In July of 2010, I wrote a blog post entitled "Unplugging and Taking Control." Little did I know that that post would become one of the most popular ever written for this blog. To date it has generated the second most number of hits and has consistently been one of the most read pieces on this site. Today, I was trying to think of something to write and I realized that it might be time to revisit the "Unplugged" concept and put it into perspective for the current times.18 months may not seem like that much time in general, but in the world of DeMolay, it's almost half of a "generation" of the average active membership, hence why it bears revisiting.
I think the one thing we sorely lack is a solid definition of the Unplugged idea. In my thoughts, I see it as follows:
"Unplugging means transferring control and responsibility for Chapter programming and planning to the young men while keeping their skills, abilities, and needs in perspective. It further mandates that Advisors recognize their role as mentors, guides, and protectors rather than hands on project managers and doers."
That definition was fairly long and complicated, so let's break it down. First, the real key to the whole statement is summed up in "transferring control and responsibility for Chapter programming and planning to the young men." This means that the members of the Chapter should be deciding what activities the Chapter is going to do and how they are going to plan them. It purposefully uses the word responsibility - as the DeMolays need to take personal responsibility for their program. If an event doesn't happen or a program fails, it's on the young men and the leadership of the Chapter to recognize their short comings and learn how to avoid those problems in the future. That's the real value of the DeMolay program. With little exception, there is not one thing in DeMolay that can't afford to fail. Failure is part of life and DeMolay provides a safe area for members to fail and learn from their mistakes. There really is no other program like it.
Next, we come to "while keeping their skills, abilities, and needs in perspective." This is the other half of the phrase above. It assumes that the Advisory Council understands the maturity and ability of the members of the Chapter and adjusts its approach accordingly. No, twelve year olds are not capable of planning a 300 person banquet. However, they are capable of learning from the process of planning. This might be a case where an adult has to step in and provide more "hand on" expertise, but effort should be made to include the young men in the planning and execution of the event to the fullest extent possible. This way, the next time the Chapter does a banquet, the Advisors will need to do less. Unplugging is a process - not just a flipping of switch. Advisory Councils should facilitate this process over several terms. In doing so, they will create an older generation of DeMolays that can teach and transfer skills to younger members. The first step, however, is creating that older generation, which usually has to be done with some Advisor assistance.
Now, we come upon the mandate that "Advisors recognize their role as mentors, guides, and protectors." By this I mean that Advisors must come to grips that they are there to be a sounding board and a resource, not a fall back plan. The young men should be able to ask the Advisors for help and receive guidance and support. They should not be able to ignore a project with the knowledge that at the last minute an Advisor will sweep in and clean up the pieces to ensure the event occurs. The definition also reminds the Advisory Council that they are to protect our youth and their assets through the Youth Protection Program and sound financial decisions in planning for the future.
Lastly, it enjoins the Advisors not to be "hands on project managers and doers." Again, this must keep in mind the skills and abilities that have been previously mentioned. Early in the process of Unplugging, Advisors may have to take a more active role. The important part here is that an Advisor should never plan, organize, or execute a project without the direct involvement of a member. Period. If you, as an Advisor, are putting together an event based upon the whims of the Master Councilor or because the young men won't step up to do it, you aren't Unplugging - you're enabling. In the long run, enabling members to not do the work and still succeed will have far more disastrous consequences than one or two failed programs.
There are a multitude of facets to this concept and even more "what-ifs." The best thing to remember is that as long as you have the active participation of DeMolays in the operations of a Chapter, you are Unplugging. It won't happen overnight and it isn't going to be a quick process, but it will provide for a better Chapter and a better future for your local program.
Frat! ~ "Dad" Seth Anthony