On Aug. 14 I attended a luncheon at the Knights of Columbus Assumption Council’s hall with Archbishop Kurtz, hosted by the archdiocesan Catholic Committee on Scouting.
This important committee works in conjunction with our Office of Youth and Young Adults on behalf of youth in all four areas of Scouting: Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana, American Heritage Girls and the Troops of St. George. The event included pastors, deacons and youth ministers and served to focus needed attention on the Scouting ministry among our many parish pastoral activities.
As one of the speakers, I presented these “Best Practices for Pastors with Scouting Programs.” Although I addressed these remarks to pastors, I offer them here in hopes that they will be helpful in engaging parishes with Scouting programs.
As I mention below, Scouting is the largest youth program in our parishes. Thus, I hope that parishes (under the leadership of the pastor) will consider forming new Scouting troops if they do not currently have them. It is an excellent and proven effective means of reaching our youth. Feel free to contact Field Director Matt Nash (firstname.lastname@example.org), for Cub Scouts/Boy Scouts, or me (502-267-7494) for any area of Scouting if you have any questions regarding starting a pack or troop.
Here are my “Best Practices for Pastors with Scouting Programs:”
Be present – Your presence is crucial and needed in Scouting at all levels. It does not take much time to just say hello at a troop or pack meeting, attend awards events, show up at camp for dinner with your Scouts or offer to celebrate Mass with your Scouting community.
Establish relationships – Get to know your Scout leaders, especially your Charter Organization Representative. Encourage them in their ministry; help them to engage other adults as Scouting leaders for the future.
Use the pulpit – Make positive examples of youth in your preaching. Achievements and activities make for great illustrations in homiletics. The more you engage with our Scouts and leaders, the more you will have examples of active discipleship, service and positive youth ministry fellowship.
Do not underestimate – Scouting is the largest program-specific youth activity in the Archdiocese of Louisville. There are literally hundreds of youth in our Archdiocese involved in Scouting. These numbers alone dictate that pastors should be involved and present to those in your parish-sponsored Scouting programs.
Not a Scout as a youth? – This does not matter. There are simple ways to simply show up and affirm what Scouting is doing. Your local Scout leaders will be thrilled that you are showing an interest. Let them lead you.
Make a big deal of Scout Sunday in your parish – Please coordinate and allow the Scouting youth and leaders of your parish to take center stage each year with the main Mass for your parish on Scouting Sunday.
Encourage the growth of scouting – Encourage membership drives for local packs or troops before or after Mass or at the school on Scout Sunday, at the beginning of the school year or at other appropriate times of the year.
See scouting as a tool for evangelization – All scouts in a program sponsored by a Catholic parish should be expected to earn their religious awards. These awards are specifically designed to show one’s duty to God. There are both Catholic and Protestant awards for Christianity, as well as awards for other religions. Your support and encouragement in this area is crucial for the full experience of scouting to take place in the life of a young person.
Affirm your scout leaders – Scout leaders are among the hardest working folks in youth ministry. Give them some thanks and recognition. Nominate them for the Salt and Light Award (given annually by the Office of Youth and Young Adults).
Use scouting for continuing education – The National Catholic Committee on Scouting supports the ongoing formation of clergy in all areas of the scouting ministry. Membership in this organization includes a modest annual fee and is available to all clergy and interested laity; the National Catholic Committee also offers many programs for ministerial growth in valuable areas of youth ministry.
Father Troy Overton is pastor of St. Edward Church.