A young man visiting our staff campsite earnestly asked our course director about how to deal with a situation that had developed while his clan attempted to carry out a task. This Scout, who was a leader in our Order of the Arrow lodge was clearly frustrated. After making some broad suggestions that amounted to very little in the way of help, our course director sent the Arrowman back to his own campsite. Turning to us with a twinkle in his eye our course director said, “It’s working.”
This was one of the many memorable moments for me during our OA lodge’s recent weeklong leadership training course. Throughout the week youthful Arrowmen honed their leadership skills through a series of discovery experiences where they occasionally met with failure, sometimes by design. Some of our best leaders learned how to expand their skills after realizing that they still had much to learn.
Leadership is vitally important in all walks of life, including in the Church. The Lord began revealing essential leadership principles even before the Church was organized (D&C 20). A steady stream of instruction about leadership centered in Christlike service has continued to this day. The obvious reason for this is that leadership is essential to growing and sustaining the kingdom of God. Disorder ensues in the absence of good leadership, but the Lord’s kingdom “is a house of order” (D&C 132:8).
Fortunately, the Church’s approach to leadership dovetails nicely with leadership principles espoused by the Boy Scouts of America, as aptly described in Bill Chapman’s blog series. The Church needs leaders who are devoted to serving God and His children. This differs sharply from the world’s model, where leaders primarily seek to promote themselves while giving lip service to benefiting others.
During the week of our lodge’s leadership course I queried participants and staff, both LDS and members of other faiths, about what they felt Latter-day Saint Scouting leaders should know about the Order of the Arrow. Each of them wanted me to write about our leadership course. When I asked why, the common answer was that the Church and those that interact with Church members in various settings desperately need service-oriented leaders with high morals.
Virtuous leadership qualities don’t suddenly develop when people become adults. Good leaders are created through experiences that become part of their very nature. The ideals and skills of true servant leadership need to be instilled in youth as early as possible, and youth need opportunities to regularly employ and enhance these skills.
Not only was this the chief aim of our OA leadership training course, it is the ultimate goal of everything the Order does. OA members work and serve together, often toiling to help others. They lead and guide each other. And they have a lot of fun along the way. Our youth in the Church do this too, but the OA offers enhanced opportunities. You might think of active OA membership as gaining an advanced degree in servant leadership.
At one point during our leadership course I watched our lodge chief support, sustain, and follow the instructions of his clan chief, a 12-year-old boy who had joined the Order only a month earlier. The best leaders also learn to be good followers who build the organization from their current stations. The OA offers many chances for boys to better learn this essential element of discipleship.
Youth today have more options vying for their limited time than anyone imagined could be possible when I was their age. It seems that young people, including bearers of the Aaronic Priesthood are often attracted to activities that aren’t necessarily bad, but that do little to develop those traits that are essential to meaningful life on earth and happiness in the eternities. In stark contrast, the OA takes a purposeful approach to providing opportunities for boys to develop eternally valuable characteristics and to lead others in doing so.
Questions to Ponder
- How important is it for Aaronic Priesthood bearers to develop servant leadership qualities?
- Did you know that the OA offers enhanced opportunities for young men to accomplish this and to do much good beyond the confines of the Church?
- How will you use this understanding to bless the youth you are called to serve?
-Scott Hinrichs has been actively Scouting since age eight. He has served in many youth and adult Scouting positions and has been a member of the Order of the Arrow for more than four decades. He and his wife are raising their family in North Ogden, Utah. The views and opinions expressed in this message are solely those of the author.