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Category Archives: Boy Scouts of America

Boy Scouts Allow Gay Youth


On Thursday May 23, 2013, the Boy Scouts of America National Council voted to allow youth who identify as gay to join the program and to participate until they turn 18, at which point they would not be asked to volunteer as an adult leader. This does allow for these youth to work toward and earn their Eagle Scout award, one of the most well-known and respected awards in the country.

You can read the official BSA Statement here. In case the link becomes broken, the statement is listed below for your convenience:

The Boy Scouts of America Statement:

“For 103 years, the Boy Scouts of America has been a part of the fabric of this nation, with a focus on working together to deliver the nation’s foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training.

“Based on growing input from within the Scouting family, the BSA leadership chose to conduct an additional review of the organization’s long-standing membership policy and its impact on Scouting’s mission. This review created an outpouring of feedback from the Scouting family and the American public, from both those who agree with the current policy and those who support a change.

“Today, following this review, the most comprehensive listening exercise in Scouting’s history the approximate 1,400 voting members of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Council approved a resolution to remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone. The resolution also reinforces that Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting. A change to the current membership policy for adult leaders was not under consideration; thus, the policy for adults remains in place. The BSA thanks all the national voting members who participated in this process and vote.

“This policy change is effective Jan. 1, 2014, allowing the Boy Scouts of America the transition time needed to communicate and implement this policy to its approximately 116,000 Scouting units.

“The Boy Scouts of America will not sacrifice its mission, or the youth served by the movement, by allowing the organization to be consumed by a single, divisive, and unresolved societal issue. As the National Executive Committee just completed a lengthy review process, there are no plans for further review on this matter.

“While people have different opinions about this policy, we can all agree that kids are better off when they are in Scouting. Going forward, our Scouting family will continue to focus on reaching and serving youth in order to help them grow into good, strong citizens. America’s youth need Scouting, and by focusing on the goals that unite us, we can continue to accomplish incredible things for young people and the communities we serve.”

There was also a balanced New York Times article (which is surprising in and of itself) that you can read here.

While I am not a hardcore gay rights activist by any means, I do applaud the National Executive Board for coming to a decision on the matter. In my opinion, it’s a good compromise for everyone involved with the program and for youth that want to become involved. The program is designed for kids anyway, so I don’t see a problem with them continuing to exclude openly gay adults in the program. I don’t doubt that within a few years the membership requirements will be updated again to allow gay adults to join.

There are a few arguments that people have against the decision. The first one being that any gay youth would not be “morally straight.” The problem I have with this argument is the following: being “morally straight” means that the scouts (and adults) involved with scouting have good morals and do the right thing, that they’re on the straight path. Being a gay youth does not mean that they don’t have any morals. The people who use this argument are mixing morality with sexual orientation, which is a disservice to the young men who want to join the program.

One of the other arguments that the New York Times article brought up was about the Boy Scouts of America being a Christian-based organization and that this goes against those principles. While this is a widely debated topic among churches and Christians, the basic principle that people leave out of the debate is that Jesus ministered to the social outcasts of His time: the sinners, the lepers, the disabled, the tax collectors, etc. God loves every one of us, exactly how we are, exactly how He created us.  Instead of pushing gay youth away, the Boy Scouts are now embracing their Christian principles to more accurately reflect the love of Christ Jesus.

Overall, there will be a lot of growing pains within the Boy Scouts as they transition into this controversial arena. There will be lots of people who leave the program simply because gay youth are allowed to join (honestly, gay youth are already involved with the program. They simply aren’t open about their attractions). There will be an influx of new scouts joining (or re-joining if they had been asked to leave the program previously).

I also fully expect that some troops will integrate gay youth with non-gay youth, some troops will split into multiple troops, brand new troops will spring up (some of these being all gay youth and some of them being all non-gay youth).

The biggest challenge that the Boy Scouts now has is making sure that current adult leadership on a council and troop level are neutral with their approach to this. This is a sensitive topic to begin with and it would not do the BSA any good to have some of their scoutmasters denouncing the policy and influencing scouts with a negative approach.

