aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

An Interview with Sisyphus

We had a training event with our Cub Pack leaders and our new Unit Commissioner this evening. It went well. I'm afraid I horned in a bit more than I would have liked to, though. But I've spent four years chasing this Cub Pack, trying to be their Institutional Head and Chaplain, and I thought I just might catch them tonight, even if it was someone else's training event.

There's a philosophical conundrum at the base of this: Who owns Scouting? The "correct" answer is, BSA owns the program that exists in their training manuals. Those of us who charter units agree to do that program, not something else and call it that. But that means we -- the Charter Partners -- own the actual Scouting units as they exist. We are responsible for them.

The problem is, after the first training course where BSA requires us to learn about the Charter Partner concept, the whole idea is junked. It never comes up again unless the Charter Partner forces the issue. And I think I can understand why. Saying to new leaders, "ask your Charter Partner" when they have questions is a dead-bang loser when most Charter Partners will have no answers for them. So, BSA comes up with answers, even if they're supposed to be deferring to the Charter Partner on the questions; meanwhile, Professional Scouters, who are evaluated on hard numbers relating to the performance of unit volunteers, are not inclined to try to pass the buck to a Charter Partner on snooze alarm when there's an issue to be addressed.

The same thing exists all the way up to the National Council. The new Community Alliances team is all about hooking up with Charter Partners to start new units, by which they mean, demanding hard numbers from religious denominations to start new units for BSA. The idea that the Charter Partners are in the business of doing Scouting as ministry, starting new units to fulfill their own various mission statements and that BSA is there to help them is hardly paid lip service to. BSA is great at saying, "here's what we want you to do," but not so great at asking, "what do you want to do?"

In the end, the assertive Charter Partners get what they want, especially if they have the numbers to back it up. The LDS Church writes its own ticket with BSA. The National Catholic Committee on Scouting also gets what it wants, in my experience. And good for both of them! The United Methodist Church is the second largest Charter Partner with BSA, but is far less assertive than the Mormons or the Catholics. Maybe that's because we have been content with the way things are; I don't know. I do remember that when I was the Head United Methodist Chaplain at the 1997 Jamboree, I had to push very hard to get what I wanted in order to fulfill our denominational objectives, much to the amazement and resistance of the BSA bureaucracy. But in the end, I got what I asked for.

Would that the same were true throughout The United Methodist Church. I spent ten years as Annual Conference Coordinator, and now I am in the middle of my term as the President of NAUMS (National Association of UM Scouters), and I get tired to trying to grab the thousand-pound marshmallow and get it to move to where it needs to be. Annual Conference, District, United Methodist Men, take your pick of venues. Even the ones who say they're big Scouting supporters take a lot of effort to get a response from. In the end, I'm just another voice clamoring for attention. But I should have a lot more clout on the local level, right? Well, yes; but it's still hard.

On the local level, I want my church to really do Scouting as Ministry. And I want my Pack, Troop, and Crew to really be fully integrated parts of our ministry to children, youth, and families. And that means that sometimes I have to push a bit to make room for what we all say is the fundamental way BSA is supposed to operate. I know it works; I've seen it done.


"Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

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