Networking ideas for Pathfinder Ministry
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 26, 2005 2:53 pm 
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Joined: Tue Dec 07, 2004 5:26 pm
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Location: Phoenix, Arizona (USA): NAD
For those of you who have spent time in the Basic Staff Training Course or are taking PLA I hope you have studied punishment vs. discipline. If you have then good, if not some of this may help.

I get frequent questions from youth leaders about discipline, punishment, and control issues. Truthfully I do not have all of the answers and some of the answers I do have will not work everywhere such as Sabbath School or game night at church. My thesis on the matter boils down to one sentence many of you have heard me state. Use a Unified Youth Program (hopefully by July's end I will have the paper available for all of you).

Unified Youth is simply the total integration of oversite and communication for the Children's and Youth Ministries in your church and school. A family aproach that brings all of the teachers and mentors of a child into a single picture within the church family and that brings the whole family to the church. Why will it work? Because it recognizes that religion is a culture and that doctrine/morality is not flexible because it will make a person feel better about who they are. I assure you that the Bible tells you that you can approach Christ as you are, but that once you have you must make the choice to change and become Christian in faith and lifestyle. By managing your local church as a family affair there will rarely be a night or day that something is not available to you and your family that is sponsored by the church. And at those events the behavioral, social conduct and modesty appropriate to Christians is uphelpd as a body.

Bridging the gap is not an easy task in many places and not one I am starting into just now. For those who do not have an ideal system (like most of us); this is intended to address discipline issues in your Pf Club. I was once a Manager at a Public Safety organization that was privately owned and had Unionized employees. One thing is available for me to cross over from that to this: the rules applied to all they were set for and only the most key managers had discretionary authority to look at individual cases for bending the rules. For such action even those senior managers had to defend their choices the next day at the senior briefing.

The first step is to make and keep rules: Remember that "if you give an inch they will take a mile." Shorts for example are a pet peeve to me, I do not like Pathfinders in shorts, not only because they are almost never similar in style and thus lack uniformity but more significantly it matters little what is mandated by the club you will find at least 2 Pathfinders for 10 that are in something "Daisy Duke" short or ripped to shreds. So 1inch =1mile. This will apply to all areas of behavior as well, thus setting the tone for your rules.

Keep a tight schedule: "Idle hands make the Devil's work" (suddenly I am cliche happy). long breaks or too much physical distance between events will lead to a break down in behavior at your meetings and other events. At events, you may march, limiting the travel problems but at your meetings you won't. Make a schedule and keep to it, be prepared ahead of time and do not need to set up for the next thing. Many years ago I heard this question: "Do I need a staff?" YES!!! If your club is has just one kid that is not your own in it (as I hope it does) you need a staff, Things need to keep rolling and that is how you do it.

Get into the program: Are you Pathfinders or an AJY Society? Pathfinder Clubs are disciplined and structured, they wear a uniform and march, they follow a schedule and grow quite large. IF you do not want to march, or have a schedule, if you just want fun time or a sitting service or social gathering you are not "playing Pathfinders." Why be so blunt? I have seen too many embarrassed and upset leaders that had AJYS's they called Pathfinder Clubs and I have seen this manifested at conference gatherings - demoralizing their kids too. An AJYS does not look like a Pathfinder Club and sharing an Aim, Motto, Law, Pledge, Honors and Classwork is not enough to make them twins it only makes them first cousins.

Use a poionts system: ( ... nts+system ). I would tell you now that there is a difference between discipline and punishment. Discipline is a self characterization, follow through and control of one's self. Punishment is the result of failing to be disciplined in one's behavior. Positive reinforcement is great in theory but for most youth you will not find a purely 'pr' method effective. You see; these youth are often not disciplined and until they can learn a need for discipline they will not react to positive reinforcement. Only if they are disciplined an learning does 'pr' work. Example: young boy has trouble reading. He tries hours each day but it is slow comming to him as he is trying to overcome dislexia. Disease is NO excuse and syndromes are even less of one for lack of discipline. This young boy it trying, he is focused and disciplined, this boy does not need punishment, he is not failing in discipline he is percieving or having failure in skill. 'Pr' will help him, he will remain encouraged and keep trying. Type of punishement an issue: If you use any physical disincentive there may be no real harm or help depending on the child. A child lacking discipline who is oft beaten will not change because you made him run laps... He must first desire something, if your program is a good one then he will desire to be a Pathfinder and thus the punishment is to use a points system where if you fail to be disciplined and do what you must you will loose your opportunity to participate. Being left out and having no one to blame but himself will make your Pathfinder try harder and with time a pattern of discipline will appear or improve.

So you now know the difference and have an idea of what you ought do for creating more discipline.
Other tips:
You form the units - kids do not get to choose their unit you do. Classwork age is the best break for them. Never more than 8 with an associate counselor, never more than 5 without.

Involve the kids - your Pathfinder Units should rotate through the execution of opening exercises and prayer. Certain Pathifnders who require more to do, as their potential will show, need special assignments - give them some.

Review your program - if you have a true problem with your club in large numbers review your program, is the failing by accident your own? I have seen that most often, a break just slightly too long between unit time and classwork and 20 minutes will be spent trying to restore order. Always seek ways you can improve yourself, your staff and program these items will help you give a better experience to your youth.

The link above is a discussion line about similar issues here and includes a link to our site that has, for you, a points system that we have used for a couple of generations. It is not boot camp though, try to find the point of balance between your Pathfinders' desire to run amuck and your desire to keep them in rigid line and build on that.

Always remeber to have fun "Playing Pathfinders."

God Bless,

Chris Fishell
Xtreme Youth Resources International

P.S. I wanted to mention I am a HUGE advocate for AJYS and believe it should be used in every classroom and in all other places it is needed. AJYS is a perfect older cousin to the younger Pathfinder program. Not all churches have Pathfinder suited leaders and not all, have Pathfinder suited kids, AJYS is a less formal gathering with similar study. Usually groups that are no larger than 10-12 (often less) youth and divide by age at school; they may meet at the church or the sponsor's home, they will have a formal opening and closing but the between time in their meetings is more like a day camp than Pathfinders. They will only Drill and March to fulfill the class requirements (normally), they will normally have no formal uniform rather just simple shirt and slacks with T's to get active in. They are great if they are what you need but if you go to the Pathfinder Fair thinking you are in that league you will be disappointed, AJYS is an equal league but not playing with the same "rule book." Going knowing that you will feel informal, but be their equals in honors booths and classwork achievement will make the experience better. Going because you want to explore evolving into a Pathfinder Club is a great thing too.


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