What are your thoughts on the subject? Leave a comment below and please keep any debate civil.

 

 

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Observations of a Failing Troop


When you find yourself on the outside of an organization you once devoted a large majority of time to, you often find that you can see things in a much different light.

In the fall of 1996 I joined the Boy Scouts of America as a young, 10-year-old Webelos scout. I joined 13 other boys  and started a journey that would make a significant difference on my life. Out of those other 13 boys, only myself and 1 other boy received his Eagle Scout award, the highest award in boy scouting.

After I turned 18 I continued with the scout troop and signed up as an adult volunteer. I spent the next 7 years helping to manage the troop and mentor to the boys in the troop. During this time, God showed me that He was going to make great things happen with the troop. I was thrilled about this! I watched the troop slowly dwindle from 60+ scouts to a meager 13. I was determined to see the troop return to its former glory and God was there to help things along.

For a few years things didn’t pick up much, however within the last two years I was actively involved with the troop, our numbers began to climb. We accepted a group of 7 boys from a local cub scout pack and then had 1-2 more scouts join shortly after them. Within the next year we started receiving interest from scouts looking to transfer into our troop from other local troops. Before I left, we had climbed from 13 boys to 25.

God was finally starting to turn things around and bring the troop where He wanted it. Unfortunately, around that same time I was falling away from God and needed to be pulled back into His fold. So He allowed me to be separated from the troop. After the initial shock wore off and I had learned to hear His voice once more, I started to watch the slow decline of the troop I dedicated so much of my life to.

Please note that these are my observations and opinions. None of these examples are intended to blame or put-down those involved.

I hope that by posting these observations that other scouters might recognize some similar patterns in their own troops and work to prevent what has happened to my troop. I will also point out that I believe that God has some say in the current state that my troop is in. He has shown me that there is still hope left for my troop, and that He still has plans for it.

This list is in no particular order.

  • Respect

One of the most important things that I have noticed while being in the scouting program, is that respect goes a long way. It is quite true that when you give respect, it is returned to you.

During my early years in the troop and for a couple of years as an adult, the scoutmaster–Mr. Clark–was a man who gave respect to everyone and he in turn received respect from everyone. He was one of the best men to have ever served as scoutmaster of a boy scout troop and I am proud that he served as my scoutmaster. Mr. Clark knew the best way to lead a troop was by example. He let the youth leadership plan, manage, and operate the troop while letting the adults handle the behind-the-scenes work. Mr. Clark was willing to let a scout fail so that he could help them learn.

One of his famous lines is this:

“Every boy who goes through scouting leaves with more than he came with.”

When Mr. Clark stepped down as the scoutmaster of the troop, it was uncertain how things would progress. The troop committee and other adult leaders decided upon a new scoutmaster. He had previous experience as the cubmaster of a cub scout pack and was thought to be the best candidate. I will admit that I hoped the position would have been awarded to me, however that was not in the cards.

Donn started out with his head in the right place. The transition from one scoutmaster to another was practically seamless, however at the same time strife began to trickle up through the scout ranks.

Unfortunately, there were many scouts who were not happy with the new scoutmaster. I know at least two scouts quit the scouting program because Donn became the scoutmaster. When I asked them why they decided to leave the program, they both told me that they didn’t have any respect for Donn because he didn’t show any respect to them.

I did my best to patch holes that were made and overall the troop ran smoothly. Aside from a few rough spots, the boys still enjoyed the program as a whole and would vent their frustrations to me. I always did my best to show respect toward each boy and always lent an ear to what they had to say.

Respect is the key to a strong mentoring relationship with scouts and is fundamental to the operation of a successful boy scout troop. When the scoutmaster has the respect of his scouts, the troop will thrive and grow exponentially.

  • Women

This topic may be touchy for some readers, however I do not believe that women should have any involvement on a troop level. I do not mind if women are involved on a committee, district, or council level but they do not have any place with a boy scout troop.

The boy scout program was designed as a place for boys to come together and have a safe place to be mentored by men. When boys reach a certain point, they begin to separate from their mothers and learn to stand on their own. Sir Robert Baden-Powell realized this as did the founders of the Boy Scouts of America. They need positive male role models to help them become men of character.

One of the first problems I have noticed with mothers who insist on being involved with a boy scout troop is this: their children cannot separate from them and learn to handle things on their own.

In my former troop, the scoutmaster was allowing one of the mothers to become significantly more active in the troop. Her children would constantly attempt to undermine the youth leadership and when they didn’t get their way, they ran to their mother for support. They have yet to learn the simple lesson that they will sometimes have to listen to leaders they don’t agree with. Unfortunately I fear that these boys never will learn that lesson.

Another problem with women being involved is that the rules fundamentally change for everyone in the troop. No longer can the troop simply select a campsite and camp. They have other requirements to keep in mind. The women have to have their own area for sleeping (their own room in a cabin, or they have to be x-amount of feet from the troop if tent camping). They have to have separate bathroom facilities (requiring a campsite with male/female lavatories or a campsite that can accommodate this requirement).

This next problem will likely be varied and not apply to a majority of women involved in the scouting program. Unfortunately this does happen and I watched it happen with my former troop.

The woman that was able to work her way into the adult leadership had a very poor choice in wardrobe. Oftentimes when she was in her scout uniform, she would leave the top buttons undone to allow some cleavage to show. Whether this was intended for the adults, boys, or both I do not know, however I do know that it was highly inappropriate and was a distraction to the entire troop. Thankfully, one of the scouts was brave enough to mention that to her and for a few weeks she did button the top buttons of her uniform.

After a while though, she was back to her former ways when in uniform and was even more poorly dressed when out of uniform. This woman is highly manipulative and I watched as she slowly worked the adult leaders to her side.

From the reports I hear out of the troop, she has not changed and is simply continuing to make advances to take control of the troop. In my personal opinion and from what I have observed of her, she is strikingly similar to the serpent from the book of Genesis:

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made.”  –Genesis 3:1a

Overall, the boy scout program is designed for boys to have positive male role models to teach them leadership and character. The scoutmaster and other adults I grew up with did just that. They used teachable moments and taught me more than scouting itself.

  • Discipline

I can remember an incident on one campout where some scouts decided that they were going to have a spitting contest one night after everyone had gone to bed.

The chair these scouts happened to spit over was the scoutmaster’s chair. This was poor judgement on their part (they were 13 at the time) but I do believe that the punishment dished out to them wasn’t fully appropriate.

They were told that they had to wash the chair (which I agree with) and then they were told to write about what they did and why it was wrong in addition to having individual conferences with the scoutmaster about it. This latter part of the punishment wasn’t taken well by them and I will say that it was a bit over the top.

Cleaning up the mess they made is one thing. Maybe also have them clean all the dishes and pick up all the garbage. Writing about what they did and then conferencing about it was going too far. They already know that they were wrong, it’s not necessary to drive the point home three times.

By the time boys are scout-age, they know right from wrong. When they are caught, they don’t need reminded time and time again that they were wrong. This simply destroys their morale and self-esteem.

I have found that it is best to reflect on what they did wrong, decide upon an appropriate punishment, and then ensure the punishment is carried out. Nothing more needs said about the incident, it is now water under the bridge.

  • Managing Youth

In any boy scout troop, the key to leading young men and molding them is to men of character is to always show that you’re there for them. One of the most important ways that young men learn is to fail.

“And why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.” — Thomas Wayne, Batman Begins, 2005

The pinnacle of the scouting movement is that the boys should be allowed to lead with adult guidance and supervision. Never should an adult micromanage the boy scout troop.

There is a fine line between micromanaging and guiding. When you guide boys along, you explain your opinion and why you think something will or will not work. You then leave it up to the senior patrol leader to make the final decision and then handle any kind of rewards or consequences.

Micromanaging a boy scout troop is when you give the illusion of an option when you already have planned what is going to happen. I watched this time and time again when a scoutmaster would provide the senior patrol leader a task and then when the senior patrol leader made his decision, the scoutmaster would overrule him and change directions.

