aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

penultimate post on clergy scouters

VI. Scouting as Ministry

A. BSA is a franchise operation.

Who "owns" Scouting? Well, BSA owns the program as it exists in the books. They've copyrighted it. If you want to do Scouting, you have to agree to follow their rules and procedures, and not do something else and call it "Scouting." This functions as quality control and as a safety feature for the youth.

But the local Charter Partner "owns" every individual unit it sponsors. They are part of their program. In a very real (and legal) sense, they own that unit down to the last tent peg.

Each Charter Partner has a different reason for chartering a BSA unit, of course. Veterans groups see Scouting primarily as building patriotism and encouraging service to one's country. Educational groups see Scouting as self-development/educational programs. And religious bodies see Scouting as primarily about spiritual development.

Scouting works best when the Charter Partner is highly involved in, and supportive of, its units -- and where its units are highly connected with, and supportive of, the Charter Partner and its goals. The problem of "Liberian tankers" has been alluded to, above. It is the responsibility of both the Charter Partner and the unit leadership to see that this situation, which is the source of so much conflict and loss of power, does not develop.

B. Scouting as a ministry of the church (synagogue, mosque, temple, etc.)

The program of the local unit -- and the way it goes about providing that program -- should advance the goals of the religious organization that charters it. Lest this seem a radical kind of thing to say, turn the statement around. Why should any group sponsor another group which does not advance its goals? Why bother? Such a group would be a distraction, a cost without benefit to the organization which sheltered it.

This does not usually mean that the religious organization which charters a unit restricts membership to its own families or pursues the families of the Scouts with a heavy-handed kind of evangelism. But it does mean that the Charter Partner sees itself as in ministry with all the families of the Scouts, whether they participate in that religious body or not. Churches which do Scouting are interested in providing role models of good character, of helping youth identify their callings, with spiritual development, with building relationships that will help families become faithful members of their church (not necessarily the chartering church), and with teaching youth how to do ministry by offering service opportunities, realizing that "growth comes through reflection upon experience."

For maximum benefit to both the Scouts and the Charter Partner, the unit should be fully integrated into the programs and structure of the religious organization. The Charter Partner Representative and the Local Church Coordinator of Scouting Ministry may be the same person, but having the one relating to the Council does not mean you have the other taking his or her place in the structure of the local church.

Clergy need to be shown how to fully engage in doing ministry through Scouting. Even if they are not themselves registered Scouters, there is much they can do for their congregations by treating their Scout units on the same footing as Sunday School classes, youth groups, and weekday children's ministries.

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

Scouting as Ministry is a lot more than using denominational relationships to plant more Scouting units. District, Council, and National leaders often see religious organizations as means to an end -- their end, which is more Scout units and more Scouts. Truly seeing how chartering Scouting units can benefit religious organizations, however, requires the ability to see how those organizations can use Scouting as a means to their own desired ends. Selling the customer what he really wants to have is a lot easier, and will have better results, than selling him what you want him to have; but it's a lot harder.

Local church Scouters often do not understand Scouting as ministry, either. Educating them in this concept is high on the priority list of denominational leaders in Scouting Ministry. Doing Scouting as ministry, however, integrates the Scouter's understanding of himself as a servant of God and as a leader of youth, and leads to the kind of spiritual growth that churches want for their members. When Scouters understand themselves to be engaged in ministry, they approach it differently, and they find that approaching their local clergy leaders is easier for the common bond they share as those who are serving God.

Denominational leadership work to teach Scouting as Ministry to the clergy. They offer training opportunities, adult recognitions, and denominational publications to make the training stick. As official members of the same religious organization, they can sometimes get past the barriers that outside groups would meet, since both national and local religious leaders speak to each other as those who share the same goals.

Conclusion: building the relationship

The argument of this paper is that the clergy constitute a special group that Scouting leaders have to relate to. Within and among Scouters, the clergy remain a special group with gifts to share and needs to be met. While the clergy are not very numerous, either inside or outside of Scouting, they are enormously influential in deciding whether or not Scouting's goals are met. Cultivating the clergy is not about feeding their vanity, but about gaining the trust and organizational clout of this very important group of persons for the goals that Scouters share. Those who succeed in so doing will see the results of their Scouting work magnified; those who do not succeed in so doing will find their way made harder, even if the clergy themselves are in general support of what they're doing.

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