are not interested in getting Eagle or doing merit badges. You don’t have to focus on merit badges or other Scouting awards, but the Scouting program will provide many opportunities for some of your Young Men to grow and have fun with friends in a good environment. There is a support structure in Scouting that can help you help the kids.

    Become familiar with Duty to God requirements, because it is easy to incorporate them into Scouting activities and church lessons. Kids can fulfill many Duty to God requirements just by going to church and attending activities.

  15. You don’t tell us about the size of the ward/branch — and that matters. Presumably he wasn’t called as YM president, but as Priest Quorum Adviser, which automatically makes him the YM pres. His principal responsibility is for the priests — hence the great advice from folks here about getting Venturing training.

    My most important recommendations (assuming he isn’t in a small branch where he’s really acting as adviser to all 3 AP quorums), are these:

    (1) Get the quorum presidency working. The priest quorum presidency ought to work much like an elders quorum presidency — weekly meetings, real responsibility, ownership of the program. Your friend is not a quorum leader, just an adviser. But he can get the quorum presidency moving (so long as he has the bisho[s active support.)

    (2) Develop relationships with individual priests. Being an effective quorum adviser takes much, much more time than 50 minutes on Sunday and an hour or so at Mutual. Some of that time is 1-on-1 — attending sports events and concerts where the priests perform, taking them out for a burger, whatever it takes. If they know he cares, they will respond. Well, at least most of them.

    Re BSA? He can get some hints on navigating BSA in the Scouts-LDs yahoo group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Scouts-LDS/

  16. Be an advocate for the Young Women in your ward, as their YW leader can’t go to PEC every week. You can take things for her. Be a friend to the YW and the YM both, and make the combined activities the focus, because it’s been my experience (YM Pres twice, and many YM callings) that those activities help both groups develop many social skills that are lacking in the techno world we live in. Make it an expectation that the YM live up to being Christlike, especially to YW and women. Make the scriptures from the D&C really mean something to the YM, like when it tells them they are to “watch over the ward” make them do it by learning all the ward members’ names, especially the poor and needy, and the widows. Anytime ward council says “this family is in need”, take note and get the YM doing something for the family. Lastly, tell them all about your mission, if you served one, and tell them again and again, even if they’ve heard it before. I loved my Priest’s Quorum Advisor stopping his lessons and telling us mission stories from Hong Kong. Those were the most memorable times for Sunday lessons, not the same repeat lessons again and again.

  17. Don’t forget to cultivate a strong relationship with the YW program and leaders.

    Specifically, don’t use your all-male PEC meetings as an opportunity to pin any weeknight problems on the women who aren’t represented in that meeting…… Maybe I still have some personal angst to work through here. :)

    But seriously, I think it is important to have frequent and positive interactions between the YW and YM. Too many wards segregate the two groups entirely, which doesn’t exaclty give your kids a “church model” for how to interact with members of the opposite sex when they do (invariably) encounter them.

  18. “Be an advocate for the Young Women in your ward, as their YW leader can’t go to PEC every week. You can take things for her.”

    Or, you could just ask that she be invited to it every week. It’s not unheard of, and she is a much better representative of herself and her program’s needs than anyone else.

  19. It’s always baffled me why the YM president goes to PEC every week, but the YW president only goes to Ward Council. I echo Natalie’s concerns in this regard, but also encourage new YM presidents to learn to communicate and work cooperatively with the YW president. It really helps a lot for both sides.

  20. We did invited the YW Pres and the RS Pres, and they came (of course) to the PEC. But, when the Stake ldrs got wind of it, they said “no more, its’ PEC.”

    So, I made the best of it by talking often with the YW Pres, like you said Natalie, trying to make the best of the situation.

  21. 12 is correct about pusing Scouting on boys that have completed the Eagle Trail. We use Venturing for all boys and it works well for boys that want their Eagles but want a mature program.
    One last parting shoot is to pray for a Bishop that works well with his youth. That sepical Bishop can make a big difference in their lives. Getting the Bishop involved, supporting and relating to the youth makes the YW/YM programs much more effective.

  22. OK, sorry one last item. We hold a DTG Conference once a year during the 3rd hour with parents, Bishopric, YM Leaders and the YM. We review the program and meet one on one with the boy and his parent(s) to review their progress, give support and encouragement. A very effective program. We also have a DTG Coordinator/Specialist that works full time with the boys, the family and leaders.

