Young Men Program Guidelines – What to do Now?


Kevin V. Hunt

Scouting Historian, Author, Blogger, Speaker, Scouting Veteran, and Camp Director

Well, the LDS Church recently announced that it will no longer support Varsity Scouting and Venturing for our church older youth.  So, what are you going to do with that news?  What to do now?

Recent changes are coming for Varsity and Venturing youth in the LDS Church.  See my blog of last week entitled:  Major Changes for LDS Varsity Scouts and Venturers.  In that blog, I quoted the Church’s published Teacher and Priest Guidelines which accompanied the First Presidency Letter which announced the changes.  That document provides many basic guidelines for Priest and Teacher activities.  Those guidelines can be the basis for all of your activities and programs for the older boy – now and after January 1, 2018 when the changes become effective.

The “new program” is very simple.  The General Young Men Presidency has given some basic principles to guide our program planning.  They say (on LDS.Org) at that as adult leaders and advisers of young men, our purpose may be summarized as:

[To] Help young men become converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ, magnify their priesthood duties, and prepare to fulfill their divine roles.  

So, that is our goal or objective.  Then to achieve that purpose, Young Men leaders are invited to focus on three principles:

  1. Be with them.
  2. Connect them with heaven.
  3. Let them lead.

The General Young Men Presidency then said, “As we apply these principles in our Young Men activities, we will strengthen the young men of the Church.”

If we are going to accomplish these purposes and principles, then we need to plan and implement effective activities for the Young Men.   And that brings us right back to program planning.  It always seems to come back to this.  In order to achieve the stated goals and objectives with our youth, we need to plan activities and events so that we can be with the youth, help connect them with heaven and to let them lead. So, with this in mind, we can’t hit the program planning function hard enough.  It really is the crux of the whole youth program – whether for boys or for girls – or for whatever age.  Program planning is simply the KEY to success.

Also in last week’s blog, I shared some links for program planning.  I again invite you to peruse those.  And as an aide to your program planning, this week, I introduce a simple YOUTH PROGRAM PLANNING WORKSHEET.  (Click on the link and the PDF Excel spreadsheet will open up.) Again, this is quite a simple form.  It is designed to get you through a quarter of the calendar year.   (You can have a quarterly planning meeting – but a better idea would be to stage an Annual Program Planning Conference.   And if you’re planning quarterly, a “rolling” quarter plan is best:  Always be working on three months – this month, next month and the one after that.

To use the form, list the dates (Mutual nights, other nights, and weekends) within the quarter that you want to stage events or activities.  Then define a purpose for the gathering.  Next, choose an activity to be done.  Then put some people in charge of planning and motivating the rest of the group.  And finally, list the best resource for each event.  This could be the Scout Handbook, a merit badge book, the “Faith in God” booklet, the YW “Personal Progress” booklet, or the Youth Activities section at @LDS.ORG.

If you train and motivate and inspire your youth (and the youth leaders of each quorum or group – not the advisers), you can easily plan a full activity program that will be fun and exciting while meeting the program guidelines and objectives as outlined by the church.  And you really don’t have to have a “new program”.  All you need to do is to implement what you already have at your fingertips.  Just start planning and some great things will happen with you and your young men (and/or young ladies).  And in the process, you will have many opportunities to BE WITH THEM, to CONNECT THEM WITH HEAVEN and to LET THEM LEAD.  That’s what it’s all about!  Get planning to do it!

Best wishes along your Scouting Trails …  Kevinthescoutblogger

See this link for an introduction to Kevin the Scouting Trails Blogger.  Blogging articles have excerpts taken from Kevin’s many personal journals and Scouting Trails books including “MR. Scoutmaster!”, “Keys to Scouting Leadership,” “Gnubie to Eagle Scout”,  and others at his Scoutingtrails website.  Connect with Kevin and read his articles on Scouting blogsites such as The Boy ScoutThe Scouting Trail and the Voice of Scouting.  Feel free to comment on anything you read!  Find Kevin on Facebook at:  Scouting Trails Books and Blogs.

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@ 2017 Kevin V. Hunt





Having Fun with the Planned Program



Kevin V. Hunt

Scouting Historian, Author and Speaker, Scouting Veteran, Camp Director

I’ve been writing about the program planning process – and have used some specific plans and programs established with my Varsity Scout team.  I talked about the annual program planning conference and then most recently about organizing the group – adults and youth – to make the plans happen.   With the plan in place and the group working together, the remaining action to take was just having fun with the planned program.

