Devotional – Scouting as a Mechanism for Personal Growth

(NOTE:  our troop pursues it’s scoutmaster minute time as a discussion to engage the scouts — in our devotional articles, we ask the same questions of the reader – enjoy!)

Scouting has three objectives: Character development, Participating citizenship, and Personal fitness.  To work toward these three objectives the scouting program employs eight methods: outdoor program; patrols; ideals; advancement; adult association; personal growth; leadership development; and the use of uniforms.

Tonight, we want to examine ways that the program helps you grow as a person.

As a participant in the scouting program, what experiences or ideals have challenged you the most?  Have you noticed any changes in your life since joining the program (do you see things differently, have your relationships changed, do you value things differently)?

Let’s take a moment to examine seven methods of scouting to see if they’ve helped you to grow (which is the eighth method (personal growth) – a process and a result).

1) Scouting Ideals…

The Scout Law states “A Scout is: Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent.”

I believe that the real challenge of the Scout Law is that these attributes matter most when we’re least likely to exhibit them:

  • It’s easy to be cheerful when things are going well, but not so easy when you’re busy beyond belief and getting bad news. 
  • It’s easy to be helpful when the project looks interesting and you’ve got plenty of free time, but it’s hard when you’re already busy with your own work and you don’t really feel like you’ve got the time to pitch in and help.
  • It’s easy to be obedient when the rules are clear and easy, but when your back is against the wall and everyone around you is giving you bad advice it’s tempting to take short cuts and rationalize your poor choice as a mistake instead of breaking the rules.

Scouting ideals give us a constant reminder that we’re imperfect and walk a daily trail to develop maturity and self-discipline.

How has our study of scouting ideals (the Oath, Law, Motto, Slogan) influenced your thinking about your behavior and the choices you make?  Has scouting gotten you to ask questions or have discussions with your parents about the ideals?  Has your behavior changed?

2) Outdoor program…

Camping is a lot of fun when you already know how, but…Do you remember your first ever camping trip? 

  • Was it a little intimidating – identifying what equipment you’d need, figuring out how to pack it all, anticipating what was going to happen next, wondering what makes all those strange noises at night?  
  • Do you also realize how far some of you have come in learning about the outdoors and being comfortable on the trail? 

Has the outdoor program changed you?  Do you value the experiences of camping, hiking, boating, etc.?  What would your life be like if you’ve never done these outdoor activities?

3) Patrols…

As a team, you are responsible to provide feedback on planning, organize your own duty rosters, take care of your fellow scouts and be prepared for activities.  If your team fails it’s own responsibility, you have to work together to deal with the consequences – such as building a shelter if you forgot to pack your tents, or helping each other ration the food if the menu came up short.

What would you say has changed you the most by participating in a patrol?  Are you proud of your patrol?

4) Advancement…

Each of you have participated in the advancement program by earning at least the scout badge.  Some have moved faster and farther than others, but that’s fine.  Why?  The advancement program is not a competition between scouts – it’s a competition within yourself.  You have to decide if you want to commit to advance by learning and mastering new skills.  The pace of advancement is different for each scout, and shouldn’t be rushed.  The goal is to really understand and practice the core skills of scouting.  These help you to be confident in the outdoors and in learning for the rest of your life.

How has the advancement program helped you to grow during your time in the scouting program?  Do you feel that each step in advancement feels good?  How do you feel about the scout saying that “advancement to a certain rank isn’t about what has been done, it’s about what you are now consistently able to do“?

5) Adult association…

Part of the scouting experience is learning to deal with adults and even other youth that you don’t already know.  We accomplish this in a number of ways:  Boards of Review give you an opportunity to interview in front of adults at each stage of your advancement; merit badge counselors are typically adults who are experts in their field of study and provide insights beyond the basic requirements; you get to interact with adults at summer camp and during camporees.

Have you found opportunities to work with adults here at scouts?  Do you have more confidence working with adults?

