Lodge Ledger: Introducing the Developing Youth Leaders Conference

By Kyle Hoffmann

All Boy Scouts are natural innovators. We seek to take what is given to us and make it better. At camp, one can always see a Scout fashioning gadgets out of wood and rope. He finds sticks and ties them together to create something useful, something productive. This innovation, however, extends well beyond individual Scouts.

Recently, the Order of the Arrow began innovating on a large scale with its new training program, the Developing Youth Leaders Conference (DYLC). As it has been doing for the past hundred years, the Order has been fashioning outstanding youth leaders and advisers.

And for the past hundred years, the Order of the Arrow’s development of these individuals through training has been a key part of Scouting’s program. But the Order of the Arrow, being comprised of Scouts, was keen to seek what could be made better. They found that the exciting, engaging aspects of the National Leaders Seminar would work wonders as a part of training adults. Thus, the Developing Youth Leaders Conference was born.

The National Lodge Adviser Training Seminar was designed and implemented for lodge advisers to instruct them on how to run a lodge. It covered topics such as budgets, ceremonies and brotherhood conversions. What some found lacking in the program though was that it was very much ‘lodge’ yet not enough ‘adviser’. David Garrett, vice chairman of training for the National Order of the Arrow Committee, says these ‘nuts and bolts’ aspects of advising are going to be available online. Now, the focus of the Developing Youth Leaders Conference, according to Garrett, will be instructing on how to do a better job advising.

Bud Harrelson, the lead adviser in developing this course, has been a public school teacher and administrator for many years. Being both a teacher and a Scouter, he sees DYLC as giving advisers invaluable knowledge and as an opportunity for adults to learn about the needs of young people. The Developing Youth Leaders Conference teaches advisers how to better connect with the youth they serve and how to better coach them to be effective leaders. After all, as Harrelson notes, “An athlete has a coach that gets them to play better and CEO’s have coaches that help them lead better so it makes sense that this program will help coach youth.”

The Developing Youth Leaders Conference is not only envisioned but proven to be effective. Pilot sessions of the new training were held at the 2015 NOAC, where it was the highest rated session. It received similar feedback from the OA’s key leadership after additional pilot sessions were conducted at the National Planning Meeting this past December. Part of the success, according to youth lead Kyle Piper, is due to the top-notch staff being recruited to teach.

In order to demonstrate how to connect with youth effectively, much of the staff of the Developing Youth Leaders Conference is comprised of young adults aged 21-30. These staff, according to Piper, energize the training, as they know how to make the session exciting. Having such a young staff allows those teaching to speak from both sides of the adviser-youth dynamic, giving them a unique perspective into how to make this dynamic effective.

All advisers--lodge advisers, chapter advisers or any other adult with a role in the OA--are encouraged to attend. Prior attendance at the National Leaders Seminar is encouraged, but not recommended. Piper said the objective of the training is how to change a youth’s life for the better. For any adviser who is seeking to better coach the youth they serve, be more in touch with the needs of youth, and to learn from the most dynamic advisers within the Order of the Arrow, this conference is a wonderful opportunity.

For more information on DYLC, please visit oa-bsa.org/DYLC or email DYLC@oa-bsa.org.

This year’s Developing Youth Leaders Conference dates are as follows:

April 1-3

Haw River State Park, Browns Summit, NC


June 19-25

Philmont Scout Ranch, Cimarron, NM


November 18-20

Granlibakken Resort, Lake Tahoe, CA 

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