We had a great time in Varsity Scouting that year.  We had a variety of fun activities which we all enjoyed.  One time the guys came to my house for ice cream and to celebrate the birthday of one of the boys.

We went to Salt Lake City and toured the new Jordan River Temple.  We served at a Christmas party put on by the Kiwanis Club for kids of the community.  We held our own competition in many of the Varsity Games events.  We went to the Elk’s Club and presented a flag ceremony at one of their meetings.  Once we went and heard a live broadcast of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

One time we got all of our Varsity Scouts and their dads together.  We all went down to Salt Lake City again.  We first went to the Spaghetti Factory in Trolley Square for dinner.  Then we all went to the annual general conference of our church.  This was a very special experience for everyone.

One boy received his Eagle Award while on our team so this was exciting.  We held a special recognition for him.


On some other occasions we went ice fishing on a frozen lake and attended the district’s Klondike Derby.  We all froze on both occasions but looking back it it, we can say that it was fun.

We had a service project one night and we did a clean-up of the yard surrounding the council service center.  Another time we did the same thing in the yard of a widow lady in our area.

One experience was a real eye opener for our guys.  We decided to visit a church service of a different denomination.  Before visiting the church, however, we called the minister to make prior arrangements.  I found it interesting that three different ministers all told us that they did not want us to come to their church.

Finally though, we found a minister who said they’d be pleased to have us come to their services.  So one Sunday evening we made the visit to a very small little church on the other side of town.  It was an all-black, Pentecostal Church.  The boys were a little apprehensive about the coming experience but I assured them that we’d have no problems.

As we arrived at the little church, we were met by the Black minister.  You would have thought that we were all his long-lost sons.  He welcomed us with open arms.  He was obviously thrilled to have us there.


All of the other members of the congregation also came up and said how pleased they were that we’d come to their church.  As the minister started the services, he again made a big deal about our presence there.  He had each one of us stand to introduce ourselves.

The boys soon felt at home and we had a great experience with those special people.  My guys really enjoyed the evening.  We left with a new appreciation for our black brothers and sisters and the beliefs of this particular group.  The boys talked of that experience for many months to come.

Another fun activity that we had as a team was a mother and son progressive dinner.  The boys planned the menu and were all excited about the scheduled “dates” with their moms.  The mothers too, were excited since they’d never had an activity of this type with their boys.  We decided to have spaghetti as the main course.

Altogether our group of boys and moms numbered about ten people and since we had so few boys, we all had food assignments.  Also, one of the courses of the meal was scheduled to be eaten at each home. One family was assigned to bring hors devours, another the salads, another had snacks for during the movie and another family was assigned dessert.

One family had twin sons.  Since they had two sons, we thought they could handle two assignments, the garlic bread and the spaghetti.  The family, whom we’ll call the Doles (and the names have been changed to protect the innocent) were outraged at this extreme unfairness we put upon them.  Though they were fairly well off, they claimed that it would be a financial burden on them to provide “so much”.

Finally I volunteered to have the bread and spaghetti at my own home even though it was not real convenient to do so.  My wife was pregnant and due at the time the activity was to be held so I had purposely held off planning for any of the meal to be at our home.  As it turned out, my wife and our third daughter came home from the hospital the very day of the event.  She graciously made the bread and spaghetti for us.

The night of the big event came.  All of the mothers and sons participated.  The Doles (appropriate name, huh?) were, of course, there to help eat their fair share of the food even though they now had it arranged perfectly so that they didn’t have to bring any of it.  All three Doles “pigged out” and acted unaware of the inconvenience they had caused my family.

Anyway, we all had a very pleasant evening.  The boys and mothers all had a great time and got to know each other better through the activity.

The program I have outlined will work just as well for the Venturing program (or any youth group – for that matter) as it does for Varsity Scouting.  The only difference is that Venturing has experience areas rather than the five program areas of Varsity Scouting.  The principles, however, are the same.

Best wishes along your Scouting Trails …  Kevin

Excerpts taken from Kevin’s many personal journals and Scouting Trails books including “MR. Scoutmaster!”, “Keys to Scouting Leadership,” “Gnubie to Eagle Scout”,  and others at his Scoutingtrails website.  Connect with Kevin and read his articles on Scouting blogsites such as The Boy ScoutThe Scouting Trail and The Voice of Scouting.  Feel free to comment on anything you read!