6) Uniforms…

Our uniforms give us a sense of belonging as a group.  We’re all part of the team when we wear our uniforms correctly and completely.  It just doesn’t work as well when half of us wear jeans, or half of the troop has matching neckerchiefs and the other half don’t.  How come?

Has the uniform helped you to feel part of the group?  Does it contribute to a sense of loyalty?  Does it make any difference that we wear uniforms – what if we all dressed differently – would it make the program feel any different?

7) Leadership development…

The program requires the youth to organize and run the meetings, trips and activities.  To some degree, the adults will provide coaching, but the more you take responsibility for each facet of the program, the more fun and the more learning you’ll receive.  This is especially true when it comes to being a leader.  You can’t develop personally unless you’re “doing” the leading. 

We’ve spent a lot of time over the past several meetings talking about the processes involved in becoming a leader – building relationships, building trust, influencing others with open and honest dialog, sharing common goals and developing plans to “get it done”.

Have you had a chance to take the lead during your time in scouting?  Have you been a grubmaster in charge of getting the food or making the menu?  Have you been the cook during a weekend trip?  Have you served as a Patrol Leader or his assistant?

Does the idea of being in charge motivate you to take on the responsibility?  Has being in charge changed you or helped you to grow?

Summary

The scouting program provides a host of opportunities and each scout will receive unique benefits from their experiences along the trail.  I’ve always enjoyed scouting because it was fun to camp, cook, hike, boat and swim; however, now that I’m a dad, I’ve seen the program in a new light as a character builder.

I was discussing this with Pastor Wohner and he suggested that I investigate a book called “artificial maturity” by Dr. Tim Elmore.  In short, he suggests that “adolescence is expanding in both directions-starting earlier and ending later.”  As a consequence, many young adults are either unprepared or unwilling to face the challenges of responsibility demanded for success in their first job, tackling college, or starting a family.  Additionally, he suggests that some adults have fostered this situation by placing faith in young people’s ability to handle technology and raw knowledge instead of insisting that they focus on developing interpersonal (face-to-face) relationships, material responsibility and real wisdom.

I found that Dr. Elmore has some interesting ideas expressed at his blog site where he suggests exercises that would turn “artificial maturity” into “authentic maturity”.  Many of these exercises are found within the scouting program methods and the typical activities of a troop.

Suggested Exercises for developing “Authentic Maturity” Scouting Methods and Activities
Face-To-Face Relationships Adult Association, Patrol Method, Advancement (teaching each other and visiting with MBCs)
Genuine Projects and Experiences Personal Growth (i.e. service projects, daily Good Turn), Outdoor program (and while it’s not a method, perhaps we’d add fundraising which requires selling product or performing services for a fee – NOT asking for donations for doing nothing)
Multi-Generational Exposure Adult Association, Advancement (older scouts teaching younger scouts)
Saving money towards a goal (This is one of the stated requirements for advancement, plus the Personal Management MB requires 15 weeks of budgeting records)  Fundraising to earn money towards camp.
Cross-Cultural Travel Camporees and summer camp may not be held in foreign countries, but our scouts are exposed to scouts who think differently and may believe differently.  Learning to interact with them and to lead them is a part of growing up.
Participation on a Team The patrol method requires the team to be responsible for their own success or failure.  They create their own patrol name and identity.  They build loyalty through competition and shared responsibilities (duty roster, grubmastering, etc.)
Age-appropriate mentors Boards of review require adults other than scoutmasters and immediate, blood relatives serve as the interview panel.  Additionally, the scouts are mentored by participating dads (and moms) during meetings and trips.  They interact with MBCs during the course of the year, and the PLC are mentored by the adult leadership team, too.

 If you’d like to learn more about Dr. Elmore’s book or blog, check out:

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About Troop113

Our Troop # comes from Psalm 1:1-3 - describing the men we want our scouts to become
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