Lets talk about membership.
We all know that we need members to keep Scouting alive. There are many different angles and directions to answer the membership question. I am not going to solve this issue in this post, rather, I am opening up the dialogue to see what you all think.
Scouting in the United States if a bit different from the rest of the World Organization of the Scouting Movement (WOSM).
First, we are not Coed, until you get to the Venturing Program.
Second, our programs are not connected. Yes, Cub Scouts go to Boy Scout etc… but in most cases outside of the US, a Scout group is made up of youth from 7 to 21. The units are formed from a group. This allows for continuity in the program and allows for leadership and example to be promoted from within the group. Personally, I like this idea. I think it solves a few of the issues we have in Scouting in the US. Namely keeping youth in Scouting.
I have become pen pals of sorts with some Scouters from outside of the United States. While they do have their own issues it seems that young people stay in Scouting longer and have a great Scouting experience along the way.
Starting off as a young 7-year-old and staying in Scouting till they are in their young adulthood. I think this creates a better Scouting life for them.
Anyway, as stated, I am not going to answer the question, just start the discussion.
I think that the BSA will need to explore the COED option sooner than later. With declining membership and the Girl Scout program not what most girls want… I think that opening the doors to a COOED program may go along way to saving Scouting in America.
So how does that work? Will we lose our values and program? I don’t think so. I think we can move forward with the program we have. We need not tailor the program to girls, they will fit right in. Look at the Venturing program as it is? It would be much better if it were filled with young people and adventure.
OK, membership at the core.
I think that our professionals at the National and Council level have the very best of intentions when they talk membership. It is a simple equation. Get more youth in and membership will fix itself.
A few things that I know for sure.
You will never be able to out recruit your losses. You will never be able to keep Scouts in a program that is floundering.
When I was a young Scoutmaster I was told the three keys to a successful troop were Program, Program, and Program. If you build it they will come. Boys do not join Scouts for Monday night meetings. They join for cool programs and camp outs. Parents bring their sons to our program. Not to our meetings. They need to be able to see value in the program.
Program will drive membership. So I think sometimes we put the cart before the horse. The horse is our program, the cart is membership and money. Now, you can’t have one without the other, but if your priority is not program, you won’t get members. That, I know for sure.
So where is our effort more effective? Building programs or recruiting? I think we build programs and let them come.
There are more factors to this discussion to be sure. It is not always that simple I understand. At the unit level programs need to be the priority. Build it and they will come. Recruiting efforts need to be a part of the annual plan. Focusing on Cub Scouts is not the only answer. We need to sell Scouting to all eligible youth.
This is where I see other WOSM get it. They appeal to youth of all ages and keep them in longer. There is a coolness factor about hanging out with their peers and they longer they stay, so do their friends. I think this is an important part of our membership issue.
So.. lets take a few posts and explore this issue?
What do you think? Let’s discuss this.
Here is a little video I stumbled on that really got me thinking. It is from the Scouts in Germany. I would love to see our youth in American Scouting like this one day. I got to see Scouting like this when I was a kid in the Transatlantic Council as we did many International Scouting activities.
Also take a moment to check out the Kandersteg International Scout Center videos. See what they look like and lets see how we can implement some of this here.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Lets talk about membership.
I thought I would let it simmer for a bit before I weighed in.. and now I just can’t keep my blog silent on this.
So, at a risk of pissing a bunch of folks off.. here it goes.
By now, if you are an active Scouter, you are aware of the young man named James Hightower III. He was presented his Eagle award on the Steve Harvey show.
This ambitious Scout earned his Eagle award at age 12. (he is now 13) He earned 61 merit badges, the last of which, the ever so tough Fingerprinting on the Steve Harvey show.
He is a member of the Order of the Arrow and appears to rank among the young genius’ of our time. Band, Leadership in his Church, etc etc.
OK.. you all know that I am one that believes in maintain standards. First, there is no age limit other than 18 for earning the rank of Eagle Scout, I get that.. but let’s do the math.
He crosses over at a minimum of 10 1/2 years old. Earned his Eagle rank at 12. From First Class to Star the Scout must be active with his Troop for at least 4 months. During that 4 months, he needs to serve as a leader for that time period. Then from Star to Life, the Scout needs to serve as an active member of his Troop for 6 months. During that time, he needs to serve in a leadership position and do service. We are up to at least 10 months… not to mention the 30 days it takes to earn Tenderfoot and at least a few months to get to First Class. Since joining, he would have participated in 10 separate troop/patrol activities (other than troop/patrol meetings), three of which included camping overnight. In most Troops that would represent at least 3 months. So the simple math is 14 months. He is now 11 1/2 or 12 depending on when his birthday is.
Then he must serve for another 6 months as a Life Scout to earn Eagle. We are now 20 months into this young mans Scouting life.
Some one please tell me. Has he really practiced real leadership? How much leading has he done? Was he the Librarian and Historian for his leadership? I know they count, but really.. we are talking about an Eagle Scout here.
