aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

If that's what you really want

I attended the Hoosier Trails Council Executive Board meeting last night, the first of the new year. We had a lot of reports on losses and gains, of which we had some of each. But despite the excitement and eagerness of bringing girls into Cub Scouts (and this year, used-to-be-Boy Scouts), we had a 5% loss in Cub Scouts last year. This is worrisome. We had a whopping 50% loss in Venturing, however. I sat quietly throughout this report.

Now regarding that Venturing number: we didn't have very many Venturers left, anyway, and most of them were double-registered in Troops, so a loss of 50% isn't quite as shocking as it sounds. Still, I've been telling them for lo! these many years what we could do about this, and nobody wants to listen. Keep in mind, I was a Venturing Advisor for most of the last twenty years -- one of the few really successful ones in our Council, and one of the most successful in the Region. I know what I'm talking about. But though I have tried to tell people at every level and in every forum how to promote and maximize the potential for Venturing, they look straight at me and refuse to hear what I just said.

"Tell me about Venturing," one fellow Board member said last year over lunch. I did. I was explicit about what it takes to succeed at Venturing. He smiled and said, "We did it this way." As if that was as good as anything I was telling him. Now, his "this way" to do it wasn't Venturing, per se, it was High Adventure. And lots of [Boy] Scout leaders know how to do High Adventure. But as I have said, over and over, Venturing is not [Boy] Scouting in a forest green shirt.

Today, as I was thinking about last night's meeting and all the conversations I've had about Venturing -- among other things -- in BSA meetings, I suddenly remembered that I've had this same conversation in another venue. For I was a pastor in The UMC for 41 years. And the conversation in the local church went something like this.

"We want to grow!" Fine, here's how you grow. "We don't want to do that. Tell us how to grow by doing what we're already good at!"

Or here's the discussion I've had numerous times on District and Conference levels. "Our mission is to MAKE DISCIPLES [for the transformation of the world]!" Okay, would you like me to use my Christian Education background to do a workshop in 1) what a disciple is, and 2) how you make them? *crickets*

The similarities between the BSA conversation and the UMC conversation are striking, as are the similarities between the two institutions. Both institutions are large, well-established, widely known organizations with immense institutional assets (brand, properties, personnel, publishing, tradition, loyalty of volunteers . . . ) And both are dying. Both say they really, really want to grow. And in both, nobody will stay for an answer any more than Jesting Pilate.

So, this is what I thought today.
Growth is a choice, and so is decline. And both have costs. When you choose NOT to grow you have chosen, willy-nilly, to decline. Nor have you spared yourself the costs of growth; you have merely accepted the costs of decline.
"Hear and hear, but do not understand;
see and see, but do not perceive."

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