Facebook:  Scouting Trails Books and Blogs

To explore or buy Kevin’s books on Amazon, go to:

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The Annual Planning Conference Makes for a Great Program


Kevin V. Hunt

Scouting Historian, Author and Speaker, Scouting Veteran, Camp Director

For years, I’d been telling leaders how to make the annual planning conference so that it was fun, rewarding and beneficial for all.  I knew that the annual Planning Conference makes for a great program.   Now I was a Varsity Scout Coach and it was time to again put the planning conference to the test.  It was fun to actually test with my own guys the calendaring process that I’d been teaching all along.

Before I get going, I want to say that the program planning principles that I am about to introduce will work for Cub Packs, Scout Troops, Varsity Teams, Venturing Crews, and any other youth, civic, or church group.  I invite you to give them a try.  Your program will be wonderful and great things will happen in the lives of others in groups you are a part of.

I wanted our planning conference to be in a retreat type setting where the boys would not be distracted by paper routes, home, and other activities.  Having an “in” with the Scouting Council, I arranged to use the Camp Director’s cabin at Camp Bartlett. Bartlett was about two hours away and it provided some excitement and adventure not found in our normal camping areas closer to town.


The “Dream” Cabin for your planning retreat

The cabin provided a comfortable setting for our training sessions.  It was also secluded enough that we could meet without being disturbed by others.  It also provided a variety of program resources for our added enjoyment.

One of my bosses wanted several things taken up to the camp after he learned that I was going up there.  He asked that we drive the council’s van up with the supplies.

We had a terrible time just getting out of town.  As usual the … van wasn’t quite up to par.  It seemed it always worked great until you needed to use it.  After a flat tire and other trauma en route, we finally arrived up at camp about ten o’clock that night.

We got into the cabin and there was plenty of room for all of us.  The warm heater made it nice and cozy even though I discovered, to my dismay, that in the rush of everything, I had forgotten my sleeping bag and would be spending my night on the couch without it.

Even though we arrived kind of late, my friend George, who was my assistant for that couple of months only, and I met with the guys in an orientation session.  We reviewed our plan for the conference; our purpose in being up there and what we hoped to accomplish through our retreat.  The guys were mellow and real teachable.

I’ve since been on several planning retreats of this kind and find the Friday evening of the experience to be a good time to train the guys in the basics of the program and to review with them their individual responsibilities within the team organization.troop-organization-chart

After the short training session we had some fun.  We had a brief campfire program (without the fire) and sang a few songs together.  We topped the evening off with a feast of “S’mores”.

We culminated the evening by kneeling in a circle for prayer together.  This, in itself, was a beautiful experience.

I was glad to learn after the evening’s activities that George had brought along an extra blanket which he said he didn’t need.  Even with just the one blanket, I was almost too warm there by the heater.

Normally on a hike it is best to let the guys do all of the cooking and clean-up after meals.  With this retreat experience, however, we wanted the boys to relax and kick back a little.  We really wanted the experience to be something they’d remember.

planning-conference-foodConsequently, George and I were up early cooking bacon, hot bisquits and eggs with all the other trimmings for breakfast.  The boys soon awoke to that wonderful smell of sizzling bacon.  They were dressed and ready to devour the food the second that we had it ready for them.

From our orientation the night before the kids knew we were there to work and that if we got the work done in a timely manner we’d have some time for hiking and fun later on.

We impressed the boys with the fact that by taking the necessary time that morning to plan the calendar for the coming year we’d have a super year packed with fun activities.

We started our first group session right after breakfast.  George did the dishes as I met with the guys.  We had a real brief overview of the Varsity Scouting program and it’s five areas of program emphasis.  We organized the team around those five areas – just as we had earlier with the adults.

Each boy on the team was given a leadership position of some kind.  One boy became the Team Captain, and since our group was so small, he was also the Squad Leader.  All of the other boys were Program Managers over one or more of the five Varsity programs.

Prior to the planning retreat I’d polled each of the kids with a survey to see what kind of activities they’d enjoy doing.  On the list I’d put anything and everything I could think of in the way of activities  They then simply made a check mark by any of the activities they personally would sometime like to do with the team at some time.

I had even obtained this list from the couple of kids from our church organization who were not currently actively involved with us.  I used their interest sheets that morning as we started the calendaring process.

I had also made a composite tally of all of the survey sheets so that I knew the activities which a majority of the boys wanted to do and also those in which no one had expressed interest.  I didn’t make these results public but I knew what they were and could thus interject them at appropriate times in the calendaring process (but done in such a way that the kids thought they were their own ideas).