This does not teach a young man how to lead a boy scout troop, simply how to listen to a manager. Boy scouting is designed to make men out of the boys that enter its ranks by providing them with the kind of mentoring relationship that Sir Robert Baden-Powell saw that boys needed.

  • Managing Adults

In addition to letting the youth leadership learn how to lead a troop and become a good leader, the scoutmaster also has to make sure they communicate effectively with their adult leadership.

Each adult that is involved with a boy scout troop should have a specific responsibility (or responsibilities). This ensures that the adults  are active in the troop and also makes sure that the scoutmaster does not end up trying to juggle more than he can handle.

It’s also good for the scoutmaster to touch base with all the active adults and get their opinion on his leadership, the state of the troop, any issues with scouts or parents and the future of the troop. This creates an open atmosphere where the adults work together to provide the best possible program to the scouts involved.

  • Patience

It is important when working with youth to remain patient.

Oftentimes with teenagers, they like to have their own schedule. They like being able to choose when and where and what they do. This is one of the ways that young people learn to become adults and learn time management.

As a scoutmaster or youth worker, we have to understand this fact and give scouts the freedom to handle tasks in their own time.

Again, these are my own views on some of the many things I saw go wrong with my former troop. I hope that by posting this other scouters and youth workers might recognize some similarities and make the appropriate changes before things are too late.

The latest update I’ve heard regarding my former troop is that a handful of adult leaders are hoping to approach the scoutmaster and confront him regarding some concerns they have with how the troop is run. I don’t know anything more specific than that, but I can imagine they are similar to what I have listed here.

UPDATE 5/30/2012: Out of the 25 boys that I had the troop up to, only about 10 remain. These 10 show up to weekly meetings and between 6-7 attend monthly camping trips. The scoutmaster is still in charge, still being pulled along by the manipulative woman, and the troop is struggling to stay afloat.

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2011 in Boy Scouts of America

 

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God and Boy Scouts


Due to extenuating circumstances, I was required to take a leave of absence from the Boy Scout program about 7 months ago. At the time I was upset about the whole thing but as time passed, I learned that this was part of God‘s plan for me.

After accepting this truth, I found that it was much easier for me to accept my circumstances. A couple of months ago I found myself becoming bitter toward the scoutmaster of my former troop and the person who I believe is responsible for some of the negative opinions that were made against me. Knowing that I didn’t want to become hateful toward the scoutmaster or the other person, I began praying that God would teach me how to forgive them.

One of these nights I was listening to some worship music and heard God speaking to me. He took me through a short train of thought where I came to realize that His justice is perfect. I knew that night that God was working in my favor and would do what He needed to do.

The next blog post I plan on publishing is a list of observations that I’ve made about my former boy scout troop and the downward spiral it has taken over the last few months. One of the next blog posts I plan on publishing is a list of observations that I’ve made about my former  boy scout troop and the downward spiral it has taken over the last few months. With any luck, other scouters will see the post and make any changes to their own scout troops if they see similar patterns emerging.

Regardless of the fact that I stepped down from active leadership, God still has plans for my former scout troop just as He had plans when I was actively involved. He placed my brother in charge of the troop as the senior patrol leader; one more step toward stalling the inevitable. Unfortunately, there have been some new developments that cause me to believe that the troop has finally tapered out of its slow decent and is now in a nosedive.

Through it all, God remains faithful to those who trust in Him.

What are some ways that God has been faithful to you? Leave your story in the comments.

 

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The Complete Story, Part 1 — The Scouting Years


As promised, here is the full story behind my newfound faith.

I had been involved in the Boy Scouts of America since I was 11. I grew up in the program and was greatly influenced by the pillars of the scouting movement. After I was old enough to realize (about 14 or 15) I’ve enjoyed teaching and helping young people. Along with boy scouts, I would help with vacation Bible school at my church and enjoyed my time with the children.

When I turned 18 in December 2003, I filled out an adult volunteer application to become an assistant scoutmaster within the boy scout troop I grew up in. The following month I was awarded my Eagle Scout rank and became the 137th from my troop.

