When I was a Scoutmaster with BSA, our unit would be visited by families who asked how our group ran its meetings, placed its priorities, and what the family could expect from the experience. All good questions!
Sometimes, the questions became much more specific and it was obvious from conversation that the family was looking for something particular in their experience from scouting. Questions like;
How many nights of camping per month?
What is the average number of merit badges completed by the scouts during troop meetings, at special workshops, and during summer camp?
How many Eagle Scouts had been produced so far, and what was the ratio of Eagles to non-Eagles?
What was our plan to help their son achieve Eagle rank in the shortest amount of time possible?
These parents meant well for their sons, I’m sure. Their goals were to help their sons gain a credential of success and achievement – something to put on their resume to help gain admission to a premier college or university, or to get through interviews to get a “better” job at a “good” company.
Everyone approaches youth group participation with their own expectations, and in most cases, families like the ones described above, tended to leave our group after a single visit and never return. Our focus was on a more wholistic approach to youth leadership and participation. We wanted the boys to plan, organize and run the meetings and trips. The adults were there for safety’s sake.
This tended to make meetings more chaotic, and we didn’t accomplish as much (as fast) as many families might have preferred.
Still, our goal was for the boys to learn for themselves so that they would thrive at any job, school or college experience. The goal wasn’t to do it for them, but for them to figure it out.
We also had a higher purpose to the camping, hiking and pinewood car races. We wanted to use these fun events as a stage to talk about God and His purposes and plans for our lives.
Look at this statement from Dave Gregg, Regional Director of CSB…
Discipling boys is more than simply teaching them practical skills like how to carve a piece of wood. Rather, our job is to teach them through that process that they too are like a piece of wood that God Himself is fashioning into something amazing!
This perspective is one that we tried to embrace within scouting, but were surrounded by competing ideologies – mainly that moral behavior does not depend on defining the source of those morals, nor does it require a clear definition of who “God” is…
Instead, we found that participation in a God-First youth program enables us to teach boys the good news that:
- God made them to fulfill a calling or specific plan (Ephesians 2:10);
- He loves us and wants what is best for us (Rom. 8:28, James 1:16-17, Heb. 13:5, Isaiah 41:10);
- He’s not “done” with us (Philippians 1:6, Romans 12:1-2);
- He’s active in our daily lives (Joshua 1:8-9, Isaiah 40:31, 1 Peter 5:7, 1 Cor. 10:13, Matt 11:28)
…and this teaching of good news gives them hope, faith and endurance to run the marathon of life (Philippians 4:13, Hebrews 12:1-17, 1 Cor. 9:24-27, Proverbs 16:3).
What are your family’s goals for youth group participation? What outcomes are you hoping to recognize from your son’s time at the club meeting? There’s nothing wrong with learning survival skills, or learning lessons from God’s word, either. How about getting both from a single program?