Prior to the start of our morning session I mounted five large sheets on the walls throughout the cabin.  On each sheet was the name of one of the five program areas for Varsity Scouting.  There were sheets for Advancement, High Adventure Activities, Personal Development, Service, and Special Events.

I then had the guys start telling us activities they’d like to do.  I said, “Just start throwing ideas at us as fast as you can.”  Since they had done my interest survey just a couple of days earlier, they brought up many activities from that list plus many others.

By this time, George was done with the dishes.  He and I started writing activities as fast as the boys could come up with them.  As they mentioned something, we added it to the appropriate chart in whichever of the five program areas it fit best.  We did not censure any of the activities suggested by the boys but let them put anything they wanted on the list.

One more thing that we did prior to the conference was the completion of the resource survey sheet which I alluded to in the chapter on Resources.  We had taken time in one of our church meetings and had all of the men and women present complete the survey.  On the survey, people checked or listed their professions, hobbies, or special interests, contacts and other information that could be helpful to us.

After a perusal of the resource sheets it was quickly evident that the sky was the limit.  With all of that “program capability” we could have great activities for two or three years or more and still not do them all.  Again, with these sheets I could interject some program ideas into the brain- storming conversation as desired.

We let the guys name all of the activities they could come up with.  When we had exhausted their imaginations we halted that part of the program.

By this time the guys were ready for a break.  George taught them how to make sling shots and they had fun pitching rocks with them outside for a few minutes.  After running around and getting some fresh air, they were ready to plow into it again.

When George got the guys rounded up and back in the cabin they were greeted with large calendars I had posted everywhere.  While they were out I had posted a two foot square calendar for each month of the coming year.

Back at home I had previously listed other activities on the calendars in various ink colors.  Shown there were key dates of activities for our church, their school, holidays, hunting seasons, community parades, Etc.

I always have to get a song in there somewhere, so after a rousing song or two we were ready for action.  I pointed out the calendars and said that we now needed to determine specific dates for some of the activities we had listed on the other charts earlier.  We reviewed again the five program areas and stressed the need to build a program with activities from each of the five areas.

When calendared with the other church, school and civic activities it worked out that we could do one activity from each of the five areas within a three month period.  The Personal Development area did get a little more space than the other areas since it really is made up of the five additional sub-areas of Spirituality, Leadership, Citizenship, Social Attributes, and Physical Fitness.

As the guys decided upon an activity, we wrote it in big letters into the calendar.  Here again, I was able to get the kids to add a couple of the activities in which some of the inactive had expressed an interest.  I had suggested a couple of their ideas in the earlier discussion.

The boys very quickly realized that they had to be fairly selective in choosing the activities we would do.  There was no way there would be time to do everything on the lists.  They had some good discussion about which activities would be the most fun.

By this time I was in kind of a back-seat role.  The Team Captain was guiding the team and moderated the discussion.  I was just the secretary recording their decisions.

Within a short period of time we were done with the calendar.  We’d planned some great activities and the boys were excited about what they had done.  “Hey! This is going to be a great year!” one of them said.

The boys were also a little frustrated.  There were so many things that they wanted to do that were still on the original lists and with no time do them all. “Oh, well! There is always next year,” I told them. In fact, I had to restrain them a bit so that they wouldn’t over-calendar with more than we could all handle.

With the calendar complete, we sent the guys out under the Captain’s leadership to do a short service project for the camp.  They also took a short hike down into “Mosquito Valley” to try out their slings again.  George and I had a hearty lunch ready as they returned.

We had now accomplished our task and were ready to return home.  Our conference had been a grand success.  We had pulled together as a team, we’d had an activity from all of the five program areas, and we had planned some exciting programs for the coming year.

In addition, the guys knew their team organization and where they fit into making it all happen.  They knew that now they’d go back home and would work on the specific activities that fell within their program manager responsibilities of the five program areas.

After the heavy lunch the guys soon fell asleep as we trekked home.  We’d worn them out!  George had the job of talking to keep me awake as I drove.

Best wishes along your Scouting Trails …  Kevin

Excerpts taken from Kevin’s many personal journals and Scouting Trails books including “MR. Scoutmaster!”, “Keys to Scouting Leadership,” “Gnubie to Eagle Scout”,  and others at his Scoutingtrails website.  Connect with Kevin and read his articles on Scouting blogsites such as The Boy ScoutThe Scouting Trail and The Voice of Scouting.  Feel free to comment on anything you read!

Facebook:  Scouting Trails Books and Blogs

To explore or buy Kevin’s books on Amazon, go to:

Contact Kevin directly via email: