aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

Clergy and Scouting (continued)

III. The worldview of the clergy

A. Theological/Ideological

Clergy view the world in terms of their doctrine and values. Religion provides explanations for how the world is and what it should be, and declares answers for how to make it that way. Their openness to Scouting depends upon their ability to fit it into their usual way of looking at the world.

Most clergy employ a narrative of Justice/Redemption in their teaching. This world is a battleground between good and evil. They see persons, institutions, and programs as either upholding the right or blocking its advance. Which side they see Scouting on determines whether they will support it or not. The possibility of redemption -- that is, of people's lives being improved or their personal transformation -- is also part of the narrative. Redeeming evil is as important as defeating it. If clergy see Scouting as something which improves lives and brings hope to families, they are more likely to view it positively.

Clergy use symbols to express themselves as members of a movement. Symbols include distinctive dress, expressed values, buzzwords and slogans, music, etc. They react positively to those using the same symbols they use. They react negatively to symbols they associate with opposing movements. Scouting's use of flags, uniforms, recited oaths, and so on pose initial barriers for many clergy who see themselves and their movement as counter-cultural. Scouts collecting food for the poor and other service projects symbolically tie into the narrative of Justice/Redemption and are attractive to many clergy.

Clergy see themselves and everything they do through the prism of call and ordination. Typically, a clergyperson does not think he or she chose this line of work; rather, God called him or her to it. It is the will of God that the clergyperson does what he or she does. This personal destiny is validated through the denomination's authority structures in the form of ordination. This sets the clergy apart for special work. This doesn't mean that clergy see themselves as better than other members of their religion, but it does mean that they are highly conscious of what it means to be a clergyperson: it's not just a job to them. Clergy are thus highly susceptible to inner promptings of duty.

One area in which this personal sense of call and ordination plays itself out is in the area of chaplaincy. Scouting obviously wants clergy to offer themselves to be jamboree and camp and unit chaplains. But clergy are busy, so we begin to open up chaplaincy to those who are not "real" clergy -- to those whom other clergy do not see as fitting this category of those who are called and ordained. The clergy respond by losing interest. If the work can be done by others, then it doesn't need them; on the other hand, if it is work which requires someone called and ordained, then they will wrestle with whether it is their duty or not to volunteer.


Tip O'Neill used to say, "all politics is local." The same could be said for religion. Clergy serving congregations may care deeply about what their denomination does, but what affects their local congregation matters more than anything else.

If the success of the movement as a whole is best understood in terms of the success my local congregation is having, then when I see my congregation growing and accomplishing good things, I see the hand of God at work. This habit of evaluating success by congregational growth leads to the habit of assigning value to things which put seats in the seats. That is, attendance at worship is a prominent yardstick by which clergy assess how things are going in their world.

Congregational development is another such yardstick. Number of programs, size of staff, money raised and buildings constructed are indicators of congregational success.

If the congregation is growing in numbers and achieving its goals, spiritual growth is often presumed to be happening in the members. This is a major goal of clergy in its own right. Evidence of spiritual growth in individuals becomes even more precious when the congregation is not growing in numbers and is not achieving other outward forms of success.

While the local trumps the national, what Headquarters wants matters to clergy, just as it does to all who labor in large organizations. Particularly in hierarchical organizations, what the bishop (supervisor) or regional body values -- and rewards -- gets the clergy's attention. This attention is pleasant for its own sake, but also serves to validate the success of the congregation and its local pastor.

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

Council and District leaders forging a relationship with a new clergyperson need to be aware of how Scouting is seen in that person's worldview. Is Scouting on the side of the angels or a tool of oppression? Do our symbols get a positive or a negative response? Can we show how Scouting will help the congregation achieve its goals of new members, congregational development, and spiritual growth?

Members who are Scouters need to be able to show that their Scouting work adds value to what the clergyperson cares about. Making the world better and bringing people into the congregation are things most clergy find attractive. Inviting the clergy to join them in such work is more likely to get a positive response than griping that they don't get any support from the staff.

Unit volunteers need to particularly beware the "Liberian tanker" syndrome. This is where the local unit's charter is a flag of convenience for what is really an independent organization, whose goals may or may not match those of the congregation. Yes, the charter partner is responsible for supporting its Scouting program; however, the Scouters of that unit bear equal responsibility for staying connected to their charter partner. How many adults in leadership of the Scouting program have a connection to the charter partner, for instance?

Denominational leaders operate from a similar worldview as the local clergy. They are capable of presenting Scouting as a native plant, rather than as an exotic, within their shared denominational membership.

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