  23. I had leaders when I was in Scouting who considered themselves to be the best Scout leaders ever. They were Woodbadge graduates and got lots of accolades and awards from the council. Most of them were striving for Council jobs.

    Here’s how they did things for me and my five brothers:

    1. Scout meetings are for playing basketball.

    2. Campouts are for taking chain saws and having the boys cut your firewood for the winter. Have them take about a fourth of it to some widows in the ward to make it legitimate. If you don’t need firewood, there’s really no purpose for a campout, unless it’s a council-sponsored activity.

    3. Some of the boys will be the butt of jokes. Encourage this. If you’ve got any “special needs” scouts, it’s a lot of fun to leave them sitting on their front steps rather than pick them up for the campout. If one of the boys insists on picking him up, let that brat know that he and he alone is responsible for taking care of the (redacted).

    4. Maintain that “Scouting is the activity arm of the Aaronic Priesthood” every chance you get. If a boy doesn’t want to participate in Scouts anymore, he’s practically out the priesthood quorum as well. Make sure he never passes the sacrament, even if you have to do it yourself.

    5. Make sure that the boys know that making Eagle is your best guarantee of making it to the Celestial Kingdom. A boy without an Eagle is worthless, spineless, and worthy only of your contempt.

    6. Never keep records. That is the job of the boy and his parents. If he can’t keep his records, he doesn’t deserve the rank.

    7. When on trial, testify that the boy led you on.

  24. My advice is to try to understand WHY the Brethren say and recommend what they do, and then try to sustain them. When it comes to matters like R-rated movies, dating, Relief Society homemaking re-naming, and such, we are quick to sustain the Brethren. But when it comes to Scouting, so many Church members reserve the right to disagree and to know better. I have wondered why this is. But regardless, try to understand WHY the Brethren recommend a Boy Scout troop for the deacons quorum, a Varsity Scout team for the teachers quorum, and a Venturing crew for the priests quorum, and then sustain the Brethren as best you can. Try to understand WHY the Chart of Calls and the handbook makes clear that a man is not called as a ward Young Men president but instead is called as priests quorum adviser (and so on for teachers and deacons quorum advisers). Try to understand WHY the Brethren want LDS Scouting leaders to take BSA training, and try to get the training. Try to understand WHY the handbook makes clear that the ward Young Men presidency never presides, and try not to do it. Try to understand WHY the Brethren want each Aaronic Priesthood quorum presidency to plan an activity program for its own quorum, and try to do so. Be a friend to both the LDS and BSA communities. Be a friend to both the young men and their parents. Wear the BSA uniform proudly. May the Lord bless you in your work.

  25. Michael, your #7 is perplexing, creepy and interesting.

  26. for Michael (no. 24). All Church workers at the local level are volunteers. We’re not church employees, and we’re not experts in child development. We do the best we can. We accept calls and then we try to magnify them. Do we always meet everyone’s expectations? No. But it is unreasonable to expect such. You seem bitter, and perhaps you feel your ward Scouting leaders and maybe even the Church failed you. Please forgive them and move on.

  27. “Some of that time is 1-on-1 — attending sports events and concerts where the priests perform, taking them out for a burger, whatever it takes. If they know he cares, they will respond. Well, at least most of them. ”

    Can you do stuff 1 on 1 with the boys? I was under the impression that church policy prohibits 1 on 1 interaction with the boys. But I could be wrong.

  28. Michael, # 24, I thought I had a bad scoutmaster in the 60′s when he got arrested for shoplifting porn. However, it just made me want to do things right when I was called, and since I had sons invested in it, I tried really hard to set the right example.

    Bitterness is not becoming this thread. I think everyone knows what not to do, but you pretty well summed it up. If this was your experience, as ji says, forgive and move on.

  29. ji, even without #7, Michael’s disturbing list is a matter of failing to meet anyone’s expectations.

    And recovering from sexual abuse is not a simple matter of “forgive and move on.”

    Michael, I’m sorry this was your experience, and I’m sorry you’re not alone.

  30. Thank heavens for ji and the number 25 posting. I have struggled with all the issues every single one of you have posted for 21 years of Young Mens callings and have just recently got it. By that I mean “figured it out.” I am just a few weeks away from being released as Young Mens President. I cried most of the day. I have learned that it is without a doubt, the best calling in the church. Now it just makes me sad to read some of these postings. There is some very good advise here and some that is not so good. I hope the new Leader for whom this post is intended sees clearly the difference.

    My posting may make some unhappy, but I intend to give the cold hard truth. My intention is to be kind and helpful in doing so. Please consider that if feelings are hurt in anyway.

    First, my new friend and YM Leader, you should read President Dahlquist’s address to all Young Men Leaders (2007). Here are two for you: http://www.lds.org/pa/display/0,17884,8697-1,00.html http://www.lds.org/pa/display/0,17884,6622-1,00.html. Get trained and get to Wood Badge. Second, you should memorize number 25 of this posting. Thirdly, you need to not listen to the general population of past and present YM Leaders (I mean guys in our shoes, not the Prophet and General Young Mens Presidency) and just face the fact that the church is true and that a prophet of God, and every prophet since, has stated that the Lord has declared Scouting to be the activity program of the Aaronic Priesthood! President Monson is the longest serving Scouter for a reason. It wasn’t until I embraced this fact that things started working for me as a YM Leader. Every boy deserves a trained leader. Lastly, if you want to truly be successful and put well prepared young men into mission field, you have to find a way to love everyone of them. They are going to need you. You cannot be their parent, but you can be their friend as well as their leader, but only if you TRULY love them. In being their friend, I will just advise you to take caution when it comes to skateboarding. Additionally, I will put some more weight upon you shoulders. Your duty in this is significant. The problems we face tomorrow in our Melchizedek priesthood quorums and the number of lost boys across the world today rest with you. I would let it trouble your sleep.

    I could do this to you all day, but will leave you with this: You may be the leader, but you are not in charge. This is a boy lead program and you and your counselors are advisers to presidents that hold keys to the priesthood. Love them. Love them. Love them. Be their friend and you will have eternal blessings from it. Improve yourself so you can be the best friend possible. Stay close to the Lord, you are going to need Him.

    Good luck. My prayers are with you.

  31. DietCokeLover says:

    I am a fairly new YM president as well, and so far I have decided that the only thing that matters is my relationship with the boys. I honestly don’t care if any of my boys gets their eagle scout, or duty to God. But I do care what is going on in their lives, and what I can do to help, and how I can make each of them a better man.

  32. Latter-day Guy says:

    But when it comes to Scouting, so many Church members reserve the right to disagree and to know better. I have wondered why this is.

    ji, you did see 24, right? Clearly “so many Church members” have had bad, baaaaaad experiences. That, or they just aren’t convinced scouting is a necessary part of raising a faithful LDS boy. It can be a great program if a participant is interested. Personally, I wasn’t. To the extent my YM leaders respected that, we got on well, and they effectively helped me meet many of my goals. To the extent YM leaders tried to imply scouting is part of the gospel, (and some did) we did not get on well, and I avoided them like I try to avoid “cat ladies”: entirely.

  33. “prophet of God, and every prophet since, has stated that the Lord has declared Scouting to be the activity program of the Aaronic Priesthood!”

    nuh-uh.

  34. Latter-day Guy says:

    24, 26, 30:

    I really hope your #7 was a joke. Huge. Quickly. Bye. (But if it isn’t, ditto to KLS’s 30.)

  35. Latter-day Guy says:

    “President Monson is the longest serving Scouter for a reason.”

    Yup. ‘Cause he out-lived all the older ones.

  36. “a prophet of God, and every prophet since, has stated that the Lord has declared Scouting to be the activity program of the Aaronic Priesthood!”

    Except for the Aaronic Priesthood everywhere in the world besides the U.S. and Canada, of course.

  37. Natalie K. says:

    #32 – I think that is the most important thing too. And that is what they are going to remember for the longest time.

  38. Having been YM president for nearly 3 years (fortunately done now) in a ward with 20+ deacons, 20+ teachers, 20+ priests:

    1) NUMBER #1 – Delegate. I primarily focused on the priests. My 1st counselor focused on the teachers. My 2nd counselor focused on the deacons. I had 2 more advisors just for priests to help me. We had another 1-2 advisors just for teachers. We had a scoutmaster with 3-4 assistants that just did scouting (the 2nd counselor did Sundays and DTG).

    2) DTG: We had someone assigned to tracking DTG. Throughout a year, he tried to visit each family (1-2 visits per week on a Sunday as needed). He gave them a copy of where they were and drummed up “enthusiasm” for the program. If the parents are involved and understand it, it gets done. If they aren’t it doesn’t matter much what you do.

    3) Scouting: I did very little. We had an awesome scoutmaster. He had awesome assistants. We even had someone assigned just to help Life scouts make the transition to Eagle, regardless of their age (they get lost once they get much past deacons).

