Tips for running Scouts’ Owns

Six keys to more effective spiritual programs

By Scouter Liam Morland, January 2001

A Scouts’ Own is an important but often misunderstood part of a Scouting program. This article will briefly provide a few hints to help in the planning of Scouts’ Owns which are useful and representative of the needs of the young people.

Scouts' Own as a gathering of Scouts (from any section) held to contribute to the development of their spirituality and to promote a fuller understanding of the Scout Law. Baden-Powell wrote that nature is a great place to get young people to think of higher things. The World Organization of the Scout Movement writes that the "whole educational approach of the Scout Movement consists in helping young people transcend the material world and go in search of the spiritual values of life". A Scouts' Own is part of this. Here are things to keep in mind when making a Scouts' Own:

  1. Scouts come from a wide variety of religious backgrounds. In Canada and in your troop, there are Christians of various sorts, members of non-Christian religions, people who are not members of any religious organization, people who would not articulate any belief, people who would say that they don't believe anything spiritual, and countless others. The vast majority of Canadians, including your Scouts, do not attend any church regularly. A Scouts' Own must not exclude people because of their beliefs.
  2. A Scouts' Own is not a church service so it need not look like one. If the Scouts don't want to sing kum-ba-ya, then forcing them will not benefit them spiritually. They may develop a distaste for Scouts' Owns, however. Likewise, one need not include any particular sequence of events and one need not announce that this or that part of the Scouts' Own is a prayer.
  3. A Scouts' Own should have a specific message which the leader of the Scouts' Own wishes to impart. For Beavers and Cubs in particular, this needs to be simple and illustrated with many examples. It is a good idea to have multiple levels to the message: a simple one that all can grasp and a advanced idea for those who are more mature.
  4. Stories are a good starting point. One can tell a story then discuss it with the Scouts. Find some way to tie it back to the Scout Law and other experiences that the Scouts have had. One need not fully explain a story. Sometimes it is more effective to let the story hide its truth until the hearer is ready to understand it.
  5. Prayers should be simple and must not be sectarian. Grace before a meal can be something like "I am thankful for the fun had today and for the food that we are about to eat." Prayers should not close with "Amen" since this is a Christian-specific word (individuals may say this word privately if they wish).
  6. Above all, focus on what the Scouts' Own is trying to accomplish. Only do things that will help Scouts develop spiritually and gain a better understanding of the Scout Law.

A longer discussion of Scouts' Owns and two examples are in my article "What is a Scouts' Own?".