The meat and potatoes of building the program so young men come to and stay with your unit is the annual plan.
The plan that delivers the promise. OK.. stop.. what is this promise that we keep talking about?
Simply put the promise that Scouting is supposed to deliver is Adventure, learning, and challenge and responsibility.
We do this through the Aims of Scouting using the methods as building blocks to achieve Citizenship training, Character development, and Fitness.
What does that mean to a teen aged young man.
Fun, Adventures, and meaningful time spent with his friends. Now most teen aged young men are not going to express “meaningful time” as one of the reasons they join and stay in Scouting, but it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that when they are bored they leave and when they are not having fun with their peers, they leave.. so we have this game with a purpose and the outline, rules, and execution of the game is in the annual plan.
So let me take you through our Troops process. The caveat here is that this works great for us and our youth. It is fair to say that this is the process we established and have trained the Junior leaders to use. The important thing to take home is establishing a workable process and refine it within your unit. I am not saying that we are the end all be all.. but the saying goes “the proof is in the pudding” and our process works very well. We have had sustainable growth every year and little by way of loss. We have had our share of loss, but the good news is that when we do have a Scout leave, they typically transfer to a Troop that is better suited for them. Backpacking may not be their ideal Scouting experience and we encourage young men to find the program that fits them, they will be successful in that environment.
Our planning starts before the Troop attends Summer camp each year. The patrols begin the process of building lists of activities and places they want to go. These ideas are then brought to the Patrol Leaders Council after summer camp and a discussion of Troop goals and desired outcomes for the year are committed to paper.
For example, this last year the Troop wanted to climb Mt. St. Helens, they wanted to backpack in the Olympic National forest, they wanted to do a 50 miler, they wanted to canoe, they wanted to climb at Smith Rocks, and they wanted to do 2 winter camp outs on Mt. Hood.
Those were their plan above the regular Camporee, Summer camp, and Webelos Woods events that we always do.
Once the PLC came up with places, they assigned specific activities that would be the focus of the camp outs or outings associated with locations.
Some of the specifics looked like: While backpacking on the St. Helens Trip they would focus on Leave no Trace, they would be inviting Webelos Scouts to go on the trip with us, and they would work on better planning process’s with the New Scout Patrol.
Once the calendar with filled in with places and activities the PLC looked at training opportunities, service projects, and special events. They were plugged into the plan.
The plan is now taken to the Troop committee for approval. It is the committee’s job to say yes. The committee began the process of permits and cross checking our dates and events with the council and district plan. Everything worked out except for the Mt. St. Helens climb. The permits were sold out on opening day and so an alternate location had to be picked.
The PLC did some research and came up with climbing the South Sister in the Sisters Mountains. They determined this because the difficulty was moderate and the summit could be reached in half a day. It was a good location to accomplish the goals and activities they had set for this camp out.
Upon completion of the planning session and invitation for Troop Junior Leader training was extended to any Scout that was interested in leadership within the Troop. No training, no leadership. The SPL and the PLC would conduct the training over a weekend.
During the TJLT the annual plan was brought back out and all of the participants took part in refining the plan. This is a great opportunity to get everyone, especially those Scouts that are going to lead for the next year, to get on board and become versed in the plan. The vision of the Troop is made clear and the expectations of the leaders are made real as they all own a piece of the plan.
After training, the plan is published, posted, and made available to the whole troop and those visitors that are interested in our troop. The local packs are also given a copy of our plan and dates are set aside for visits and other ways that we can interact with the Packs.
Now obviously there are a lot more little nuts and bolts that hold the plan together, but in a nut shell, the process is not complicated and kept simple. The key ingredient is the Junior leaders. Our plan is not a dictate from above and the Scoutmaster acts only as an adviser and coach. This is their plan, I will train them, teach them, and make myself available as much as they want or as little as they need. The more we go through this process, the better we get and easier it is for the Youth leadership to handle on their own.
Once they build their plan, the word gets out.. and they come.
If you can help build a plan that offers Adventure, Challanges, and develops self reliance, the Scouts will recruit harder than you can ever imagine. Remember they are looking for meaningful time spent with their buddies, they can find that is a well planned and youth executed Troop.
We will wrap this up next time with some FAQ’s!
Have a Great Scouting Day!