    4) Work closely with YW president: They were far more organized than me with a similar number of girls.

    5) Make it fun: In addition to “requirements” and “combined” activities, we had at least one week per month simply for fun. We had pool parties, played Laser tag, had an XBOX 360 HALO party, etc. They were always well attended.

    6) Text: I texted almost every day to someone. I set up group reminders to text kids and leaders about activities. We texted assignments. We set up an entire youth conference – including going out of town, camping, spiritual meetings, etc. with a single meeting and a lot of emails and texts. Kids live by text. Join their world.

    7) Kids – not programs: While we obviously did scouting and DTG, they were tools. I could honestly care less if anyone got any of those things. I wanted the boys to know I loved them. I wanted them to understand the world. I wanted them to be prepared to serve missions. Anything else was just gravy.

    8) Accept a single kid: We had activities where 1 out of 20 kids showed up. So what. They have busy lives too. We are just a facet of their lives. Do the activity anyway. And keep planning more. The next time, 15 will show up.

    9) Minimize meetings: They are pretty much a waste of time. Have the fewest amount of the shortest meetings you can get away with. Text to communicate and organize.

    10) Prepare for missions: At YM president, my #1 priority was the priests. We read the BofM for an hour each Sunday BEFORE Church. One lesson each month was covering a chapter from the Duty to God manual. By the time each priest finished their 2 years, they had read the BofM 1-2x, and they had gone through the Duty to God manual 1-1/2 times.

    11) Results: We have numerous Eagle scouts. We have
    probably 16-17 people from our ward on missions right now. I still get texts from my kids for random things all the time. I have been invited to help set them apart when they are made Elder. I have been invited to midnight movies with a bunch of teenagers because they had an extra ticket and I’m who they thought of (even on a work night). They are my friends.

    And at the end of the day, I’m terribly glad it’s done and over. It was a lot of work and a tremendous strain on my family.

  39. 37 Yes. Every ship but my four fastest. Of course.

    And bless you, KLS.

  40. This is a boy lead program and you and your counselors are advisers to presidents that hold keys to the priesthood.

    As a former YM president in two wards, and Stake YM pres or counselor in two stakes, I would train ward YM leaders with the triple AAA”

    Your three duties are:
    Advise, Advocate, and Activate

    Advise: you are not the president nor the Bishop. You and your counselors are advisers to presidents (albeit young ones) that hold actual keys to the priesthood. You are the advisor that guides, teaches, steps in, rescues, pushes forward, calls out, works as sort of as a go between for the YM and Bishop. It’s like Zazu in Lion King. You do what it takes to guide and advise this young leader through the awkward process of growing and learning from 12 to 18.

    Advocate: You are the voice of the YM in the bigger world of the Church. You got their back, you tell them things they need to know to figure out this world and be successful, you stand up for them at PEC when people are talking down “those YM”, and of course, you are an adult, but now you’re “in” their world. You are most definitely not one of them, but you run around with them now.

    Activate: You do what it takes to create that spark of “happening” in the program. From your own wisdom and experience as an adult you do what it takes to make “it” happen, to make them feel like they want to come, that they are attracted to what’s “happening”. Scouting doesn’t make “it” happen automatically, “it” doesn’t happen because you were called and set apart, “it” doesn’t happen because you make an announcement on Sunday and they’re supposed to just show up.

    And in the end, it’s all about relationships. That comes with time, effort, dedication, and not from a manual, program, or leadership meeting. I loved what #9 wrote. Effective teaching on Sunday is crucial. That is when you have boys actually there, expecting something worth the effort of coming on Sunday. Adults in the church are pretty tolerant of just showing up even if the class isn’t worth our time that week–we can take that, but the YM don’t.

    Oh, and please don’t get upset if a 16 or 17 year old YM is busy involved in lots of great school activities, personal achievments, or a more independent lifestyle with work and dating. That’s pretty much the purpose of this program, to get them out into their lives, making their own decisions, building their own future, all within the parallel development of their spiritual lives. Hopefully we can help guide that process, and celebrate it when it happens.

  41. I am currently serving as YM President. This is my second year.

    In my experience, the training provided by the church is mostly useless. The Scouting program can have good training, but it is dependent on the people giving the training.

    My Primary success as YM president has been in letting the Youth be in charge of the program and in having extremely good counselors.

