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Unclear Ministry Objectives
Symptoms of Unclear Ministry Objectives Leaders don't agree on the purpose for small groups The church's road to ministry progress is blocked Relationships are breaking down among those most committed to community Church members expect too much attention from the staff Small groups have a myopic vision and don't know their role in the overall church strategy
It was the meeting to end all meetings. I (Bill) still get a shudder when I think of it. My son was in the Cub Scouts, and a meeting had been called for boys and their parents to attend. We arrived on time and took our place among the eleven boys and fifteen parents who were able to attend.
"Okay, so let's get started," began Kevin, the forty-five-year-old scoutmaster. "It is that time again when we should be thinking about the annual Cub Scout campout. Does anyone have any thoughts?"
"We will need some trucks to carry the garbage out after the boys leave," said one father.
"Why don't we have a different menu than last year?" asked Maria. "I think the boys are getting tired of peanut butter!"
About thirty seconds of silence reigned among us as we gathered in the cluttered church basement where these dreadful meetings were endured. Then seven-year-old Bobby broke the silence.
"What if it rains again? I hate it when it rains."
"You're a wimp!" said Mark, an eight-year-old veteran of camping life, whose speech was often laced with such encouraging words for his fellow Scouts. Others chimed in with their cracks and jokes.
"Okay, calm down. Let's just stay with the program we did last year," the scoutmaster suggested. "It seems like that worked fine." Unless, that is, like our family, you were not involved last year. We had no idea what to expect this year or what had taken place last year as hundreds of young boys invaded the forests of Illinois.
"Last year was great . . ." started young Mike, pausing long enough for Kevin and the parents to think this whole camping experience might actually have some impact, ". . . if you like mosquitoes and mud!" The room erupted in laughter. Little Mike pleaded, "Please don't make us go to the same campground! That place was a swamp!" By now the boys were roaring hysterically and parents were needed to help restore order.
"That's enough boys--settle down. Parents, we need your help with this event. Who would like to volunteer to help this year?" asked Kevin. "We'll need about ten people. Our troop is responsible for organizing the sports equipment and games."
The response was unanimous: fifteen parents sat motionless as they pondered why they had chosen scouting instead of swimming lessons. I could be lounging by the pool, getting a tan, watching my kids frolic in the warm summer sun. Instead I will probably be trudging through a sweltering forest, fending off insect attacks, and struggling to get three hours of sleep in a tent with a group of second graders whose life ambition is to do exactly the opposite of everything I say.
"What about skills? Will the boys learn any skills?" asked Harold. At a Scout camp in 1967 Harold had learned to tie an assortment of knots. "I want my boy to learn something while he's there. Won't they learn to set up a tent, or carve something, or maybe build a fire?" Harold's plea caught Kevin off guard. He was thinking logistics, not skills. He had parents to recruit, not kids to train.
Harold's comment forced me to think. Isn't that what scouting is for? Isn't scouting supposed to train young men in the fine art of frontier survival--to impart skills for fending off wild animals without a weapon, catching fish with their bare hands, and building a log home without an axe? Scout camps should be raising up the next generation of Daniel Boones and Davy Crockets!
"I don't want my son playing with fire," said Linda, who thinks the Cub Scouts are a babysitting service with uniforms. "The last thing I need is to spend all day in the emergency room! Oh, and my son Jimmy has a question. He wants to know if the kids will be allowed to bring video games along."
Sure. And why not a portable refrigerator, a mobile phone, and a laptop computer so he and the boys can keep up with the latest trends in the stock market? So much for developing the next King of the Wild Frontier.
"There will be plenty of safe things for the boys to do," assured a frustrated scoutmaster. "But no video games are allowed. Now, as I was saying, we will need people to plan the activities and supervise the boys at each of the sporting events. Does anyone have a bow and arrow and know how to shoot it?"
At this point in the meeting I wished I had brought one along. This misery had to end, one way or another. Others seemed to share this sentiment. (A few parents in the back of the room were contemplating a game of Russian roulette, several mothers were angry that their husbands were home watching baseball, and the boys--who had crossed the boredom threshold long ago--were beginning to plot the abduction of the scoutmaster one evening at camp.)
Mrs. Peters and her son Jeffrey, late arrivals to the meeting, suggested that all the parents attend the camp and share a tent so they could all "experience scouting firsthand." She was never seen again. Authorities are still looking for her. Well, actually that's not true, but it got pretty close. "Why don't we just skip this year? Nobody has time to take three days off work in the middle of the week to help." A few others nodded. "But then there would be no archery, BB guns, rope swings, or late-night campfire stories" lamented the boys.
And no mosquitoes, no portable toilets, and no muscle cramps, thought the parents.
By this point even our beloved scoutmaster had had about all he could take, so he raised his voice to get everyone's attention. "Look, we have to do this camp--all the other troops will be there, and it will be just fine! Now, who can help?"
Posted December 20, 2009
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