Investing, in org-lingo, means two things. First, it means spending money, and we spent a lot of money in some very good ways. But it also means building relationships, investing in people -- hiring/promoting employees, recruiting new Board members, working with volunteers, etc. Then someone asked about relationships with charter partners -- the churches and other community orgs that actually charter Cub Packs, Scout Troops, and Venturing Crews. Well, we didn't have as good a story to tell there; in fact, BSA's membership standards change made us lose TEN PERCENT of our charter partners this year, so we had to scramble to find new charter partners for all those units that were dropped when their parent orgs walked out.
At this point, to my surprise, the Council Exec turned to me as the resident expert on charter partner relationships. I'm a Council Board member, but more to the point, I was the only Institutional Head of a charter partner in the room. And I've been the President of NAUMS and a member of BSA's national Religious Relationships Task Force, etc. Maybe he thought I'd have some cheerier news to relate, keep the meeting upbeat. If so, he was sadly mistaken.
The truth is, we do a lousy job in our Council of maintaining charter partner relationships. Always have. I've brought it up time and again in Council Board meetings, and it's never gone anywhere. I'm tired of hearing my head roar, and I'm sure the rest of the Board is, too. Nowadays when I go into a meeting, I say to myself, "just keep quiet and let's have a nice meeting." But, he asked.
As far as the national fiasco goes, none of us here in our Council is responsible for that weirdness. But having built NO relationships with our very conservative charter partners in our very conservative part of the country, we had no trust we could leverage to have a dialogue with them when the feces hit the oscillator. They heard what came down from BSA, they didn't like it, they no longer trust the Boy Scouts -- and that's that. We could have lessened the impact, if we'd just put some minimal effort into cultivating those folks beforehand. But we didn't. And I wouldn't bet a nickel on us doing so now.
I mentioned that when I do training on Scouting ministry in the Church, we talk about "Liberian tankers." That's what a lot of BSA units are. Their charter partner affiliation is a flag of convenience. Neither the charter partner nor the Scouters in the unit expect anything much from the other. In many cases, no loyalties are established or nourished. In some cases, there is constant friction between two groups who don't see themselves as belonging to each other. So, the good news is that our Council found new charter partners for all those units who were dumped by those who couldn't agree with the new membership standards. But, I said, if all you've done in finding a new charter partner is switching your flag from Liberia to Panama, then what have you really gained? Nothing.
And the hassle over membership standards is only one thing. In the seventeen years I've been a pastor in this Council with a Scouting program in my church, I think I've been called upon for the expected annual chat maybe four, five times? Now, maybe my DEs have assumed that since I'm so active in Scouting, they don't need to always call on me to keep the relationship going. *shrug* But I suspect they don't call on other institutional heads much, either. I know this because my fellow clergy who pastor churches with Scouting programs are as clueless as can be, most of them, and they wouldn't be that clueless if somebody from the Council was actually talking to them. Then, too, we have never had a Relationships Committee or Vice-President or whatever. We don't think relationally when we talk about starting new units. We don't think about charter partners when we assign Commissioners. We write Council Strategic Plans which don't even mention our charter partners. We've only had a resident chaplain at our Council camp once or twice in the last forty years that I can remember. And so on.
Our Council does a lot of things right. I am very proud of them. And our Council leadership is doing a great job these days. There is much to celebrate. But, if you're asking, we really stink at charter partner relationships. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.