What happens when the divine witness of the True Church is combined with the best youth activity program in the community?
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matt 5:14)
In the United States many wards and branches of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints struggle to develop an effective Ward Mission Plan. Below are some all too common examples of wards missing their potential.
- Members complain about a small, ineffective youth program, and motivation is loss to invite other youth to join. (How do you break that cycle?)
- The ward generates very few mission calls. It is usually the same ward with very few Eagle Scouts. (That is more than just a coincidence. That is a sign of youth not getting enriched by their mutual program.)
- Members are asked to bring more referrals, but all of their acquaintances have already said not interested. (So how do you build new acquaintances in your community?)
- How do you find young families that are actively searching for that great, "wholesome recreational experience" that will bring them family happiness? (And yet that is the primary target demographic of scouting! If the local ward is not looking for them, some other group will find and engage them.)
- Is missionary work fun and does it frequently engage many of the youth and adult ward members? (Maybe not everyone is a super-missionary but do they get to "magnify" their many unique gifts?)
- What Mission Prep is being taught to your ward youth? Are they being "prepared" to spend their best two years a) cold-knocking doors, b) begging for referrals or c) developing creative missionary work solutions so they can have an awesome mission experience like Ammon. Which of these mission approaches does your ward model for the youth? (Would you pick option #c?)
- How "frequent" are your personal missionary moments? (The Scout Motto is Do a Good Turn Daily. How often do you slip the word "church" into your conversation with others?)
- Section 5.1.8 of Handbook #2 directs that the Ward Council prepare a Ward Mission Plan, but have you ever seen a mission plan different from "Fast, Pray, Feed the Elders and go talk to your Neighbor?" (Read Section 5.1.8 again for guidance on what a real ward mission plan should look like!)
- The vast majority of our neighbor families are nowhere near ready to instantly jump into the waters of baptism. But do you have a plan of regular, positive, enriching weekly contact that will totally win them over in ten years? (Say for example it begins when the kids are age 8 and it finishes before they reach age 18?)
Testimonial: I ( Bryce Hall aka: MainTour) have spent a lot of time in the church as a youth advisor, quorum leader, teacher, missionary, member missionary and ward mission leader. In all of those callings I have spent much time in study on the challenges listed above from those different viewpoints. I have seen many examples of program success and program failure and what were the contributing factors for each.
Below are some very real and powerful solutions that will conquer all of these challenges.
- Missionary Work Begins with Service - Scouting teaches youth how to serve. Many examples from the scriptures and the modern world show that great missionary experiences begin with service.
- Ward Leader Driven - Almost every published LDS Ward mission plan (Building a Ward Mission Plan) involves attempting to motivate others to do the hard task of finding. How about a plan where the mission leader can just pluck a whole bunch of wonderful young open-minded families right out of the local neighborhood in just one night? And you can easily repeat this process a couple of times every year?
- Reaching Young Local Families - The #1 candidate for your mission plan should be new families living in your immediate area. These young couples are more open minded and are frequently looking for wholesome recreational and enriching programs to share with their little children. They want what we have. If we don't reach them, another group will.
- Building Testimonies in Ward Youth - Our church leaders have taught that it is important to start early, to build testimonies in our young people. A strong youth program with deep spiritual experiences when they actually see other people transform their lives is a key part of this. (There is a lot more to the process than just telling a cute pioneer story on Sunday morning.)
- Mission Prep for Young People - Youth as young as age 8 take a very fun and active role in modeling the gospel for their friends.
- Wholesome Family Recreation - The centerpiece of the scouting program is how it models the key principals (outlined in the LDS Family Proclamation) of what makes a young family successful.
- Referrals from Non-members - Well over 30% of participating non-member families successfully refer their non-member friends to also join the ward youth activity program. No other church non-member referral program comes anywhere close to this rate!
- Multiple Teaching Opportunities - Most American families are pretty well educated and fairly set on their beliefs with some significant negative stereotypes. Scouting program allows for multiple teaching opportunities with family members - specifically the parents to break down these stereotypes and transform them into either "Friends of the Church" or potential "Golden Investigators".
- Pack the Building with Non-Members - Scouting unit exchange and leadership training programs allows for frequent visits from scout troops of other faiths and "plants many seeds" in fertile ground. (See Ten Commandments Hike how this is done.)
- Scouting Opens Doors - Scouting is worldwide recognized non-denominational faith based service program. The scouting flag can open a lot of doors to further discussions.
- More Gospel Discussion - I average well over five times as many unintended gospel theme discussions in my workplace from in my Scout Leader calling versus when I was a Ward Missionary. Unintended means my non-member friends triggered the discussion, usually along the lines of "Your scouting event sounds really great, but why did you get involved with it?" For me it was just so natural and easy to talk about the weekend's outing or service project with the boys than to talk about the Sunday School lessons (although those are really great too!)
Important points of preparation for a successful Scouting Based Ward Mission Plan:
- Study The Challenge First - But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right. (D&C 9:7-8)
Have you ever seen any Ward Mission Leader do a comparative research study (with an open mind) on which mission plans generate the best results?
This mission plan is based on The Story of Ammon, from the Book of Mormon. What made his mission plan great is that he used his best talents to render spectacular service. That then led to a great missionary experience.
- Step 1: Service - Ammon made the commitment to be a servant to others "even perhaps for the rest of my days". This plan proposes a long-term program to serve the families and youth of our community by offering them an powerful and enriching after-school youth activity program.
- Step 2: Finding - Ammon knew where to find converts. This plan includes several powerful examples of finding.
- Step 3: Exemplify Christian Values - Ammon's loyal service to the Lamanite king strongly exemplified many points of the scout law and easily made him "Trustworthy". This plan proposes to do the same.
Organize your Ward Mission Team
Organize The Program - Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God; (D&C 88:119)
Today's successful mission plan is a team effort require many of the following positions. Each one plays an important role.
- The Bishop - Leader of the Ward Council
- The Ward Council - Helps Bishop identify talents and opportunities for the ward mission plan.
- Bishopric Counselor over Missionary Work -
- Bishopric Counselor over Scouting and Youth Activities -
- Mission Leader - (New Member Coordinator) Visits with parents of youth new to the ward youth activity program
- Ward Missionaries - Assist the Ward Mission Leader by working in one or positions below:
- Ward Young Men Presidency -
- Primary Presidency -
- Scout Committee Chairman - Helps develop the annual plan for scouting program
- Scout Committee - Parents, ward leaders, non-member parents and other volunteers with interest in the scouting program
- Scout Committee Recruiters - Ward Missionaries help organize and operate community scouting recruitment events (see below)
- Scout Leaders - Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Eleven-Year-Old Scouts (EYO). Responsible for a great program with quality weekly meetings, monthly outtings and a annual hi-adventure event.
- Stake Young Men Presidency - Training and guidance for ward leaders, priesthood holders with experience both in church and scouting programs. They help organize regional youth scouting events, such as training, camporees, etc.
- Stake Primary Presidency - Training and guidance for ward leaders, with experience both in church and scouting programs. They help organize regional youth scouting event, such as regional cub camp and EYO camps.
- Unit Commissioner - Official Boy Scout representative to help your unit. Frequently it is a member of the Stake YM or Primary Presidency.
Trained Program Leaders
- Get the Best Handbooks - And do thou grant, Holy Father, that all those who shall worship in this house may be taught words of wisdom out of the best books, and that they may seek learning even by study, and also by faith, as thou hast said; And that they may grow up in thee, and receive a fulness of the Holy Ghost, and be organized according to thy laws, and be prepared to obtain every needful thing; (D&C 109-14-15)
There are a lot of great instruction already available on the subject of organizing, training and ward missionary work for an LDS Scouting Program:
- LDS Cub Scout Leader Fast Start
- BSA Pack Committee Handbook -
- BSA Troop Committee Handbook
- Every boy deserves a trained leader. - Scouting Training Theme
- Trained Scout Leaders - To use Scouting as a Successful mission plan requires a very strong, active, safe buy very fun youth activity that attracts the boys and their friends (ages 8-18) like honey. This begins with adult leaders that attend both basic and then advanced training programs. Here they learn important skills such as how to persuade young people to Choose The Right (D&C 121:41).
- Learn Your Duty- Wherefore, now let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence” (D&C 107:99). Carried out, this suggests that members serving in Church assignments (including Scouting) will learn the responsibilities of their calling and then fulfill them to the best of their ability.
- LDS Training Policy for YM Leaders - Several LDS Church leadership positions require appropriate BSA training - from Bishopric down to Assistant Den Mother.
- LDS Green Handbook on Scouting - Outlines some important program requirements. Contact the stake for latest word on training opportunities. Note the following highlights:
- #2 :Trained Ward Leaders - Young Men and Primary leaders who are called to Scouting responsibilities should receive training in Scouting principles, policies, and procedures as used by the Church. Trained Scout leaders who understand and live the gospel, understand priesthood governance, and understand the Scouting program are better able to serve young men and boys involved in Scouting activities.
- #3 :Trained Stake Leaders - Stake Young Men Presidency and Stake Primary Leaders are to get scout training as "Unit Commissioners" so that they can provide training and guidance to the youth activity program in each ward.
- #7 :LDS Scouting Awards - On My Honor for Boy Scouts and Faith in God for Cub Scouts.
- Aims and Methods of Scouting - All Troop Committee members should be familiar with and supportive of the basic aims and methods of scouting. Their purpose is to help grow scouting and the church.
- Aaronic Priesthood Leader Training - LDS.org
- Building a Ward Mission Plan - MissionaryLeaders.org
Ward Mission Leader
- Ward Mission Leader Resource - Contact your Stake High Council for training on LDS mission programs. Contact the BSA Unit Commissioner for training on New Member Coordinator.
BSA has created a very important adult leader inter-denominational position specifically to aid scout unit recruitment and retention. It is called New Member Coordinator (NMC). In the LDS Church we would recognize this person as the Ward Mission Leader with his assistants.
Their goal is to fellowship with parents of new scouts to make them feel welcome. Every scout troop, regardless of sponsorship, faces the challenge of getting the new member scout and his parents to return for the second activity night. The young scout is wholly dependent on his parents for transportation and emotional support to begin this great adventure. The NMC is here to help.
The Pack and/or Troop in each ward should have a Ward Missionary assigned specifically to join the unit committee and serve in this capacity. It will greatly help if they have a working familiarity with scouting. During the first few activity nights, the NMC can meet with one or more of the new parents and explain to them how scouting works, how to help their scout on project and also give a introduction about the church and why it supports scouting. Maybe even a church tour would be helpful. A welcome kit could also be helpful. Afterwards, the NMC should maintain regular contact with the family and be ready to answer any questions they may have.
- BSA New Member Coordinator - Guidelines and training for the BSA Unit New Member Coordinator.
- Why every unit needs a New Member Coordinator - Scouting Blog
- New Member Coordinator Brochure -
- Introducing the NMC - Voice of Scouting
Once your Ward Mission and Scouting Teams are organized and trained, your group can now go forward gather new families to participate in your weekly youth activity programs. The biggest opportunity for doing this is Recruitment Night:
- Strategies to Successful Recruiting - Recruiting new Scouts is your chance to share the values of Scouting with other families. Scouting Magazine talked with the experts to get tips for making your fall recruiting event successful. Here’s what they had to share:
- Top 7 Cub Scout Recruiting Ideas - Create your own recruiting event
- 6th Grade Recruitment Presentation - For recruiting older boys, the program emphasis is on Camping.
- BSA Troop Recruitment Plan -
- Back to School - local elementary school
- School Open House - local elementary school
- School Harvest Festival - local elementary school
- Community Festival or Parade - usually coincides with a major holiday
Create your Own Community Event
- Bike Rodeo
- Fishing Derby
- Rocket Academy
- Campfire Party
Invite a Friend
Each LDS Boy Scout has two challenges to "Invite a Friend" to a youth activity. This is best done with a regular monthly outings. Campout, Nature Hike, Boat Trip, Sporting Event, Museum Tour, etc, etc. Youth can invite non-member friends, less active friends or reinvite others that came once, but have been seen in awhile.
- Duty To God - Invite Others to Come unto Christ
- BSA 1st Class Advancement - Invite a Friend to a Scout Activity.
Mormon Helping Hands
Does your ward participate in a Mormon Helping Hands annual service project? Do you invite other scout troops from other denominations to join you you there?
Within the Scouting Program there are many great teaching opportunities to share important gospel principles with non-LDS youth and/or their parents. All of these should be play an important part in your program:
- Ten Commandments Hike - Pack an LDS chapel with a big non-member audience to hear first hand the Joseph Smith story from two of the finest missionaries in the Mission.
- Genealogy Merit Badge - When our scout troop told the non-member scouts that we were going to show them their family tree, ALL of their parents came, anxious to see what it would look like! (100% attendance)
- Top 12 LDS Merit Badges - Great activities for teaching important LDS concepts to the youth of the church.
- LDS Duty to God - First Principle of the Boy Scout Oath is for every scout to learn and perform his Duty to God.
- The Merits of Scouting - Notice that many merit activities include service - (LDS New Era April 2007)
- When Scouting Became My Mission Plan - MainTour.com (Oct 2017)
- Fellowshipping with Those Who Are Not of our Faith by Gordon B Hinckley Teachings - “Let us reach out to help men and women of goodwill, whatever their religious persuasion and wherever they live.”
- Lift Where You Stand by Dieter Uchtdorf - LDS General Conference Oct 2008.
- Scouting: The Means to an End - Tex - (Millennial Star) "The best mission prep I had was working at Boxwell Scout Reservation... (for three years) I taught young men who were not much younger than myself."
- A Pillar Supporting the Priesthood - Strain and Romney - (Feb 2010 LDS Ensign) Whole article if good, but look especially for subheading "High Flying" and the story of Juan Hernandez.
Wards with strong active scouting units get a lot more positive recognition in the local press than those that don't:
- Ye are The Light of the World - In the Sermon on the Mount, the Savior taught us the importance of letting the gospel light shine in our lives. (LDS New Era Matt 5:14-16)
- Topeka-Capital Journal (Feb 2018) - Ethan Lane, 14, a freshman at Washburn Rural High School...
- MesquiteNews.com (Feb 2018) - Three youth of Mesquite 2nd Ward...
- Waunakee Tribune (Feb 2018) - Blankets for Children...
- Guthrie Headed to Houston (Feb 2018) - Major League pitcher and Eagle Scout Jeremy Guthrie to preside over LDS Mission in Houston TX.
- Blood Drive (Feb 2018) - Eagle Scout organizes Blood Drive at local LDS Stake Center. Come donate today!
- Beloit Daily News (Feb 2018) - Eagle Scout renovates community center golf cages...
- Mormon Helping Hands / Scouting for Food (Feb 2018) - KUSI-TV San Diego CA.
- Grow Your LDS Scout Unit - LDS-BSA Guide with ideas about how you and your Scouts can Identify, Invite, and Include more boys and their parents into your Scouting programs.
- Building a Ward Mission Plan
- Mormon Scouting Stories
- Boy Scouts of America -
- History of LDS Scouting -
- When Scouting Became My Mission Plan - MainTour.com
- Top 12 Mormon Merit Badge Activities - MainTour.com
- President Monson Discusses the Strengths of Scouting - This video was prepared for use as the Boy Scouts of America celebrated the 100th anniversary of Scouting in the U.S. in 2010. In the video, President Monson talks about the blessings Scouting can bring to those who live according to its principles.
- The Real Problem for Scouting in the LDS Church - Mat Greenfield - Feb 2015 (Utah Council Blog)
- Why I Like 50 Mile Hikes - David C Pack - Jun 2012 (LDS Ensign)
- Fulfilling Your Duty to God through Scouting Mark Francis (New Era Sept 2013) - "Missionary work has been an important part of Scouting in the Church for the past 100 years. In fact, back in 1913, one reason the general leaders of the young men first recommended that the Church participate with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) was because of the missionary work of our boys associating with their fellows."
- MormonMissionPrep.com -