Yes I know that this wunderkind is active in many areas of his life. Which begs the question. When did his have all this time to lead, earn merit badges, rank, perform service projects etc? Band, Church, Junior National Honor Society, active in the Order of the Arrow, Top Teens Program… 20 months as a Scout. Just think about the Scouts in your Troop.
OK.. 20 months… Most Troops camp 11 times a year and go to Summer camp in that 11 months. He needs 20 nights camping for the Eagle Required Camping Merit badge. That’s 6 camp outs plus a 6 night summer camp. So that’s the first year. 12 of the 20 months got the basic nights out-of-the-way. I assume as a leader he attends most if not all camp outs.. after all, that is where leadership and the Patrol method are really practiced.
10 1/2 to 12 years old is one and a half years. That’s 18 months. Now we don’t know when his birthday is, but the numbers do not add up. From a math point of view and a practical point of view. What has this young man got out of the Eagle experience.
The article says he plans on staying in Scouting. That’s awesome. Maybe now he will become the Eagle that he is.
I am sorry if I seem to be bashing this young man. I am not. I am really bashing his Adult leadership for not ensuring that the process is producing Character, Citizenship, and Fitness.. not just Eagle Scouts.
I applaud this young man for his achievement… I don’t know how he did it… 61 merit badges alone takes time.. when did he find all that time in 18 months. I am sure he has friends, school, and eats and sleeps on occasion.
When people see the Eagle badge, they think leadership, accomplishment, self-reliance, the ability to serve and accomplish tasks. When I see a 12-year-old.. I think HOW? I wish I could applaud and not question. But I have been a Scoutmaster for a long time and just can not see how this works.
For me, it takes away from every person that has earned the award and has come through Scouting with Knowledge, experience, and the ability to lead as a servant.
Again, I am sorry if I question this young mans achievement. I just can’t see how this math works, which makes me believe that those standards are being manipulated some how. And that my friends, I can not tolerate. I never hold back a Scout, but I do make sure that he does it right. I make sure that he is completing the requirements without short cuts. I do not add to or take away any requirements and produce no false road blocks. As a Scoutmaster, I just make sure that the experience is more important than the badge.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
This Scouting year sure seems to be getting off to a fantastic start. The Annual Plan is exciting and looks to be super fun and this year between the committee and the Patrol Leaders Council, there is a great plan in place to enhance the program en total..
We put in place a good plan to promote Order of the Arrow Activities in an effort to grow the participation of our Arrowmen Yes there is a bit of incentive as we can earn an award for that too. The Order of the Arrow Unit of Excellence Award. We have been moving to getting our Arrowmen more active through participation in the chapter and lodge events. We are well on our way, but with this concerted effort and plan, I am curious to see how it turns out.
One of the other plans that we have put in place is to promote Physical Fitness throughout the Troop. This includes the adults. We make a promise every Monday night to “Keep ourselves Physically Strong”. We plan to keep that promise. Establishing a good habit of physical fitness now will help our Scouts and Adults be more fit in the future.
Last night at our Troop meeting, the Scouts of the Troop made a commitment to be Scout Strong. Each Scout was given an activities log. As a troop we are going to track our progress for the first 6 weeks and then set new goals for the next 6. We are using the PALA (Presidents Active Lifestyle Award challenge) as our base for picking activities and will be incorporating activities into weekly meetings.
It is going to be a super fun year and adding these kind of kinds of programs to our annual plan is just what we need to round out the Scouts experience.
To Keep our promise to keep ourselves Physically Strong. Sounds like a great plan to me.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
When it comes to advancement in the Boy Scouts, it’s not really rocket science. First, the Scout needs to want to advance. Second the Scout needs to do the work. And finally, the Scout needs to be tested.
This process can be easy for some Scouts while harder for others, but what I have learned in 10 years as a Scoutmaster is that it is all up to the Scout. I have seen Troops in our area that place more value on advancement than in other methods and I have seen some that do not at all. I think that we view it as one of the eight methods and my philosophy has always been that advancement will come when the Scout is actively participating and engaged in the Troop.
A Scout came to me asking for a Scoutmaster conference. OUTSTANDING!! Grab a couple of chairs and let’s have a talk I said. So how have you been, we haven’t seen you in a while. Well, I have been busy with other stuff says the Scout, and Scouts just kinda took the backseat, here’s my book, I need you to sign off a bunch of stuff.
Now, I am no drill sergeant when it comes to signing books, but there are some things that just need to be done. Discuss, Demonstrate, and Show. If that is what the requirement says, then that is what the Scout needs to do.
So, Tommy Tenderfoot, lets talk about these things that you have circled for me to sign off, I say to the young man. You mean you are not going to sign my book the Scouts replies looking agitated. No, that’s not what I am saying, I just want to make sure that you know what you need to know, this process is designed to progressively teach you the skills that you will need to be a good Scout and one day help teach other Scouts. I went on, You see, here is says to Demonstrate how a compass works and how to orient a map. Explain what map symbols mean. Did you bring a map and compass with you? I’m sorry, but for tonight’s meeting I didn’t bring that stuff. Frustrated, the Scout says No… but don’t you remember that hike that we did last year when we had the map out? I know how to use it, can’t you just sign it? No, I am afraid we need to sit down with the map and compass and work this out. It’s not me being hard, it’s the standard.
Long ago I learned that most things in life can be broken down to three things. Tasks, Conditions, and Standards.
There is a task to do like demonstrate how to orient a map and compass. The conditions are that you have a map and a compass and you use them to determine your orientation. And that standard is that once the task is complete, the map is oriented correctly. And so it goes with pretty much everything, at least in Scouting in the area of advancement. The Scout is given the task, the conditions are set, and there is one standard. The standard is always to do the task correctly. I always tell my Scouts that there is only one way to do things right and that is the right way. This can be applied to everything in Scouting and in life.
When the Scout handbook asks the Scout to Demonstrate, he needs to demonstrate. If it tells him to Show, then he shows, and if the handbooks instructs the Scout to discuss, well, that is exactly what it means. These are the Tasks, the Conditions, and the Standards. It is not rocket science, it’s just keeping the standards set. It is the right way.
So why do I feel the need to share this? Simple. I believe that we owe to our Scouts to make sure the standards are kept. We owe it to the Eagle Scouts and Scoutmasters that came before us. We always hear about “the good old days” You know, how tough it was when we did it… well, it wasn’t that tough… there are standards that were upheld. And we need to keep those standards. It’s simple, it’s not rocket science.
So when the book tells you to do something… just do it, it’s the right way. It’s the standard.
When a Scout needs a conference, give it to him. Don’t be hard, just follow the task, conditions, and standard. The Scout will benefit and so will the troop. It is fair and consistent and the way Scouting has always done it, why? Because it is the right way.
Demonstrate the standard. Show the standard. And Discuss the standard. It’s the right way.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
a group of people sharing a common profession or interests.
“members of the hunting fraternity”
synonyms: profession, body of workers; a male students’ society in a university or college.
synonyms: society, club, association; a religious or Masonic society or guild.
the state or feeling of friendship and mutual support within a group.
“the ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity”
synonyms: brotherhood, fellowship, kinship, friendship, (mutual) support, solidarity, community, union, togetherness; sisterhood
“a spirit of fraternity”
When we hear the word fraternity we often think of college, parties, and the movie Animal house. And there is certainly something to that. But today I want to talk about fraternity in a few other ways. I was never a member of a college fraternity, but I have been to a frat house or two. But we will leave those stories for another day. In the broader sense of the word fraternity as I show in the definition, a Fraternity is a group of people who share something in common. But to truly define that group there is a bond, something that brought them together for a common purpose or goal. Whether that was to get through college, fight in a war, or be of service to others that bond defines the group and they have an ever lasting kinship because of it.
If you are reading this blog, you more than likely have a bond with me and your fellow readers in Scouting. The Boy Scouts of America created an Alumni Association just for the purpose of rekindling that spirit of fraternity with those people who have for over 100 years been associated with Scouting in America. Through this effort many people have reconnected with Scouting and as a result the fraternity of Scouting grows stronger.
Within Scouting there are fraternal groups. Wood Badge and the Order of the Arrow just to name a few. There is a connection of greater purpose within these groups that take Scouting to a higher level. Within the common bond of Wood Badgers and Arrowmen is greater sense of duty to others, promoting the Scouting movement, and of course fellowship with the membership. It strengthens our ties to Scouting and increases our willingness to make Scouting a lasting part of our lives.
You may also be reading this blog and thinking of other fraternal groups that you belong to that are outside of Scouting. The Elks, Masons, Eagles, and Moose Lodges are all Fraternal groups that share a bond of service and fellowship. The Veterans of Foreign Wars and the America Legion are Fraternal organization made up of men and women that share the bond of serving in the Military, some during times of war and others that served waiting to be called. Their bond is thick with the experiences, hardships, and of course friendships made during their service.
Why is this all important?
First, we need fraternal groups because they promote that common bond. With that common bond we tend to want to be a part and share in it for no other reason the fellowship and knowledge that we are a part of something that is like us. In Scouting, in college, in the Service, we shared a bond that is unique to us and we are a part of it. Being a part of something that is greater than us gives us that sense of duty to it.
Second, these fraternal groups are the vanguard of the bond we share. The membership of that organization leads the way in promoting its ideals, activity, and development of its membership. Thus the group continues to grow and last. For example, Scouting. Those that came before me and you have set the course for Scouting for us. The Alumni association and men and women that believe in Scouting continue to make the organization what it is through their dedication continued service to it. Scouting’s membership is the life of the organization, but without the support of the folks behind the scenes, making contributions of time and talent and a lot of treasure, Scouting would soon begin to fade. The organization is bigger than merit badges and camping. It’s fraternal bond is in its ideals, values, and memories of the members.
I belong to a few fraternal organizations. Scouting of course and within Scouting I love my affiliations within the Wood Badge community and the Order of the Arrow. They make me a better Scouter and keep me directed in my desire to serve. In Wood Badge that service comes by teaching fellow adults and promoting the great program of Scouting. The Order of the Arrow fulfills that in me that wants to serve others, demonstrate to fellow Scouts and Scouters the idea of Leading to Serve.
I am also a Life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. This is important to me as I have a bond with those members, especially those that served in my era. This group is all about fraternity in the sense that we belong more to one another than to be of service to others. It is a group of shared experience.
I am a Life member of the National Infantry Association. This group is also one of shared experience, it is the professional association for Infantrymen and Infantry supporters. The NIA, supports the Infantry’s role in the security of our nation; helps Infantrymen build closer affiliations with one another; and helps preserve the Infantry heritage. Our membership promotes the only organization dedicated to supporting the Chief of Infantry and the entire Infantry community. Our membership strength ensures that the Infantry voice will be heard by decision makers. We share the camaraderie of like-minded soldiers and citizens who believe in maintaining the Infantry spirit and recognize those Infantrymen that have made a contribution to our Infantry community.
Now to most of you this is meaningless and I get that, but it is something that is important to me. I share this with you because you belong to something like this. Whether it is with the Optimist Club or the Rotary club, your fraternal organization means something to you.
I am also a member of an unofficial fraternal group made up of soldiers from the last Battalion I served in. We gather periodically (not enough) to share stories, talk about our lives, and share our camaraderie.
We had a gathering yesterday, which prompted me to write this post. Why, because it all matters. In Scouting or a Military fraternity, it is all the same based on our bond of fellowship and shared experience.
Yesterday the Wildcats gathered to celebrate our bond 10 years after we returned from Iraq. The gathering was not limited to those of us that deployed, but in keeping with the fraternal group, any one that had ever served in the 1st Battalion 162nd Infantry. I was pleased to see old friends, soldiers I had served with and led. It was special to meet with an old Battalion Commander. I never served with him, he commanded the Battalion when I was small child, but our bond was being a Wildcat, no matter the era.
I had the honor of serving the Battalion as the Command Sergeant Major before and during our deployment to Iraq. I had been in the Battalion for years prior to that promotion serving in different companies and at many levels. So my bond to the 1/162 Infantry is strong. I love that Battalion.
Our Battalion has a long and rich history and tradition. Established in 1898 as the 2nd Oregon Volunteer Infantry and thrust in action in the Spanish-American war the Battalion was later reconfigured in 1917 as the Army transformed during the First World War. It was re-designated the 162nd Infantry Regiment with 3 Battalions. 1st and 2nd Battalion in Oregon and the 3rd Battalion in Montana. The 162nd Infantry along with the 161st, 163rd, and 186th Infantry made up the Infantry Regiments of the 41st Infantry Division. In the Second World War, the 41st with all of its Regiments served in the Pacific Theater. It fought from 1942 till the end of the war in 1945 in the Pacific.
The Battalion stayed ready for the Korean war but never was called to deploy as was the case in the Vietnam war. It was not until the call came for the Battalion to support Operation Iraqi Freedom that the Battalion once again saw action in 2003. It served from 2003 to 2004 in OIF.
In 2006 the Army once again reorganized and the Battalion Colors were folded and the Regiment disbanded the 1st Battalion.
But through these gatherings we maintain our bond and the spirit of the Wildcat Battalion. It’s rich history is something that we helped write and is something that we hold close in our hearts. Through our fraternal spirit we keep it alive.
Yesterday at the Wildcat reunion the National Infantry Association along with members of the Battalion recognized me and one of the finest soldiers I ever served with the Order of St. Maurice. It is an honor that I will cherish because the group that I was with and the soldier that I had the pleasure of standing with during the ceremony. Our local chapter of the National Infantry Association, specifically MSG Morgan Olsen presented the award. He is a dear friend and a soldier that I had the opportunity to help develop along his career path. More though, he is a dear friend and I am glad that he was the one to not only present the award, but put together the entire event.
He demonstrated everything that is great about this group of men that I have had the privilege to serve with and for.
Our bond, the bond of this fraternity is stronger than life. It is important to me.
You all have some group that you share this type of bond with, if nothing else, you share a bond within Scouting. It need not be in combat or strife, the bonds we share in service and fun are just as strong. What you do with that bond is what is important. How you share that bond and become a stronger part of that group is what is important. It is important to you.
Do not let time pass without reaching out and reconnecting, establishing a stronger bond of fellowship, service, and camaraderie. As I get to know the “old guys” in our VFW post, I have come to understand that for many of them this bond has been recently awakened, they have regret that they had not kept those ties closer in their younger days. I don’t want that regret, and I am sure that you don’t either.
Fraternity. It is an important part of our lives. Strengthen it.
I shared a lot about my military fraternal life today… so I will close this post with the words of a song that I hold very close in my heart. The words of the official song if the Order of the Arrow. It sums up many of my feeling about Fraternity and why I belong.
Firm bound in brotherhood, gather the clan
That cheerful service brings to fellow man.
Circle our council fire, weld tightly every link
That binds us in brotherhood, Wimachtendienk.
Yours in Scouting, WWW
Have a Great Scouting Day!
In the picture: Left is Sergeant Major (Ret) Kevin Stanger and I receiving the Order of St. Maurice.
Scouts that join our units begin their walk on the Eagle Trail through our program forest. This forest of Scouting has much to offer the passer-by. When you enter the forest the trail is clearly marked and a guide is provided. This guide keeps the new Scout on the right trail while he learns about the forest and the skills that he will need to navigate the trail through to his destination. The trail is long and provides many opportunities for the Scout. There is a fork in the trail called First Class. Once the Scout reaches this point in the forest, the trial gets a little less clear. There are still markers along the way, but the Scout is challenged to seek the path and maybe do some bushwhacking.
The trail through the forest at times will seem to be very narrow and at times the forest opens up into meadows and the trail needs to be tried and new routes found. A Scout needs to remember that the forest is full of trees. Those trees represent the opportunities of Scouting. Every four years a Scout will find a huge tree called Jamboree. He can choose to visit that tree and learn about its opportunity. He will also chance upon trees called NOAC (National Order of the Arrow Conference), he will have the opportunity to visit four trees called the National High Adventure Bases. A trip to the Philmont, the Summit, Sea Base or Northern Tier tree will prove to be a high light of his Scouting walk through the forest. There are merit badge trees and places along the trail to practice leadership and service. The trails always need maintenance. There are trees along the trail that the Scout will find other Scouts that need help finding the way. He will make the choice to lead them until they can do the same for other Scouts they meet.
There is a big lodge near the edge of the forest. This is where the Eagle Scouts hang out. They are still close to the forest so they can hear the call of Scouting and spend time back on the trail.
The forest of Scouting is full of great opportunity, fun, and adventure. But the opportunity, fun and adventure only comes to those Scouts that see the forest instead of the trees. The trees are the things that we bump into as we travel through the forest, but they are not the reason we go through Scouting. Finding the trees in the forest are the things that we do as we move forward in Scouting seeking the opportunities and fun that come with the program. The name of the trail is called Scout Oath trail. Along that trail we learn our laws and rules. We develop a habit of service, and we become a person that has Character. The trail is hard at times and forces us to stay physically and mentally strong. The trail is long and full of adventure, but we need to keep the forest the most important thing and let the trees appear. The Forest is the Scouting Aims and along the way you will bump into those trees that keep you moving in the right direction.
Loosing focus on the Forest and jumping right to the trees will eventually cause the Scout to turn around and leave the forest. He will hit all the trees that he wants but will miss the whole trail through the forest. The trees that are deeper into the forest are bigger and better, but the Scout that enters the trees and not the forest will miss out on them.
I have seen Scouts that have walked into the forest only to find a small stand of trees. They provided lots of merit badges and rank, but never any of the exciting opportunities that lay ahead on the trail. I also have seen Scouts that have immersed themselves into the whole trail. They have seen the big trees, participated in the great adventures and when he reached Eagle Lodge looked back at a great time in Scouting.
As you mentor young men in Scouting and as you introduce young men as they join your troop, show them the trail head into the forest and remind them to see forest rather than the trees. The trees will appear as you follow the trail.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Last night I had the pleasure as I do every Monday night of having some interesting conversations with the young men of my Troop. Much to their surprise or dismay, it ends up on the blog now and then. Last nights conversation got me to thinking about these young men and the men that they become.
Over the past few weeks we have had the honor or conducting two Eagle Scout ceremonies or Courts of Honor. Our Troop has made it a tradition not to present the Eagle Award during regular Troop Courts of Honor but rather give that young man his own day to be recognized for the work he has done.
During these ceremonies I typically share a thought or two about the young man and the progress he has made, usually share some outstanding quality of the Scout or a unique aspect of his growth in Scouting. We never “Roast” them or make them look like goof balls. The Eagle ceremony is special, so we try to keep it classy.
Last night, one of our younger Scouts came to me and shared his thought that I always seem to have something great to say about these guys that have made it to the rank of Eagle Scout. I told him that over this many years with the guys that have made it to Eagle, we have had many shared experiences. These Eagle Scouts have been in the Troop for a long time and every one of them remained super active. So the active guys have more stories to share and more experience to look back on, all of which I have been there to see and do with them.
Trips to Jamboree, Philmont, and all of our monthly outings add up to a lot of time spent together, so yes, in all of that I can find something great to say about a young man who worked hard and earned his Eagle Award.
The young Scout looked up and me and asked… so I wonder what you will say at my Eagle ceremony?
That really got me thinking last night. This group of young Scouts, what will that experience be? What will that story sound like? What will I share about them if and when they make it to Eagle Scout.
I looked back down at this young Scout and told him “That will be up to you.”
Stick with Scouting, be active, stay with the program and get the very most out of it and you will have a great story at the end and I will be there to share it.
He smiled and joined his friends.
That is something to think about Scout leaders. They care enough to wonder what we will say about them. Delivering the Promise of Scouting should be the most important part of your Scouting experience. It will be the best part of their Eagle ceremony and a story for them to share the rest of their lives.
Think about the impact you have. Believe it or not, they watch everything, hear everything, and want everything from you.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
It’s August, 8 months into the year 2014, 8 months into “The POLICY” Change that sent Scouters into a tail spin running for the hills and screaming that our values suddenly changed. 8 months since the “End of Scouting” as we know it. Really? Where are you? What has changed?
I have yet to see an openly gay Scout. I have yet to have to deal with sleeping arrangements and one boy hitting on another one. Just has not happened and I hate to be that guy.. but I told you so.
I lost a good Assistant Scoutmaster over this non issue. And 8 months later nothing has changed except for ink on a policy letter.
So where are you? Where are all these gay boys that were screaming to get into Scouting? Where?
Ok… drama aside…
Last night at our District committee meeting we were discussing the real issues, in particular membership and saving Cub Scout Packs. The idea that people have turned away from Scouting because of this policy change came up. The fact of the matter is that nothing changed, EXCEPT… now we are open to serve ALL young men.
So, this should open doors to new membership, right? Wrong. Boys that are attracted to Scouting will join Scouting. So what do we need to do to attract them? That is what we need to do to get them in our great organization.
Ideas floated around and you know it all comes down to what Scouting is. A great values based outdoor organization that promises adventure and fun. It appeals to parents and boys and always has. The biggest issue is that we do a terrible job of selling that. We get to wrapped up on political correctness and worrying what the public perception is. If we just stick to the basics of what Scouting is.. they will come. But we need to tell that story.
National is not spending the dollars during prime time to tell our story. Local Councils do not have the budget to do it either, so it’s up to us to get out there and tell the story of Scouting.
Start by know what Scouting is. Tell the story as often as you can. Don’t be afraid of what people think, change their minds by what they see.
A policy to allow ALL young men the opportunity to join Scouting should not have sent anyone into a tail spin, it should have opened the door to talk about what Scouting offers in the year 2014 and beyond. Instead an over reaction and a terrible lack of action on the part of Scouters to get out in front and say.. NO.. We invite everyone, but the need to follow our rules.. it’s that simple.
8 months into this year of change and where are they. Those that value Scouting and Scouting’s values are here, the rest left or have not joined.
So now what. We have a crisis in membership at the Cub Scout level. WE NEED TO GET MORE CUB SCOUTS!
Is this policy an issue? NO. So lets move on and sell Scouting.
Tell our story.
From the Boy Scouts of America website; The Boy Scouts of America is one of the nation’s largest and most prominent values-based youth development organizations. The BSA provides a program for young people that builds character, trains them in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and develops personal fitness.
For over a century, the BSA has helped build the future leaders of this country by combining educational activities and lifelong values with fun. The Boy Scouts of America believes — and, through over a century of experience, knows — that helping youth is a key to building a more conscientious, responsible, and productive society.
Is there something there that people have a problem with? If so, move on and tell the story to someone else.
A Scout is Friendly, Courteous and Kind.
Get out there and tell our story!
Have a Great Scouting Day!
This summer our Troop went on a great adventure. We backpacked in the Olympic National Park. We.. the whole Troop. We broke up the Troop into three crews, that way we could maintain Wilderness area policies of no more than 12 heartbeats and good leave no trace principles. As we began the process of planning for the adventure we were met with resistance. The first was the issue of our new Scout Patrol. 11 year Scouts, what will they be doing? Backpacking was the answer. 11-year-old boys can not do a 50 mile backpack trip I was told. I believe that they can was my reply.
I searched the age appropriate guide lines, the guide to safe Scouting, and other BSA policies and could not find any thing that would suggest that a new Scout patrol could not complete a 50 mile backpack trip.
So we started training. Three backpacking trips that would increase in length prior to the big trip. We began tearing apart backpacks and looking at detailed packing lists. We looked at getting pack weights down to accommodate the little bodies. Menu planning and setting the course for a “doable” adventure that would accomplish the 50 mile goal and ensure success for every one in the troop.
The plan was to allow the three crews to determine their miles. The older Scouts wanted to move fast and far, the middle group wanted to stay around the 50 mile mark and the new Scout Patrol decided that 50 miles would be enough. I believe in them.
We decided on 7 days on the trail. This would allow us to spread the miles out over more days keeping our daily mileage around the 6 to 8 mile mark. That would put us in camp daily earlier allowing us to provide some program. The New Scout Patrol would focus on the trail to First Class while they were in camp, the middle group would focus their time on leadership development, and the older group was in it for adventure.
