Whether anybody likely to be chosen by the Conference will be able to get any ministry done is another thing. If the new Coordinator is a person who knows how to get things done, and has a good grasp of what needs to be done, then good things can happen; however, the first thing he or she will find is that the Conference is not structured as an organization serious about doing ministry would be. We have spent the last several years dis-inventing ourselves, ignoring our core processes, and concentrating all initiative in the Conference office – an office utterly subject to the whims and limited vision of people who think that their little sphere of activity IS the Annual Conference. The new Coordinator will receive no help from anybody at HQ, nor does the Conference maintain a committee for him to work with.
The easiest alternative for the Conference would be to simply punt the ball over to the guys at United Methodist Men. They have a lot of connections with the national Scouting Ministry leadership. There are some active Scouters in UMM. We could go back to the way we used to do things in the old North Conference before the merger and in the old South Conference prior to 1994, with the Conference Scouting Coordinator an appointee or appendage of the Conference UMM structure. Well, once again, if you’ve got a Coordinator who knows how to get things done, who has vision, and is not going to be restricted by bureaucracy, then good things can happen. But UM Men is the deadest corpse in the UM morgue. Despite all the flurry of reports and bustle of meetings, precious little ever gets done by these guys. Moving the Conference Scouting Coordinator back into UMM, formally or informally, is a recipe for doing nothing but sitting around and giving each other awards.
So, what does a successful Conference Scouting ministry look like?
A successful Conference Scouting ministry resources the congregations of the Annual Conference. This means teaching and promoting Scouting as ministry all over the Conference. It means connecting with clergy and their unique way of processing reality (one reason why so many earnest Scouters fail in moving the church is that they have no idea how to deal with clergy, without whom the org will not function). It means producing resources. It means using the Conference session and Conference events to promote our ministry and to network with church leaders.
A successful Conference Scouting ministry resources the Scouting ministry family across the Annual Conference. Scouts and their families, as well as registered leaders, form a large community of people who want their kids to have the best experience they can have. A church-sponsored scouting program should be qualitatively different from one based in some other community org. And a UM-sponsored scouting program should be the best church-sponsored program there is. Putting resources and opportunities in these people’s hands is critical.
Toward that end, connecting with volunteers is a key part of a successful Conference Scouting ministry. You can’t just run this out of the Conference structure. In the Indiana Conference, we have a booster organization – the Indiana UM Pathfinder – that helps connect volunteers with each other and with Conference leadership. The Pathfinder publishes a newsletter. It helps find volunteers that a Conference Coordinator is going to need. It solicits donations to help with funding things that the Conference doesn’t have the budget or attention span for.
Finally, a successful Conference Scouting ministry does ministry. Now, MOST of the ministry of the Annual Conference is done by local volunteers in their local settings, but there are occasionally some things that a local group would find difficult to do. We need someone to bring together people to do, as a Conference, what no one little group could do by itself. Over the years, we have done some fine retreats for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. We have published some excellent resources. We have pursued some worthy missions projects. We have organized the occasional mission trip or high adventure trip. We have done several Bishop’s Dinners for Scouting. We have conducted training sessions. Different leaders have different priorities, and the new Coordinator needs to decide what his or hers are. You can’t do it all, but unless you do SOMETHING, there is nothing for anybody else to grab onto and you might as well have spared yourself the trouble of going through the motions.