2 Powerful Lessons About Keeping a Group Together

My son and I were soaked to the bone from the Cub Scout hike, but still had a great time!

My son and I are getting ready to go home after our first Cub Scout hike together. Despite the nearly-constant rain on the hike we had a great time and we learned about leadership in the process.

Last month I had the privilege of going with my son a Cub Scout hike. On the hike, the Den Leader taught the boys two important lessons about how to keep a group together on a hike. I’d like to tell you about those lessons and how they tie in with some of my own thinking about decision making by consensus.

The First Lesson

The hike began with us walking down a stony path to a clearing. When we got to the clearing the Den Leader stopped the group and waited for everyone to catch up.

Then the Den Leader asked the group who was the slowest hiker. It seemed to me an awkward question–I mean, who wants to be known as the slow kid?

But the purpose of asking, the leader explained, was because “we don’t leave anyone behind.” Therefore the slowest hiker was called upon to lead the group, to set the pace.

I loved this so much because here all of suddenly the slowest hiker got a confidence boost by being in a leadership role!

The Second Lesson

Right after the lead hiker was chosen, the Den Leader instructed the lead hiker on a dialog to begin the hike. He was to ask the group, “Is anyone not ready?”

Of course this is very different than we’re used to. We usually ask it like “Are you ready?” or “Is everyone ready?”

It seems like the same question just asked a different way. But that different way of asking the question is actually much better at finding what you need to know!

Since it was already established that “we don’t leave anyone behind,” it is important to know if someone in the group is not ready to go forward. So the quickest way to find out is to ask directly if anyone is not ready!

The Den Leader explained that when you ask something like, “Is everyone ready?” instead, then the voices of those who are ready all-too-easily drown out the voices of the few who are not. This puts those who are not ready in jeopardy of being left behind.

Connections with Consensus Model

These two lessons–about having the slowest hiker be first and about checking on whoever is not ready–remind me a lot of what I have studied about the process of making decisions by consensus. I have mentioned my work with that on behalf of my Deaconess community in a previous post.

One of the essential aspects of my Deaconess community’s practice in decision making by consensus is the idea that we honor the input from everyone in the group–and especially those who are most vulnerable.

In consensus-based decision making, we’re not trying to carry on at all costs. We don’t want to leave anyone behind!

Just as in the Cub Scout hike the slow hiker was invited to lead, so in the consensus model the one who is most vulnerable is invited to teach the group a different perspective. New proposals can then be crafted that take this new perspective into account.

Another principle we are trying to put into practice in my Deaconess community’s use of the consensus model is the idea of asking questions the different way. When the group seems close to adopting a new proposal we are learning to ask, “Are there any concerns about this proposal?”

The momentum of the majority of the group toward a decision makes it easy to want to ask, “Do we have agreement?” But just like on the Cub Scout hike, the “yes” answers too easily drown out the voices of those who are “not ready” to move forward.

Taking the time to check for remaining concerns may sometimes be a mere formality when, in fact, everyone is actually ready. But in the times when someone is truly not ready to move on a decision, that is vital information for the group so that noone gets drowned out and left behind.

I love that my son is getting these lessons in scouts. I want him to be attuned to the vulnerable, to those at risk of being left behind. And these powerful lessons are valuable for us grown-ups too!

Note to regular readers: If you’re watching the “How Christian Community Helps Us Face Challenges” posts, you can expect a new one next week.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by catherine on November 23, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    <3d this!

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