The plan was set, we used the Philmont meal plan, and got busy mapping our course. The three training outings went well and prepared us for some of the challenges we would find on the trail. Map reading, adapting to changing plans, and working as a crew.
As we prepared we made major changes to the way we would prepare meals and how we would rotate leadership within the crews. We also found which Scouts worked well together and based on their performance on the practice trips we set the crews. I believed that they could all do it.
Watching the Scouts do the practice trips gave me more and more confidence. I knew that they could all do it.
Fast forward now with me to the end of the trip. 7 days backpacking in the Olympic National Park. The First year Scouts did 51 miles and not one Scout failed to complete the adventure. On the 7th day the Troop met at a large camp ground to spend our last night in the Olympic together. There were nothing but smiles all around. I took time that night to talk with the new Scout patrol. They all shared the same attitude, “Lets do it again”! The middle crew ended the trip at 52.4 miles and saw some of the most beautiful country in the Northwest. It was an epic adventure. The older Scouts ended up backpacking 70 miles and found a great place to base camp where they dropped packs and went on a 20 mile day hike. They placed themselves close to the group site on the 6th day and got a jump early on day 7. They hiked so fast that they had time to jump in the cars and head into the nearest town and take showers. That last night we had an awesome campfire, singing songs and sharing stories of our adventures.
I knew we could do it.
Since we got back I have shared our story with some Scouters. They think that we stepped way out-of-bounds taking first year scouts on this adventure. I disagree.
Before the trip I called out those adults that seem to think that it was ok for us when we were kids to have adventures. Drink from hoses, stay out till the street lights came on etc. I still believe that the reason our kids today “can’t” do it is simply because we don’t let them. Well We let them and they proved me absolutely right! They can do it. More so though.. they WANT to do it. We need to believe in them.
For the past three weeks I have completed 9 Scoutmaster conferences, mostly with the new Scout patrol. They all remain excited about their accomplishment and can not wait for the opportunity to do it again.
I believe in them. It is that belief that allows me to let them seek and find adventure. It is that belief that gives our Patrol leaders council the ability to plan the next great adventure. It is a visible attitude that sets these young men apart. Sitting on their butt is not an option for them. They want to get out there and explore their world.
I read about troops sharing their summer camp score about this time each year. 20 Scouts, 99 merit badges etc.
Well, here is our Score for this year. 23 Scouts. 23 merit badges. 31 50 miler awards. An adventure that they will talk about for the rest of their lives.
I believe that we offered them this thing we call SCOUTING!
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Note: I hiked with the middle group. These guys impressed me to no end. The leadership that they developed over the course of the trip was great. I believe that they will be outstanding leaders for the future of our troop.
When teaching leadership to both our youth and adults, we spend a fair amount of time discussing what it is that leaders do. Being a Teacher, Coach, Trainer, and Mentor is found within the job description of any leader. We find ourselves as leaders focusing on being a good teacher of skills, coaching as those skills are applied, and training our leaders to be effective. But what of being a mentor?
Not every leader is a mentor. We tend to throw that around a bit too much in Scouting. We have “Eagle Mentors” We have “Unit mentors”, we even consider “Troop Guides” in the context of Wood Badge as a mentor. But are they really mentors in the sense of having a lasting impact on the life of someone else.
Webster defines the word Mentor as; a trusted guide or counselor. Other words are Tutor or Coach.
I think that a lot of leaders consider themselves as mentors, but as I look back on those that I consider my mentors I can’t help but go back to the definition. Trusted guide. And again,I ask myself what impact if any did this person have on my life.
Looking back, I honestly consider only a few people as a mentor.
In my life I break it down to a few areas. Work, Spiritual life, Scouting, and becoming a man.
At UPS I do not consider any one person a mentor. The work environment tends not to value leadership, rather there is a need to manage everything at UPS as material. In the Army however, I have had a few mentors. Men that really made a big impact on my leadership style and ability to lead.
In the Army there is a program that places fellow soldiers, leaders, in a position to develop their subordinates. The Non Commissioned Officer Development Program (NCODP) is designed to make junior leaders better. I had a First Sergeant named Ted Godwin that showed me how to use the tool box of leadership to care for soldiers. He instilled in me the concept of Mission First, Men always. This may seem like a little thing, but at the end of the day, that is what makes for effective leaders. In the Army, with the division of leadership roles between the Officer Corps and the Non Commissioned Officer Corps it is the NCO that ensures the men are ready for the mission. If the men are not ready, there is little chance for the mission to be accomplished.
The basic understanding of being a caring leader, one that truly understands those that he leads became one of the hallmarks of my leadership and a lesson that I passed on to those that I lead when I was placed in a position to mentor younger soldiers.
It was his trusted leadership style that inspired me to be a leader. When he spoke, we listened. When he instructed, we learned.
