20 Signs of a Dysfunctional Unit

How does a unit know if their program is running as it should?  Are there signs that could indicate a problem?  If the boys are happy and parents aren’t complaining, isn’t that a healthy unit?

Just to be sure I’m using this word properly, I verified the definition of dysfunctional as:

dys·func·tion·al [ diss fúngkshən’l ]
not performing as expected: failing to perform an expected function

With that in mind, here’s what I think are signs of a dysfunctional scouting unit (and/or Young Men’s Organization if you’re in an LDS troop):

  1. You are the only one in your unit who attends Roundtable.
  2. You are the only direct-contact leader in your unit who has gone to Wood Badge.
  3. No one else has shown any interest in attending the training that’s available for their position because they don’t think they need it.
  4. Your Varsity Scout Team has not been on an outing since they turned 14!  In fact, they think an all-night computer “camp” is their Big Event.
  5. High Adventure involves car camping, golf, boating, frisbee football, outdoor movie nights, leaders in air conditioned RVs and elaborate meals prepared by the adults.
  6. Basketball is the activity week after week.
  7. Adult advisors do all the planning, organizing and carrying out what activities they do have.
  8. Reminder calls (or texts) are not made by the youth leaders.
  9. A few of the boys have been given (or called to) a position, but none have ever had to exercise that role or responsibility.
  10. Your Court of Honor is run by an adult.
  11. Parents (and some boys) have to be coaxed to attend a Court of Honor – especially when they don’t think their scout will to be awarded anything.
  12. Parents and several boys think it’s the job of the Scout leader to get them their Eagle.
  13. Your Scout Committee is not interested in using Journey To Excellence to encourage performance.  You hear comments like: “Isn’t what we have good enough? or “If we’re just doing it for the patch, then I’m not interested.”
  14. Members of the Young Men’s presidency do not see themselves as having a role in scouting – they openly say they are only responsible for the priesthood side of the organization…yet no one is completing Duty To God requirements either!
  15. Your Young Men’s president and his counselors do not have regularly scheduled  presidency meetings. Five minutes while passing in the hall is all they need.
  16. Youth presidencies have had one, maybe two, planning meetings in the past 6 months.
  17. Your Unit Commissioner has never visited your unit.
  18. Your Unit Commissioners do not believe they have any authority or ability to drive change.
  19. You are mocked and criticized by your peers as being “Joe Scouter” because you’ve caught the vision.
  20. The people who should be reading this… never will.

So let me ask again.  If the boys are happy and parents aren’t complaining…BUT…you have any one or more of these conditions above going on, is your unit doing ok?  Would you consider it healthy or functioning as expected?

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6 Responses to 20 Signs of a Dysfunctional Unit

  1. Larry Geiger says:

    1. Hmmmmmmm.
    2. Not a problem.
    3. A real problem!
    4. N/A
    5. “leaders in RVs”. Good grief. Who goes camping where RVs can get to anyway?
    6. Big problem.
    7. The real problem. Not really a Scout Troop.
    8. Ok.
    9. Again, probably not a Scout Troop.
    10. Way over the top. Adults up front? Only the Scoutmaster and only for a minute! :-)
    11. Those boys are not really Scouts. They’ve been locked out of running their own program. Why show up?
    12. Hmmmmmmm again.
    13. Ok.
    14. N/A
    15. N/A
    16. N/A
    17. Sad but common.
    18. Hmmmmmmmmmm.
    19. That’s the way to go!
    20. It’s still good stuff. Maybe someone reading this doesn’t have all 20 issues, maybe only one of them.

  2. Quinten Harvey says:

    Some of the people who should read your blog do!

  3. Evenspor says:

    This reminds me of a recent experience I had. I work with most of our local wards (4 out of 5), trying to help their Cub Scout program. (This is by their request, not as a calling, but when I say, “Get the training,” do you think they listen?) I was told that the other ward has a “strong program.” I recently met a den leader from that ward. It turns out the definition of strong program, in this case, means “enough boys.” I thought it might actually refer to things like two-deep leadership and leaders who know what they’re doing and have taken the training. Silly me. They didn’t even know there was training. They had no idea there’s a Church Handbook on Scouting. The Wolf leader is going to have to take on the Bears and teach both dens by herself because they can’t get enough leaders called. Typical stuff. It blows me away that someone could look at that and say, “Yep, we have a strong program. We’re doing okay.”

  4. Tory Mathis says:

    I’ll be the first to admit the Scouting units in my ward are dysfunctional. And that’s part of the problem–not all of our leaders see it as dysfunctional!

    You should also add a note about uniforms. When the only time a uniform is worn is at a Court of Honor, and it doesn’t even have patches attached, it’s a problem. When the leaders don’t even own a uniform, it’s a big problem.

    I’ll admit, I’m not good at presidency meetings. That’s something I need to improve.

    • Scoutmaster says:

      Good point about the uniforms! That’s a problem for us as well…and I look for ways to fix that too. Check out these two ideas for the patch problem: Scout Sewing Specialist or Stake Scout Seamstress. Option 2 got shot down for us, so I moved forward with Option 1. My hope is to a) provide an option for the boys to get their patches sewn on, as a way to b) help get them excited about showing what they’ve accomplished, that c) promotes wearing their uniform. We’ll see how it works!

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