As an assistant scoutmaster I managed quite a bit of tasks within the troop. I would create and print permission forms for various scout outings, I managed the troop’s website, I was the adult advisor for an Indian ceremony team and kept track of all the rank advancements the scouts achieved.

Above all else, I made it a point to pay attention to the scouts. I listened to what they had to say, sat with them, mentored them. To a few, I’m sure that I was more like the big brother they never had. The person they knew they could come to and talk to.

I took stock in the scouts while a majority of the other adult leadership sat back, drank coffee and generally just talked. That’s not to say that they didn’t pull their own weight and have responsibilities of their own. The scoutmaster and another assistant scoutmaster would always make sure we had a campsite to stay at, had food for the camp outings, made sure that our camping equipment was in top-notch state and so forth. They are great men and I respected them for the work that they did.

The one thing the other adult leaders lacked was the intimacy with the scouts. They were disconnected from the very people the program is designed to serve. They took care of the paperwork they needed to, but they didn’t pay attention to the concerns of the scouts.

Regardless of how the other adults acted, I showed the same love and concern for all the scouts as I always have. At one point during my time as an adult, God showed me that He would do great things with my boy scout troop. I was thrilled about that and couldn’t wait to see what God would do.

Right around 21 or 22, God refreshed my faith and wiped away any dirt that I had in my eyes. Work had been somewhat stressful (mostly I was too caught up in the world) around that time and my heart was filled with subdued anger and frustration. God opened my eyes to this and purified my heart. At the time, it was the greatest thing I had experienced and God helped me to understand things I hadn’t before.

God began showing me how unconditional love really works and I began to put that into practice. The troop began to grow from a steady number of 13 scouts up toward 20 and more. God was answering my prayers and started putting His plan into place; His plan to make our troop great, with me at the helm.

Throughout my time as an adult leader, I would often visit the camp staff at the local summer camp, Seven Ranges Scout Reservation. During my visits I became close with many of the staff members and a few of them have told me what a tremendous impact I had on their lives both within the scouting movement and outside of it.

Many of the times that I would speak with the staff members was during the weekly Pipestone camp honors program. I was an integral part of helping escort scouts back to the remote area of camp, Camp Calumet. Camp Calumet is the outpost or primitive camping area of Seven Ranges and many staff members did not know their way back there. I readily volunteered to escort the returning scouts to their campsite.

During the downtime between returning scouts I would join the staff members at the trading post and chat with them. The camp honors program that Seven Ranges manages is one of a kind and has an impact on all who experience it. During my time within the scouting movement I was committed to helping keep the spirit of the Pipestone program alive and well.

Fast forward to March of 2009. One of the assistant scoutmasters was able to get his 11-year-old nephew to join the troop. I was ecstatic when new scouts would arrive, however with this scout I felt something more. God was drawing me to this new addition. I wasn’t sure why, but I knew from the moment that he walked into the meeting room that it was meant to be. Because of this, I did something that I rarely do. I walked up to his mother and immediately introduced myself and told her that if there was anything she needed that she could let me know.

I typically tend to be a bit of a shy person and don’t typically go out of my way to introduce myself to people. Within the scouting movement I’m not quite as shy as in a public arena, but this was the first time that I took the initiative to introduce myself before the scoutmaster could make his rounds with the parent.

This new scout (we’ll call him David) wasn’t able to make it to many of the next monthly camp outings and so I didn’t get a good chance to talk with him much until summer camp came around in July. Immediately upon getting there I saw the phenomenal leadership capabilities of this young man and I knew that he was going to be a perfect addition to the troop. David had such a huge impact on every aspect of his patrol and not a single leader within the troop missed seeing the effects of David’s scout spirit. When the time came for the scoutmaster to ask the assistant scoutmasters and senior patrol leader which scout should receive the yearly Scout Spirit Award, every single person said that David should be the one to receive the honor. At the end of the week, he was awarded the Scout Spirit Award for his fantastic attitude during his first week at camp.

Throughout the rest of the summer, David and I would occasionally talk online and connect a little more each time. I continued to feel God’s hand in the mix, pushing us a little bit closer.

To be continued . . .

 

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