Another mentor of mine in the Army was Command Sergeant Major Cliff Neil. He was a technical leader and understood why people act the way they do. He was not a tactical superstar, but when it came to behavior, he was provided hours of lessons on how to be an effective counselor and dig deeper into the reasons why a soldier acted the way he did. He showed me that everything is not always black or white… grey sneaks in to leadership and it is the effective leader that understands that will change behavior. Changing behavior is the goal of discipline in the sense of punishment. It is not a sign of weak leadership to know why. CSM Neil was tough, but fair and made me an outstanding First Sergeant. His impact on me was manifest when I became a Sergeant Major and was placed in a position to teaching my First Sergeants. I adopted the grey area when the First Sergeants saw only black and white. Typically we could change behavior without destroying a soldier’s career and livelihood.
Again, a leader that I trusted was leading me in the direction of becoming an effective leader.
In my Spiritual Life, I developed a friendship and allowed Fr. Rick Sarianni to be a trusted adviser. I valued our talks and his understanding of me and my walk in faith. I have known many Pastors, but Fr. Rick was a special friend that lead me to a clearer understanding of just what I believe and why I believe it.
In Scouting I have many friends that have helped me along the way and some that really made an impact on the Scoutmaster that I have become. I won’t go into the specifics as there are many, but it I feel it important that I name at least two of the men that have made a big impact on me as a Scouter. Tim Steenbergen gave me sage advise when I was a new Scoutmaster. Program, Program, Program was his mantra and I have taken that to the bank. John Caputo is the other. John is the ultimate Scouter. I had the absolute privilege to serve on his Wood Badge staff. I met John the first time as a learner at Wood Badge in 2005. He left an impression on me and we became friends. I always looked to him as a role model in Scouting. His wisdom and knowledge of the program and how to deliver the promise. Over the past 10 years, John has always been there with advise and instruction. Watching him as I have staffed on two Wood Badge Courses has been a pleasure and I have learned and taken many lessons from him along the way.
Again, two trusted counselors that left a large impact on me as a Scout leader. Along the way as a Wood badge staffer I have been blessed to learn from dedicated leaders and folks that have an equal love for Scouting.
Being a Man.
There are four people who made me the man who I am today. The first is my Dad. He showed me the value of family and how to treat people. I can go on and on about the lessons learned from him.
The other three are my two sons and my daughter. Little did they know, but they guided me to being the Dad and man that I am. They forced me to lead them and be consistent in how I raised them. Without their pushing my life could have been different. The obligation of being a Father was something that I could not take lightly. The proof is in the pudding as they say. I am a good man for them and they turned out to be fantastic young adults.
When a young man becomes an Eagle Scout we challenge him to prove that he earned it every day. My wife has done that for me daily as we challenge on another to be good parents and people who can show our kids the way to being good adults.
So being a mentor is not something that just comes with leadership, it is something that has to be taken on as an obligation with the understanding that you will be impacting the life of someone else. As I said, not all leaders are mentors. I can think of many leaders that have come and gone throughout my life that I will never consider a mentor. They were neither a trusted counselor nor would I consider them wise in the lessons learned. By definition these leaders just lead. In so far as their impact on me, I can not measure it.
Being a mentor is leaving your legacy. That in and of itself seems to be lofty, but in the end, it is what mentor-ship is all about. Passing on what I have to the next the generation. Giving the gift of knowledge, of life skills and lessons, of whatever wisdom I have acquired to the next generation.
The other night after our latest Eagle Court of Honor I removed the Mentor Pin from my shirt that had just been placed there by our newest Eagle Scout. This pin means the world to me, as do the other mentor pins I have received over the years. I took a mental inventory of those pins and the Scouts that felt as though I had made an impact on their lives. A pin from one of the Scouts of my Jamboree Troop back in 2010. He gave me the pin stating that had it not been for me being his Scoutmaster at Jamboree he would have quit Scouting all together and would have never finished his Eagle Award. Another Scout from my Troop presented me a mentor pin along with a picture of the two of us on a camp out. He shared that the life lessons he learned from me are shaping him into the man who he wants to be. Yet another pin reminded me of the young man that I have known all of his Scouting life. He had always been a work in progress, but in the end blossomed into a fine young man. He credited my straight talk and insistence on taking care of the little things to insure success. He is well on his way to being a good man and I look forward to seeing him continue to grow.
It is that obligation to making an impact that I take serious. Not every Scout, or person for that matter seeks guidance. Sometimes it comes without a plea, it is a young man who hovers in the background taking it all in, that one day shakes your hand and thanks you for what you have done.
Understand this, Your actions, Your wisdom, Your behavior, and Your willingness to make a real difference in the life of someone else is what matters when in comes to being a mentor.
Trust, Competence, Being a Friend, these are qualities of being a mentor. It is not the patch that you wear or the position that you hold. It is your willingness to serve.
Leaving your legacy must be important to you, not for ego or pride, but for the future of those you mentor.
What is your impact, what is your legacy? Are you a mentor?
Have a Great Scouting Day!