aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

Clergy and Scouting: Part the Next

I. Attitudes of clergy toward Scouting

A. Back in the day . . .

As stated above, at one time, most clergy -- particularly, Protestant clergy -- were favorably inclined toward Scouting. Many participated personally as Scoutmasters. The impact of the adult male role model upon impressionable boys was fully appreciated. The emphasis upon character formation in Scouting was congruent with the clergy's goals.

What happened?

Among other things, Modernism happened. The values in the surrounding culture changed, and these values impacted the values of the clergy, who do not live in isolation from the society they are placed in. Religious institutions -- particularly, the "Mainline Protestant Churches" -- began to question their traditional role in society, and began to identify religious reform (a traditional goal) with modernist social agendas. This impacted seminary education, too. Clergy rising to leadership in these denominations looked at Scouting as something from a previous era.

Feminism happened. Again, there are good things to come from the rise of women in our society. But Scouting could be seen, rightly or wrongly, as behind the times. Clergy interested in "women's issues" -- both men and women -- were turned off by traditionally male programs.

The sexual revolution happened. This ultimately led to the clamor for gay rights and full inclusion of homosexuals in all aspects of American life. Many clergy believe fervently in this cause (particularly in Protestant and Catholic churches, many clergy are far more liberal than their congregations are). For them, BSA carries a stigma for resisting the attempt to forcibly include gays in our membership.

At the same time, the rise of the "mega-church" -- the seven-day-a-week, programmatic congregation with a large staff -- became the model of success for many churches. Even congregations that are too small to maintain the program of the mega-church frequently try to imitate its patterns. The mega-church frequently attempts to have something for everyone. This is not a bad thing, and Scouting is certainly something for someone; however, Scouting can come to be seen as a competitor to programs that are more directly identified with the congregation, and which feed directly into its membership and discipleship system.

Many clergy, of course, continued to support and participate in Scouting. Many clergy, though, did not understand the principles and possibilities of Scouting, and some simply rejected them.

B. Nowadays

Clergy attitudes toward Scouting represent a whole spectrum. At one end, some clergy are actively hostile toward Scouting -- or, at least, toward BSA. Some see BSA as too exclusive; others, as too inclusive. Some see BSA as an instrument of the patriarchy they oppose; others, as part of a social/political movement they fear.

Other clergy are indifferent toward Scouting. They may approve of its principles and possibilities, or they may not, but they are not interested in getting involved.

Many clergy are supportive toward Scouting. They think it's a good thing. They are helpful toward their own congregation's Scouting units, observe Boy Scout Sunday/Sabbath, are glad to give a prayer at an Eagle Scout Court of Honor, etc.

Some clergy are active in Scouting leadership themselves. They serve as volunteers, especially at District and Council levels. They are glad to assist with chapel services, and they understand the value of training and of regular meeting attendance. It should be noted that this is not the same thing as using Scouting well in their congregations! Some Clergy Scouters derive immense personal satisfaction from being in Scouting (as they should), and see it as a personal relationship/ministry more than a congregational one.

Finally, some clergy do Scouting as Ministry. They fully integrate their personal involvement and their congregation's units' program with the church's ministry to children, youth, and their families. They see their Scouting units as the "front porch" of the church, and they actively cultivate relationships between Scout families and the church family. They make sure that religious emblems are promoted and they take a personal interest in teaching or supervising them. They make sure that Scouting is represented in their church's staff and governing body. They seek to recognize Scouting volunteers with appropriate awards for their ministry.

C. Understanding the attitudes of clergy equips those who approach the clergy on behalf of Scouting.

Council or District leaders who approach clergy are often trying to interest their congregation in a new unit. Understanding where on the spectrum of attitudes toward Scouting a particular pastor, rabbi, imam, or priest is will enable them to better approach this clergyperson. This is not always "optional." Hostility or indifference may mean "no sale" to a DE looking to launch a new unit, but there are many Packs and Troops of long tenure which are chartered to religious institutions whose current clergy are not helpful to them. Commissioners have to be able to deal effectively with Institutional Heads who have little interest in their own congregation's Scouting program. In these cases, the Council or District leaders must show tact and maturity.

Members of the local church approaching their own pastor are sometimes puzzled by the lack of enthusiasm on the clergyperson's part. They're excited; why isn't he or she?

Denominational leaders are often frustrated trying to resource local churches' Scouting programs. Clergy seem unresponsive. Even the imprimatur of the national organization doesn't carry much weight. (This is not a problem limited to Scouting Ministry, by the way.)

At the same time, just getting past the hostility or indifference of some clergy is not enough. The supportive and active clergy need training and advice in order to maximize the benefit of their Scouting program to both their congregation and their units. The goal is not getting the clergyperson signed up as a volunteer (though that's a good thing, too); the goal is making the benefits of Scouting available to more kids, more families, and especially to that religious institution.

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