At last nights Roundtable I was pleased to see a great turn out in the Boy Scout break out. Last nights attraction was Camporee and what units can do to get ready for it. We had about a half hour left so I thought it would be worth our while to talk a little District talk with the leaders that took their time to be at the break out.
Now first of all.. I have said it before, and I am sure I will say it again.. at Roundtable we typically are preaching to the choir, but there were plenty of newer faces in the room, so putting on my District Chairman hat, I stepped up front and spent a few minutes sharing some district news, reported back a little on the District Journey to Excellence Score card, and made myself available for questions.
Summer camp. This became a big subject last night. There are way to many units that still have not reported a summer camp sign up for this year. It is a fact that Scouts that attend summer camp stay in Scouting longer. We looked at the numbers. Only 1/3 of the scouts signed up for our council camps are from our council. That means that lots of units from outside of our council are flowing into our camps. That’s a great thing, except to say, that means that lots of Scouts in our council are not going to summer camp.
Retention. Summer camp leads us to retention. IF lots of Scouts are not going to summer camp, then its no wonder why they are not staying in Scouting. Our numbers show that we are doing well crossing Webelos into Boy Scouts, and we are doing a great job getting boys to join Scouts “off the street”. But we are not doing the best we can to keep them in Scouting. It is no surprise that boys leave the program when they are not engaged. If they are not having fun, or participating fully in Scouting, they will leave. I mean, why stay?
Program. Back when I was a new Scoutmaster, a mentor of mine shared with me that regardless of everything else the key to a successful unit is the program. He said Program, Program, Program! I have shared this here before to, my “Field of Dream” philosophy. If you build the program, they will come.. and stay. Monthly camp outs, Summer camp attendance, advancement focus, service opportunities all add up to great program. Youth leadership that is driven to lead to the next adventure keeps them excited and wanting more. A solid program at the unit level is the answer to most if not all of the problems we face in the Scouting movement.
Which brought me to the final point of the evening. What is the role of the Council and the District? Resourcing. It is not the role of the Council or the District to run units. They are there to assist in the administrative tasks, financial opportunities, and resourcing of program (materials, camps, etc). I think too many people wait around for the Council or District to do things for them. The unit is where Scouting happens. It is where Scouts become men of character, good citizens, and discover fitness. If you wait around for the council to do that, you will never be a successful unit. The council and district can not build you a program that is successful. They can assist with the resources that will help your success… but wait around and you will fail.
A question came up about the DE and his role. Again, he is a resource manager. He is there to raise funds, develop relationships in the community to build and grow scouting. He is there to assist units in training, growing, and ensuring that the promise of Scouting is being delivered in those units. But wait for him to do the work at the unit. You will fail. This is not a bad thing. This is the way Scouting was designed. Scouting is owned and operated by the volunteers that care to serve our youth. Bottom line. We are Scouting and we Deliver the Promise. We, the volunteer. Our District committee is made up of volunteers, our Council committee is made up of volunteers, but more importantly, our units, Packs, Troops, and Crews are made up of thousands of volunteers that every single day do something to deliver the promise of Scouting to the great kids that come seeking fun and adventure.
It was great to be able to talk with some of those volunteers last night. As I looked at the room and saw the faces of the BSA, people that really care. I know that all is well. The numbers are the numbers, and they will come around. The people care and will do what ever it takes to develop those programs to make Scouting the greatest.
Have a Great Scouting Day!