In a strategic effort to reach their community, decrease leader burnout and bring more flexibility and creativity to character-building programs, the Royal Oak, Mich., Corps, led by Captains Kory and Heidi Strand, recently implemented a new youth activity schedule that moved all character-building groups from one evening a week to one Sunday afternoon a month.

The adjusted schedule has breathed new life into these tried and true programs and has been well-received by participants and leaders alike. By shaking things up, youth leaders have noticed increased excitement and enthusiastic participation from the youth, some of whom have invited friends to join them for Sunday activities.

“Changing the way we do character-building has been a blessing,” said Young People’s Sergeant- Major Charol McDonald, who also leads moonbeams. “Kids have invited friends to come, and they have joined us during our Kidz Worship time in the morning as well.”

In addition, longtime leaders are enjoying the additional time to plan and prepare, and adults who would not be able to commit to leading a program on a regular basis are volunteering to teach single lessons.

“It can be a struggle in any corps to find committed leaders,” said Amy Soffran, who assists with programs. “By making it a once-a-month commitment rather than a weekly one, leaders are able to come with more energy and excitement, and other corps members will volunteer to teach things they are passionate about.”

The programs are planned so every group is engaged in a meaningful activity. At times when two or more groups are working on an equivalent badge, they combine for a part of the lesson or its entirety. For example, all of the character-building groups from moonbeams on up participated in a cookie bakeoff as part of their baking badges on the same day, a collaborative effort that was a lot of work but also a lot of fun for everyone.

“To see the girl guards and rangers interacting with the sunbeams, explorers and moonbeams during lunch and combined activities has been wonderful,” said Charol. “It provides good leadership training for those older participants.”

The setup also has proven helpful to families. Instead of competing with youth sports or having to worry about making up lessons if they miss a week, parents know that their children will complete everything necessary to earn a badge in one afternoon.

“All of our youth programs are done with careful planning and intentionality so that the kids get the most out of the time,” concluded Amy. “Our hope is that through focused, creative and interactive lessons, character-building might ignite a hobby, skill or even career path.”

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