My local priesthood leaders were the ones who were encouraging me to attend. I wasn't sure about attending. I kept finding reasons to put it off, but I eventually gave in to their requests even though I wasn't even sure what Wood Badge was. I thought, "If I just go, then they will quit bugging me about it." Upon arriving, I realized I wasn't the only one who wasn't super excited about going. There were others who required even more "encouragement" to attend (i.e. "arm twisting" if you will). However, looking back, participating in Wood Badge was well worth any sacrifice to get there, and all who attended were glad they did. We all wished we weren't so stubborn in our efforts not to attend. We would have missed out an a life-changing experience. You just have to attend to know what I mean. I strongly recommend Wood Badge to those given the blessed opportunity to attend.
Wood Badge is a leadership training course for adult leaders involved in any aspect of scouting (cub scouts all the way through the venturing program). Your course curriculum includes training to be utilized in a variety of situations. The following is a list of some of the subject material: listening to learn, understanding (values, missions, and vision), leveraging diversity, team development, communicating, project planning, using EDGE methods, leading change, problem solving & decision making, manging conflict, coaching & mentoring, self assessment, and leaving a legacy. The training applies to scouting, your personal & family life, and potentially your work setting as well. It's not all just instruction by lectures. You have several different activities and games. You learn to think better and work together in a group. it really is a lot of fun.
However, Wood Badge is much more than just leadership training. If wood badge was only the "classroom" training, there would be nothing special about it. The Spirit is what makes Wood Badge special. There is a spirit at Wood Badge that doesn't exist in any other setting. No matter which location your Wood Badge course is at, the spirit of the Lord is there. I believe the spirit is strong at Wood Badge because the training is intended to help leaders know how to help young men be the best they can be. Those who have attended Wood Badge know what I mean. It's difficult to explain in words, so it's just better for you to attend Wood Badge to gain your own testimony of it.
I loved Wood Badge because it gives you (as the "scout" or "patrol member") a first-hand understanding of how the ideal scouting experience should be for each young man. You see how all the different roles work together for the whole program to function. You even fill out some of those roles yourself. No matter how good, bad, or non-existent your own scouting experience was as a boy; you know what scouts should be when you complete a Wood Badge course.
You meet new friends in your assigned patrol and you learn things from them you wouldn't learn in any other setting. I know my patrol assignment was inspired, and my patrol members helped to make my Wood Badge experience fun and memorable. My patrol members were great examples to me and I saw characteristics in them that I want to acquire for myself. It's amazing how you can go from complete strangers to dear friends in 5 days time.
During Wood Badge, the attendee creates a "ticket" which is a set of goals to be completed by 18 months time. There are 5 categories to focus on for areas of improvement in your life: Personal, Family, Scouting Unit, Community, and a Diversity goal. You set the goal and the requirements for completion. Your Wood Badge experience is complete when you've completed your "ticket" and have therefore, "earned your beads". You are awarded a necklace with wood beads which are replicas of something given to Baden-Powell (long story). You are also given a new neckerchief and a "woggle". You learn to tie a woggle on your first day of the course. Ask someone who's been to wood badge what a woggle is.
People ask, "So what did you learn?" That's a loaded question. I wish not to go into all the individual different leadership techniques that were taught. That's too much for a blog post and not necessarily what Wood Badge is all about. Wood Badge is about "The One". The One boy who needs to be brought into the fold. The One who needs to be taken under the wing of the troop/patrol and scoutmaster. The One who needs to be found before other evil influences find him and make the boy less than he is destined to be.
So what did I learn? Suffice it to say that now I have real direction on what I should be focusing on in my role as a Varsity Coach in the scouting program. I know what I should do to most effectively carry out my calling as a leader of young men. Before I thought it was all about making sure the boys got their Eagle scout. However, I found it interesting that Wood Badge teaches that the goal of scouting is for every scout to be at least a First Class rank. I know the Eagle rank is important; but now I have a firm testimony that each individual boy is worth more than any rank. A troop of 8 less-than-eagle (first class) scouts who are ALL active in scouts and church attendance (progressing in their faith & testimony of Christ and his gospel) is better than a group of 8 boys of whom 20% are eagles but maybe another 20% are "not accounted for" and are "lost" by the wayside. The complete success of some boys should not come at the price of zero success of others.
I feel as if to say that scouting is meant more as a tool to keep young men on the straight and narrow path. The location on the path (tenderfoot or Eagle) is not as important as that fact that they are at least on that straight and narrow path and heading in the right direction. Scouting builds a boy's confidence and teaches boys to be men. Having your boys acquire Eagle status is a fine thing; however, having all young men "present & accounted for" is going to be my new focus from here on out. I have a stronger testimony that the, "worth of souls is great in the sight of God." I have a greater understanding of what our young men are up against. I have increased faith that the Lord will magnify any efforts made to bring young men back from the brink of disaster. My prayer is that all who have the opportunity to attend Wood Badge will do so willingly and will look forward to it with excitement. I had a great time and will be made a better man for attending the course and "working" my ticket.
I want to express my love and appreciation to my wife. I love her so much! I know it wasn't easy having me away for a week. I know that I'm an extremely lucky man, and I would be nothing without her. Annie is a remarkable woman and an outstanding mother! I'm so glad we're together and have 3 young boys of our own. I'm glad I had this Wood Badge experience now and not when it may be to late to apply the training to my own boys. I love my family so much and I missed them dearly while I was away.
I know God lives. I know Jesus is the Christ. The gospel is true. The Lord has provided us with covenants so that we my rise to our potential to be as He is. It is my prayer that we may serve faithfully in our callings such that we will be worthy of blessings promised through our covenants. The Lord does not require us to be perfect, but he does require that we be willing. I am willing to serve the Lord by helping these young men be the best they can be.