    For example, in my first year, I had a few death metal kids, so I let them put on a concert with their band for Mutual Halloween night. We’ve been paintballing. We’ve been rock climbing. We’ve had multiple video game nights. We’ve gone shooting. The only thing I remember vetoing was going hunting. I do give them a little structure (We have to do service once every other month, we have to work on X scout skills, etc) Also, for Mutual and camping trips, we combine all three quorums. this gives us 14 boys instead of 5/4/5 so it is a much better group. I haven’t been able to get the YM to be willing to let the YW to camp with us anymore. (My oldest YM doesn’t like the YW for some reason, and he holds a lot of sway)

    For Sundays, I let the Youth teach 50% of the lessons. We combine half the time, and are separate half the time into Quorums. I or one of my counselors teach from “Teaching No greater Calling” once a month on how to teach. I plan all the lessons to fulfill Duty to God requirements that the majority need. (This is actually really easy to do, as so many requirements are things like “Talk about D&C 4, etc.) If the kids think the lesson sucks and would rather goof off, I go with the Big Lebowski (Sometimes you get the bar, and sometimes the bar gets you.) and I let it ride. I have found that the best book to get ideas from for teaching is Stephen Covey’s 6 events.

    I was actually doing pretty bad at the scouting part of it, until I got my new 2nd Counselor. He is incredible. I got him focused on that and he will even take extra time and go to kids houses and work with them to get them caught up. We mainly just look at what merit badges the oldest boys don’t have done and what the younger kids need to get 1st class and work on those things.

    I have had two autistic kids, one schizophrenic kid, two sexually abused kids, multiple divorced kids, inactive parents, kids who’s mothers are dying, kids who are anti-semititic, kids who are sexist, kids who are anti-obama. (I actually pretend to be a democrat at church, just for this reason). This is what ways on you. I have to ignore most of this in order to keep any kind of momentum in the program. By this I really mean that I have to not take these things into consideration, for the good of the group, and let the youth work it out.

    We’ve done really well by focusing on the goal of a quorum being “Brotherhood and unity” in the quorum. Reminding the youth of this every few months, I have been impressed at how just saying this has given them a reason to be nice to each other. I am going to try again in 2010 with the concept being “self-sufficiency” this time.

    A big mistake I made originally was thinking I didn’t need to camp, because that was for the younger kids, so the “scoutmaster” would do it. I justified that I needed to be with my kids (All girls in primary) and that the dads should do it. I was wrong. I’ve had to get used to the idea that I will be leaving my little girls for one night a month (I know, I’m a wimp) and one week a summer (again, wimp)

    I have had failures. I haven’t really reached the inactives. (Don’t believe the hype. Most of them go inactive in primary because their parents went inactive, and not during their teen years) I have ticked off a few kids with my system of combining quorums and letting the youth vote on what they want to do. Geocaching and Iceblocking totally sucked. The Lesson on Hanukkah my counselor gave really offended the anti-semite kid (even though I loved it!).

    Oh, and I bring food to priesthood every week except on fast sundays.

  42. It would be really nice if you didn’t list “divorced kids” among the disabled and delinquent types. First, kids don’t get divorced, and second, divorce really says nothing about even their parents’ commitment to Scouting or Duty to God or whatever. You do a real disservice to children whose parents are divorced by singling them out for extra scrutiny and judgment, even if it’s only in your own mind.

    More importantly, though, it sounds like you are doing a fantastic job in very difficult circumstances. Blessings on you.

  43. Kristine, I’m kind of an expert on Mormons now, so I’ll share some of that wisdom with you. They marry young. Like really, really young. Their prophet makes them. And I know you are thinking that with the restored gospel in their lives nothing could ever go wrong, but it does. Kristine, some of those kids do indeed get divorced. And it’s up to their scoutmasters to pick up the pieces and reward them with appropriate “alimony” or “child support” merit badge. That’s all Matt was saying.
    If you’re having difficulties grasping the nuances of Mormon culture, please don’t hesitate to ask me in the future.
    That’s what I’m here for.

  44. This is the Young Men’s organization, it’s all about them. Not just lessons, Scouting, or anything else that is mandated. Just like others have said, make sure that you know these kids. If they like paintball, soccer, writing, making movies, whatever. In the past 3 months I have had mutual activities that I had the young men plan out that relate to their own likes/goals/hobbies. The end result? 12+ merit badges given out, a short film that will be used as a university entrance essay, several painful welts from a well placed paintball sniper, 2 eagle projects worked on, and a young men’s group that is actively trying to reactivate youth in the ward (I know I can’t do it alone, but they sure might be able to). I’ve been YM pres for about 8 months, but worked with the YM for 7+ years in different wards, and know that if it’s about them, they are interested.

