Who enjoys scouting? Can I see a show of hands? That’s great!
Scouting is supposed to be fun. It’s also designed to teach us some stuff along the way, too. The aims of scouting are expressed in three areas:
- Character development (Moral and Spiritual Strength),
- Citizenship (relating to others), and
- Mental and physical fitness (a capability to serve both God and other people).
These aims of Scouting are accomplished by the use of eight fundamental methods:
- The ideals of Scouting (Scout Oath, Scout Law, Scout motto, Scout slogan)
- The patrol method
- The outdoors
- Association with adults
- Personal growth
- Leadership development
- The uniform
Each of these methods of scouting is incorporated in equal shares – none being more important than the other, and all needed to enjoy the program to its fullest.
At the last Court of Honor, held in June, we focused on better understanding Scouting’s Ideals and I offered some insights into setting worthy goals. Tonight’s Court of Honor theme is Advancement and I’d like to talk about translating goals into valuable actions.
The advancement program provides a series of obstacles and means to overcome them: it’s not supposed to be too hard or too easy to progress through the system. Advancement is up to each individual Boy Scout. He makes his plans and progresses at his own pace as he meets each challenge. Scouts are rewarded for each achievement, which helps them gain self-confidence. Initially, advancement focuses on key scouting and outdoor skills such as First Aid, Camping, Hiking, Land Navigation, Botany and Cooking. As Scouts progress thru the advancement system, there is a shift from simply mastering new skills to a focus on taking responsibility for planning and running their patrol or the troop. Also, the requirements place more emphasis on helping others thru service projects of greater duration and scope. Ultimately, the candidate for Eagle Scout must plan and lead his own service project to benefit a community organization that is not a commercial business or associated with the scouting program.
In life, just as in scouts, we make plans and set goals. To set these goals into motion we have to commit to action. Our actions can bring rewards or hurt depending on our motivations. We need to guard against letting self-reliance (the ability to act) degrade into selfishness (the motivation to act for self-reward). Advancement without the other scouting methods could lead to a program where the only rewards come from helping yourself. We know that the Scout Oath places our first responsibility on our Duty to God, then duties to others and lastly our duty to self.
You see, the rewards of the advancement program don’t come from merely acquiring patches – it’s the process that helps each boy grow. Setting goals, putting a plan into action, mastering skills, and finding the grit and determination to fulfill each requirement – not just the easy ones.
Along the way, we try to help scouts make the connection that getting to Eagle rank isn’t the finish line. In reality it’s more of a starting line for a life of service to others. “Getting” to Eagle is easier when the candidate understands that “giving of himself” is the key. When the advancement program works smoothly, scouts grow in character (relating their choices to God’s instruction), citizenship (relating to others) and personal fitness. By equipping the boys with growth in these areas, we help them as they transition to being recognized as men in their family, church and community.
Isn’t it interesting that Teddy Roosevelt, a man interested in the scouting program, offered a specific warning to people that America could be destroyed by five key things. He mentioned this at the start of the twentieth century. What were those five things?
- Prosperity at any price,
- Peace at any price,
- Safety first instead of duty first
- Love of soft living and
- The get-rich-quick theory of life.
What’s in common with these five things? Each characterizes a plan to build their life on a foundation of selfishness instead of a foundation rooted in their Duty to God and service to others.
The Bible talks about setting proper foundations for living. In Matthew 7, verses 24 thru 27, it says;
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”
The things we do, and the motives for doing them need to be inspected and tested daily. Are we pursuing righteous living or vanity? In Psalm 16: 2-3, it states;
“All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, But the LORD weighs the motives. Commit your works to the LORD and your plans will be established.”
In our scouting program, we use advancement to make learning and serving more fun. It is worthwhile to learn to camp safely, cook healthy meals, administer First Aid if needed, and learn to appreciate the natural world. The challenges presented by ranks and merit badges help the young men realize that they are capable of doing more than they first realized and that learning can be as fun as it is challenging.
As adult leaders and parents, our challenge is to steer these young men back to their primary duties to God as the foundation of why they are learning – to serve Him and to serve others, not just to get a patch. When we’re successful in that coaching process, advancement goals translate into very valuable actions.