Parents and family members are additional resources to support your Scouting and Aaronic Priesthood efforts. Since strengthening families is a primary goal of the Young Men Aaronic Priesthood program, and Scouting is an extension of families, Young Men leaders should make a strong effort to involve families in their Scouting programs and activities. I believe the more involved a boy’s parents are in Scouting, the stronger that boy’s commitment will be to the Scouting program.
Most Scouting leaders realize mothers are the primary support for their son. It’s no hyperbole that mothers are often more responsible for a boy becoming an Eagle Scout than the boy himself. Perhaps the entire Scouting program in the Church would collapse if it weren’t for faithful mothers who shepherd their boys through the Cub Scout, Boy Scout, Varsity Scout, and Venturing programs.
But, like some adult Scouting leaders who don’t understand the true purpose of LDS Scouting, some parents can place too heavy of an emphasis on their son becoming an Eagle Scout and fail to support the more important reasons why the Church is involved in Scouting. This singular focus on the Eagle rank can cause parents to also falsely believe their son is done with Scouting once he has acquired his Eagle badge. As I mentioned in Mac’s Message #30, Scouting is an effective means to an even more important end. Parents can only truly support your Scouting and Aaronic Priesthood efforts to the extent they understand the true purposes and important linkage of these two programs.
We need to be much better at orienting parents to Scouting. They need to know that Scouting is a character-building program. Merit badges and rank advancement are just one of the eight methods of Scouting that are designed to help turn young boys into strong men of God, capable of being effective missionaries, husbands, fathers, and priesthood leaders. Parents need to be taught to support the entire Scouting and Aaronic Priesthood programs. They need to be invited to take an active role in Scouting and Aaronic Priesthood activities, and not abdicate to Young Men leaders their responsibility as parents.
We are reminded in Handbook 2, Administering in the Church, “Parents have the first responsibility for the spiritual and physical welfare of their children (see D&C 68:25–28). The bishopric and other Aaronic Priesthood leaders support but do not replace parents in this responsibility” (8.2).
Once parents have been oriented to the real purposes of Scouting, Scouting leaders should develop a proactive plan to involve parents and families in the Scouting programs and activities. Parents can be given specific tasks, assignments, or projects to work on. They can serve on the Scouting committee in a variety of support roles. As a Scoutmaster, I identified over fifty responsibilities parents could fulfill to help support the activities of the troop.
Parents and siblings should be invited to attend Scout Expos, Camporees, Klondike outings, and family day at summer camps. Perhaps family members could be included in some other Scouting activities, such as hikes, bike rides, or other physical activities. Obtaining the biking merit badge might be more fun if a boy could ride along with his parents and siblings. The cooking merit badge might be more impactful if a boy cooked a campfire meal for his family. Numerous merit badges require a boy to demonstrate a skill he has learned. What a wonderful opportunity this would provide a young man to impress his family members by instructing them in fire safety, first aid, lifesaving, electronics, computers, or other areas of expertise he gained through Scouting.
Fathers should be encouraged to help with campouts, hikes, and other activities. With some guidance beforehand, fathers can assist with two-deep leadership and provide the oversight needed for Scouting activities. Fathers should also be enlisted to help boys work on merit badges and advancement. Having come from a single-parent family with no support from a father, I know I would have advanced further in Scouting had my leaders assigned a “father” mentor to help me with my Scouting requirements. Fathers ought to be the key figure in a boy’s Scouting and Aaronic Priesthood years.
At the recent LDS Priesthood Leadership Conference on Scouting at Philmont, I again watched the movie Follow Me Boys with Fred MacMurry. In that movie I was impressed that the Scouting unit held regular parent nights where the boys were able to demonstrate the skills they had learned in Scouting. What a wonderful idea—far better than mere courts of honor. Perhaps the pack meeting concept ought to be extended to the troop, team, and crew. I’m sure this would enhance the enthusiasm of parents for Scouting when family fun is made a part of the Scouting program. Imagine how impressed younger siblings would be when their older brother teaches them what he has learned in Scouting. The Duty to God process of learn, act, and share would become a routine part of a boy’s life if these types of activities where included in your Scouting unit’s annual calendar.
As always, I hope you are catching the vision of the true power of the Scouting program. I testify that Scouting is not just for boys—it is for boys and their families. Scouting is a means by which boys can grow closer to their mothers, fathers, and siblings. It is a program designed to engage parents in developing their sons into the type of person they wish them to be. Scouting is one of the ways the Lord can “turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers” (Malachi 4:5). I pray you will be inspired in your Scouting efforts as you help your Heavenly Father knit together the hearts of the families under your stewardship.
Take a Moment to Reflect
- Do you understand the importance of involving families in your Scouting and Aaronic Priesthood efforts?
- Have you oriented parents properly so they understand the true purposes of Scouting in the Church?
- Are you proactively involving parents and families in your Scouting activities? Have you invited parents and families to attend Scouting events?
- Are you seeking opportunities to specifically involve fathers? Have you assigned “father mentors” to your fatherless boys?
- Have you thought about holding family nights to allow your boys to demonstrate their Scouting skills to their parents and siblings?
- Is your Scouting program helping your boys to grow closer to their families?
Turn Your Reflection Into Action
- What will you start doing, stop doing, or do better as a result of your reflection?
“Our Father in Heaven has placed the eternal destiny of children in the hands of parents, but more particularly on the shoulders of the father, the patriarch of the family. That responsibility cannot be delegated!” (Elder Robert L. Backman, “What the Lord Requires of Fathers,” Ensign, Sept 1981.)
-Mac McIntire is a dedicated Scouter who has blessed many lives through his service and acute understanding of the Scouting program. He currently lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. The views and opinions expressed in this message are solely those of the author.