  45. Steve Evans says:

    cwc FTW.

  46. CWC. that’s awesome.

    Kristine- Sorry, didn’t mean to step on your demographic. By “divorced kids” I actually meant guys who’s dads leave them with Mom while they go screw other women, so the guys have a real struggle with their primary male role model being a complete pile of crap who abandons their family. Or worse, the boy stays with Dad while he does this to a string of women, and the boy thinks this is how he is also supposed to behave. All (Yes all) the YM with divorced parents in my ward fall into one of these two buckets.

  47. Fair enough, Matt–I’m just really sensitive (for obvious reasons). My kids are far more carefully scrutinized than other kids, and it drives them (and me) crazy. Sorry for projecting :)

  48. Another addition to comment #39 of mine above:

    I completely ignored the Varsity and Venturing programs. The Church has far too many “inspired” programs.

    Kids are already too busy with life. Eagle is a bonus for kids (and families) who stick out that long. DTG is a bonus for the kids that will do it. Mostly, if they turned out to be decent human beings and make it through the perils of adolescence, I was happy.

  49. Well, this post provoked some strong reactions in me. As a youth I was in two wards with two very different YM programs: the first with a serious and dedicated scout program, and the second with a laid back, what-are-you-guys-interested-in-doing approach.

    I loved camping as a youth, but I very much dislike the BSA and their entire program and have since I was old enough to be a cub. I was force-fed scouting as a youth and it completely turned me off of church activities. By the time I was 12 I refused to go to any YM activities at all because they were all scout-based. (This was in my first ward.)

    The second ward I was in was full of kids like me, who were opposed to scouting of any kind. Our leaders were wise enough to listen to us when we said we didn’t want a scouting program, and organized activities that were of interest to us. (Including visiting a taxidermist at one point!) We developed a real sense of belonging and brotherhood as a priest’s quorum. Our quorum was the key social relationship, not a scout group.

    My point in sharing these experiences is to highlight what several commenters have said already – listen to your youth. If they are gung ho about scouting, by all means, go for it. If they are not, don’t force it – you will lose them. Each group will be different, and that diversity is important to recognize.

    Above all, of course, seek the guidance of the Spirit when deciding what kind of program will best serve the youth you are working with.

  50. The more you can involve guns and fire the better?

  51. You don’t just leave the “man” stuff like camping to the dads. These boys actually need to associate with other men at this point in their lives. That is the role of a YM leader also. To be the model of a male against which the YM can compare himself, compare other men, and see the contrasts between themselves, their fathers, and the larger world of men.

    A growing adolescent is becoming aware of themselves in a painfully intense way and is starting to compare himself to other men. As they try to figure out for themselves what kind of man they are going to be, they start to observe other men in their community around them, at school, on TV or in music, etc.

    The YM leader isn’t just a Sunday School teacher for the boys. I used to tell YM leaders that along with their formal lessons and scout badges, the boys will also be watching how they interact with their wives and children, how they treat women, how they handle getting cut off on the freeway on the way to an activity, how they handle a flat tire, or an unexpected injury on a campout. These things become even more crucial to a YM’s development than the formal curriculum of church programs and may end up having the most lasting impact on a YM.

  52. 12 is correct about pushing Scouting on boys that have completed the Eagle Trail. We use Venturing for all boys and it works well for boys that want their Eagles but want a mature program.

    So what are you doing for boys who already have their Eagles before they turn 16 but don’t care about any further work in the Scouting program?

  53. As a newly called YM President, this is a great thread. We only have about 7 YM in our ward that are active or semi active. Most activities are attended by 3 or 4, and it seems like it’s never the same 3 or 4 that were here the time before. It’s kind of frustrating. Also, only 2 or three are interested in advancing in scouting. 2 or three will do scouting if we happen to be doing it, and two refuse to be involved in scouting at all. This is all. I know that makes up more than 7, but, one or two fluctuate between the two.

    This makes it difficult for me, so what i’m trying to do is help the boys who are into scouting advance while having activities that everyone will like. So far, we’ve had limited success, and my greatest achievement has been that our turnouts have been fairly high. The downside has been that no one seems to be advancing in anything, scouts or DTG.

    I guess my focus is to get the boys to serve missions and attend the temple, regardless of what else happens.

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